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Pogue heads a long line of sheriffs

For The Madera Tribune

Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue. He was sworn into office on June 16, and represents about 1,000 years of county law enforcement since the inception of the office.


We don’t know precisely when the office of sheriff came into being, but educated estimates place it sometime before the Norman Conquest of England. When William the Conqueror crossed the Channel, he found the countryside already divided into administrative units called shires, and within each shire was a reeve whose responsibility it was to conduct the King’s affairs.

These shire reeves not only collected taxes but kept the King’s peace as well. They had the authority to raise the “Hue and Cry” for the pursuit of thieves and other criminals. All who heard that cry were obligated and bound by honor to join the pursuit until the scoundrel was captured or the reeve called off the search.

After 1066, William appropriated the office of shire reeve and in a short time, the two words became one. The shire reeve became the sheriff.

Now not all of those early sheriffs were as honorable as the one we now have. We could never envision Sheriff Pogue mistreating the people and earning the reputation of one early sheriff, who was described as “a hungry lion, a prowling wolf, a crafty fox, a filthy swine, a dog without shame who stuffed his belly like an insatiable beast, as though the whole country were a single corpse.”

No, if he had been a medieval shire reeve, Sheriff Pogue would have taken his place among the more trusted and intimate friends of the people.

Given the importance of the office of sheriff, it comes as no surprise that it was transported to the New World, as England established her colonies along the Atlantic seaboard. Virginia was quickly divided into shires or counties, and the first sheriff in America took office. Thus, from 1634 to this very moment, an unbroken line can be traced from Sheriff William Stone of Virginia to Sheriff Tyson Pogue of Madera County.

As in England, the Sheriffs of colonial America became the ranking law enforcement and financial officers of the county. They served warrants, made arrests, and collected taxes. Then came a change that was unique to this country. The position of Under-sheriff was introduced, and the sheriff became the High Sheriff. Soon deputy sheriffs were added and worked in tandem with the High Sheriff and Under-sheriff to perform the functions of the office.

By the early 19th century, the westward movement in America hit its full stride, and the sheriffs were the glue that held the early frontier communities together. Contrary to the Hollywood stereotype of gun-fighting, outlaw sheriffs of the Old West, most were honest proponents of law and order who had been chosen by their peers to maintain domestic tranquility and exercise executive authority. This was the situation when Madera County was formed in 1893 and elected its first Sheriff, William H. Thurman.

Over the next 126 years, only fourteen men have followed Thurman to the position of High Sheriff of Madera County. To be sure, the list is short, but it’s distinguished. Just take a look:

1893-1895 — William H. Thurman

1895-1899 — S.W. Westfall**

1899-1903 — W.B. Thurman

1903-1911 — John M. Jones

1911-1915 — S.W. Westfall ** Repeat**

1915-1919 — J.F. Lewis

1919-1927 — John Barnett

1927-1935 — Welton Rhodes

1935-1955 — W.O. Justice

1955-1971 — Marlin Young

1971-1980 — Ed Bates

1981-1987 — Ovenal Berkeley

1988-1997 — Glen Seymour

1998-2014 — John Anderson

2015-2020 — Jay Varney

2020-Present — Tyson Pogue

These men have every right to stand tall. They represent 1,000 years of county law enforcement. That’s why the eighth grade classes of Eastin-Arcola, Dixieland, Howard, and La Vina Schools are writing a book about them. Watch for it in June of 2021.



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