Strolling Through The Past

A Look Back Into The History of Navarro County

Sheriffs of Navarro County Part I

By Stephen R. Farris
Special to the Navco Chronicle

Before Corsicana became a town in 1848, county business and elections were held in the town of Dresden, located in the western part of Navarro County.
In 1846, the very first county elections were held in Dresden on July 13th, when the first sheriff was elected. His name was James Allen Johnson, and he served in that position until July of 1849.
According to his mini-bio on the Navarro County Texas GenWeb site (, Johnson was a well-known Indian fighter, who settled in Dresden in 1845. According to the bio, Johnson was “a man of good character.” However, it may have been a bit too much with the rascals hanging out in and around Navarro County back then, but Johnson didn’t have to do too much as the population was still relatively small, and only a few communities were starting to become established, yet spread out.
This meant that he had to pull double-duty and take on other roles at a county representative. In 1848, he was appointed as a commissioner to survey and sell lots for the new town of Corsicana. He also built the first courthouse, which wasn’t as elaborate as the ones seen today. No, it was just a 15×17 foot structure built out of logs. It only cost the county $100 to build it.
While that was quite an accomplishment for a first-time sheriff, in a newly established county, Johnson’s biggest law related incident was when he attempted to arrest a fellow Dresden resident by the name of William Ladd. Ladd was also Johnson’s bondsman. One can only imagine the confrontation these two had back then.
Ultimately, Johnson decided he had had enough of being a sheriff, and in 1849, he took the position of road overseer.
The first decade of Navarro County Sheriffs was complicated. By 1856, a total of five men had been elected as Navarro County Sheriff, with Jessie Simpson Walton serving from 1855-1860, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves, as the three men (two of which, were former Texas Rangers) in between Johnson and Walton had some interesting ordeals while in office. We’ll cover that next week in Part II. This will be a series you won’t want to miss; I guarantee!

(References: Navarro County Texas GenWeb, Navarro County Scroll, Vol. XXI 1976, by W. P. Murchison)


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