About the Department
Johnson County, Indiana, is nestled in the southern shadows of Indianapolis. Our Sheriff's Office serves 320 square miles of land and more than 139,654 residents. There is an average of more than 436 residents per square mile in Johnson County. The United States Census Bureau determined that Johnson County is the eleventh most populated county in the State of Indiana, and the fifth fastest growing county in the State of Indiana, exhibiting 21% growth from 2000 to 2010.
Our Department of approximately 56 merit deputies has provided service and protection since 1823. The Johnson County Jail staff includes approximately 53 male and female correctional officers and staff members trained in first aid, cell extraction, and various forms of conflict resolution. The Jail is designed to hold 292 inmates.
The Investigations Division includes 11 detectives; some of those detectives are devoted specifically to Narcotic Investigations. The Sheriff's Office Crime Lab Technician works closely with the Detectives to obtain, examine, and store evidence.
The Communications Division of the Sheriff’s Office operates 24 hours each day, and answers thousands of emergency calls and radio transmissions weekly. In 2010 alone, the Sheriff’s Communications Division answered 87,197 inbound telephone calls. Not only do they dispatch for the Sheriff's Office, but they also handle all communications for the following agencies: Whiteland Police, Bargersville Police, Trafalgar Police, Center Grove School Police, Princes Lakes Police, Needham Fire Stations #1 & #2, Whiteland Fire, Amity Fire, and Nineveh Fire Departments.
The Johnson County Sheriff's Office is composed of many talented, skilled, and highly trained professionals who participate on several specialty teams, including: SWAT, SCUBA, Horse Patrol, Canine, Accident Investigation, Explosive Ordinance Disposal, Motorcycle, Hostage Negotiation, United States Marshal’s Detail, and Honor Guard.
(Compiled by Director Bryan Wolfe)
Johnson County, Indiana is a rapidly growing community on
the southern shadows of Indianapolis. Johnson County is composed
of 320 square miles or 211,206 acres of land; Counties that
border Johnson County are Marion, Shelby, Bartholomew, Brown,
and Morgan counties. Johnson County was first organized in
1822. The population at that time was about 500 people who
lived in 100 cabins. According to the 2010 United States Census, Johnson County was reported to have a population of 139,654 people living in 56,649 houses.
The First Sheriff
The first government official in Johnson County was the Sheriff.
Governor Hendricks appointed John Smiley to the office of
Sheriff. Sheriff Smiley served from 1823 until 1827. As the
pioneer of Johnson County Government, Sheriff Smiley opened
his home for government meetings and proceedings in 1823
as there were no government buildings. Sheriff Smiley lived
at Greensburg Road and 700E at Smiley’s Mill. Smiley
was forced to be innovative about how to enforce the law
with such limited resources; It is recorded that Sheriff
Smiley once chained a prisoner sent from the Edinburg Justice’s
Court to a stump in the public square for his allotted time
before there was a jail. Smiley was buried within feet of
his old home on what is commonly referred to today as 700E
north of Greensburg Road on the west side of the road. His
grave rests against a fencerow near a large tree.
and lawbreakers have been recorded since the birth of record
keeping. The first recorded fight in Johnson County occurred
at the first election on Blue River at the Hezekiah Davison
residence – and
can you imagine that alcohol was involved? The first keg
of Whiskey ever brought to the county was being consumed.
William Williamson, a candidate for Clerk of the Circuit
Court, provided the whiskey. The whiskey was free to all
voters during the day. Many voters became intoxicated and
a large fight erupted. According to an account of the incident, “the
citizens beat, bit, scratched, gouged each other, and wallowed
in the mud.”
Unfortunately, more serious crime was
also prevalent.In the fall of 1867, John Patterson and
Henry Hatchell became intoxicated. The two greedy men had
heard that a Pleasant Township man who lived nearby had just
sold an animal for $70.00. They decided to go rob the
man. During the robbery, they killed the victim. The suspects
fled to a saloon near the stockyards and recklessly spend
their money. Not long afterwards they were apprehended
by Sheriff Capt. William A. Owens. Hatchell confessed
the crime to Owens on the way to the Jail. The two men were
incarcerated in the jail. The cell that held them was
secured by a lock twelve by sixteen inches in size; The key
that opened the door was one foot long. As residents of Pleasant
Township heard of the popular man's murder, they began
conspiring to take the law into their own hands.
