In 1669, the Province of Carolina was divided into counties and over each, according to the charter, “shall be a…sheriff.”1 In 1729, seven of the eight Lords Proprietors sold their land interest to the Crown and the Carolina Province was officially divided into the Royal Colonies of North and South Carolina. In 1762, the Provincial Assembly granted a petition to form Mecklenburg County from the western part of Anson County, effective 1 February 1763.2; With the creation of Mecklenburg County, colonial law required there to be a High Sheriff of the County.³ Unlike today, sheriff nominees were selected by county commissioners who then sent the nominations to the Royal Governor of North Carolina. The Governor then appointed the Sheriff who served a one year term.4
Since the formation of North Carolina, many of the responsibilities and the duties assigned to the Sheriff today can be traced as far back as the first sheriff’s. The first Mecklenburg County Sheriff, Alexander Lewis acted as the executive or enforcement arm of the court, much like the sheriff does today. Over the years, the sheriff was responsible for: collecting court judgments both civil and criminal; serving subpoenas and notice of hearings; evicting tenants who default in their payments, and the seizure of property.5 The Mecklenburg County Sheriff has also always been responsible for holding and transporting prisoners, and maintaining their custody in jail. One of the major responsibilities the Mecklenburg County Sheriff no longer maintains is collecting taxes. An additional difference would be in the change of appointment to election. Over the years, the role of sheriff transitioned from an appointed position from the Royal Governor, to being elected by the judges of the county court, to the current process of being elected by the citizens of the county.
Since 1763, forty-three High Sheriffs have served the citizens of Mecklenburg County. Many of these men played major roles in the formation of our nation and state. Our Sheriffs include generals, majors, captains and sergeants in the colonial government various militias and the Confederate States of America. Additionally, the men have maintained their recognition and accolades ranging from a grandfather of a United States President to one of the first successful gold miners. The men who served as Mecklenburg County’s High Sheriff are dynamic leaders that helped build our county into what it is today.