The sheriffs of Fayette County

Tue, 05/01/2007 - 5:37pm
By: Carolyn Cary

Fayette County was laid out as a result of the Creek Indian Treaty of 1821. The first officers of the county were probably simply chosen among the few hundreds of people who had first arrived. The state of Georgia decreed that each new county must locate its county seat equidistant in the county.

If you look at the current map of Fayette County, you will decide that the city of Fayetteville is definitely not in the middle of the county. When first laid out, our county went up into what is now Atlanta, to the east past Jonesboro, and to the south into what is now Spalding County. Once it was officially laid out in 1823, it could not be changed. As we know, what the state gives, the state can turn around and take away. They took part of our county in creating Campbell County, now a part of Fulton County, another part to create DeKalb County, Spalding County, and Clayton County. This ended in 1858 with the creation of Clayton County.

Obviously we do not know much information on the sheriffs who served in the 19th century. If you have information not shown in this article, please let me know and we will update the records at the Fayette County Historical Society.

The first sheriff in 1822 was named John Welch, and that is all we know. The second one in 1823 was named Winston Wood. He was the son of Richard Wood, who served in the American Revolutionary War from Washington County, Ga. and Tabitha Glass. They married in 1790 in Greene County, Ga. and Richard died in 1802. Winston was born in 1800 and married Dicey Gay in Fayette County. They moved with his mother to Heard County, where they are buried.

In 1825, Cheadle Cochran was elected, but there is no further information. In1829 Elijah Glass served as sheriff. This name might also be Elisha. It is believed he was married to Cindy McKnight. They had a son, Elijah, who was born in Fayette County on January 25, 1825. When Clayton County was formed in 1858, Elijah served as its first legislator from that county.

In 1834 Sheriff Elijah became angry at a man named Charles Wilson and shot him. He was indicted in the September 1834 court and was hung on October 17, 1834. Wyatt H. Heflin served as sheriff in 1830 and he was married to Sarah A. Stell. Her parents were Robert Malone Stell Sr., and Elizabeth Jones Stell. It is believed that Wyatt and Sarah had the first baby born in incorporated Fayetteville on February 26, 1823. The child's full name was Martha Ann Sophronia Alden Sara Huldey Permelia Hester Demaris Heflin.

The population of Fayette County was now 5,555 persons.

In 1833 Alfred Brown served as sheriff for five years. This is all that is known.

Gainey Westbrook became sheriff in 1838 and served until 1841. Andrew McBride began his law enforcement experience in 1841. He was the uncle of Andrew J. McBride, Fayette County, who was born here in 1836. Andrew J. served in the War Between The States, and worked as a lawyer. In 1844 Charles Clements became sheriff and we have no further information.

Jeptha Landrum took office in 1847, and was born in 1821 in Jackson County, Ga. His father was Larkin Landrum, prominent in early Fayette County history. Jeptha married in September, 1848 in Fayette County, to Mary Ann Emily Ellison. She was born in Fayette County in September, 1825. Jeptha died in December, 1862 in Wilmington, N.C., a casualty of the War Between The States. Mary died January 1, 1871 and is buried in Fayette County.

In 1856 the office was filled by William Wright Matthews. He was born in 1824 and died in 1880. He was the son of Robert Matthews and Mary Smith. Robert is found in the 1830 Fayette County census and he died in 1832. Mary died in the 1860s.

The population in 1850 was 8,881 persons.

William married Mary Ann Westmoreland, 1827-1916, who was the daughter of John and Elizabeth Harvey Westmoreland, of Fayette County. They married in 1847.

William served in the War Between The States with the Fayette Dragoons, Company E, 2nd Regiment, Georgia Cavalry.

Besides serving as Fayette County sheriff from 1856, he also served as one of three county commissioners in 1871 and a Georgia State senator from 1873 to 1876.

He was also one of 38 members of the Gaulding Masonic Lodge who served in the War Between The States. It was located in the former community of Dublin, near Starr's Mill.

It is believed that William Glass served sometime after Matthews but before 1861, when Jackson Martin served.

