California: top cop Sheriff of Santa Clara County, Sheriff John Yontz 1850-1852

From Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith
Sheriff John Yontz
Served From   Served To
 04/08/1850  04/05/1852

Our first official Sheriff for Santa Clara County was John Yontz. Yontz left his home state of Illinois and arrived here, in California in the Spring of 1849. He was appointed Sheriff in early 1850, a few months prior to the first official county election. The election was held on Monday, April 8,1850; John beat out three other candidates for the Sheriff’s job, receiving 379 votes compared to the runner up R.B. Overton who received 263 votes. California became a state on the 9th of September, 1850, making Yontz the first official Sheriff of Santa Clara County under statehood.

John retired from office April 5,1852. He made an unsuccessful bid for sheriff in 1853, loosing to William McCutchen. Although he was no longer sheriff, he continued to stay in county politics. In 1852 he conducted the official population census for the county. He also served as Public Administrator for the county, and Constable for the County and City of San Jose. In 1864 and 1865, he served as a Deputy Sheriff under Sheriff John Hicks Adams.

In the early 1860’s he lost his oldest daughter, Sarah, while she was giving birth to his grandchild. His wife Catherine ended up in the insane asylum in Stockton. Charles Yontz, the youngest of the four Yontz children, also served as a Deputy Sheriff under Sheriff Adams. In the 1890’s, Charles ended up on the other side of the law. He was arrested for being a vagrant, and spent a few day’s in the county jail. On one occasion he was sent to San Quentin for Grand Larceny, where it appeared he may have passed away. There are no records relating to what may have happened to John’s other two children, William and Mary.

John sold his ranch in south county to his son William in the 1870’s, and moved to a home on Larken Street in San Francisco. He died on March 22,1877, at the age of 74.

Leave a Reply