Sheriffs of Navarro County, Texas


Biography Index || Law and Order Index

Researched by W. P. Murchison,
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", Vol. XXI, 1976
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society

The " Notes:" and the information in GREEN indicates
additional data and updates since original publication of the article.


In terms of American folklore, the sheriff is a glamorous and heroic official who protects the good and puts the bad in their proper places.  The name comes from two English words, "Shire" which means "County" and "Reeve" which means "Administrator."  And well my he be a superman, because the requirements of his job necessitate that he be a law-man, a leader, a fighter, a diplomat, a lawyer, a detective, a doctor, a politician, plus a few other qualifications his job might require.  But Overall, he is a human being like the rest of us.  Let us look at the men who have been sheriffs of Navarro County and it will give a better understanding of what the job really is.

JAMES ALLEN JOHNSON, Served July 13, 1846 - July 1849

On July 13, 1846, the first Navarro County elections were held, at Dresden, and Allen Johnson was elected sheriff.  An Indian fighter who settled in Dresden in 1845, he was a man of good character, probably too good to deal with the rough element a first sheriff had to encounter.  However, with a scant population, his duties were few.   In 1848, he was appointed commissioner to survey and sell lots in the newly created town of Corsicana, and he built the first courthouse, a 15 x 17 foot log cabin for $100.00.  His biggest problem was trying to arrest William Ladd, who was incidentally his bondsman, and who lived in Dresden.  Ladd refused to be arrested and, in 1849 Johnson decided he had been sheriff long enough and settled for the easier job of road overseer.


  • Married Nancy Bragg

WILLIAM J. STOKES, Served July 1849 - Aug 1850 & Aug 1852 - Dec 17, 1852

Rough and tough frontiersman, Bill Stokes came to Texas in October 1839 with his mother and uncle, Thomas I. Smith, and settled in Milam County, where the Indians promptly stole all his horses.  In 1844 he moved to Freeze-out (Ellis County) with his uncle W. R. Howe.  His nearest neighbors were John Neely Bryan at Dallas and those at Bucksnort on the falls of the Brazos.  He stated he used to step out to his door and kill a buffalo for breakfast.  Joining the Texas Rangers in 1845, he helped rescue John McLennan from the Indians, had to tie him up to take him, as he did not want to leave the Indians.  McLennan became civilized and moved to Waco where the county was named for him.  Stokes was elected sheriff of Navarro County twice but did not like the responsibility and details of the job and reigned each time after a short term of service.

JAMES BUCKNER BARRY, Served Aug. 1850 - 1852 & Aug 1854 - Aug. 20, 1855

Buck Barry was certainly the most colorful of all the sheriffs, was fearless, straight shooting, intelligent, stood for law and order, looked like a sheriff and was highly regarded by the people of Navarro County.  He was born in North Carolina Dec 16, 1821, came to Texas in 1845, joined the Texas Rangers, stopped in Austin when there were only three white women in town, went on to Mexico with the American army in 1846, was wounded at Monterrey, and came back to Texas where he settled at Bazette.  On a visit to Corsicana he agreed to run for sheriff and was elected in July 1850.  He did what his predecessors had been unable to do and that was to arrest law violators, and his first arrest was Bill Ladd of Dresden who had stood off the other sheriffs.  In Aug. 1852 he was elected County Treasurer for two years.  And he was elected sheriff again in 1854 and arrested W. M. Love in April 1855 for the murder of Dr. W. N. Anderson at Pisgah Ridge.  In 1855 he worked up an involved criminal case including forgery of a land patent and murder against Jacob Eliot.  Eliot was acquitted but the sheriff was so infuriated that he berated the jury in the courtroom for its decision and resigned his job.  He then bought the town newspaper, the Prairie Blade, but decided to go west to a new frontier and moved to Flag Pond, Bosque County.  He owned considerable property in Navarro County, lived where the present library is, and was very popular with the people of the town.  An engraved invitation to a party at the Haynes Hotel Dec. 13, 1852, showed him to be a guest of honor.  He wrote his life's history in "The Texas Ranger and Frontier man", a book which is in the local public library.  He died at Walnut Springs in December 1906, at the age of 85 and totally blind.  [Full Biography]

NATHANIEL HENDERSON, Served Dec. 1852 - Aug 1854

Nat Henderson, a brother of Indian fighter Col. William F. Henderson, was elected at a special election Nov. 27, 1852, to fill the vacancy created when W. J. Stokes resigned as sheriff.  Henderson was a popular man but hardly tough enough for the characters he had to deal with.  He had a log jail built by one Bro. Reamon, a preacher, 12' square, 1 1/2 stories high and run by L. S. Tatum.  His principal problem involved Joseph Pierces, a church going Baptist and also a notorious race horse gambler who had trouble getting along with other people.  After a number of incidents, his opposition got a petition with a number of signatures to evict him from Navarro County, and a crowd of 150 men escorted him, his two boys, and his horses to the Trinity River.  Some of his friends intervened, saying the Pierces would be taken over into Henderson County and murdered.  The problem was solved by giving the Pierces arms and the sheriff and nine others guaranteed that they would not be molested while departing.  A short time later, Pierce was shot and killed at a Waco horse race by a peace officer.  When his term expired in August 1854, Nat Henderson was ready to relinquish the job.

