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History of the Sheriff's Office

Somerville Courthouse

List of Sheriffs of Morgan County

• Thomas Drain (Drane) Crabb, May 1817-Sept 1818
• George Washington (Grey) Gray MD, Oct 19, 1818-Aug 25, 1822
• Elisha Easton, Aug 26, 1822-Aug 21,1825
• Joseph Abraham Skidmore, Aug 22, 1825-Sept 8, 1828.
• Thomas L. Owens, Sept 9, 1828-Aug 14, 1831
• David Ballew, Aug 15, 1831-Sept 14, 1834. (2nd term: See 1837)
• Thomas R. Price, Sept 15, 1834-Sept 4, 1837
• David Ballew, (2nd Term) Sept 5, 1837-on or before Oct 10, 1839
• Hugh Durough Morrow, Nov 23, 1839-Aug 31, 1840
• William Phillip Carolan, Sept 1, 1840-Sept 6, 1846
• Joseph Stroup, Sept 7, 1846-Sept 26, 1849 (2nd Term: See 1852)
• William Price Terry, Sept 27, 1849-Aug 15, 1852

• Oliver Ailsworth Swift, July 7, 1852
• Joseph Stroup, (2nd Term) Aug 16, 1852-Sept 2, 1855
• Isaac N. Jackson, Sept 3, 1855-Aug 17, 1858
• Harrison M. Welch, Aug 18, 1858-Aug 11, 1859
• William D. Harper, August 12, 1859-late 1862
• Jonathan Sowell (Cornwell) Jennings, late 1862-Aug 1865
• Robert Allison Stewart, Aug 1865-Dec 14, 1865
• John Hart, December 15, 1865-December 27, 1868
• John W. Guthrie, July 28, 1868
• Robert Lawson "Bob" Garner, October 9, 1868
• Henry G. Thomas, Dec 28, 1868-Nov 23, 1870
• Hannibal Hamilton, Nov 24, 1870-Nov 24, 1871
• Benjamin F. Ponder, Nov 25, 1871-Nov 29, 1874
• Captain Edward Davis Poteet, (Potete) Nov 30, 1874-Nov 16, 1877
• James Hardy Wiggins, Nov 17, 1877-Aug 26, 1880 (2nd Term: See 1890; 3rd Term: See 1901)
• William Thomas (Tommie) Morrow, Aug 27, 1880-Aug 19, 1884
• Monroe Taylor Swift, August 20, 1884-August 16, 1888
• Silas Parsons Ryan, August 17, 1888-1890. (2nd Term: See 1896)
• James Hardy Wiggins, 1890-Aug 22, 1892 (2nd Term)
• Alexander B. Campbell, Aug 23, 1892-1896

• Silas Parsons Ryan, 1896-Aug 31, 1901 (2nd Term)
• James Hardy Wiggins, Sept 1, 1901-Jan 13, 1907. (3rd Term)
• Thomas Reid Shipp, Jan 14, 1907-1911
• Richard Neville McCulloch, 1911- May 1915
• James Alexander Forman, May 1915-Jan 31, 1919
• Benjamin Ethan Davis (Did not Serve in 1918) (See 1927-1931)
• Jeptha Vining May, Feb 1, 1919-Jan 15,1923
• Clyde Ernest Poole, Jan 16, 1923-Jan 16, 1927
• Benjamin Ethan Davis, Jan 17, 1927-Jan 18, 1931
• Albert William "Bud" Davis, Jan 19, 1931-Jan 13, 1935
• Jonathon Street Sandlin, Jan 14, 1935-1939
• William Thomas "Bill" Willoughby, 1939-1947
• Casmer Bibb Humphrey, 1947-Jan 14, 1951

• John F. McCutcheon, Jan 16, 1951-1955
• James Howard "Jimmie" Collier, 1955 to Dec 24, 1958
• Lewis Carlton "Pinkie" Brown, Dec 25, 1958-Jan 13, 1959
• Knox Lonzo McRae, Jan 14, 1959 to Jan 21, 1959. (2nd & 3rd Term: June 1, 1959-Jan 31, 1965)
• Richard Jennings Hyche, Jan 22, 1959 to May 31, 1959
• Knox Lonzo McCrea (2nd Term) June 1, 1959 - Jan 31, 1965
• Thornton Decatur "Dick" Fleming, Feb 1, 1965 to Jan 1967
• David Mason Sandlin, Jan 1967-1971.
• John Calvin Mc Bride, 1971 to early 1975 (2nd Term: See 2002)
• Van Stewart Ward, early 1975-May 6, 1981
• William Guy Holloway, May 7, 1981-by May 14, 1981
• Buford R. Burgess, by May 15, 1981-early 1991
• Steven L. Crabbe, early 1991-Feb 27, 2002

