Government Salem County, NJ | Discover the Possibilities

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In 1879 the population of Salem County had
grown to 23,940. The county was divided into
townships of Elsinboro, East Fenwick, (now
Mannington), West Fenwick (afterwards Penn's Neck
and now Upper and Lower Penn's Neck), Pilesgrove
(which included both the Pittsgroves). and Monmouth
(which embraced the territory now included in Upper
and Lower Alloways Creek and Quinton).
Fenwick Colony has not grown without
turbulence. There were numerous capital crimes. On
Christmas Eve, 1916, Sheriff A. Lincoln Fox had to
deal with the brutal murder of Joseph Westcott. The
convicted men were the first criminals from Salem
County to be executed by electricity. This was the first
capital case since the execution of Sullivan in 1884.
During the terms of Sheriffs Hubert Layton
and Norris Williams new jails were built in 1957 and
1994 respectively.
Salem County enters the Twenty-First century
with a population of approximately 66,000 people. The
last sixty years saw the sheriff's office held by just four
men. Sheriff, Hubert P. Layton, served for over thirty
years, Sheriff Norris B. Williams for over twenty years,
Sheriff John B. Cooksey for twelve years and Sheriff
Charles M. Miller presently holds the position. Sheriff
Miller looks forward to increase police presence in all
communities within Salem County.
Present jail built in 1994 in Mannington at a cost of $17
million dollars, is the 6th Salem County jail.
*Written and created: Janina Patrus
*Research: Christina Patrus
*Photographs: Curt Harker & Collection of the Salem County (NJ)
Historical Society.
* History of the counties of Gloucester Salem & Cumberland NJ by
Thomas Crushing; Charles Sheppard; Philadelphia:Everston Peck 1883
* The History of Salem County NJ by Joseph S. Sickler; Sunbeam
Publishing Company 1937
Courthouse & Jail
Sheriff’s Roster
1682 Thomas Woodruff
1693 John Jeffery
1694 Hugh Middleton
1697 Rodger Milton
1698 John Dickson
1700 & 1705, 1715, 1720 William Griffin
1701 Rodger Milton
1703 William Dare
1709 & 1723, 1732 George Trenchard
1712 Daniel Rumsey & John Rolph
1716 James Skerron
1717 & 1727 Robert Johnson
1728 Joseph Gregory
1735 John Hunt
1741 Nicholas Gibbon
1748 William Barker
1752 John Nicholson
1755 Robert Johnson
1758 & 1764 John Budd
1762 & 1769 Joseph Burroughs
1765 Edward Test
1771 George Trenchard
1773 Bateman Lloyd
1774 Edmund Wetherby
1783 & 1789 Whitten Cripps
1786 Benjamin Cripps
1792 Edward Hall
1795 Clement Acton
1798 John Tuft
1800 Jacob Hufty
1804 Samuel L. James
1807 Thomas Bines
1810 Henry Freas
1813 Richard Craven
1816 Samuel Miller
1819 Jonathan Richman
1822 Joseph Kille
1825 Edward Smith
1828 John Hackett & Issac Johnson
1831 James Logue
1834 David S. English
1837 Thomas I. Casper
1840 Isaac Johnson (2nd)
1843 Robert Newell
1846 Isaiah Conklin
1849 Joseph S. Blackwood
1852 Samuel Plummer
1855 Richard C. Ballinger
1858 Samuel W. Miller
1861 Owen L. Jones
1864 John Hunt
1867 George Hires, Jr.
1870 William A. Casper
1873 John Hires
1878 George D. Barton
1881 Charles D. Coles
1884 Clinton Kelty
1887 James Butcher
1890 James Newell
1893 Oliver, T. Wiggins
1896 Benjamin B. Westcott
1899 Robert N. Vanneman
1902 William Johnson
1905 Collins B. Allen
1908 Albert Batten
1911 John E. Ayres
1914 A. Lincoln Fox
1917 William T. Mifflin
1920 A.K. Brandriff
1923 Robert W. Kidd
1926 J. Emmor Robinson
1929 George P. Dixon
1932 Hubert P. Layton
1935 Hildreth S. Reeves
1936 Peter B. Hoff
1940 Hubert P. Layton
1943 William H. Morris
1946 to 1973 Hubert P. Layton
1974 to 1994 Norris B. Williams
1995 to 2007 John B. Cooksey
2007 Charles M. Miller
The Office of the Sheriff is the oldest law
enforcement office known within the common law
system. From the beginning of English and Scottish
law, the sheriff's office was the center of the local
administration of justice. The most popular concept
of the origin of Sheriff is that it came from England.
The office of the Sheriff was brought to this country
by the Pilgrims. The Sheriff's duties in the colonies
was to collect taxes and make sure local elections
ran smoothly. The word Sheriff evolved from the
Saxon word 'scyre' signifying 'shire' meaning
county, and word 'reeve' signifying keeper or
administrative office. Shire-reeve evolved into the
present word, Sheriff.
The office of the Sheriff is the only elected
law enforcement position in the state of New Jersey.
The sale of property had been the responsibility of
the Sheriff's office for over seven hundred years and
this function is still performed. The authority over
constables, wardens and the jail are a continuing
responsibility along with court safety, transportation
of inmates and the service of warrants.
