Northampton County Sherriff Department History

In the Line of Fire (PA Sheriffs) by Dan Mihalko

The Office of the Sheriff was brought to the colonies by Dutch and English colonists before the time of William Penn. The title of sheriff in Pennsylvania was recognized in the earliest reports of English law and the sheriff was recognized as the chief law enforcement officer in the county. The Office of the Sheriff was formally recognized by all five of Pennsylvania's Constitutions in 1776, 1790, 1838, 1873, and 1967.

The Northampton County Sheriff’s Department has a long and proud history of service to the county. In 1752, when Northampton County was founded by the Penn family, William Craig was named the first sheriff of Northampton County. His ascension to office began a proud tradition of protection and service to the community that has continued for more than 270 years. Sadly, on January 20, 1771, Northampton County Sheriff’s Deputy Nathan Ogden was the first law enforcement officer killed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Nathan Ogden was shot and killed as he and other Northampton County Deputies stormed Fort Dupree (Hanover Township) in an effort to arrest fugitive Lazurus Stewart during the Pennamite-Yankee War, a time when colonists were fighting each other as well as Native Americans for land rights. The story of Nathan Ogden was the subject of the painting "In the Line of Fire (PA Sheriffs)" by artist Dan Mihalko.

Throughout history, Pennsylvania Sheriffs have acquired many duties and responsibilities. Today, modern sheriffs' departments such as the Northampton County Sheriff's Department are faced with unprecedented demands and challenges. However, if past history can be used as to predict the future, there is little question that the Office of Sheriff will adapt, grow, and always remain an integral component of the American law enforcement system.