Graham County’s historically documented courthouse can be found at 800 West Main Street in Safford, Arizona. Within its two brick-covered stories is a rather adventurous past. This building is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and is comprised of two stories of brick on top of a strong foundation and a sizable basement. Part of the building is 83 feet tall while another wing is merely 17 feet in height. The fifth named courthouse in Graham County, it is preceded by the courthouse of Safford, two courthouses in Solomonville (The former county seat in Graham County), and also another building in Safford located on Main and Central downtown. $50,000 was allocated by the county to build a properly fitted and well-stocked courthouse building in 1916, and $44,000 was spent making sure that courtrooms, a jail, and various county offices were established and so that official matters could be taken more seriously. Notable members of the local government, Arizona Supreme Court representatives J. A. McAllister and Jesse A. Udall were first employed as judges in Graham County courthouses.
The main courthouse of Graham County was the recipient of a makeover in 1982, with most of the building remarkably remaining the same. The original wainscoting, wooden balustrades, and several staircases were still sturdy enough to stand the test of time and be left out of the upgrades that the rest of the structure received. Part of the original jail section building was removed in 1978. The scars from where this section of the building once stood are still visible against the outside walls of the courthouse to this day. In 1982, this courthouse was given the official title of historical place and it continues to stand steadfast as a symbol of old-town Stafford and Graham County, Arizona today. Many of the buildings in this area, including the ones used for government reasons, have been made over to a much deeper scale, so it is very interesting to see how time and the harsh desert climate and its sandy wind have not changed this artfully crafted architecture.
Graham County Sheriff’s Office
All of Graham County (with the exception of the San Carlos Indian Reservation) is presided over by Sheriff Preston “P.J.” Allred currently. The police headquarters for Graham County is located in the county seat of Safford. The police force in this area is collectively known as the Graham County Sheriff’s office and is made up of locally trained and mostly locally-raised community members who have passed all of the necessary tests and trials to serve and protect its citizens effectively. While crime rates are quite low in Graham County, there is still need for minimal amounts of police assistance at times, and this group of citizens serves the entire county in any way they need to keep them safe.
The Graham County Sheriff’s Office also provides the animal control services in its jurisdiction. Due to its location, it isn’t uncommon for residents to see snakes, possums, coyotes, deer, scorpions, large cats, and other animals come creeping across their paths from time to time and they provide these services as part of their jobs. Covered areas include Thatcher, Pima, and other small areas that lie inside of Graham County. These services are carried out in conjunction with the cooperation of those at Graham County Animal Shelter and also assists the smaller organization called Safford Animal Control.
The GCSO also lends its employ to the 911 system and the jail in this area. These services include search and rescue efforts across the entirety of Graham County with the aforementioned exception. The terrain in Arizona can be quite tricky even for seasoned hikers and travelers, sometimes lending a hand into cold cases where people have disappeared for years at a time or even forever. Teams of people actively keep their training for such search and rescue missions up to date as much as possible and are always prepared to launch a full-scale operation if needed. During certain seasons, flash flooding is prevalent and these SAR volunteers are also trained to do swift-water rescues if these circumstances arise. First aid and rope training courses are also given to those wishing to assist the GCSO with these rescue missions and all people who sign up for this job are required to be trained by GCSO veterans.
There is quite an extensive list of sheriffs from Graham County from the past.
Sheriffs in the past have been:
-Mr. C.B. Rose (1 Jul 1881- 7 Nov 1881)
-Mr. George H. Stevens (7 Nov 1881- 7 Nov 1884)
-Mr. Ben M. Crawford (7 Nov 1884- 3 Dec 1885)- This Sheriff was reported “Killed By Indians”
-Mr. William Baird Whelan (3 Dec 1885- 7 Nov 1890)
-Mr. George A. Olney (7 Nov 1890- 7 Nov 1894)
-Mr. Arthur A. Wright (7 Nov 1894- 7 Nov 1896)
-Mr. William P. Birchfield (7 Nov 1896- 7 Nov 1898)
-Mr. Ben R. Clark (7 Nov 1899- 7 Nov 1900)
-Mr. James V. Parks (7 Nov 1900- 7 Nov 1906)
-Mr. Alphie A. “Pap” Anderson (7 Nov 1907- 7 Nov 1912)
-Mr. Thomas George Alger (7 Nov 1912- 7 Nov 1916)
-Mr. Robert Fitzgerald Mcbride (7 Nov 1916- 9 Feb 1918)- this sheriff was Killed in Shootout
-Mr. Brig Stewart (9 Feb 1918- 7 Nov 1918)
-Mr. John David Skaggs (7 Nov 1918- 7 Nov 1922)
-Mr. Steven Vincent Pollock (7 Nov 1922- 7 Nov 1924)’
-Mr. Homer Tate (7 Nov 1924- 7 Nov 1926)
-Mr. George Samuel Dodge (7 Nov 1926- 7 Nov 1933)
-Mr. Hugh Talley (7 Nov 1933- 19 Nov 1936)- This sheriff died while in office
-Mrs. Sarah Isabelle “Bell” Talley (acting, 19 Nov 1936- 7 Nov 1936) – First female Graham County sheriff in history
-Ms. Vie Christensen (7 Nov 1938- 7 Nov 1944)
-Mr. James Houston “Skeet” Bowman (7 Nov 1944- 7 Nov 1952)
-Mr. Joseph Tea ( 7 Nov 1952- 7 Nov 1950)
-Mr. James Houston “Skeet” Bowman (7 Nov 1950- 7 Nov 1968)
-Mr. Harold Stevens (7 Nov 1968- 7 Nov 1978)
-Mr. Roy Curtis (7 Nov 1978- 7 Nov 1988)
-Mr. Richard Ivan Mack (7 Nov 1988- 7 Nov 1996)
-Mr. Frank Hughes (7 Nov 1996- 7 Nov 2010)
-Mr. Preston “P.J.” Allred (7 Nov 2010- currently in office )
Six unfortunate, yet heroic officers have also tragically lost their lives while in the line of duty under the Graham County Sheriff’s office. They were:
-Sheriff Ben Crawford Thursday, December 3, 1885 died from gunfire
-Deputy Sheriff Tom Campbell Tuesday, September 24, 1912 died from gunfire
-Deputy Sheriff Albert Munguia Tuesday, September 24, 1912 died from gunfire
-Sheriff Robert F. McBride Saturday, February 9, 1918 died from gunfire
-Undersheriff Martin Kempton Saturday, February 9, 1918 died from gunfire
-Deputy Sheriff Kane Wooten Saturday, February 9, 1918 died from gunfire
The Graham County Sheriff’s Office also operates a wonderful system for its elderly and otherwise needy citizens called the “Are You O.K.?” program. This nationwide program offers the ability for someone in need to receive a phone call every single day at the same time that asks the recipient if they are okay, and upon not getting a response, an officer is dispatched to the residence to make sure that the person is fine or is properly taken care of. This program ensures that all residents are paid attention to, no matter what their situation.