JESSIE SIMEON WALTON - Served Aug. 1855 - Nov. 1860

Sheriff Jessie Simon Walton was born in Virginia, Oct. 24, 1807 in Pittsylvania Co., VA and moved to Navarro County by stages, stopping in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Fannin County, Texas.  In 1853 he bought a farm on Briar Creek, was elected constable soon afterward, became sheriff in 1855.  He had scarcely time to get settled in office when several men under indictment for the murder of one Wells set fire to the courthouse Nov 14, 1855 in order to destroy the indictment records.  A wooden structure, it burned to the ground, with only a few county clerk records saved.  As was the case with many criminals in early Texas, the arsonists escaped.  Runaway slaves and cattle thefts kept the sheriff busy after that.  He and his wife, Eliza, had seven children, and many descendents are living here today.  Jesse was married at least 2 or three times and had at total of 13 to 15 children. His son, James, was sheriff 1844 - 1886.  Moving to Glen Rose, Texas, he died in 1890 in Glen Rose, Somervell Co., TX.
[Photo and Additional Information from George Wiley Walton - Oct 1999]

UPDATE 1/1/2001:

I was visiting the Navarro county genealogy site and noticed a mistake that I may have caused a couple of years ago.  My g-g-grandfather, Jessie Simeon Walton, was not buried in Oakwood Cemetery as indicated in the bio I contributed sometime back.  The Jessie Simeon Walton buried there is his grandson, my great uncle, Jessie Simeon Walton b.29 Dec 1859 and d. 11 Apr 1884.  I have not been able to locate the burial site of g-g-grandfather Jessie but believe it to be in Somervell Co. close to Glen Rose. ...George Walton

Jessie moved to Navarro Co., Texas in stages stopping briefly in Tennessee (Jesse S. Walton was listed in the 1830 census in Pittsylvania Co., Virginia), Arkansas (he is listed in the 1840 U.S. Census in Independence Co., Arkansas, pg. 99; his second marriage is to Mandy Hanks listed in Independence Co. records as are four separate land purchases).  In 1850 he moved to Texas settling first in Bonham, Fannin County where he engaged in farming and stock raising (although he does not appear on the 1845-46 tax rolls). He was listed in Henderson Co. in the census of 1850 where he is living with his third wife Elizabeth H. Williams (age 18), son James L. (age 13), and sons Thomas N. and Jesse S. (twins age 11) .  No mention was made in the census of any of his other children.  Jessie bought a farm on Briar Creek in Navarro Co. in 1852 and was elected Constable in 1854 and then served as Sheriff from Aug. 1855 - Nov. 1860.  In 1860 he could have been living in Johnson or Young Co. TX.

He had little time to get settled in office as sheriff when several men under indictment for the murder of a man by the name of Wells, set fire to the courthouse Nov 14, 1855 in order to destroy the indictment records.  A wooden structure, it burned to the ground, with only a few county clerk records saved.  As was the case with many criminals in early Texas, the arsonists escaped. Runaway slaves and cattle thefts kept the sheriff busy after that.  Jessie's son James also served as Sheriff from 1884 to 1886.

Jessie moved to Hood Co. before 1870.  He is listed in the 1870 Federal Census by Thomas Ford, Assistant Marshall, who enumerated 498 households from 11 Sept to 4 Oct 1870.  Jessie, age 62, is listed in household number 4 as a farmer from Virginia with property valued at $1000 and other assets valued at $300.  Living with him were Elizabeth, age 34 from Arkansas (listed KH for kitchen help, a typical listing for wives), Rubing, age 17 (listed as FL for farm laborer), Pleasant, age 14, John, age 12, Abede, age 7, and Stokely, age 5.  

"In 1880 he (Jessie) was living in Pct. 6, Hood Co. with a 2nd or 3rd wife." (History of Hood County (1895), by Thomas T. Ewell, p.127, mentions, "Esq. Jesse Walton an aged Justice of the Peace who flourished at Paluxy about 1880").   Jessie later moved to Glen Rose, TX where he is believed to have died in 1890.  
(Source: History of Navarro County by Annie Carpenter Love)

ELIJAH P. BISHOP - Served Nov. 1860 - June 1861

Born Jan. 5, 1833, he lived in the Rice community, has a short but active term in office.   The July election was contested by R. S. Tate, and after court action, Bishop was declared the winner.  The Civil War began soon afterward, and with the excitement and preparation going on over the county he was kept busy.  He resigned from office, joined the Confederate army and served as a captain in the 19th Texas Brigade.  He died Sept. 12, 1903 and is buried in the Rice Cemetery.

