Galveston County was formed by an act of the Congress of the Republic of Texas on May 15, 1838.  Under that act, William F. Wilson was appointed the County’s first Sheriff.  One of his first acts was to establish a county jail, which was placed in the Elbe, a vessel beached during a hurricane in 1837. 

In that era, just as now, the Sheriff had the responsibility for maintaining law and order in the county, operating the county jail, and, in certain cases, carrying out sentences – including death sentences – for persons found guilty of crimes.  In November, 1840, Sheriff Wilson was ordered by Judge Shelby, judge of the 1st Judicial District, to hang a man after he had been convicted of burglary and “prison-breaking.”  With regret, and with cries from the public not to carry out the sentence, Sheriff Wilson took the man to the gallows in what was reportedly the first hanging in the County’s history.  The last Sheriff that had to carry out such a sentence – according to available information – took place around 1886 under Sheriff William Owens.

In 1841, the newly-elected Sheriff, H. M. Smythe, took office.  Soon thereafter, Texas President David Burnet appointed a judge, Thomas Johnson, to serve in the 1st Judicial District but did not remove Judge Shelby from the bench.  Recognizing Judge Johnson as the true judge, Sheriff Smythe found himself trying to perform his duties alongside another Sheriff, William Herring.  There is no known record of any other county in Texas that had two sheriffs in office at the same time.  The matter was soon corrected, and Sheriff Smythe remained in office until 1844. 

A number of men served as Sheriff of the county, some appointed but many elected by the populous:

1838-1840 William F. Wilson   1873-1876 Joe Atkins
1841-1844 H. M. Smythe   1877-1880 Chris Jordan
1841 William Herring   1881-1886 William P. Owens
1845 William F. Wilson   1887-1895 Pat Tiernan
1846-1850 Pryor Bryan   1896-1922 Henry Thomas
1851-1852 William N. Sparks   1923-1931 Robert E. Kirk
1853-1854 John N. Reed   1931-1932 Claude J. Allen
1855-1856 David N. Grove   1933-1956 Frank L. Biaggne
1857-1860 J. H. Westerlage   1957-1960 Paul Hopkins
1861-1863 C. L. McCarty   1961-1980 J. B. Kline
1864 Alvin Reed   1981-2000 Joe Max Taylor
1865 C. L. McCarty   2001-2008 M E. “Gean” Leonard, Jr.
1866-1871 Frank Dirks   2009-2012 Freddie Poor
1872 Joe A. Owens   2013 - Present Henry Trochesset

In January, 1957, Sheriff Hopkins took over the office with a staff of five deputies, one secretary, and a handful of jailers that operated a four-story pre-1900 jail facility, located at what is now the area of 17th Street and Harborside Drive in Galveston. 

Sheriff Henry Trochesset, in January of 2013 began his tenure with more than 430 sworn- and non-sworn personnel operating a modern jail facility able to house 1,187 inmates.