Remember When …

A photo of the Genesee County Courthouse from year’s past. Photo provided

A photo of the Genesee County Courthouse from year’s past. Photo provided

Why do we need laws anyway? Your parents can’t be with you all the time! We all need our parents to teach us respect as we grow up and to help others. We honor our parents this time of year with Mother’s and Father’s Day.

You may think that it is not needed, but if you think about the history of ancient times there were no freedoms, and everyone served a ruler. One ruler controlled everything, even over your own children, whether there was a law or not, that is why we came to America for freedom.

People wanted order, not one ruler controlling everyone, especially with an unpopular ruler, they needed peace between them all. In 1215 AD, the “Magna Carta” or ‘”Great Charter of Freedoms” was written by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, England trying to make peace from the king being in total control. It was a process for sure, they went to war which lasted two years because they would not commit to their freedom protection promises.

The Magna Carta is in our history as principle of our way to have law and ways to have freedoms like we have today in America. That defined the first law keepers of the Sheriff in the judicial branch by 1789. The 13 American Colonies used this as reference when writing the U.S Constitution.



Remember “Gunsmoke” or the town of Mayberry with Sheriff Andy Taylor? He was all over the county on TV back from 1960-68. Remember the cowboys, back in the day, with the U.S. Marshals? This position is appointed by the President, for the Federal Justice System and oversees the courts. The first 16 U.S. Marshals were appointed under President George Washington by the Judiciary Act of 1789, passed by the first Congress.

The U.S. Marshal is the investigative branch of the Judicial System in America. The first democratic laws were a step to independent living and freedom. In America, with our elected leaders, a sheriff is always voted in. We have state police for each state in the U.S., a county sheriff and city and township police, who are usually hired or appointed.

The first sheriff in the American colonies was in Virginia in 1633. In 1787 is when the office of Sheriff came to Michigan, and it was in Wayne County. Genesee County’s first sheriff was elected in 1835. Did you know the Sheriff’s office over sees the jail?

In Genesee County we have Christopher Swanson, as sheriff and you can tell he loves his community, even though the shutdown, which cancelled a lot of the ways la enforcement helps our youth, they are still there.

So, as things are reopening, support our local Genesee County Sheriff and law enforcement in our state. We can see how the history has played out in the leadership role; currently it has changed a lot. So be kind, we all want the same thing, peace on earth. “Walk with us,” as Swanson would say.

Remember When is a weekly column in the Burton View featuring historical stories about the community from the Burton Area Historical Society. If you have some Burton history to share, email