WILLIAM FOSTER, Served June 1861 - July 1865

Here is one sheriff we do not know much about, other than that he served as sheriff during the civil War.  Records at the courthouse show there was little court action, civil or criminal.  The Confederate Home Guard helped with law and order during the war, so he did not have much to do.  In 1865 an abortive attempt was made to stir up the Negroes and a cache of arms was discovered on Post Oak Creek, but nothing ever came of it.   With the end of the war and the arrival of Federal troops in June, Foster decided he had served as sheriff long enough.

LAFFORD BERRY (DICK) FRENCH, Served 1865 - 1866

Here was an old timer who took on the job of sheriff at the end of the Civil War when conditions were a bad as they had ever been.  He had served as a private in Hood's Brigade, had no trouble getting elected, as the Federal troops had not yet imposed voting restrictions, but he was ousted by Federals in early 1867 as being an obstacle to reconstruction.  Familiarly called "Uncle Dick," he was born Nov. 20, 1827, in Warren Co., TN to James Lewis & Eleanor (Shanks) French died March 2, 1917 in Raleigh, Navarro Co., TX.  He is buried in the Raleigh cemetery.  He had several children, was a grandfather of Howe French.


J. H. MAPEY, Served 1867

Here is a sheriff on whom there are no records and very little is known.  Evidently he was acceptable to the Federal occupying troops, but he served only a short time.   Commissioners Court Records in April 1867 show he was paid two nominal fees for official duties.  Nothing else is known.  His name does not appear elsewhere.

NO SHERIFFS DURING Served 1868 and 1869

From the middle of 1867 until the middle of 1870, Navarro County did not have a sheriff.   The principal reason was that Federal troops were in power and overruled the sheriffs in their official  capacities.  Also, crime and disorder was rampant.   Any official duties were performed by precinct constables by Negro officers of the Union army.

Jesse Rascoe

Served as interim sheriff 4/1870 - July 18, 18760


JAMES A. NELMS, Served July 16, 1870 - August 1872

Texas was readmitted to the union March 30, 1870 but was still a police ruled state.   On July 16, 1870, Gov. Edmond J. Davis appointed Nelms sheriff and his $30,000 bond was signed by Jacob Eliot and O. M. Airheart.  Without a sheriff for three years, county law and order was in bad condition.  The District Clerk, W. B. Johnston, killed by a deputy sheriff, William Smithy, Dec 4, 1870 and two days later killed a town saloon keeper H. R. Morrell, then went to Austin where he was protected from prosecution by Gov. Davis.  Nelms resigned his office in August 1872 and Gov. Davis appointed James H. Brent sheriff.  Nelms later served as a policeman, a gin repairman, a farmer, a commission merchant and an auctioneer according to The Corsicana Observer.

JAMES H. BRENT, Served Aug. 1872 - Dec. 1872

Appointed by Gov. Davis and holder of the office of sheriff for only 4 1/2 months, Brent's name is on record for only one performance and that was in the case of Heidenheimer Bros. of Galveston Vs. F. Gonzales, where at public auction he sold merchandise of the defendant for $650.00 and then absconded with the money.  The sureties on his bond had to pay for this embezzlement  and, apparently he made good his escape.

SAMUEL JOHN THOMAS JOHNSON, Served Jan. 1873 - Apr. 8, 1876

A man of high character and good family, he was born in Georgia Jan. 23, 1832 [1827 per cemetery marker] in a family of nine children.  After serving as a captain in the Confederate army, he and his brothers, Jerry E. W. and W. D.  settled in Dresden where they operated a mercantile store until S. J. T. was elected sheriff.  Besides being sheriff, he was appointed a U. S. marshal in February 1874.  He put pressure on the Pisgah Ridge outlaws who fled, two of them Ham Anderson and A. Barrickman were killed by Comanche County officers.   On Jan. 3, 1874 two deputies left the jail door unlocked and three prisoners escaped but were shortly apprehended.  Three weeks later someone tried to burn down the courthouse by dumping five 5-gallon cans of coal oil under the county clerk's door and lighting it, but the sheriff foiled the attempt.  With future Governor Lawrence Sullivan Ross, then sheriff of McLennan County, he organize a sheriff's convention in Corsicana Aug. 14, 1874, setting up the Texas Association of Sheriffs.  He was a commissioner to the North Central and South Exposition at New Orleans in 1885 and was a representative at Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1886.  He was a founder of Trinity University.  His brothers, Wiley and Douglas, owned Johnson Brother's Clothing Store in Corsicana.  He was an uncle of Congressman Luther A. Johnson, and lived at the family residence at 320 W. 6th Ave.  He died Nov. 11, 1916 and was buried in the Oakwood Cemetery.  [Cemetery Marker Photo | Obituary | Civil War Veteran]

