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Cherryville's Court System


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Mike Jones
Copyright © 1996-2006
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  Mike Jones

Looking at the history of the Police Department has prompted an examination of the early judicial system of the town. In the early days of the municipality the judicial system consisted of a Mayor's Court that had jurisdiction in the town and for a mile beyond the corporate limits to "abate nuisances". (Cherryville Eagle 3-3-48) Court was held wherever space was available - in store buildings, residences, private offices. Fines and court costs varied greatly. In the beginning the mayor tried all cases and his costs $0.95. The marshall or deputy sheriff received one dollar and the fine imposed was one dollar, making the total expenditure for a nominal drunk $2.95. This total charge remained in force until the latter part of the 1890's when Captain John M. Rhodes became mayor. If found guilty of public drunkenness then defendant was fined from $5.00 to $10.00 and the costs, making the total charge as high as $11.95. Should the defendant be caught with liquor in his possession the fine was usually $50.00 and the costs. John J. George, another prohibitionist mayor, continued the practice when elected in 1920.

In the 1940's changes were made under state law. The judge of the court was elected by the people and the solicitor appointed by the town commissioners. The town board was given the authority to fix the amount of the costs to,be charged in all cases. The board serving at that time fixed the court costs at $15.00 for each case. According to a report of David P. Dellinger dated January 5, 1955 "All succeeding boards left the charges as originally set".

Salaries of the court officials were also fixed by the town officials. In 1947, according to records, the City Clerk was paid $250.00 per month; the Recorder and Solicitor were paid $75.00 each per month. The Mayor drew a salary of $100.00 per year while the commissioners were paid $50.00 each per year. The Police Chief made up to $250.00 per month and other officers $220.00 per month. The day fire truck driver got $170.00 per month while the night driver was paid $135.00.

From 1892 to 1911 court was held in the first Municipal Building of the town. This small building was erected in 1892 by the Honorable Melville L. Rudisill near the center of town where the Houser building now stands. (For more information see the article "The First Mayor's Office") This small white building has been moved a number of times but has now found a home in Heritage Park with other historic buildings.

In 1911 a new Municipal Building was constructed on Main Street that provided space for two fire engines at the front, police offices next and the city clerk and tax collectors offices in back. The basement city housed the A jail which replaced the calaboose described by Von Eva Allran in her article about the Cherryville Police Department. The second floor provided space for a large court room and offices for the judge and court officials. David P. Dellinger in an article printed in the "Cherryville Eagle", March
3, 1948 described it as "one of the best court rooms in the country for a small town". (The Cherryville Historical Society has restored much of this building and now maintains a museum there.)

1955 to 1966 court was held in the large courtroom on second floor of the present day City Hall on South Mountain Street. In 1966the jail and all judicial functions were moved to the County Seat in Gastonia.