Salem, known as John Fenwick's colony, is
the oldest English speaking settlement on the
Delaware River. The Sheriff's office in Salem
County dates back to 1682. The General Free
Assembly of the province made the first division of
West New Jersey into judicial districts or counties at
its session in May 1682. At that time a sheriff,
recorder and justices were appointed for the
jurisdiction of Salem though the act did not define
the limits of the jurisdiction. An interesting fact that
up to 1693, there was no tribunal in West Jersey
competent to try offenses of a capital nature. The
first settlers, the Quakers almost seemed unwilling
to suppose that a capital crime could be committed
in their community. It was provided, however, that
when a person should be found guilty of murder or
treason, the sentence and punishment was left to the
General Assembly "to determine as they, in the
wisdom of the lord, should judge meet and
The jail was built because the thinking at the
time was that physical punishment would frighten
one into a God fearing lifestyle. The jail was merely
a holding place until the offender could be flogged
at the whipping post or placed in the stocks which
were located just outside the jail.
Thomas Woodruff and his wife, Edith
arrived in Salem on the ship "Surrey" in 1679. In
1682 Woodruff was appointed the first High Sheriff
for Salem County. Towards the end of his term, in
1691, Woodruff walked Thomas Lutherland to his
execution for the murder of John Clark.
With the increase of population it soon
became necessary to create another county and
Gloucester was organized in 1686. Oldman's Creek
and a line from its headwaters to the Delaware River
became the northern boundary of Salem County.
In 1692 during the term of High Sheriff
John Jeffery, the county of Cape May was enacted
by an act of the Provincial Legislature with a
boundary between it and Salem County on the East
side of the Morris River.
The original jail was built of logs and stood
until 1709, when George Trenchard served as
Sheriff. It was then replaced by a stone building and
this building in 1775 was replaced by yet another,
also of stone on the corner of Fenwick and Market
In 1747-48 an act was passed that
incorporated Cumberland County from the southern
parts of Salem. During the terms of Sheriffs Nicolas
Gibbon and William Barker, the Act of 1747 was
passed. It required that all Sheriffs should be
residents and freeholders in the county for three
years, and that no one hold office for longer than
three years. (Freehholder is a term signifying that
the person so designated was the owner of property
and had the authority to vote.)
In the 1790 census the population of Salem
County had grown to 10,437 persons. During the
term of Sheriff Clement Acton, in 1795 the jail was
damaged but not utterly destroyed by a fire, which
was set by a prisoner named McIntyre. The jail was
rebuilt. It was a plain substantial building,
encroaching slightly as did its predecessor on the
street. It was two stories high and contained not only
cells for the prisoners, but also the sheriff's
residence. A high stone wall surrounded a spacious
In 1825 Sheriff Edward Smith married a
daughter of Andrew Sinnickson. In the 1830's they
would be just one family of the many who emigrated
west when crops failed.
By 1842 while Sheriff Isaac Johnson was
serving as Sheriff, an addition was built to the jail.
Action was finally taken in 1851 during Sheriff John
blackwood's tenure, to build a new jail. A committee
consisting of Joseph Kille, Samuel P. Carpenter and
William H. Nelson was appointed to report estimates
as to the probable cost of the building and proposal
for the erection if it. They reported back to the
Board of Freeholder in 1852, but no action was
taken in the matter.
On New Years day 1853, Justice Elmer
sentenced Samuel Treadway to the gallows.
Treadway was convicted of shooting his estranged
wife. Once convicted he made a full confession and
on March 1, noon the hanging took place in the rear
of the old jail. The hanging was witnessed by three
sheriffs, four doctors and over one hundred invited
'guests'; and afterwards the entire populace was
allowed to view the swinging remains. The trial and
event were well covered by the local and
Philadelphia newspapers.
In 1854 during the term if Sheriff Samuel
Plummer, a committee was appointed to procure
plans and estimates of the cost of a new jail and
workhouse. In August that year the committee's
reports were placed in the hands of the clerk of the
County John N. Cooper and once again the project
Jail Built in 1867
In January 1866, after the Civil War, a
special meeting was called for the purpose of
considering the matter. It was resolved by vote that
the old jail should be torn down and a new one built.
A Committee was appointed to procure plans and
specifications to select a site on some part of the
county ground, advertise for and receive proposals
for work. It was not until John Hunt was Sheriff, that
this plan was finally approved. The committee was
ordered to "build a new county jail by contract or
otherwise with a house on the front brick or stone
and to dispose of the old jail and materials there of
to the best interests of the county." It was directed
that the building should front on Market Street,
north of the clerk and surrogate's office. At the
annual meeting in May 1866 this committee
reported that a contractor had been found for the
building of a jail and sheriff's house.
The jail was completed early in 1867 and
the materials of the old jail were sold. The jail was a
stone building with thirty-two brick cells opening
into spacious corridors, each cell having a capacity
for one prisoner. The Sheriff's house stood in front
of the jail, on Market Street. It was a brick structure,
tastefully finished; two stories in height, and it had
the necessary sheriff's and jailer's offices, as well as
the office of the mayor of Salem. The cost of these
buildings was forty thousand dollars in 1869. Where
the old jail stood at the corner of Fenwick and
Market Streets, the area was cleared and enclosed.
The space would eventually become the site of the
1908 expansion of the old courthouse. The new
Sheriff George Hires took residence in 1869.
A curious feature of elections in those
times was that the sheriffs were elected for one year
only but once a man was successful like Sheriff
Casper, both parties re-nominated him by courtesy
for the next two years. This continued until the
1880's when a three-year term was established by
new amendments to the State constitution. Not until
1947 could you succeed yourself in office.

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