Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Masthead
Former Sheriffs of Hamilton County

The Sheriffs of Hamilton County
Portrait of Sheriff William H. Bean

Sheriff William H. Bean was a direct descendent of William Bean, recorded to be the first permanent settler in the state of Tennessee. Sheriff Bean was born on December 15, 1833 He married Martha Stout, and they had two children, Sarah Louise and James A. Bean. Family records state that Bean served Hamilton County from 1872 to 1874 as sheriff. A Civil War veteran, Bean rose to the rank of major in the Union Army. Most elected officials in Hamilton County after the war were former Union officers, a trend which continued for some time.

Although there is very little published information regarding Sheriff Bean, 1872-1874 several newspaper articles and local history accounts described the climate during his term of office. Reconstruction was still underway, and business expansion was Hamilton County’s first priority. According to the Chattanooga Times, merchants reported that they “could not close shop for jury selection, and gentlemen were too busy to attend jury duty.” The paper also noted that “the sheriff was having a difficult time selecting a jury.”

The Hamilton County Grand Jury criticized the county jail in an 1873 news article, claiming “the jail had only two cells, no ventilation, was filthy, there was excretion in wooden buckets and not one fire all winter!” The article further claimed that “the facility was sized for five people but was currently holding nineteen people!”

The Grand Jury requested that the sheriff improve the jail: “We have no doubt that three months within the walls of said place are more detrimental to the health of its inmates than a five year sojourn would be within the state penitentiary.”

The politics of Sheriff Bean’s term of office were represented by the effect of the Amnesty Amendment which restored voting rights to the “majority of Confederate soldiers.” Under the “Brownlow Legislature of 1872,” Dr.Philander D. Sims, “a Democrat and a Confederate,” was elected mayor.

Bean died on December 18, 1909, at the age of 70. Eight months earlier, he had suffered from a paralytic stroke from which he had never recovered.

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