Several other smaller enforcement organizations such as the Safford Police Department and the Thatcher Police Department are quite great at working with their communities on a smaller level to keep people safe and to ensure that everyone is watched over and kept out of trouble. These smaller jurisdictions allow for programs such as leftover prescription drug disposal days, holiday events, and community educational courses to be given on a more personal scale.
Graham County Detention Center
Even small counties like Graham county have to have a place to keep the people who don’t walk the right path through life. This is where facilities like the Graham County Detention Center come into play. Their every action is completed with the intent to keep this small community of people safe and calm without disrupting the normal flow of everyday life. Top of the line security is a priority in order to keep staff and inmates safe from harm on a daily basis. This jail operates based on the guidelines that are set in place by the National Sheriff’s Association, the Arizona Detention Association, the American Correctional Association, and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. This is all done to make sure that everyone is treated as fairly and as reasonably as possible and to keep punishments in accordance to the nature of crimes committed as decided by a jury of one’s peers. Inmates and temporarily held individuals are treated as fairly as possible during their time at GCDC and can be anyone from people who are waiting for trials to begin or who are likely to be incarcerated for more drastic charges. Punishments are made to fit the crime and can be anything from solitary confinement to sitting with the general population. The main goal of the Graham County Detention Center is to make sure that any time served in its facility is as productive as humanly possible for each individual inmate.
While most terms served in this center are short-term, inmates are given as many opportunities to learn and grow as people as possible. Health programs, scholastic programs, and job training are parts of the program at Graham County Detention Center. The goal for any rehabilitated prisoner upon release from a long term sentence, or even after a few short days, is to send the person back into the world with more confidence and positive attitude than they had before being incarcerated. Employees are constantly training to improve the conditions for inmates and workers inside the facility. This is to ensure that everyone is given a fair chance at returning to the world as a better person and a productive member of society.
Another amazing thing about Graham County, Arizona is that there is a set of schools that are specifically for juvenile members of the community that are not able to follow the rules correctly, but there is no juvenile detention center in Graham County as of 2016. A very successful police organization has kept the crime rate at below 3%, and making it safer than 8% of the rest of the country, which is about average for a small town. Violent crimes are nearly non-existent and there are almost zero murders to report in Graham County per year. The worst cases in this area have historically been simple assault.
Distance To Phoenix, Arizona from Graham County
The distance from the county seat of Safford, Arizona to the bustling city of Phoenix, Arizona is 143.31 miles on the map. Driving in a car, however, it is closer to 165 miles. In order to get there, you have to take US-70 and AZ state route 77 to get there. There is a halfway point in Miami, Arizona. Other main cities that you will see along the route between these two cities are Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert to name a few. This is an important route to know because most official state business that can’t be handled in smaller cities such as Safford is carried out in Phoenix. The trek may take a few hours but there are spots to stop for a rest between major cities. This route will take you through the San Carlos Indian Reservation in its desolate glory. You can stop in Globe or Claypool halfway through your drive and it will give you time to stretch before finishing the journey.
There is a more scenic, alternate route that uses Rt. 70 and Arizona 188-N, but it takes almost 5 hours to get from one to the other taking this route. Taking Rt. 70 will allow you to see the beauty that is the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, which is a gigantic, multi-county forest system that covers a rather large portion of Arizona and an even larger section of Graham County by comparison. Mountain ranges and beautiful, ice-cold lakes are part of the appeal of this area, should you take the drive through there.
From a rich historical past to the most amazing place in North America to view the stars, Graham County has quite a bit to offer, including an absolute commitment to its residents by law enforcement and volunteers that keep the county safe. A mere 3 hour trip from the capital city of the state, this is quite a breathtaking place to visit and even more of a wonderful place to live. Rich in plant and animal life, and abundant in ways to take a breather after a hard day’s work, Graham County is a great place to settle down with a family. There are so many ways to learn and grow, as well as ways to prosper and thrive. It is very easy to feel safe and at home knowing that your life is valued by members of the community at all times. With great schools, fantastic workplaces, and even low crime rates, Graham County is a truly beautiful diamond in the rough. Take the time to find your path through this lovely county, and see what its vast and interesting history can present.