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SHERIFF ASBERRY CONNOR 1866 - 1868/1870 - 1872

Sheriff Asberry Connor served Hamilton County two terms of office - first from 1866 to 1868 and again from 1870 to 1872. Connor was a Marion County native but moved to Hamilton County as a young man. He served as justice of the peace in 1861 for the county but was arrested by Confederate soldiers when the Civil War began. His friend, William Crutchfield, was instrumental in his release, and Connor traveled to Kentucky where he joined a Tennessee regiment.

Connor became a captain in the Union Army, and after the war he was made the first marshal of Chattanooga. According to a newspaper obituary, Connor had six children and a large family in both Hamilton and Marion Counties.

Tennessee archives state that Andrew Johnson, the Military Governor of Tennessee, appointed the members of the Hamilton County Court in April 1864. Johnson appointed all county officers until Tennessee was readmitted into the Union in July 1866. Only, then was military control in Hamilton County abolished, at which point Connor took office. As sheriff, he enforced the law in an area plagued with fires flooding, and disease. Smallpox was spreading among the poor, and the local government appeared helpless in collecting revenue to combat the disease.

Fires were common place. The fire engine was manned by the first volunteers at its helm and pulled by as many as one hundred men. There were no sirens, merely citizens crying, “Fire!” Despite their many obstacles, the volunteer firemen did a fine job and saved many lives.

By far the most catastrophic event during Sheriff Connor’s terms was The Great Flood of 1867. Hamilton county residents recorded many snowfalls that melted just as heavy rains pelted the area. Although they were aware of the steadily falling rain, they had not expected or prepared for a flood of any size.

On Friday night, March 8, 1867, the great waters of the Tennessee River began spilling over throughout the county. In downtown Chattanooga, buildings were under five feet of water, and residents in low-lying areas were rushing to their rooftops. Most buildings along the river bank were swept away, and the Union Army bridge was destroyed. The Tennessee River crested on Monday morning, March 11, 1867, and would have measured 58.6 feet by the present gauge.

Connor moved to Arkansas in 1880, eight years after finishing his second term in office for Hamilton County. Having served as the county’s sheriff during some of its more difficult years, Connor wanted to try his hand at fanning and merchandising in a new environment. By all accounts, Connor left an excellent record of service. He died in Magazine, Arkansas March 21, 1901, at seventy-nine years of age.

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