The term shire reeve appears in
documents in England in the early
William the Conqueror conquered England in 1066, he kept most of the
 When William abolished the great Anglo-Saxon
Earldoms, the sheriff became the immediate representative of the king in the county.
 His appointment was typically for one year. He held court where he punished minor offenders.
 Later, his powers were reduced to
arresting and imprisoning
When the American colonies began to grow, Britain established political control.
 As each colony established counties, a sheriff was appointed to keep law and order.
 He was also an officer of the British court. The sheriff had different titles in different colonies. In
Rhode Island he was called a general
Massachusetts the title was Marshal. In
Plymouth Colony he was called a messenger.
 In the later colonial period, sheriffs were appointed by the colonial
governor. They collected taxes, testified in court and served
subpoenas. Because they were paid per task, and tax collecting paid the most, enforcing the law became a lower priority.
American Revolutionary War sheriffs were elected by the people.
17th and 18th century America
In the American west, the
Spanish were colonizing what would become
 The equivalent of the sheriff was called an
 As Americans moved west, they often started new communities. A sheriff was usually the only available law enforcement.
 Sheriffs had the power of
posse comitatus. That means a sheriff had the power to
deputize anyone to help him keep the peace or go after and
 A group of temporary deputies under the authority of a sheriff is called a posse. As America grew the posse was used less and less.
 Sheriffs are still the main law enforcement in