• Russ Beard for 12 days, Feb 28, 2002 - March 11, 2002
• John Calvin Mc Bride, (2nd Term) March 12, 2002-Jan 20, 2003
• Greg Bartlett, on Jan 21, 2003-Jan 10, 2011
• Ana Franklin Jan 11, 2011-Jan 18, 2019
• Ron W. Puckett Jan 19, 2019 to present

The First Sheriff of Morgan (Cotaco) County
Thomas Drain (Drane) Crabb, May 1817-Sept 1818.

Thomas D. Crabb was the first recorded sheriff in the Alabama Territory in what was to become Cotaco County. He was very well off, a very influential and well-thought-of businessman. Historians believe he was born in 1772 in Frederick County, Maryland, and by 1802 he was living in the Mississippi Territory in an area that would become Alabama. On November 6, 1815, he married Frances Ann Lanier (1796-1816) but she only lived a year after their marriage. On June 10, 1816, he was appointed Captain in the Cavalry in what was to become the Alabama Territory.

Crabb Stuart Key Dotson House

Crabb built a house in Hartselle pre-1817, that is now known as the Crabb-Stewart-Key, Dotson Home. The original title of the property is dated July 10, 1818, to Thomas Drain Crabb.  The house is still standing and is located at 1084 Nat Key Road southeast of Hartselle and east of I-65. It is believed to be the oldest log cabin in the area. On the property is a small family cemetery containing graves of many of the home's early residents. 

In 1817 he was asked by the "territories most successful businessmen and town fathers" to serve as the territory's first sheriff. He was accepted in May 1817 and served a little over one year.

On August 21, 1817, he married again, in Huntsville, this time to Mary M. Boteler (1798-1874), the daughter of Colonel Alexander Boteler, formerly of Lincoln County, Tennessee.  In September 1818 he resigned after a little over a year of service as Sheriff to concentrate on his new family, his new business ventures and to pursue his deep interest in politics.

Crabb was a very successful road builder in the county, and records show he received several land grants, as early as 1818 and 1819, as well as commissions for road contracts. One of his very early land grants was on April 24, 1820.  It totaled four (4) parcels of land and 2400 acres. One section of 640 acres was located in Township 6-S, Range 2-W, Section 6, Meridian Huntsville.  Running along both sides of the Tennessee River, in both Morgan and Madison Counties, making it perfect for his new business, running a ferry across the Tennessee River.  His ferry operated out of Monroe or Bluff City, just due north of Somerville.

On March 2, 1819, Thomas D Crabb was elected one of two Morgan County representatives and on July 5, 1819, along with Melkijah Vaughn, they became members of the first Alabama State Constitutional Convention in Huntsville. 

On September 11, 1820, Crabb became the clerk of the court of Morgan County. He was also a Lieutenant Colonel in the Militia in the 6th Alabama Regiment from November 21, 1821, to February 26, 1825. After February 26th, 1825 he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, in the 2nd Division 12th Brigade of the Alabama Militia. At the time of this promotion, he was the 12th highest-ranking militia officer in Alabama.

In 1822 he ran for the U.S. Senate but lost. But in August 1822 and all the way to 1827, he was elected State Senator for the 4th Annual Session of the 4th General Assembly of the Alabama Legislature.

Crabbe died in Hartselle, Morgan County on March 19, 1829, at the age of 57. To date, there is no record of his exact date or place of birth and no record of exactly where he is buried.

2nd County Jail


  • 1817 August 15, the Alabama Territory is formed 
  • 1817 it is estimated there were 300 family's squatting on land near the Tennessee River, land that would become Cotaco County (3)
  • 1817 the area to be known as Somerville was a friendly Indian town as quoted by the early Ferguson, Stuart, and Morrow family settlers. The town had 2 springs one called the North Spring the other called the Town Spring. The North Spring is located on the northeast side of Broad and Main Streets in Somerville. Town Creek is located a little southeast of Somerville, it is about 600 feet south of the intersection of Highway 67 and Watkins Lane
  • 1818 the population of Cotaco County (soon to become Morgan County) is 2251, of those 2101 were white and 152 were black
  • 1818 February 6th Cotaco County is formed by the Alabama Territorial Legislature
  • 1818 land in the new Alabama Territory and Cotaco County is put up for sale, from 2 dollars to 20 dollars an acre, and required a 10 cent per acre deposit
  • 1818 settlers arrive from the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Georgia1818 the first printing office in Alabama is at Somerville and is operated by W.R. Jones
  • 1818 to 1823 the Cedar Hotel, to be known as the Valhermoso Springs Resort, hotel, and cottages were built by James Manning. 

