Jefferson County’s beginnings and why its first sheriff was ‘widely known and highly respected’Published at | Updated at
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories about former sheriffs in eastern Idaho.
RIGBY — Edward Harrop was on horseback making his way back to Rigby. With him were two horse thieves he’d tracked all the way to St. Anthony.
The Rigby man, who was in his 50s at the time, had recently been appointed Jefferson County’s first sheriff by Governor John Haines, according to a history written by his daughter, Martha Fisher, in 1975. Harrop served in this capacity from 1913 to 1915, but he was the Fremont County sheriff six years before that. Arresting horse thieves was a common occurrence.
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“He followed horse thieves clear into Coterville, Wyoming on horseback to justice. He even kept them in our home overnight,” Fisher wrote.
Sometimes he would bring prisoners to his property and lock them in his barn until morning.
That was the case on this particular night. He put them inside as it was getting dark, his great-granddaughter Michelle Barber tells EastIdahoNews.com.
The barn still exists today. It’s north of Rigby on the Menan-Lorenzo Highway several miles west of exit 325.
Gary DeLand, Harrop’s great-grandson, still owns the badge and other items his great-grandfather used when he was sheriff.
DeLand, 82, lives near St. George, Utah and has worked as a lawman throughout his life. He got his start as a deputy sheriff in Salt Lake County in 1963 and went on to serve as the executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections.
DeLand remembers a similar incident when Harrop rode on horseback to Jackson to arrest someone.
“He was suffering bad from leg cancer at the time,” DeLand recalls. “He chained them in his barn. It was too long of a ride to go into Rigby to put them in jail after going that far. He waited until the next morning to take them on to jail.”
Harrop had written “No smoking” on a piece of metal that he hung in the barn since it frequently acted as a temporary jail.
DeLand was recently diagnosed with carcinoma, a type of cancer that lines or covers internal organs, on his arm and his leg. He says it isn’t serious, but finds it ironic.
“He (Harrop) had melanoma (a type of skin cancer), which was much more dangerous,” DeLand says. “But I found it somewhat ironic that we were both lawmen and both had cancer (in our leg).”
Harrop’s life before law enforcement
Harrop had been serving as the sheriff of Fremont County at the time of his appointment. Prior to the creation of Jefferson County, Fremont County — the first county created after Idaho became a state — included all of the area within its current borders, along with what is now Teton, Madison, Jefferson and Clark Counties, Fremont County Chronicle-News reported in 1963.
Harrop was born in Spanish Fork, Utah on March 12, 1861. His parents moved to Ogden when he was three, where he lived for the next 20 years.
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He and his brothers, Sam and Aaron, were among the first settlers in areas north of Rigby. They arrived in 1885. Sam settled in Labelle, about four miles northeast of Rigby. Ed and his wife, Harriet, built a two-room log house near the little butte in Annis after clearing sagebrush.
Fisher owned this property years later. She is DeLand’s grandmother, and he has fond memories of living there in the summer as a kid, milking cows and working in the fields.
“It’s my most prominent memory (of childhood),” DeLand says. “I didn’t realize how much fun I was having at the time.”
Ed and Harriet later traded that homestead for the farm with the barn where he housed prisoners. His daughter, Minnie Searle, and her husband, Melvin, owned it years later.
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In the book, “Lawmen: The History of Idaho Sheriffs 1863-2000,” Ed is described as an outgoing and friendly man who enjoyed pulling pranks on people. He loved “being involved in community events” and horses were his passion.
“Having a fast, well bred, beautiful horse was a priority,” the book says. “He often led posses into Wyoming after desperados.”
Fisher says her father farmed most of his life. He raised cattle and horses, but he and his brothers, along with a man named Johnny Holland, owned a general store in Lorenzo called Harrop Bros and Holland.
Another one of Harrop’s daughters, who is identified as Carrie in the book, has memories of her father working as a blacksmith for a time. She recalls “sitting on her father’s broad leg curled up in the circle of his arm” while her father repaired broken machinery.
Many people relied on his services, she says, and it was here that he taught her to read and write before she was old enough to go to school.
“Carrie valued his love … very much. She was always proud to be with her parents,” the Idaho Sheriffs Association writes.
Fisher writes in her personal history that Ed served as a deputy to his brother, Sam, in Fremont County for several years before he was elected sheriff. His deputies were Miles Cahoon and Amas Neeley.
“They made many long trips going after prisoners with the team and buggy, regardless of the weather,” Fisher writes.
Jefferson County’s formation and Harrop’s time in office
Growth was the primary reason why Jefferson County was created, Bob Ziel wrote in 2013 for the county’s 100th anniversary. The county was named after third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. John Hart of Menan, who was a delegate to the Republican National Convention at the time, was responsible for its creation.
“He sponsored legislation which created the county, plus Hart was the first state senator to represent us in Boise,” Ziel writes.
Hart’s bill was approved on Feb. 18, 1913. That November, voters determined Rigby would be the county seat.
The county’s elected officials met for the first time on Jan. 5, 1914. Sheriff Ed Harrop was among them.
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Harrop was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and “had a firm conviction of right and wrong,” according to a biographical sketch from the Idaho Sheriffs Association.
In those early days, he was often called upon to settle disputes between neighbors over land boundaries and often acted as a counselor in family problems.
“One of the most tragic events during his term was having to arrest a young (boy with special needs) who had shot and killed his father. The father was one of Sheriff Harrop’s best friends and neighbor, and having to arrest his best friend’s son was the hardest duty he had to deal with,” reports the Idaho Sheriffs Association.
His brother, Sam, who served as Fremont County Sheriff for three terms, moved to Tetonia in 1908. He lived there the rest of his life, where he became “a prominent farmer and cattle man.” Harrop’s Bridge near Haden Cemetery on Idaho Highway 33 is named in Sam’s memory.
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Ed Harrop became “widely known and highly respected” during his time as sheriff. His final years were spent farming at his home in Annis.
Ed was 63 when he died on July 1, 1924. His obituary attributes his cause of death to “serious complications” arising from an attack of influenza.
“Some years ago, he had a cancerous growth removed from his lip and his health had not been robust since,” his obituary says.
He was “widely mourned” and his funeral services in Annis were “filled to overflowing.”
Ed was an integral part of settling Annis and was actively involved in serving the surrounding community throughout his life. A statement Ora Lee Bennett wrote about Sam Harrop in her history book about Annis also applies to Ed.
“He was sheriff … when it took courage to fill that office. He is remembered for his honesty, his hospitality, and never failing helping hand to those about him,” Bennett writes. “He is a monument to the sterling race of stockmen who played their part in the opening up of the west.”