EWING ERIC DUNN, Served Apr. 8, 1876 - Nov. 1884

 Here is another of the old-time sheriffs, born in Livingston County, Kentucky April 15, 1835 and came to Texas in 1850, was a deputy sheriff from 1854 - 1858.  He moved to Brenham in 1859, joined the Confederate army, and returned to Corsicana after the war, was elected sheriff in the November 1875 election.  At that time, the Corsicana Observer stated that crime was worse than at any previous time in Texas, with 76 major crimes a month, the penitentiary was full and 403 inmates had either been killed, died, or escaped from prison in five months period.  Sheriff Dunn stated he had disposed of the outlaws Frank Cloud, John Polk, Jesse Reese, and Tom Wesson, although he did not specify how he disposed of them.  He was married three times, had seven daughters and one son.  Two of his daughters married J. W. (John Wesley) and N. P. (Napoleon Bonaparte "Pole") Edens.  John Wesley.   Edens was a deputy under him, later a tax collector.  He was a great, great uncle of County Judge Rob Dunn.  He was a Methodist, a Mason, and a Prohibitionist.  He died Nov. 9, 1917, age 82 and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Corsicana, Navarro Co., TX.; Obituary

JAMES LANIER WALTON, Served Nov. 1884 - Nov. 1886
The son of an earlier sheriff, Jesse Walton, he was born in Tennessee October 10, 1836, came to Texas with his father in 1845, served as a constable for two terms during the '50's and another term after the War.  During the war he served in Parson's brigade on the 12th Texas Regiment.  He and his wife, Mary, lived on a 400 acre farm four miles northeast of Corsicana and raised a family on nine children.  He was a Mason, a member of the IOOF Lodge, and a Methodist.  He died July 17, 1902 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.


HEZEKIAH P. (Ki) WEST, Served Nov. 1886 - Nov. 1890

Ki West is less known than some of the other sheriffs.  He lived at 402 W. Second Ave., had a brother named Robert and a sister-in-law, Martha W.  As sheriff he had to deal with the fence-cutting problem.  Cattlemen who had let their stock run loose on the range were not happy with farmers who put up barbed wire fences around their property, and for several years they would slip in at night and cut the wires.  For the overall good, they finally became civilized and let the fences alone.  After serving as sheriff, West operated a local Dairy.

Notes: Hezekiah Preston West married Mary Florence "Molly" Durham.  See Navarro Co. History Volume 6, pg 98

ROBERT HENRY CUBLEY, Served Nov. 1890 - Nov. 1892

Bob Cubley was better known as Little Bob, a Corsicana policeman, small in stature, very polite, and extremely quick and effective with his fists, perhaps too much so, as this made him some enemies.  He was born in Sumter County, Alabama, March 27, 1838, the son of a Methodist minister, came to Texas in 1857.  He served in the Confederate Army with Co. E. Elmo's Brigade.  After the war he was an assistant clerk in Polk County but was removed by Gov. Davis as an obstacle to reconstruction in 1869.   Coming to Corsicana in 1872, he started as a teacher  in Prof. McMinns School but joined the Corsicana police force to become a constable, then deputy sheriff, and sheriff in 1890, lost the election in 1892.  His son, Bob., Jr., serving under him as a deputy, was killed in a shootout with Rufe Highnote and Cal White in Marks Dry-goods Store at 203 N. Beaton.  The trial of Highnote and White lasted over two years with nothing ever being done to the defendants.  The sheriff's wife, Eliza, lived at 616 W. Fourth Avenue and their daughter, Bettie, married one of the Haslams.  He died Jan. 20, 1897 and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery.


JAMES MELVIN WEAVER, Served Nov. 1892 -Nov 1896

Melvin Weaver was a substantial landowner and leader in the county.  He was born in Georgia in 1848 in a family of 11 children and came to Texas in the 1870's.  Running as a member of the Populist Party, he was elected sheriff in November 1892.  Since oil was struck in Corsicana in 1894 and new people and new industry were coming to town, the job of maintaining law and order was substantial, but he was equal to the occasion.   He raised Clydesdale horses, the heavy draft variety we see today pulling Budweiser Brewing Co. Wagons.  With his wife Leah, he raised seven children, lived at 304 W. 2nd Ave.  Two of his sons, well known here, were Hugh and Clem.  Winston Weaver is a great nephew.  He died Nov. 10, 1921.

ROBERT J. (BOB) ALLEN, Served Nov. 3, 1896 - Nov. 6, 1900

One day when I was in Judge Walter Hayes JP court, I noticed a picture of a man with a mustache on a horse.  In reply to my inquiry, Judge Hayes said he was the best sheriff Navarro County ever had.  He would go out any time, day or night, and arrest his man and when he had court papers to serve, he did not quit until he had served them.   Walter Hayes, a great sheriff, himself, should have known.  But records indicate little and present people don't recall much about him, other than he was single and was considered the best dressed man in town.  He had served as a deputy and a constable before becoming sheriff.  His home was at 704 W. Third Ave.  Vital statistics are not available and local records do not indicate where he is buried.