On October 31, 1867, an angry mob of Pleasant Township citizens
traveled to the Jail in Franklin. They forced
entry into the building and obtained supplies from Turner’s
Blacksmithing Shop. They beat the huge jail cell lock until
it finally broke open. The angry mob marched the men back
up north to a Beech tree in Lysander Adam’s woods
where they hung them. These are the only recorded hangings
in the history of Johnson County.
Those individuals who desired to run afoul of the law after dark had free reign to do so, until 1954 when Sheriff Bob Maxwell instituted the first regular Night Shift patrols by Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputies.
Johnson County Jail #1
In 1826, the Johnson County Board of Justices recorded making
allowances out of the county treasury for the guarding
of prisoners. It was in that year that the first jail was
built. Johnson County Jail #1, a log structure, was built
by Samuel Herriott. A construction order was issued in
May of 1826: “the contractor for building a jail
in Franklin in place of putting but one window in each
story seven inches by three feet, put two windows in each
end, seven inches by eighteen inches, and in room of making
the logs for said jail eighteen feet long they be seventeen
feet and in place of sealing the upper loft with three-quarters
inch popular plank it be laid down with hewed timber nine
inches thick.” This jail served until 1833 when the
Johnson County Board of Justice’s determined that
a new jail was needed.
Johnson County Jail #2
The Board of Justice’s published notice that the lowest
bidder would be charged with the moving of the jail “from
the site it now occupies to the southeast corner of lot 56,
also the fencing off on said lot a stray pen of posts and
rails and putting a good and substantial gate to the same.” This
jail was built and used until 1838 when a prisoner set fire
to the building and it was burned to the ground. It was recalled
that the prisoner was badly burned by the fire of his own
setting, but in the excitement incident to the fire he managed
to make his escape.
Johnson County Jail #3
A new jail was erected by Samuel Harriott in the same location
as the old jail and was opened in November of 1838 at a
cost of $500.00. It was a secure facility; The walls were
three courses of logs. The middle course was vertical and
the other two were horizontal. The “creditor’s
jail” occupied the second story room. In the middle
of the floor on the second floor was a trap door through
which the criminals by way of ladder were conducted to
their cell on the first floor. The ladder was then removed
and the trap door was fastened above them. In August of
1850, the County Board decided that a new jail should be
Johnson County Jail #4
This brick jail was completed in 1851 at a cost of $4,800.00.
The Sheriff’s residence was attached to the structure.
The building was two stories high and faced east on the
southwest corner of the public square by the courthouse.
A hot air furnace of brick built into the structure heated
the building. This building served until it was replaced
Johnson County Jail #5
The county acquired the title to lot 54 for $1,600.00. The
lot is located on the northwest corner of West Court and
Madison Streets in Franklin on the public square. The new
jail was built for $39,900.00 and was completed in 1867.
It was modeled after the jail in Danville, Indiana. This
structure served for many years. In 1965, the structure
was considered crowded and very obsolete. This building
remained until it was razed in 1980.
Johnson County Jail #6
recently- remodeled Intake/Book-In Area of the
Johnson County Jail.
Jail #6 was built and dedicated in 1977. This building was
moved away from the courthouse square to county owned
property on the south end of Franklin. Located behind the
Johnson Memorial Hospital and adjacent to the County Highway
Garage, the Johnson County Law Enforcement Center houses
the Jail, Sheriff’s Administration, Emergency Management
Office, and the 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center. This
building still stands today. In response to a federal overcrowding
lawsuit, the jail facility was gutted, remodeled, and
a new wing was added in 2002. The capacity was raised from
104 beds to 299 beds. A jail management committee was
formed to monitor the inmate population and attempt to keep
the jail population reasonable.
Johnson County Courts
The first court session in the county was held at the Sheriff’s
residence at Smiley’s Mill. The principal business
of the court was trying cases of assault and battery and
This, the first government building in the county, was built
by County Recorder William Shaffer, a carpenter by occupation.
