Monday, November 15, 2010

The "Reeve" of Lake's "Shire" - from Sproat to Dunlap

Ebeneezer Sproat, Edward Rasmussen, Edwin Cunningham, and Daniel A. Dunlap are just a few of the 31 names that have served Lake County as "Reeve".  The history of the Sheriff's Office dates back to 871 AD and King Alfred the Great.  King Alfred created a new form of government known as a 'shire' or county.  Each 'shire' was led by an appointed 'reeve' or chief.  Thus began a civil service position that to this day has remained largely unchanged.  The Sheriff had the power to arrest, collect taxes, preside over court matters, and deal with maintaining the peace. The Sheriff represented the government's interests and the handling of criminals throughout the judicial process.

In history and in legend, the office of the Sheriff has been immortalized.  History tells us after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Normans centralized power and used a Sheriff as its enforcer. King John and the Magna Carta made mention to a Sheriff over nine times.  As English settlers arrived in America circa 1634, the Office of Sheriff traveled with them.  Thomas Jefferson spoke directly to the importance of Sheriffs in his work "The Value of Constitutions".  Westward expansion in the late 1800's led to the legendary iconic images of two Sheriffs, Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp.

In 2010, over 3,000 counties now exist in the United States.  Other than Alaska, the only state without a Sheriff's Office, order is maintained locally by an elected Sheriff. In fact the Office of Sheriff was the first County Office created in the United States.  Ohio has 88 counties and each has the Sheriff as its 'reeve'.  Prior to Statehood, Ohio had its first colonial governor appointed Sheriff.  It was the year 1788 and the appointee was Colonel Ebeneezer Sproat.  Until 1803, Sproat's jurisdiction covered all of eastern Ohio from the Ohio River to Lake Erie.  An interesting side to his appointment is that the Indians of nearby Marietta nicknamed him "Hetuk", an Indian word for buckeye.  From Sheriff Sproat to current Buckeye Sheriff Dunlap, this serves as a tribute to their community service.

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