The century began with the continued service of Sheriff William Chastain Gill. Son of Sheriff William Eldridge Gill and brother of Sheriff Robert Eldridge Gill and survivor of Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, W.C. Gill was elected as Sheriff in 1881 after serving 10 years as a deputy; he served 44 years as sheriff before his death.
Streamlining the Criminal Justice System
With County Constables taking over more and more of the law enforcement duties in the county, the Sheriff's Office began to assume a more streamlined role in the criminal justice system. Then in 1914, the County's Police Department was created, replacing the constable system.
Tragedy struck Chesterfield County on January 22, 1912, when Deputy Archer Thomas Belcher was mortally wounded. Deputy Belcher, a farmer from Matoaca, was guarding inmates from the State Convict Road Force housed at Camp number three in Ettrick.
Attacked by Inmates
While on Hickory Road doing repairs, some inmates attacked him. One prisoner was using an axe to cut roots and while watching him, another inmate attacked him with a knife. When Deputy Belcher turned to defend himself from the knife attack, he was struck from behind on his head by the inmate with the axe. Three inmates escaped, taking Deputy Belcher’s weapons.
Death of a Deputy
The unconscious deputy was taken to the Petersburg Hospital, where he died on February 17, 1912. Deputy Archer T. Belcher was 47 years old at the time of his death, leaving behind his wife of 23 years, Mary Dance Belcher, and ten children, Florence, Charles, Ermine, Emma, Annie, Sallie, Mary, Zelma, Melvin, and Raymond.
The inmates were captured by a posse after a running gun battle near Farmville, where one of the escapees was mortally wounded. The other two inmates were convicted of capital murder by Chesterfield County Judge Robert Southall on April 5, 1912 and both were executed in the electric chair on June 14, 1912.
A Long Term
In late 1924, due to health issues, Sheriff Gill asked Ordway Benjamin Gates, his Chief Deputy, to take over his duties. Unfortunately, Sheriff Gill died a few months later in April 1925 and Judge Edmund P. Cox appointed O.B. Gates, as Sheriff to complete Sheriff Gill’s unfinished term in office. This was the beginning of yet another long term in office for a Sheriff of Chesterfield County.
Forging an Agreement
Gates and Gill had forged an agreement that Nathan Herbert Cogbill would remain as the "Chief Jailor" and Gill would support Gates as next Sheriff. Gates agreed to the terms and Nathan remained in the position for decades.
Nathan's wife would prepare meals for the inmates and bring it to the Jail in a large iron pot. Family ties were strong…Nathan was related to Marcus Cogbill,the Commonwealth Attorney, and Philip Cogbill, the Clerk of the Court. O.B. Gates, since he had the support of the community easily won the 1925 election for sheriff. Throughout his career Sheriff Gates took a softer approach to his position. During his entire tenure as Sheriff,Gates never wore a uniform or carried a weapon.
Escape From Jail
In the 1930's, the original jail was "bulging at the seams" with 12 inmates housed at a time. Unfortunately, due to the condition of the 1892 jail, three inmates in 1936 were able to obtain a can opener and cut their way through the tin roof of the jail and escaped; most were recaptured later.
Caught in the Act
Another inmate attempted to chisel his way out of the brick walls in 1937, but even though he had saved all his butter rations to use in his escape, his body became stuck in the tight hole in the wall; a passerby noticed the struggling inmate and raised the alarm by ringing the courthouse bell.
Also during this time period, 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.
At the time, Sheriff Gates' staff consisted of Deputy Albright, Deputy Gilliam Cogbill, son of Nathan, and Deputy Rudy. Because of the escapes and the poor conditions of the 1892 jail, Sheriff Gates was faced with the closing it. Sheriff Gates made plans to house Chesterfield inmates in jails operated by other localities (Henrico and Petersburg) which was accepted by the State and the 1892 jail closed in 1943.
An Excellent Relationship with Citizens
During his term as the Sheriff of Chesterfield County, Sheriff Gates had an excellent relationship with the citizens of Chesterfield and there are several glowing tributes to his service. Gates also served the county as Sheriff during a major growth period. The population increased from 23,000 to 77,000 before his departure from office in 1967.
A Modern Jail Facility
This method of housing Chesterfield inmates at other jails continued until 1962, when a "new, modern" facility opened for business. The new jail consisted of what was referred to as "A" building. This new facility became a family affair because the building included living quarters for a married couple.
Staff & Operations
Deputy Joe Partin operated the jail while his wife cooked the meals in the jail kitchen. This arrangement continued until Sheriff Emmett Wingo’s tenure in 1968. After Gilliam Cogbill died in 1965, Deputy Clarence G. Williams, Sr. was selected as Chief Deputy. In 1971, Joe Nunnally, (later known as Captain Nunnally) was hired as one of the few deputies 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.
Training Standards Changes
Statewide changes in Sheriff / Deputy training standards took effect in Chesterfield County in 1968, when Sheriff Emmett Wingo, Chief Deputy Clarence Williams, Sr., Bailiff Fred Bray, Chief Jailer Joseph Partin, Deputy Olin Taylor and Deputy R. E. Phillips attended the first Basic Jailor's School. This school was designed to provide the Sheriffs and Sheriff Deputies of Virginia common standards in basic job duties. The course included training in civil processing, security in handling prisoners, riot control and firearm proficiency.
First Basic Sheriff Academy
Later Sheriff’s Office training standards took a whole new meaning in 1994 when Sheriff Clarence Williams, Jr, son of the former Chief Deputy Clarence Williams, Sr, started the First Basic Sheriff Academy. During this decade (1970s) a two-story wing was added to the 1962 jail which included additional tier and dorm space to accommodate the bulging population of 90 inmates.
A New Courthouse
In 1988, Ground was broken for a new courthouse and Sheriff Walter Minton was present, with several other county and state dignitaries for the grand opening of this new facility in 1990. The building faces northwest and is a red colored brick, concrete, and glass structure with spacious landscaped grounds. The northwest front has a large portico supported by four large concrete columns rising to a pediment with fanlight at the roof line and a porch runs on either side of the portico supported by columns.
Administrative Offices & Jail Annex
The ground floors of the building contained offices for the Sheriff’s administrative staff. Then in 1994, separate inmate housing area (jail) was added to the 1962 jail complex. Called the Annex, the structure was completed in the spring of 1994 and was built to hold 115 inmates. The name 'Annex' followed historical precedence; during the 19th Century, due to the difficulty in transporting prisoners by horse, there were several ‘annex’ jails located throughout Chesterfield County. The only existing structure from that period is the 1860 Summerseat house in Ettrick, Virginia. It was the residence of the local magistrate and the ‘jail annex’ was in the lower corner basement where offenders were temporarily housed before being transferred to the Chesterfield Courthouse.
A New Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court
Finally, at the close of the 20th Century in 1999 Sheriff Clarence Williams was present at the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a new Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, which opened in 2001. The building, built to reflect the style of the 1990 Courthouse, faces south and is a two-story red colored brick, concrete, and glass structure.