He served very briefly, however, as Samuel Wesley Marshbourne took office that year. He was obviously well thought of, as he had only been in the county for three years.

Sam was born February 14, 1834 in Wake County, N.C. He married a distant cousin, who was 17 years of age, Susan Gilbert in 1859 and they moved to Fayette County.

In 1862 Sheriff Marshbourne appeared before inferior court, now the county commissioners, and stated “Greetings: I hereby tender to you my resignation as sheriff of Fayette County for reasons known to you all; as a volunteer to assist in driving back the northern vandals from our young, but noble Confederacy.”

His second child was only four weeks old at the time when he organized a volunteer company. Because of his initiative, he was elected captain. He had several furloughs home during which a third daughter was born. He was wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia, on October 19, 1864. He had to have both legs amputated and died November 15, 1864.

In 1862, John Phillips served as sheriff. He was born December, 1812 and married Louisa Conner. They are buried in the Phillips Cemetery, Fayette County.

Thomas J. Edmondson served beginning in 1867. Nothing more is known at this time.

John Wesley Brown was elected to the office in either 1875 or 1877. Records indicate both dates as correct. He was married to Georgia Rowe and then Fanny Henderson.

In 1883 a J. M. Carlin is shown as taking office but nothing more about him is known.

In 1888, W. N. Henderson was elected.

In 1889 S. H. Martin was elected and in 1891, J. B. Hewell served. Hewell resigned about 1894 and accepted a position in the Oklahoma Territory.

E. H. Boggus served for a short time until an election was won by Thomas Jefferson Mitchell.

T.J., a Democrat, won the office over E. B. Stinchcomb, a Populist, by 8 votes.

In 1900, Albert Page Sams took the office. He was married to Hester Blalock McGough Sams, who died when daughter, Helen Sams Chastain, was four years old. Helen was born in 1908 in Inman. A. P. and Helen had lost a son, A. P. Jr., in 1903.

The population in 1900 was 10,172 persons.

In 1904, F. B. "Tobe" Brown became sheriff. He had to preside over the last hanging in Fayette County, in 1908. A tenant farmer had shot the man owning the farm. More can be learned on this subject in the book "Death Unexpected" by Bruce L. Jordan.

For whatever reason at this time, the county had two law enforcement officers who were called county police. One of these was Felton Jones, who became the only law enforcement officer to die on duty. He was born in 1876 and was the 13th child of Enoch and Elizabeth Travis Jones.

Felt Jones had assisted Sheriff Brown during the 1908 hanging. Felt was married first to Cora Belle Jones, born in 1878 and died in 1903 and to Mary Brown Jones, born in 1878. Mary Brown was the niece of Wesley Brown, who was sheriff in 1875. She and Felt were the parents of James Jones who was sheriff in the 1970s.

Felt Jones was killed when he was in a Studebaker car along with policeman Ed Dixon and Homer Adams, deputy sheriff of Fayette County. Also in the car was A. H. Stephens, known as “Scrap.” They were taking bloodhounds to Coweta County officers who needed them to pursue a fleeing murderer. At a sharp curve near Tyrone, the car overturned and Felt was killed, August 17, 1925.

In 1996, his grandchildren, Janice Northcutt and Ginger Gaskins, put a monument to their grandfather on the wall in Washington, D.C. that is reserved for law enforcement officers killed while on duty.

The column outlining the remaining sheriff's will appear on Wednesday, May 16. If there are additions or corrections, please send them to

Sources for this article were taken from Family Files at the Fayette County Historical Society, Find Your Folks articles by Judy Kilgore in The Citizen, and “Death Unexpected” by Bruce L. Jordan.

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James_A_White's picture
Submitted by James_A_White on Wed, 05/09/2007 - 9:55am.

This is basic grammar, people. As purveyors of news, and presumably college educated individuals, you should know that adding an apostrophe before an s makes the word possessive, not plural.

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Wed, 05/09/2007 - 10:10am.

The article was talking about the Sheriff's will, I'm sure!

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