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Alameda County






W. S. Harlow.—No brighter record can be made than to have performed honestly and diligently the duty of the hour, no matter when the circumstances of the case.  To have done so all life through is the remark of a reliable and trusted citizen, and he is worthy of our highest regard and truest respect.  As such a one par excellence we cite the name of W. S. Harlow, the under-Sheriff of Alameda county, for the past seventeen years connected with that office, and previously a journalist of eminence.


Mr. Harlow was born at Nantucket, Massachusetts, February 2, 1838, the family removing to Troy the following year.  His father, James Harlow, came to California in 1849, being followed a year later by his wife, and the sons being left at school to complete their education.  W. S. Harlow received his education first in the public schools of Troy, and later at a boarding school at the East Greenbush and Schodac Academy near Albany.  In the fall of 1852, he with his three brothers, set out for the voyage around Cape Horn to join their parents in California.  The trip was made on the ship George Raynes, and is looked back to with many pleasant memories.  They reached San Francisco in 1853, and Mr. Harlow became assistant to his father in the mercantile business then carried on by him in San Francisco.  In 1857 they removed to Oroville, Butte county, and the succeeding four years were spent in the mines in that vicinity.  His father died in San Francisco in 1883, but his mother is still alive at a good old age.


Since 1870 Mr. Harlow has been engaged in journalism, and in that year his permanent residence in Oakland: we find him then in connection with the Oakland Transcript in an editorial capacity, and later on the News, of which he had charge of the local department.  One day in November, 1875, he was sitting in the court-house taking a report of a case, when Harry Morse, who was then Sheriff of Alameda County, proposed to him to become his under-Sheriff.  After some hesitation he took the position, and since then has been constantly in the office, and practically in charge of all its affairs.  Mr. Harlow is now the oldest Sheriff officer in California, with the single exception of Thomas Cunningham, Sheriff of San Joaquin county.  He has known many exciting times and stirring episodes, being often in trying and perilous circumstances, but always prompt, energetic and successful.  Reference to some of the most famous incidents will be found elsewhere in connection with the criminal history of this section, Alameda, Santa Clara and San Joaquin counties being the haunts and scenes of operations of the Mexican and Spanish desperadoes, who were once numerous in California.  As would be expected from his long experience in the office, Mr. Harlow is regarded as an authority upon procedure and the management of his office.  His work, “Duties of Sheriffs and Constables,” published by Summer, Whitney & Co., in 1884, is the leading authority on the subject on this coast, and is in the hands of every lawyer.  Mr. Harlow is also in constant receipt of letters asking information on new points arising from all over the coast, even from judges.  As in natural from his long continuancy with legal matters, Mr. Harlow is himself a thorough lawyer, and his admittance to practice in 1888 is but a proper tribute to his attainments.  He is very popular, not alone with the legal profession, but with the general public, being regarded as an efficient, energetic and thoroughly reliable official, and of those engaging personal qualities that cannot fail of creating a favorable impression.  He writes a good deal still for the press, utilizing such incidents as come in his way in his office—a work that is much appreciated by the press of the section.


He is a member of the Athenian Club, and is a Republican in politics.


Mr. Harlow is married, and has had a lost one child—a daughter.  Of his two brothers, one, J. C. Harlow, is State Printer of Nevada, an office he has held for three terms.  The other, James E. Harlow, has been in the employment of Locke & Laven son of Sacramento for the past twenty years.


Transcribed by Donna L. Becker 

Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 2, pages 87-88, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.

© 2005 Donna L. Becker.