The “Sheriff’s Papers” are miscellaneous county records, most of which did not originate with the Sheriff’s Department. The “Sheriff’s Papers” were obtained from the Dade County Sheriff’s Department around 1953.
The collection includes letters, telegrams, bank statements, budgets, warrants, payrolls, requisitions, purchase orders, invoices, receipts, minutes, resolutions, bills of law, court decisions, legal opinions, affidavits, petitions, charters, licenses, tax returns, tax sale certificate, titles, bids, lists (jurors, registered voters, county employees, landowners, Home Guards), applications for employment, reports, statistics, publications, etc.
A major portion of the collection consists of the correspondence of various members of the Board of the County Commissioners, particularly Chairmen W. Cecil Watson and Charles H. Crandon, and Deputy Clerk W. E. Norton. Some of the correspondence is personal, dealing mainly with job recommendations, political campaigns, and matters of courtesy. The bulk of the correspondence covers a wide range of county business. From the turn of the century to the time of the Bust, bond issues, real estate, right-of-way negotiations, roads, canals, bridges, causeways, beautifications – the economics and politics of rapid growth – predominate. During the 1930s, economy, reduction, consolidation of county administration, charity cases, relief work, tax sales and adjustments, illustrate the difficult economic and social conditions of the period and the county government’s response to it.
Throughout the entire correspondence, there is a large number of letters written to the County Commissioners by local residents and visitors on a great variety of subjects, many of them accompanied by a copy of the reply. There are letters from county scholarship students requesting permission to join fraternities, from black citizens protesting some humiliating regulations, from irate owners of orchards and other property damaged by county road crews, from a man demanding the reward for delivering the dead body of an escaped criminal, from an attorney requesting that a young black female county prisoner, convicted of manslaughter in a drunken driving accident, be allowed to serve the rest of her sentence as a maid in his household, from a mother seeking reimbursement or reduction of a fine imposed on her by a justice of the peace for choking a teacher who choked her child, from a northern investor who can’t sell his Dade County bonds without a loss castigating the Commissioner for spending over four million dollars building that “awful tombstone” of a new court house, from Alligator Joe applying for a permit to kill a manatee “for scientific and educational purposes,” from destitute widows eternally grateful for a mother’s pension, etc., etc. There is wealth of material here on the quality of life at the time of an average citizen, on a day-to-day level. In order to make use of this source, however, the original arrangement of the material, which has been retained with minor changes, makes it necessary to peruse numerous “miscellaneous” folders, arranged only according to the initials of the correspondents and dates (Boxes 4,5, and 6).
Part of the correspondence is filed in folders numbered 1 to 106 (Box 7). This series is topically arranged, if somewhat arbitrarily. Some folders contain extensive exchanges of letters on a given subject, others but a single item of dubious importance. The container list gives a brief description of the contents of each numbered folder.