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History

A Historic Perspective:
The Past and Present Role of the Mercer County Sheriff 
(Including a comprehensive list of Sheriffs from 1838 - present)

The County of Mercer was established by an act of the New Jersey State Legislature in 1838 and consequently, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office was formed. The first Mercer County Sheriff was the HONORABLE RICHARD JAQUES, who began serving in that position the same year. He resided in what is now the Yardville/Groveville area of Hamilton Township. Jaques served under William Pennington - the State’s 13th Governor for a term of three years. Other 19th century sheriffs included notable Mercer County individuals: GEORGE OLMSTEAD, DANIEL BRITTON, JOHN HAMMELL, JOSEPH JUSTICE, WILLIAM BOSWELL, WILLIAM NAPTON, JOHN MUIRHEAD, ROBERT L. HUTCHINSON, GEORGE BREARLEY, HENRY COX, THOMAS CROZER, and BENJAMIN WALTON.

Mention the word "sheriff" and many people's minds fill immediately with images of gunslingers in the Wild West. Such is the power of old movies and television shows, which have magnified the role of the American sheriff that it is now virtually impossible to think of a sheriff as existing in any other place or time. By the mid 1800s, county sheriffs prevailed as an essential part of the local community, which were elected annually by the people, and could be re-elected until they served three years.

Before World War II and the 1947 revision of the NJ State Constitution, the county sheriff was typically the county police chief, public prosecutor, and jailer all-in-one. In the middle part of the 20th century, sheriffs were elected by the people of their respective counties to three-year terms and permitted to be re-elected. More so, their roles became more clearly defined under the State’s Constitution and written statutes.

 Today, MERCER COUNTY SHERIFF JACK KEMLER has expanded the duties of the sheriff to adapt to the needs of the 21st century. The Mercer County Sheriff oversees a large-scale and multifaceted law enforcement agency that carries out the execution of bench warrants, performs court-security at the county’s three courthouses, security at Trenton-Mercer Airport, and regularly supports local police departments – whenever assistance is needed. 

The Sheriff also oversees public safety and outreach programs, a highly skilled K-9 unit, an explosive detection team, and emergency response team (SWAT), a Detective/Fugitive Unit, in addition to collecting and preserving evidence obtained in criminal cases, and participation in federal, state, and local task forces - involving narcotics, weapons and the apprehension of fugitives.

Below is a comprehensive list of Mercer County Sheriffs who faithfully and dutifully served the county and its people.

1838-1840: Richard Jaques
1841-1843: George T. Olmstead
1844-1846: Daniel T. Britton
1846-1848: John Hammell
1849-1851: Joseph Justice
1852-1854: William Boswell
1855-1857: William Napton
1858-1860: John Muirhead
1861-1863: Robert L. Hutchinson
1864-1866: George Brearley
1867-1869: Henry T. Cox
1870-1872: Thomas Crozer
1873-1875: Joseph S. Mount
1876-1881: Charles Skirm
1881-1884: Amos Sickel
1885-1887: Hiram R. Withington
1888-1890: Charles B. Robison
1891-1893: Spafford W. Bergen
1894-1896: Augustus T. Ege
1897-1899: Harry A. Ashmore
1900-1902: Samuel T. Atchley
1903-1905: Thomas M. Thropp
1906-1908: William L. Wilbur
1909-1911: Philip Frudenbacher
1912-1914: Walter Madden
1915-1917: J. Warren Fleming
1918-1920: Frederick P. Rees
1921-1923: Walter Firth, Sr.
1924-1926: Charles H. Reichert
1927-1929- John N. Race
1930-1932: Charles H. Reichert
1933-1935: Albert Cooper Jr.
1936-1938: Herbert W. Bradley
1939-1941: Harry E. Hartman
1942-1944: Mark O. Kimberling
1945-1947: Edward A. Leaden
1948-1950: Sido L. Ridolfi
1951-1959: Thomas A. Brennan
1959-1961: John W. Condon
1961-1969: Joseph F. Holland
1970-1975: Charles Kovacs
1976-1979: Arthur R. Sypek, Sr.
1979-1990: Gilbert W. Lugossy
1990-2002: Samuel J. Plumeri, Jr.
2003-2010: Kevin C. Larkin
2010- Present: John A. Kemler

Sources:

History of Burlington and Mercer Counties, New Jersey, with Biographical sketches of many of their
pioneers and prominent men, By Major E. M. Woodward and John F. Hageman, Everts & Pe
Publishers, Philadelphia, 1883. pp. 533 -536

Fitzgerald’s New Jersey Legislative Manual 1872 – 2018

Special thanks to the New Jersey State Library, Reference Services Desk Staff

Researched and compiled, May 2019