Agency History


Yavapai County reflects the history of the old west and the future of the new. Remnants of U.S. Cavalry forts, Indian dwellings, gold rush boomtowns, abandoned mines, Spanish Land Grant ranches, homesteads and vast tracts of uninhabited public lands exist side by side with modern housing developments, industry and business here in the mountain heart of Arizona.

Yavapai County is one of the four original Arizona counties formed in September of 1864 one year after the Arizona Territory was established. The County was named after the Yavapai Tribe, whose name means the “people of the sun.”

The County was originally 65,000 square miles and was called the “Mother of Counties” because five other counties were later formed from it. The territorial government was also born in Yavapai County, the capital originally located in the City of Prescott.

Spanish explorers also traveled through Yavapai County starting around 1581, Juan de Onate explored the area in 1604, and Friar Francis Garces visited in 1776. The California “49ers” crossed through the County in 1849 on their way to the California gold-rush and after the Civil War there was a marked influx of Southerners into the territory.

Just prior to statehood in 1912, the County had a population of approximately 16,000 people. It rose rapidly to over 24,000 by 1920 and remained somewhat constant for the next 40 years. The 1970 U.S. Census showed a population of nearly 37,000, which reflected the beginning of new, rapid migrations to the County that continued through the end of the 20th Century. During the 2000 U.S. Census, the population was counted at 165,000. The most recent Census in 2010 showed us that Yavapai County experienced another period of growth with a population of 211,033.

Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office dates back to pre-territory days starting in 1864 with the appointment of Van Ness C. Smith as the first Territorial Sheriff. Between 1864 and statehood in 1912, nineteen Sheriffs were appointed or elected. From statehood to today 4 Sheriffs have been appointed and 12 elected, with Sheriff Scott Mascher being elected in 2012.

Today’s Sheriff Office is a model in modern cost-effective Law Enforcement operating with sub-stations in Dewey, the Verde Valley, and Williamson Valley along with 4 neighborhood substations in Black Canyon City, Yarnell, Seligman, Bagdad, and Ash Fork bringing policing directly into the neighborhood.

The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office has a rich history and enduring place in the great State of Arizona. Before being divided, Yavapai County was the largest single county ever created in the United States. The domain was approximately 65,000 square miles. Yavapai County covered more than half the territory of Arizona that was laid out in 1864.  Thus, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office has been providing you full service for over one hundred years.

When we consider the history of the Sheriff's Office, it is worthy to note that the Sheriff is the only the law enforcement authority provided for in the Arizona State Constitution. This underscores the reference that the Sheriff is considered the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the County.  It is also important to note that other law enforcement agencies are all creatures of some legislative body. These agencies are usually restricted and have a very narrow mission statement, while a Sheriff's Office is responsible the four "C"s, or Courts andCorrections.

Currently, Yavapai County is an empire of its own, stretching for 8,128 square miles.  It is larger than the states of either Massachusetts or New Jersey or the combined areas of the states of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Delaware. It ranges in altitude from 2,000 feet in the southwest to about 8,000 feet on the highest of the mountain ranges. The riches of Yavapai County are its dense forest covered mountains, mines and quarries, picturesque valleys, and rich grazing land.