Opened in October 1924, the courthouse was two stories
and built of hewed logs. A broad wooden outdoor stairwell
led to the second floor where the courtroom was located.
The lower floor was a jury room when needed, but was otherwise
rented out to whoever needed a place to stay. The courtroom
was furnished with two split benches without backs for
lawyers, jurymen, litigants, and spectators.
1824, the court heard six causes, four of which were batteries
and affrays. In March 1825, the court heard 15 causes;
ten of those were criminal cases. Of those ten causes,
seven were batteries and affrays. (Point of Comparison:
The Johnson County Clerk’s
Office reports that in 2002, there were approximately 10,770
cases filed in the Johnson County Court System.)
courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1830.
This brick structure was completed in 1830 at a cost of $1,776.50.
The two-story building was considered a superb structure
when it was finished. Unfortunately, the 40’ x 40’ building
was destroyed by fire between midnight and 1:00 AM on May
Completed in 1849, the third courthouse was was 50' x 84'
and was built for $10,084. This building
served for only 25 years before it was also destroyed by
fire on December 12, 1874. The suspicious fire started
in or about the staircase and destroyed the building.
Very little information is known about the fourth courthouse,
but it was in service for only six years.
The fifth courthouse was built in 1882 for $79,100. Although
it has been remodeled, the same structure is still in use
today. The top of the courthouse features a large four-faced
clock that was purchased in 1882 for $3,070. The clock
The first telephone in Johnson County was installed by
the Central Telephone Company in August 22, 1882, and was
placed inside the court of the courthouse.
Law enforcement was summonsed by a large red Globe that stood at the corner of East Jefferson Street, just east of East Court Street. The Franklin and Artcraft Theaters had seats reserved for law enforcement so they could be found quickly in emergencies.
Radio Communications at the Sheriff’s Office began under the direction of Sheriff Bob Maxwell in 1954 as the first in-car mobile radios were installed.
Johnson County Sheriffs
- John Smiley, 1823-1827
- Joab Woodruff, 1827-1831
- John Thompson, 1831-1835
- David Allen, 1835-1839
- Isaac Jones, 1839-1843
- Austin Jacobs, 1843-1844
- William "Wylie" C. Jones, 1844 (Resigned)
- Samuel Hall, 1844-1845
- David Allen, 1845-1847
- Robert Johnson, 1847-1849
- William H. Jennings, 1849-1853
- H. L. McClellan, 1853-1857
- Noah Perry, 1857-1859
- Eli Butler, 1859-1863
- John W. Higgins, 1863-1867
- William A. Owens, 1867-1871
- Robert Gillaspy, 1871-1875
- James H. Pudney, 1875-1879
- William Neal, 1879-1883
- George C. Stuart, 1883-1887
- Jacob Hazelett, 1887-1889
- Preston Maiden, 1889-1890
- James Curry, 1890
- Jas K. P. Musselman, 1890-1894
- John C. Weddle, 1894-1898
- James G. Brown, 1898-1903
- James W. Baldwin, 1903-1907
- Hal F. Musselman, 1907-1911
- Ozias Ezra "Os" Vandivier, 1911-1917
- Strother Vandivier, 1918-1922
- Charles Bowen, 1922-1928
- Strother Vandivier, 1928-1931
- Albert R. Mulkins, 1931-1939
- Nelson W. (Pete) Pangburn, 1939-1947
- Howard "Bob" Maxwell, 1947-1954
- Charles N. Shipp, 1954-1959
- William Stillabower, 1959-1962
- Arthur D. "Red" Worrick, 1962-1970
- John W. "Jack" Means, 1971-1974
- Thomas Pritchard, 1976-1979
- J. Robert "Bob" Haugh, 1980-1986
- Doran G. Miller, 1987-1994
- J. D. "Dave" Richards, 1995-2002
- Terry McLaughlin, 2003-2010
- Doug F. Cox, 2011-Present
* Note: The dates listed are approximate; many of the older records researched were incomplete or conflicting.