To Be or Not to Be, a Sheriff in 1835



Editor’s Note: This is the seventeenth in a series of articles about the Belle Vue property, most of which have been written by Debra Honor. Honor is a local historian/genealogist and a member of the Belle Vue Conservancy.)



By Debra Honor UE, PLCGS


Holding the Office of Sheriff in the Western District was considered a profitable position in the 1830’s. The lieutenant governors of Upper Canada had the right to appoint their own sheriffs and they picked men who were loyal to the government. Ebenezer Reynolds, the brother of Robert Reynolds of Belle Vue, was appointed as Sheriff of the Western District in 1835.

The Office required that the applicant be a Gentleman of education, character, and property. Ebenezer had been a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Essex Militia and he was much admired.

He must possess an unencumbered real estate to the value of £750 and live near Sandwich, close to the court and jail to be able to perform his duties. In 1833, Ebenezer traded his property in Colchester for a property in Sandwich each valued at £750.

He was prohibited from participating in any Mercantile Business or Speculation.

He must pay bond of £4,000 securities to the government.

Traditionally the sheriff received a salary of £50 per annum. However, a new Act regulating the Office of Sheriff removed this salary and Ebenezer did not receive one. A sheriff’s income came from the fees he charged for his duties which were: selling land for non-payment of taxes, making arrests, summoning jurors, administering writs of the court, keeping the jails and executing sentences passed, including hangings.

Ebenezer told the new sheriff, Robert Lachlan, that the fees on average were no more than £100 per annum and from those fees, he was to deduct the travelling expenses to perform his arduous duties, frequently amounting to more than the mileage allowed. The Western District included Essex, Kent and Lambton counties.

Ebenezer explained to the government that he did not hold any other government office that received fees, except the office of the Sheriff, and that being prohibited from participating in any Mercantile Business or Speculation that might enable him to keep up a “Decency of appearance becoming the respectability of said Office,” he requested a salary. The government refused his request and Ebenezer felt obliged to resign in 1837.

In 1838, Robert Lachlan, Sheriff of the Western District, wrote in the Western Herald his own plea to the government stating, “that no Public Office can be expected to be well filled, unless its holder be suitably remunerated.”

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