WILEY D. ROBINSON, SR, Served 1900 - 1902 and 1904 - 1906
A son of the well known Dr. Williams Simpson Robinson of Dresden, he was born Feb 11, 1870.  Wiley was a good man who served at a difficult time.  He had scarcely been sworn into office when on March 6, 1901 he was faced by a race riot lynching of John Henderson, who had confessed the rape-murder of Mrs. Vallie Younger.  Ten months later he was scheduled to perform the hanging of T. A. Morris for the robbery-murder of G. W. Brown.  He called in a professional hangman who performed the last legal hanging Jan. 31, 1902.  The backwash from these events caused him to lose the November 1902 election, but he won the job back in November 1904.  Upon retiring in 1906, he went into the life insurance and real estate business.  He and his wife, Susie E., had two children, Wiley E., Jr. and Mrs. Nelle M. Guthrie, both of whom are residents of Corsicana.  In addition, he has numerous other relatives in the country.  He died Oct. 29, 1958.  Sheriff Robinson died in October of 1958 and is buried at the Oakwood Cemetery. [Obituary]

Jonal Joshua Hail, JR., Served 1902 - 1904 and 1906 - 1908

Sheriff Hail was born in San Augustine County, Texas Jan. 9, 1840, served with the Invincibles of Hood's Brigade in the Confederate Army, and came to Navarro County in 1870, settling at Birdston where he farmed 553 acres of land.  He married Mary A. Burleston on Oct 19, 1865 and raised a family of ten children.  It will be noted that he had a split term office, losing the 1904 electing but winning in 1906.  He was a Cumberland Presbyterian and a member of the Masonic Lodge.  Universally respected, he was a good sheriff, died Jan. 1, 1926 and buried in the Birdston Cemetery in Navarro Co., TX.


Mastifer (or Michael) Steele Clayton, Served Nov. 3, 1908 - Nov. 4, 1912

A member of an old Navarro County family, Steele Clayton was born at Chatfield, September 1854.  He farmed at Chatfield, was a constable, later a deputy sheriff, and operated the mercantile store of Guynes and Clayton at Chatfield.  He made an unsuccessful bid for sheriff in 1904 but was successful in being elected in 1908 and 1910, did not seek office any more but spent the rest of his life farming.  He arrested several murderers but the most sensational case was that of Lee and Jim Wilson who murdered their employer.  The man was a traveling motion picture operator who traveled all over the state, showing some of the first pictures ever seen.  The Wilsons hired out to him in Navarro County and after he had finished a show at Roane and was on the road back to Corsicana they killed him on the Chambers Creek bridge, cut off his legs to make it appear he had been run over by a train and them dumped the body in Chambers creek, sold his wagon, team, and motion picture equipment the next day in Corsicana.  They felt safe in Corsicana, but a few days later a squirrel hunter discovered the body in the creek, and the Wilsons were arrested.  The victim's wife identified him, and the Wilsons confessed and given 99 years in the penitentiary.  Sheriff Clayton was married to Georgia Pannill and they had two children, Mrs. Charles (Maggie) Highnote, and a son, Pannill, who died as a child.  They lived at 616 S. 15th St.  He died Jan. 31, 1920 and is buried in the Chatfield Cemetery

Biography & Obituary

WALTER LAVOSIER PEVEHOUSE, Served Nov. 5, 1912 - Nov 7, 1916

We now come to a well known name in Navarro County law enforcement, that of Pevehouse.   The Pevehouses settled in west Navarro County about 1850 and the name is frequently seen in the very earliest records.  Walter Pevehouse was born at Dresden, Navarro Co., TX on  June 3, 1865, to David Arthur & Melinda (Pierce) Pevehouse, Sr. He married Lula Elizabeth Herrin, and they had a family of five children. [note: some sources list 6]  He farmed most of his life.  He was elected for two terms, in 1912 and 1914, and, since two terms was the custom, he never ran for office again.  Several murder, burglary, and bootlegging cases were the principal tasks he handled.  For deputies he had Walter Hayes, Dave Seaton, and John Curington, all well known law officers.  Among his children, there was Rufus, the best known sheriff in the County, Mr. Clyde Absher, Clarence, Doyle, now deceased and twin sister,  Mrs. Nelke of Dallas.  He died March 7, 1945 in Navarro Co., TX.

