The Office of the Sheriff came down to us from the common law of England, dating from the times of King Alfred (10th century England). The term “sheriff” evolved from the Old English term “shire reave.” For more than 1,000 years, sheriffs have served as peace keepers, tax collectors, keepers of jail, bailiffs of the courts, and chief law enforcement officer of the county. No other office in American history has deeper roots.
History of St. Augustine
In 1513 Don Juan Ponce de Leon first set eyes on the North American continent. He claimed the land he saw for Spain and called it La Florida or land of flowers.
Historical St. Augustine, located in St. Johns County, is the oldest European city in the United States. It was founded in 1565 and settled by Pedro Menendez de Aviles several decades before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock or the settlers established Jamestown, Virginia.
The little Spanish settlement met with many hardships including attacks by the English. It was during these times of attacks that the Castillo de San Marco was built. Amazingly, St. Augustine came under British rule peacefully. During 1783-1821, St. Augustine was given back to the Spanish under the Treaty of Paris. In 1821, Florida became a US territory and then in 1845 gained statehood.
History of St. Johns County
St. Johns County’s history begins in 1821, when Colonel Robert Butler received Spanish East Florida from Captain General Colonel Jose Coppinger. Butler represented Major General Andrew Jackson, Governor of the Provinces of the Floridas, exercising the powers of the Captain General and the Intendents of the Island of Cuba and the Governors of the said provinces, respectively, who ordained that all of that country lying east of the river Suwaney (sic) should be designated as the County of St. Johns.
St. Johns was established along with Escambia County on July 21, 1821, just eleven days after Butler received Florida for the United States, and only five days from the time St. Augustine was incorporated. The name St. Johns was created from the Spanish Mission (1590) San Juan del Puerto/St. John’s of the Harbor. The apostrophe was dropped in 1932 by the Department of the Interior because the apostrophe showed ownership.
It was a huge county, encompassing more than 39,000 square miles, 475 miles long by 165 miles wide. Further, except for Maine, St. Johns County was larger than all eleven states of the Union at that time. Much of the county was uninhabited. St. Augustine was the oldest European permanent settlement, and there were Native Americans in the county as well.