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The Sheriff's Office Story
From Horseback to Horsepower: The Sheriff's Office Story
It's hard to imagine, much less judge the effectiveness of law enforcement when the Blount County Sheriff's Office was first organized in 1795. The first Sheriff, Littlepage Sims, and anyone else on staff rode horses for transportation and their jail was a simple log cabin. It's a far cry and quantum leap from today's Sheriff's Office, which has the advantages of computer technology, motor vehicles radio and cellular communication to get the job done.
The Sheriff's Office was organized a full year before Tennessee officially became a state. When Blount County was established in 1795, one of the first items of business was swearing in a Sheriff to police the community. Littlepage Sims served as Blount County's Sheriff for one year. In 1796, Joseph Colvill took over the Sheriff's post and served until 1800.
Historians believe the county's first jail was built somewhere along Pistol Creek. It wasn't before the tiny log structure was replaced by another larger log cabin jail. In 1807, the county built a two story brick building to house prisoners close to the spot where McGee Terrace Apartments are today. This jail was on an appropriately named Jail Street and included a gallows for hangings. Historians say four hangings took place in the jail.
The Sheriff's Office also had "stocks" for disciplinary measures which were located on the Courthouse Square. Offenders of minor crimes would be exposed for public ridicule with they were forced to stand in the stocks. The device would lock their hands and head securely while passersby could shame them for crimes such as cursing in public.
In 1907, the fourth jail was built at Harper and Cusick where the First Tennessee Bank parking lot is today. As the photograph indicates, deputies were still on horseback. The Sheriff and his family also lived in this building. The jail was inadequate and understaffed but the county leaders had plans in the works to overcome the lack of space. They bought the Cate Mansion and surrounding acreage in 1906 for $10,000. This is the land where the Blount County Courthouse stands today. Construction began and employees moved into the courthouse two years later, in 1908.
At first, the Blount County jail was located in the north end of the courthouse. Later, it moved to the south end where it stayed until 1999, when the Blount County Justice Center and Detention Facility opened on Highway 321.