JOHN RICHARD CURINGTON, Served Nov. 7, 1916 - Nov. 2, 1920

One of our old-time law officers, John Curington, was born in Alabama Jan. 31, 1879 and came to Corsicana at the age of 4.  He served as a deputy and jailer for Steele Clayton and Walter Pevehouse, then ran for sheriff and was elected in 1916.  His tenure of office was during World War I and with the movement of troops and transient people about the country, he was kept very busy.  In 1934 he served as District Attorney.  He married Sarah Elizabth (Harris) Curington, Daughter of William Creighton Harris & Nancy Jane (Elkin) Harris, and raised a family of seven children, Mrs. Edgar Womack, C. O. (Cap) who later served as sheriff, James Douglas, a daughter Cleo, Carl, John Richard, Jr., and Frances, all well known locally.  He lived at 1910 W. 5th Avenue and died April 13, 1937, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana, Navarro Co., TX. - Photo of Cemetery Marker | Obituary

WALTER HAYES, Served Nov. 2, 1920 - Nov. 4, 1924

We now come to Walter Hayes, a man who did whatever was necessary to get the job done and was afraid of no man.  Born in Navarro County Feb. 20, 1873, he went to work at the County Farm at the age of 21, first as a guard and later as superintendent.  He served as a deputy sheriff in 1920.  He served as sheriff during the boom when rough characters were too numerous but was equal to the occasion and had several notches on his gun to show for it.  To show the regard held for him, one day two city policeman had arrested the town drunk in front of the Hardy-Peck Building.  The drunk proceeded to lay on the sidewalk and refused to get up.  About that time, Sheriff Hayes came along and, addressing the drink said: "You bastard, get off that sidewalk and go to jail."  Fearful of the Sheriff, the drunk didn't waste any time getting up and going to jail.  After serving as sheriff, Hayes served as justice-of-the-peace, always stood for law and order and was well regarded as a law officer.  He was married to Rella, lived at 518 W. Second Ave., and had one son, Walter, Jr., who is a lawyer in Fort Worth.  He died Jan. 28, 1968 and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana, Navarro Co., TX


  • Walter Jerry Hayes, Sr., Sheriff h/o Rilla (Holcomb) Hayes married May 12, 1923 s/o John Guinn Hayes and Mary Emma “Molly” (Dickson) Hayes

JOHN W. STEWART, Served Nov 4, 1924 - Nov. 2, 1926

Our next sheriff, John W. Stewart, was born Feb. 14, 1863, married to Willie, and lived at 609 S. 18th St. An old City Marshall and Constable, he was a good peach officer but was unfortunate to be sheriff when the Ku-Klux-Klan was a big issue and feeling were high.   He was not a member of the Klan.  At that time Justices-of-the-Peace were on a fee basis.  One of the J. P. 's Geo. W. Crumbley, was displeased because he did not feel he was getting his share of the criminal cases, and he proceeded to walk in the sheriff's office and hit Sheriff Stewart over the head with a heavy notary public seal.   The stunned sheriff pulled his pistol and shot the J. P. one time.  The grand jury exonerated Stewart for the homicide on grounds of self defense, but he did not ever run for office again.  Stewart died June 24, 1937 and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana, Navarro Co., TX;  Obituary

W. TOM WILSON, Served Nov. 2, 1926 - Nov. 4, 1928

With the Ku-Klux issue a big one, nobody wanted the job of sheriff, so some of the constituents went to Rice and persuaded Tom Wilson, a bookkeeper for Fortson's gin, to run for office.  He was duly elected but immediately ran into trouble with the Klan, the bootleggers, and bribery charges against the County Attorney, Legrand Woods, and arson charges against Mose Blumrosen.  Nothing came of these court actions, but it was enough for Tom Wilson, and he left at the end of his term, moving back to his home town of Sulphur Springs.  When in Corsicana, he and his wife Annie, lived at 314 W. Second Ave., had one daughter, Nellie.

RUFUS H. PEVEHOUSE, Served Nov. 1928 - Nov.. 1938 and Nov. 1950 - Nov. 1972

A lifelong law officer and a sheriff for 32 years, Rufus Pevehouse is the best known of Navarro County Sheriffs.  Born in Blooming Grove June 4, 1900, the son of another Navarro County Sheriff, Walter Pevehouse, Rufus began as a deputy sheriff at the age of 21, working for Walter Hayes, John Stewart, and Tom Wilson.  After 6 years as a deputy, he ran successfully for office in 1928 and continued in office for 10 years.   Losing the 1938 election, he went to Dallas in 1939 as a U. S. Marshall in charge of 7 counties in the Dallas Division and held this job for 10 years.  But the job of sheriff was in his blood and he came back to Navarro County and won the 1950 election over 7 other candidates and held on to the office until 1973.  The job was made easier in 1959 when terms of office were increased from 2 to 4 years.  During his long time in service he had encounters with many rough characters but never killed a man.  He had the knack of getting along with people and getting the job done in a quiet unobtrusive manner.  He solved the Cerf kidnapping in 1932, jailed several murderers, bank robbers, and innumerable bootleggers.  During the early '30s he spent a good deal of time on the alert for the Clyde Barrow gang but never made contact with him.   Generally, during his tenure of office things were quiet and law and order prevailed.  Rufus, his wife, Frances, and son, Dan, live on a farm a few miles northeast of Corsicana.  At 76, he is active, healthy, and still looks like a sheriff.


