The subject of this narrative, whose portrait appears in this work, was born in Pulaski, Giles County, Tennessee, on September 23, 1826 When nearly nine years old his parents took him to Marshall County, Mississippi, where he was educated. When the war with Mexico came on, Mr. Yancey enlisted in the First Mississippi Infantry, commanded by Jefferson Davis, in which regiment he served with honor till the close of the war.  Mr. Yancey early in life learned the printer’s trade, following it until after returning from the war, until he came to this State.  In 1851, he crossed the plains, and first made a halt in California at Sonora, Tuolumne County. He came to Co­lumbia on the 17th of September, 1852, where he was engaged in mining until May, 1853, when he went on the Gazette and continued on the paper until 1858.  In Octo­ber of that year he was appointed Deputy Sheriff, in which office he remained for three years.  In 1863, he moved to Mono County, and was appointed one of the Commission­ers of the Mono road.  In the following year we find him at Silver City, Idaho, where he remained about one year, and returning to Sonora, entered the Democrat office, and there remained for eleven years and four months. He was elected Sheriff of Tuolumne County in 1876, and so faith­fully has he discharged the duties of his office that he has been his own successor to the present time. One cannot speak too highly of Mr. Yancey’s administration as Sheriff. Common thieves, highwaymen, stage robbers and murder­ers have all found their detection and conviction sure, if their depredations were committed within the juris­diction of our Sheriff. Mr. Yancey married Rosa B. Crowell on the 12th of September, 1860.  She is a native of Maine. Their children are Louisa (now Mrs. Geo. McQuade), Mabel, Edna, Henry L. and Nellie.

 “A History of Tuolumne County, California” B.F. Alley, 1882. Pg. 371-372.

Tryon Milton Yancey Jr. (1827-1898)
Information supplied by Bob Juch


Tryon Milton YANCEY was born in Oxford, Granville Co., North Carolina in 1794. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1814. He went to Pulaski, Giles Co., Tennessee to read law under Silas FLOURNOY and married one of the boss's daughters, Louisa Ann FLOURNOY about 1820 in Pulaski. Silas FLOURNOY died in 1822.

Children born in Pulaski: Joseph Trotter YANCEY, 1824; Simon Bolivar YANCEY,
1826; Tryon Milton YANCEY, Jr., 23 SEP 1827.

The family moved to Holly Springs, Marshall Co., Mississippi about 1828. He was one of the town's lawyers and was probate judge from Nov. 27, 1843 through Nov. 1851. The last sign of him I can find was as a witness of the
will of William Ragan, Apr. 10, 1860. He and his wife may have been separated or divorced as I found a deed for lot 381 to Laura A. and Thomas L. YANCEY dated Apr. 30, 1859.

Children born in Holly Springs: Laura Ann YANCEY, 1828; Martha Keziah YANCEY, 1829; Mary Julia YANCEY, 1834; Flournoy YANCEY, 1835; Thomas LeroyYANCEY, 1837.

During the Mexican War, Joe, Simon, and Tryon Jr. all went to Vicksburg and enlisted in the 1st Miss. Rifles commanded by Col. Jefferson Davis. They went to the mouth of the Rio Grande to assemble where Tryon took sick and went back home. Joe and Simon fought with their unit during their one year enlistment. I have found nothing more on Simon, but Tryon went home and was a printer's apprentice for awhile. He went to Sonora, Tuolumne Co., Calif during the Gold Rush. He worked for then bought a newspaper there. He was elected sheriff for two separate terms and died in office Jan. 12, 1898. He married Rosa Bailey Crowell of Maine in Calif. I have his children, but will not list them here. Joe went to California, possibly without ever returning to Mississippi. In 1858 he went with a party of men to work the Ajo Mine in southern Arizona. He returned to Calif. due to the Indians constantly raiding the mules he raised for the miners. He was a stationmaster of the Agua Callente stop of the Butterfield Stage Lines. He married Anna Joaquina ORTIZ in Santa Cruz, Sonora, Mexico on Sep. 3, 1859. Their children are also omitted here.

Of the other children I have little information. Laura Ann married Leroy P. BLACK; Martha died Mar. 4, 1844; Mary married William D. Roberts abt. 1859 in Holly Springs; Flournoy married Martha Lafavre ASBURY; Thomas married Rosa CULLEY in Desoto, Miss. I have some children of the above.

Published by the
Tuolumne County Historical Society
Inc. P.O. Box 695
Sonora, California 95370



A Collection of Facts and Figures
About the Sheriffs of Tuolumne County

Since its formation in 1850, Tuolumne County has been served by the administrations of 21 sheriffs, but only 20 different men have held the office because one officer, Tryon M. Yancey, served during two different periods which did not follow in consecutive order.

