Since Transylvania County was created
in 1861 there have been 27 different sheriffs.
Last week’s Picturing the Past
briefly mentioned some of the activities of two of Transylvania County’s
earliest sheriffs, Robert Hamilton and George Neill. Hamilton was the county’s first sheriff and
later served an additional 15 months as sheriff. Neill was the second sheriff.
George W. Wilson was elected
following Neill in August 1866. He
served for just under 3 years until resigning in May 1869 when Hamilton again
took over the office.
Sheriff duties included collecting taxes, summoning juries,
summoning registers and judges for elections. Prior to
1942 the sheriff was elected for a two-year term.
Following the Civil War, in
1868, the North Carolina county government system was changed by the new state
constitution. A county commissioner form
of government replaced the justices of peace in the old Court of Pleas and
Quarter Sessions method.
During this time anyone who
served in office was required to take the loyalty oath to “sustain the
constitution of North Carolina not inconsistent with the constitution of the
United States.” It was a time of great
change and prominent county leaders often held a variety of positions at
different times during the years of the Civil War and Reconstruction. For example, Hamilton was not only sheriff
and deputy sheriff, but also Card Agent, Road Commissioner, Chairman of the
Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, magistrate and in both branches of the
state legislature. Neill served on the
school commission, was Clerk of Superior Court and a U.S. Commissioner in the judicial
In August 1870 J.H. Lanning
was elected Transylvania County sheriff.
Lanning would hold the office for the next 12 years, making him the
second longest serving sheriff for the county to date.
|This photograph of Nathan and Lizzie McMinn was
recently donated by their great-grand-daughter.
McMinn served as Transylvania County sheriff for
six years, 1882-1888.
Nathan Van Buren McMinn, H.L.
Hart and V.B. McGaha each served terms as Transylvania County Sheriff for the
remainder of the 19th century. McGaha was only 27 years old when he was
elected sheriff in 1894.
Photographs exist for most of
the former Transylvania County sheriffs.
However, photographs are still need for George C. Neill and Jeremiah H.
Lanning. If you have a photograph of
either man please contact the Library.
Photographs and information
for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room,
Transylvania County Library. Visit the
NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history
and see additional photographs. For more
information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at marcy.thompson
@transylvaniacounty.org or 828-884-3151 X242.