CALVIN O. (Cap) CURINGTON, Served Nov. 8, 1938 - Nov. 1946

The son of John Curington, an old-timer sheriff, Cap was born in Corsicana Aug. 21, 1901, educated in public schools, and has lived here all his life.  He held office for 4 terms, or 8 years, with the unusual amount of official activity going on.  His tenure of office covered World War II.  A Government flying field and a German prison Camp added to his responsibilities.  A hostile strike of Cotton Mill employees in 1946 required calling in of the Texas Rangers.  He had four children, Dr. James D., C. O.,  better known as Bud who is currently District Clerk, Paul, who is with the T. P. & L. Co., at the Big Brown station, and a daughter, Mary Ann.   He and his wife, Ann, live at 309 W. Collins St., and still being a business man, he operates Curington Cleaners.  He is a good and well respected citizen of Corsicana.

DAVID S. CASTLES, Served Nov. 1946 - Nov. 1950

David Castles is a Corsicana native, born Sept 3, 1916 and educated in the local public schools, served in the European Theatre during World War II.  Upon getting out of the army, he ran for sheriff in 1946 and won the election but found a lot of work in being sheriff.  First there was the robbery of the Rice bank, then someone poisoned a well at Rice causing two deaths.  A Mexia woman was murdered and her body dumped on the edge of the highway south of town, and the Burlington Rock Island Zephur was wrecked one evening near Lake Halbert.  After leaving office, he sold life insurance, worked as a maintenance man for the Corsicana School System, and is now a security officer for the First National Bank.  He is president of the local Quarter Horse Association.   He and his wife, Flora, live at 2702 W. Second Ave., and they have a son, Mack, and a daughter, Mrs. Kay Cooper, both of whom are college professors.


JERRY  N. SHELTON, Served Jan 1, 1973 - May 1979

Jerry [Nelson] Shelton, was born April 3, 1935, at Kerens, Texas, educated there, and attended Navarro College.  He worked in the oil field and for Rex Bailey's Welding Shop before running for sheriff.  He is married to Jeri and has 3 sons, Lynn, James, and Darrell.  Since his election, he had attended schools of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the National Sheriff's Institute at Los Angeles.  He is a member of the Sheriff's Association of Texas, a charter member of the Navarro County Peace Officers Association.  He is a member of the IOOF Lodge and the Optimist Club.   His deputies number from 5 to 10, all have State of Texas certificates.   Twelve prisoners have escaped from jail but these have all been caught.  He recently installed a teletype machine in his office.  He reports crime is on the increase but is ready to handle all law violators.  He resides at 3401 W. Seventh Avenue.

HENRY HAROLD PITTS, Served May 1, 1979 - Feb 1980

A native of Dawson, Texas.  He was appointed Navarro County Sheriff on May 1, 1979, by the County Commissioners after the resignation of Jerry Shelton.  Sheriff Pitts was a seventeen year veteran of the Navarro County Sheriff's Department.  He was a member of the Navarro County Peace Officer's Association, the National Sheriff's Association, the Sheriff's Association, the National Sheriff's Association, the Sheriff's Association of Texas, the Dawson Masonic Lodge No 155, and the Presbyterian Church.   He was honored by the citizens of Dawson in 1977 with a dinner and a plaque for his outstanding service as a Law Enforcement Officer and in 1978 he was named Peace Officer of the Year by the Navarro County Historical Society.  Sheriff Harold Pitts, 63 died on February 12, 1980, in the Navarro County Memorial Hospital in Corsicana, Texas following a lengthy illness.  He was survived by his wife, Esta of Dawson, a daughter and son-in-law, Donna and Tommy Jobe, and grandson Joe Jobe, all of Red Oak, Texas.  I assume he is buried at Dawson Cemetery, Dawson, Navarro Co., TX with his wife Esta Mae (Daniel) Pitts

PETE McCAIN, Served Feb 1980 - Jan 18, 1986

Pete McCain was born August 8, 1910 in Anderson County, Texas.  He married Thelma Lee Thomas on February 14, 1934, in Corsicana.  They had two sons, Clayton and Dennis.   Pete fought in World War II with the 36th Infantry Division.  Pete began his career in law enforcement on January 1, 1951 as a Deputy for Sheriff Rufus Pevehouse.   He was appointed Corsicana Police Chief in May 1953.  In June of 1956, he resigned from the Police Department.  He was appointed Criminal Investigator for the Navarro County District Attorney's Office on April 4, 1957.  Pete retired from the District Attorney's Office on August 8, 1972.  Pete McCain was appointed Sheriff of Navarro County upon the death of Sheriff Harold Pitts, in February 1980.  He served as Sheriff until November 1980 when Bobby Ross was elected Sheriff.  Pete McCain died January 18, 1986.


