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History of the Sheriff's Office - The Twentieth Century
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Karl S. Leonard 

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Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office
P.O. Box 940
Chesterfield, VA 23832-0001

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9500 Courthouse Road
Chesterfield, VA 23832
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Chesterfield, VA 23832
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History of the Sheriff's Office - The Twentieth Century

The Twentieth Century.... 

1880 saw the beginning of a new experience for the county. Sheriff W. C. Gill was elected, serving 45 years before stepping down. It was during this very active time that a "constable" was hired to keep the peace. Beginning in 1902, the Constable was considered the primary Law Enforcement person in the county. The Sheriff's Office would begin to assume a more streamlined role in the criminal justice system. In 1917, the Board of Supervisors voted to demolish the original courthouse in order to make room for the new courthouse that is still used today. In 1914, the county's Police Department was created. Sheriff Gill was in office until 1924. Deputy O. B. Gates was serving as Sheriff Gill's Chief Deputy at the time of his retirement.

Judge Edmund P. Cox appointed Sheriff O. B Gates to the office in 1924. This was the beginning of yet another long term in office for a Sheriff in Chesterfield County. Gates and Gill forged an agreement that Nathan Cogbill would remain as the "Chief Jailor" and that Gill would support Gates as Sheriff. Gates agreed to the terms. Nathan's wife would prepare meals for the inmates and bring it to the Jail in a large iron pot. Family ties were strong, with Nathan's brother serving as Clerk of Circuit Court around this time. 1925 brought about the election for the office, easily won by O. B. Gates. In the 1930's, the original jail was "bulging at the seams" with 12 inmates. It was also around this time that inmates in the old jail were able to obtain a can opener and cut their way through the tin roof of the jail. Most were recaptured later. As sheriff, Gates was heavily involved in enforcing prohibition laws. This resulted in the impounding of several "bootlegger" automobiles that were actually stored on the Gates property off of Beach Road. Sheriff Gates' staff consisted of Deputy Allbright, Deputy Cogbill, son of Nathan, and Deputy Rudy. During this term, Sheriff Gates was faced with the closing of the original jail in 1940. Sheriff Gates was already making plans to house Chesterfield inmates in jails operated by other localities. This was taking place well before the state initiated guidelines for such agreements. After Nathan Cogbill died, Deputy Clarence G. Williams, Sr. was selected as Chief Deputy. Sheriff Gates took a softer approach to his position. During his entire tenure as Sheriff, Gates never wore a uniform or a weapon. The Sheriff had an excellent relationship with the citizens of Chesterfield. There are several glowing tributes to Gates' term as the Sheriff of Chesterfield County. Gates also served the county as Sheriff during a major growth period. The population increased from 15,000 to 130,000 before his departure from office.

The method of housing Chesterfield inmates at other jails continued until 1960, when the "new, modern" facility opened for business. The new jail consisted of what is now referred to as "A" building. The new facility included living quarters for the single deputy hired to maintain the jail. This was once again a family affair, where Deputy Joe Partin operated the jail while his wife cooked the meals in the jail kitchen. The current classification section was used as the living quarters for the couple. This arrangement continued until the election of Sheriff Emmett Wingo in 1967. In 1971, Captain Joe Nunnally was hired as one of the few deputies on the payroll for the jail. Nunnally would be the only deputy on duty on the midnight shift, working with a trustee in order to open cells and care for the few inmates at that time. This trustee was just that, a trusted inmate who was allowed to carry keys to the facility. The 1970's also saw the first attempted escape from the new jail. Inmates managed to get a set of keys and released all the prisoners from the cells. No inmate actually made it to the outside area. All were quickly rounded up and returned to their cells.

It was also during the Wingo term that the courthouse was built facing route 10. The Police Department currently resides in what was the old courtrooms and the Magistrate's office. It was a challenge to move those who were attending court, marching the "chain gang" across the street to appear before the judge.

The 1970's also ushered in a new concept in Jail training. The Department of Criminal Justice Services developed the first Basic Jailor's School. This school was designed to provide the Sheriff's of Virginia a means of training deputies to work in a jail environment. Years later, the school was changed to a combined course that included Court Security and Civil Process. The seventies also brought about an expansion to the original jail by adding a two-story wing that included additional tier and dorm space. This addition was built in the early 1970's to accommodate the bulging population of 90 inmates. Later, the "work release building" or what is currently known as "B" building was constructed.

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