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setts, that colony had established the counties of Plymouth, Barnstable, and Bristol. The other counties were established as follows: Worcester, in 1731, from parts of other counties ; Hampshire, in 1662, comprising those towns on the Connecticut early settled from Massachusetts Bay; Berkshire, from Hampshire, in 1761; Hampden and Franklin, from Hampshire, in 1811 ; Dukes, given to the Duke of York in 1664, and joined to New York, made a county in 1685, and united to Massachusetts by the Province charter; Nantucket, formed in 1695. As now constituted in Massachusetts, a county may
be defined as a corporate body,' consisting Definition.
of a group of adjacent towns, organized, under the direction of the State, for convenience in the administration of justice. Each county is obliged to own and maintain suitable
court-houses, jails, and buildings for the Property.
. registry and preservation of deeds, wills, and court records. The town in which these buildings are situated, and where the courts are held, is called the shire town. Some counties have more than one. Counties, as such, have no legislative power: hence
their officers are chiefly executive. The Officers.
number and duty of these officers are prescribed by law, and are the same throughout the State.
1 A corporate body, or corporation, is a body consisting of one or more individuals, established by law, usually for some specific purpose, and continued by a succession of members. This body has a name, and under that name may sue and be sued, may hold and dispose of property, may have a common seal, may choose officers, and make by-laws for its government and administration. The body may be created by a special law called a charter; or it may organize under some general statute.
In each county, three commissioners are chosen by the people for three years, one retiring County Comannually ; and two special commissioners missioners. are chosen every three years. These commissioners are empowered to provide for erecting and repairing the county buildings; to have the care of the county property ; to represent the county in suits at law; to apportion the county taxes among the towns; to lay out, alter, and discontinue highways within the county, upon petition of parties interested, and after a suitable hearing; to have charge of Houses of Correction in the county, appointing the keepers, making rules, and providing supplies. If either of the commissioners is personally interested in any matter before them, one of the special commissioners takes his place for the time. Thus a commissioner cannot act upon a highway question within his own town. The salaries of these officers, and the time and place of meeting in each county, are fixed by statute.
In each county, a Treasurera is elected by the people for a term of three years. He is sworn,
Treasurer. and gives bonds for the faithful discharge of his duties, and receives an annual salary fixed by law. The treasurer receives and pays out, under the direction of the commissioners, all money belonging to the county. This includes that raised by taxation, and whatever comes from the payment of fines and costs in the various courts. This officer also has the charge of
i The aldermen of Boston, and the selectmen of Nantucket, have the powers and duties of commissioners in their respective counties. In Suffolk, the county buildings are provided by the city of Boston.
2 The treasurers of the city of Boston and of the town of Nantucket act as treasurers of their respective counties.
a set of the standard weights and measures furnished by the Commonwealth for the use of the county.
Each county has one or more Registers of Deeds. Register of If one, he is elected by the people of the Deeds. county. If more than one, the county is divided by law into districts, in each of which a register is elected by the people. The term of office is three years. The officers are under oath and bonds. Their offices are in the shire-towns; and their duty is, to receive and record, according to methods prescribed by law, all deeds and mortgages brought to them for the purpose. In the early history of the county, all transfers of land were made publicly at the county courts to prevent fraud. The registry is designed to serve the same purpose by making all such transfers a matter of record, so that the legal title to any land in the county may be readily ascertained.
In each county, a Register of Probatel is elected by Register of the people every five years. He has the Probate. care of all books and papers pertaining to the business of the probate court. He may receive and keep any wills that may be deposited in the office, giving a certificate therefor. He is under oath and bonds, and is forbidden by law to be interested as counsel, executor, administrator, or otherwise officially, in any matter pending in the courts. In some of the counties, an assistant register is appointed by the probate judge for a term of three years. The oldest and most important county-officer is the
Sheriff. In the earliest history of the Sheriff.
county, this officer, called the shire-reeve, shared the administration of county business with the alderman and bishop. Later, the civil functions de
1 He also acts as Register of the Court of Insolvency.
volved entirely upon him. He presided at the county court, and was responsible for the public
History. peace. Formerly, in England, he was elected by the people: now he is appointed by the king for one year, and during that time is the highest personage in the county, taking precedence of noblemen.
In Massachusetts, the people of each county elect a sheriff once in three years. He is popu
Deputies. larly termed the high sheriff, and appoints deputies, for whom he is responsible. Both the sheriff and his deputies are under oath and bonds for the faithful discharge of their duties.
The Sheriff's first duty is to preserve the peace within his county. To this end he may appre
Daties. hend and commit to prison all persons who break the peace. He is bound to pursue and take all such criminals as murderers, robbers, 1. Preserving and rioters. He has the safe keeping of the Peace. county jail, and is responsible for the custody of the prisoners confined therein, the jailer being his deputy. In the exercise of these duties, the sheriff may demand the assistance of the inhabitants of the county. Any person who refuses aid when thus called upon is liable to fine and imprisonment. .
The Sheriff is required to attend all county courts, and the meetings of the county commis- 2. Attending sioners when so ordered by the Board. Courts. During the term of the court, he has charge of the prisoners on trial, of the witnesses, and of the juries. It is his business to see that the sentence of the court is carried into execution, either by collecting the fines, placing the convicted person in the designated place of confinement, or carrying out the death sentence for capital crimes.
The Sheriff is required to serve, either by himself or 3. Serving Pro- his deputies, all writs and processes that
may be lawfully issued to him within his county by any of the courts of justice. In obedience to an order from the clerk of the court, he summons the juries from their respective towns.
In each county two or more persons are appointed by Medical Exam- the governor to examine the bodies of periners.
sons who are supposed to have come to their death by violence. They are called Medical Examiners and hold office for seven years. If the examiner thinks the death was caused by violence he files a copy of the record of his examination with the district attorney, and another with the district, police, or municipal court, or a trial justice. The justice or court then holds an inquest to determine by what means the person came to his death. This takes the place of the coroner's inquest which was formerly held in such cases. An inquest is is held in all cases of death by accident upon any railroad.
SUMMARY OF COUNTY OFFICERS. Three Commissioners, elected for three years. Two Special Commissioners, elected for three years. Treasurer,
66 66 66 66 Register of Deeds,
" " " Register of Probate,
56 " five Sheriff,
56: three 66 Medical Examiners, appointed by governor, seven