The election of the first sheriff was not based on partisan politics, but thereafter the office became a major political plum, and the nomination to run for sheriff was given as an award for faithful service to the party. In 1914, the office was made non-partisan and candidates were elected on the basis of personal popularity and not party affiliation. To date, three Whigs, seven Republicans and nine Democrats have held the office.

Sheriffs held office for two years until 1893 when the term was increased to the present four-year period. The legislature of 1880 had momentarily extended the term to four years, but at the following session the act was repealed before it could become operative.

Prior to 1899, the sheriff had divided his time between apprehending criminals and collecting licenses and taxes from reluctant citizens. In that year the office of sheriff was separated from that of license and tax collector and thereafter was a single office until 1947 when the county board of supervisors added to it the duties of county coroner.

The only sheriff candidate to run unopposed to date was John H. "Jack" Dambacher who succeeded in getting a "free ride" in three successive elections between 1930 and 1938. Dambacher also served for the longest period in office, a total of 24 years, before he retired undefeated in 1947.

Shortest in point of length of service was David G. Hart who was appointed to the office on December 18, 1889 to fill out the unexpired term of George McQuade, deceased. Hart appointed one of the members of the board of supervisors, Walker L. Howes, as his deputy and when Hart did not seek the office at the ensuing general election held in 1890, Howes successfully ran. Hart's record of slightly more than one year in office was almost equaled by that of George L. Adams who served as de facto sheriff for slightly over 13 months while his right to the office was being successfully contested by William Sweeney.

Many sheriffs got their start by serving as deputies under their predecessors, and one, George McQuade, got on the inside track by marrying the daughter of his boss, Tryon M. Yancey. Strangely enough, McQuade and Yancey were the only two officers to die while holding office. McQuade, who had succeeded his father-in-law in office, died on December 16, 1889. Yancey was elected to his former office at the general election in 1892, and died on January 12, 1898 before the expiration of his second term.

Although no sheriff was killed in the line of duty, at least two, John Sedgwick and William Sweeney, were severely wounded while performing their duty. As a matter of interest, one sheriff did lose his life in Tuolumne County by criminal means, and that was Sheriff William A. Phoenix of Amador County who was killed near Chinese Camp on August 12, 1855 during a shoot-out with Mexican bandits whom he had pursued here from his home county.

During the early years, the sheriff was not only required to take charge of the jail, but also to execute sentences of death as well. In the first 15 years of the county's history, sheriffs executed 12 men, while the "people" hanged at least an equal number unofficially

Only two sheriffs, George McQuade and Miller L Sardella, were of foreign birth. McQuade was born in New Zealand (some accounts say Australia) and came to California during the Gold Rush. The incumbent sheriff, Sardella, was born in Italy and came to this county when an infant. Sardella also served the longest as acting sheriff after Mervin M. Mullin resigned December 11, 1961.

Only four sheriffs have been native Californians --- Robert L. Price, William Sweeney, John H. Dambacher, and Mervin M. Mullin. Four have come from New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio and Tennessee have each furnished two.

The first sheriff, George Work, served during the county’s most troubled and lawless period. A rough relict of the frontier and Mexican War service, he was cast from the same reckless metal as the desperate men he was called upon to face. Shortly after Work took office in the spring of 1850, enforcement of the law to tax foreign miners brought the large Mexican population of the county to the brink of armed rebellion, and resulted in an outbreak of brutal assassinations which took the lives of more than a score of men. Although Work and his deputies scoured the county in desperate effort to apprehend the murderers, none was caught and brought to justice. At one time, while the foreign miners' tax was being collected, Work accom­panied the tax collector with a posse of 250 men!

Although Work was noted for his rugged character, it is said that he "was overcome with emotion" while at the hanging of Jose Corales, a Mexican horse thief, on January 7, 1852.

None of Work's successors was called upon to face as much danger as did that pioneer officer. He survived several attempts upon his life while in office only to be killed on August 7, 1854 in a classic western-style duel with a desperado named Early Lyons at ?ville, Stanislaus County, following a drunken brawl over an election. Although Work was defeated re-election to office by Henry K. Swope, he served as a deputy under that officer.

The third sheriff, Perrin L. Solomon, became so powerfu1 in local politics that his opponents elevated him to the rank of royalty by dubbing him "King" Solomon --- a title by which he was ever after known. A hatter by profession, Solomon joined the 1st Tennessee Volunteers and served with distinction during the Mexican War. Following his term of office as sheriff, he moved to San Francisco where he received an appointment as United States marshal.

