On February 19 the New York State Legislature rules that all sheriffs are to be appointed annually by the Council of Appointment, and that no person can hold the office for more than four successive years. The sheriff also, may hold no other office and must be a freeholder in the county to which appointed. In 1821 the legislature decides to make the position elective. Sheriffs are now chosen for terms of three years, and are ineligible for the next succeeding term.
Yates County was brought into existence by an act of the Legislature of the State of New York on February 5. The area was formerly the southern part of Ontario County, and was formed for “the convenience of the majority of the people.” The act appointed John Sutton of Tompkins County, George H. Feeter of Herkimer County, and Joseph B.Walton of Otsego County to be commissioners for the “purpose of examining and impartially determining the proper site or sites for a court-house and gaol.” Until the “gaol be completed” it was stated in the act that prisoners should be confined in the jail of Ontario County. Abraham Wagener donates two acres of land for the county buildings to be built on. This, along with fact that it is the largest town in the new area, helps Penn Yan win the county seat. A nine member Board of Supervisors was formed for the county to raise money for the courthouse and jail. They established a goal of $2,500 dollars for each the first and second year. James P. Robinson of Middlesex was elected as the first Sheriff on April 8 and was sworn into office on April 23.
A combination courthouse and jail was completed. The project kept within the 5000 dollar budget, and was equipped with county offices, Sheriff Robinson’s Office and six jail cells. It was located on the site of the old Courthouse, which is now attached to the new County Office Building.
The court house, office and jail was destroyed by fire. Unknown how started.
A new courthouse was built on the same site, and the jail and office for Sheriff Ketchum was separate from the county offices. It was located nearer to Liberty Street. 1857 The Sheriff’s Office and county jail was once again destroyed by fire. It was started by one of the inmates, Albert Hathaway of Barrington, who ironically was in jail for Arson at the time. He was arrested for the crime, but later acquitted on the plea of insanity. Sheriff Daniel Lanning was able to evacuate all prisoners. A new jail was built the same year. It was “constructed of stone, covered with a coating of plastic material.” The cells were constructed with “solid cast-iron fronts.” Reports of the cost vary from $8000 to $10,200 dollars. This jail was located where the current flagpole for the County Complex stands today.
After much local debate the office and jail was demolished, and a new one was built just north of it on the corner of Liberty and Court Street. It had double bunked cells with both female and juvenile cells upstairs. It could totally hold 28 inmates. Sheriff Elias Pulver and his family resided in the front part with the Sheriff’s Office separating the residence from the jail cells. The Sheriff and family (wife as jail matron and cook) continued in residence. Sheriff George Spike and family were the last to reside here, leaving in 1977. The jail was renovated for occupation by the County Public Health Department, Civil Service and other agencies until its demolition on January 8, 2001 to make way for new county office building expansion. The oak fire places with mirrors were saved with one installed in the new court house judges chamber. The other to the Public Safety Building.