Note: Also called the White Sulfur Springs Resort, the area was first named Chunn Springs then Manning Springs, and finally Valhermoso Springs meaning "Vale of Beauty". The main hotel was three stories and on the top floor was a massive ballroom. Next to the hotel were rows of cottages, each cottage could hold up to six families. In May of 1823, it was run by J.R. Paynter and Sons.  In 1855 it was sold to Mr. Jean Joseph Giers, later Colonel Giers. It was his wife, Mary L. Gooch Giers, who so efficiently ran the resort. During the Civil War, she was instrumental in hiding Confederate troops, when Union forces were bivouacked there. The current name was adopted in 1857. The mineral springs are located about 50 yards north of Highway 36. The springs are believed to have been discovered by Lancelot Chunn in 1813.  

Morgan County, Historical Background

Cotaco County was created on February 6, 1818 on land acquired from the Cherokee Indians, by the Treaty of Turkey Town.  Morgan County, Alabama, formerly Cotaco County, was named Morgan County on June 14, 1821 in honor of Brigadier General, Daniel Morgan (of Virginia), a hero from the American Revolution.  He was victorious over the British at the Battle of Cowpens. Morgan was a cousin of Daniel Boone, and an elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

From 1818 to 1891 the county seat was located in Somerville. The town of Somerville was incorporated on February 3, 1819, and was named after Lieutenant Robert M. Somerville of Tennessee, a member of the 39th U.S. Infantry who was killed on March 27, 1814 at the Battle of Horse Shoe Bend. The site of this battle between the U.S. and the Red Stick Indians is now a National Historic Park, located 12 miles east of Alexander City, Alabama.

Morgan County encompasses 575 square miles.  Originally Cotaco County, it was founded on February 6, 1818 by the Alabama Territorial Legislature and is the 9th largest county in the state of Alabama by population with a total of 118,818 residents. (2010 Census shows 119,490) Morgan County is one of 67 counties in Alabama and is bordered by Limestone, Madison, Lawrence, Cullman and Marshall Counties.

Morgan County's main cities, towns and communities are:

Decatur, Flint City, Oak Ridge, Clemons Crossroads, Basham, Massey, Cedar Plains, Lebanon, Somerville, Priceville, Valhermoso Springs, Lacey's Spring, Falkville, Hartselle, Florette, Union, Oden Ridge, Gum Pond, Morgan City, New Center, Cave Springs, Henderson, Bell Springs, Center Dale, Lynn Town, Reserve, Pence, Stringer, Brooksville, Eva, Andrews Chapel, Neel, Danville, Penn, Austinville, Trinity, Six Mile, Lacon, Moulton Heights, Apple Grove, Wilhite,  Winton, Wolftown, Punkin Center, Mt. Tabor, Cole Spring, Gandy Cove, Gum Springs, Turney Crossroads, Dancy Quarters, Rocky Point, Echols Crossroads, Crowton, Union Hill, Cotaco, West Point, Ryan Crossroads, Hulaco, Winn Crossroads, Center Grove and Taluca. 

Since the founding of the county in 1818 many small towns and communities have disappeared, or have been absorbed by larger communities. Bluff City (Monroe) and Centerdale in Morgan County are now classified as Alabama ghost towns.

The City of Decatur was founded on June 6, 1820 and has been the county seat for Morgan County, Alabama since February 10, 1891.  Decatur lies on the banks of the Tennessee River in Northern Alabama, is the largest city in Morgan County and the 8TH largest city in Alabama. (2010 Census) It's population in the 2010 Census was 55,683, which is 46.8% of the entire county's population. Decatur was named after Commodore Steven Decatur, who rose to fame as a result of his exploits on February 16, 1804 as a 25-year old Navy Lieutenant, when he and his boarding party entered Tripoli harbor to destroy a captured U.S. warship, in the 2Nd. Battle of Tripoli. Afterwards he held important naval commands during the War of 1812, and later became a U.S. Congressman.  Born in Maryland in 1779, Decatur died in Washington D.C. at the age of 41, having succumbed to wounds received in a duel, with another Naval Officer. At the time of his death, he was the most heralded U.S. Seaman since John Paul Jones and the recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal.  He is buried at St. Peter's Churchyard, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

To protect and serve … since 1818