England & United States History


Old Jail

The county jail until 1931, this stone building housed a windowless
dungeon in the basement, a whipping post at the rear, and an
apartment for the jailer. The jail stood at the site of today’s
Stella Werner Council Office Building.

The Sheriff’s Office in Montgomery County is a direct descendant from Old England; the history of the Sheriff goes back some 1200 years.

The modern word “Sheriff”, which means keeper or chief of the County, is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words “Shire-Reeve”. The Shire-Reeve, in the days of King Alfred the Great of England, in 871, was responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing the Kings Orders. The duties and the role of the Sheriff were better defined in 1215 when King John signed the Magna Carta.

The first Sheriff’s Office in America was established in St. Mary’s County, Maryland in 1641. The Office of the Sheriff was set forth in the original Maryland Constitution and remains there today. The citizens of Montgomery County elect a Sheriff every four years. The elected Sheriff, is part of the Judicial Branch of Government.

According to historical records, Clement Bell became the first Sheriff of Montgomery County in the first year of the Independence of the United States of America, 1777. “This action was approved and ordered by the court. These Proceedings were witnessed by county citizens, Charles Jones, Elisha William’s, Richard Thompson, Edward Burgefs, Sam W. Magruder, William Denkins and Jas Offutt.” The citizens of Montgomery County depended on the Sheriff for all of its law enforcement until the early 1920′s when the Maryland State Police and the Montgomery County Police Departments were formed.

Information on these pages compiled by Chief Deputy Robert L. Keefer (retired) by way of memory, interview, the Sentinel Newspaper, the Brookings Institution, and old documents and Updated by Bruce P. Sherman, Assistant Sheriff unless otherwise stated.