Solomon's successor, James M. Stuart, is the earliest of sheriff whom a picture is extant. Always interested in military affairs, he was one of the organizers of the Sonora Greys, a local militia unit, and served as its commanding officer for several years. Later he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the California militia forces. Stuart did not seek election to a second term and the Sonora Herald reported that he had “retired from office with clean hands." In 1861 Stuart did run again, but lost out to incumbent John D. Patterson. Following his defeat, he returned to his Virginia where he was given the rank of colonel in the Confederate Army and led a regiment in the defense of Richmond, the capitol of the Confederacy. He was captured by the Union forces during one engagement but released during an exchange of prisoners.

John Sedgwick, who followed Stuart, had served as a deputy in the latter's administration. Shortly after he was called upon to officiate at the execution of Lyons, Poer and McCauley on December 11, 1857. But this group execution was topped by successor John D. Patterson, who hanged four Chinese murderers on March 22, 1861!

Sedgwick later held a number of political offices including that of Federal Collector for California, and Sheriff of San Francisco County. Perhaps of even more interest is the fact that he also managed San Francisco's most noted hostelry, the world famed Palace Hotel.

Most controversial of all sheriffs was John D. Patterson who held office during the early years of the Civil War. He had the doubtful reputation of being a Copperhead or a northern man with southern principles. In the words of one who was not an admirer, Patterson was a "Vermont Secesh."

Patterson had strong supporters as well as bitter enemies and succeeded in remaining in office for two terms, the first sheriff to do so. Prior to becoming sheriff he had served briefly as county assessor.

For many years following his service as sheriff, Patterson was one of the major building contractors in the county. He constructed the Mono Road and a portion of that highway, Patterson Grade, retains his name today. He also built the old county jail which now houses the society's headquarters and museum.

John L. Bourland of Alabama was the next to wear the mantle of sheriff. He survived for three terms, and gained some notice by successfully "shooting it out" with a Chinese gunman named Ah Tong in a street battle at Columbia on December 5, 1865. Bourland's sidearms, a pair of Army Colt percussion revolvers, are on loan to the society at this time.

The next sheriff, John A. S. Trout, was a man whose life was constantly in the shadow of financial problems. The first Republican to hold the office, Trout was a lumber dealer with side interests which included ownership of a share in the O'Byrne's Ferry toll bridge which he also constructed.

In 1877, Trout was elected county assessor and in mid-June of the following year, while apparently engaged in the routine business of appraising properly, he disappeared and was never seen again. At the time of his disappearance, the old records reveal that he was in severe financial straits.

David F. Baxter, another old pioneer, brought the office back to the Democratic fold by defeating Trout at the election of 1873. He held the office for two terms, and in turn was defeated by Tryon M. "Pre" Yancey in the election of 1877.

Yancey had commenced his career in Tuolumne County as a partner of John C. Duchow in the Columbia Gazette, and was by profession a printer. Later he was also associated for many years with the Union Democrat. He retired in favor of his son-in-law, George McQuade, after a stormy tenure in office in which he was bitterly opposed by his former newspaper partner, John C. Duchow, who was now the proprietor of the Tuolumne Independent. Following McQuade's death in 1889, Yancey again began to take an active interest in politics and succeeded once more in winning the office of sheriff at the election of 1892. He was re-elected for four years in 1894, but died in office on January 12, 1898 before the end of his term.

Yancey's successor was Robert L. Price who was appointed for the unexpired term on January 15, 1898 and successfully ran for the office at the general election of that year. Price was the first sheriff to have been born in California.

Price retired to follow the ranching business, and in 1902 the candidates were George L. Adams and William Sweeney, both young and popular men. When the votes were counted, it was found that Adams had been elected by the slender majority of two votes! Sweeney promptly contested the election and after a legal battle of a year's duration, which was finally decided in the state supreme court, he was declared legally entitled to the office.

Shortly after losing his office, Adams, like Trout, took a walk one day and was never seen again. His disappearance has always been a subject of interest to old time residents of the county, and rumors of foul play persist to this day. Occasionally there were reports of Adams having been seen in other parts of the state but these statements were never officially verified.

Appended to this sketch is a list of the sheriffs who have served Tuolumne County, showing their political affiliation and place of birth. Also included is a record of the election results of all elections for sheriff since the county was formed with the exception of the second election held on September 3, 1851. At that election Henry K. Swope, in the words of the Sonora Herald, "outdistanced his rivals by a small majority." Swope was opposed by four other candidates, including incum­bent Sheriff George Work.