What’s the difference between an Old West marshal and a sheriff?

 

What’s the difference between an Old West marshal and a sheriff?

Scott Gano

Lake Orion, Michigan

Generally speaking, U.S. marshals and their deputies dealt with federal issues.  The town marshals and their deputies acted as peace officers in the towns.  The county sheriffs were usually the highest elected official in the county and their jurisdiction was county-wide.  Many times, an officer was a deputy U.S. marshal and could also be a sheriff or town marshal.  As you can see, holding both commissions gave him a wider range of authority.

For a good book on frontier government, I recommend Mining Camps: A Study in American Frontier Government by Charles Howard Shinn.

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.