ROBERT NELSON "Bobby" ROSS, Served Nov 1980 - Dec 1984

He was born in Corsicana January 18, 1947, to Rosa Hashop (daughter of Louis Hashop, Sr. & Annie Attra) and Nelson Nichols Ross.   Bobby took an interest in law enforcement at the age of thirteen, when he became a charter member of the Corsicana Police Reserve.  During high school he worked as a police dispatcher and ambulance attendant for Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Griffin.  He graduated from Corsicana high school in 1965.  Went to Sam Houston State University where he met his wife, Linda Rae Cochran, they were married in Borger, Texas.  After three years service with the Huntsville Police Department and a College Degree, they moved to Ft Bend County, Texas where Bobby was a lieutenant with the Sheriff's Department.   A desire to be closer to home, brought them to Dallas.  Bobby was a burglary investigator with the Dallas Police Department.  On June 15, 1974, Rebecca Lin Ross, their only child was born.  Bobby earned his Master's Degree at SMU.  After three years in Dallas and an upcoming Sheriff's election back home in Navarro County, found them moving again to Corsicana.  Bobby list his first bid for election as Sheriff.  He started a Burglar and Fire Alarm Business.  He and his Dad operated a construction company, an aluminum products manufacturing plant.  Bobby Ross took the oath of office in 1980 as Sheriff of Navarro County and served two terms.  Bobby was President of the Navarro County Historical Society, was a 16 year member of the Corsicana Emergency Corps and the Police Reserve, a member of the noon Lion's Club.

JAMES "Jim" PERSONS HODGE, Jr. - Served January 1, 1985 - Dec 31, 1992

Jim was born October 7, 1938 to Lucy Olive (Sanders) and James Persons Hodge, Sr. in Chatfield, Texas.  He attended the Rice Schools then transferred to Corsicana High School during his 11th and 12th grades.  he graduated from Corsicana High School and Navarro College.  Jim married Judy Berry in 1975.  they have three children, David, Michelle and Jeff.   he served under Sheriff's Jerry Shelton and Bobby Ross.  He served as Deputy Sheriff under Sheriff Shelton and Jail Captain and Chief Deputy under Sheriff Ross.   Jim Hodge was elected Sheriff, took office January 1, 1985.  He  served two terms in office from 1985 until 1992.

LESLIE A. COTTEN, Sr. - Served Jan 1993 - PRESENT

Leslie A. Cotten, Sr. was born in Corsicana, Texas on February 11, 1942 to C. W. and Hazel Cotten.  I attended school in Powell and Kerens, and graduated from Kerens High School in 1960.  Entered the U.S. Army in June 1960 serving with 101st Airborne Division as a paratrooper and with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam.  In April 1966, I was wounded in Vietnam and discharged in August 1967.  In December 1967 I was employed by the Corsicana Police Department as a dispatcher and assigned to the Patrol Division in February 1968.  Was assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division in March 1974 as a detective.  On February 2, 1981 I resigned from the Police Department.  Sheriff Bobby Ross hired me October 1, 1982 as a Deputy Sheriff Detective Sergeant.  I served under Sheriffs Bobby Ross and Jim Hodge until 1992, when I ran for the Sheriff's Office and was elected.  On January 1, 1993, I took office.  My wife Cleta and I have three children, Les Jr. Lea, Lori and two grandsons, Hunter and Heath.
(by Sheriff Leslie A. Cotton, Sr. - Navarro County History Volume Seven, "Moments in Time") -
Full Biography

Elmer Tanner - Served Jan 2013 - Present (2020)



There are the thirty men (now 34) who have been sheriffs of Navarro County.  With scant exceptions they have been good men, doing their part to make Navarro County a good place in which to live.  As long as we can procure our sheriffs by popular vote and as long as we can get good men to come out for office, we will have a county with good law and order.


  1. The Lone Star State - Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago, 1893
  2. Encyclopedia of Texas - Davis & Grobe
  3. Corsicana City  Directories, 1894 to date
  4. History of Navarro County - Annie Carpenter Love
  5. Navarro County History - Alva Taylor
  6. Navarro County History - Wyvonne Putman
  7. Navarro County Courthouse Records
  8. The Corsicana Prairie Blade - 1855
  9. The Navarro County Express, 1859 - 62
  10. The Corsicana Observer, 1870 - 76
  11. The Corsicana Daily Sun
  12. The Texas Ranger and Frontiersman - by Buck Barry
  13. Carl Mirus
  14. Burial Records - Corsicana Library
  15. Surviving Sheriffs or Relatives
  16. Navarro County History, Volume 7, 1999


Navarro County TXGenWeb
© Copyright February, 2020
Edward L. Williams