Former Sheriffs

Michael J. Donahoo

Donahoo, M J

Appointed: 1883 – 1885

Michael Jefferson Donahoo was born on February 28, 1839, in Peoria, Illinois to Peter and Rachel Donahoo. In 1840, it is recorded that the Donahoo family resided in the Cedar County, Iowa Territory. In October of 1861, Michael J. Donahoo enlisted as a Corporal in the 13th Regiment, Iowa Infantry.

In the fall of 1863, First Lieutenant Michael J. Donahoo, "F" Company, 13th Regiment, Iowa Infantry, Veteran of the Battles of Shiloh, Corinth, Bolivar, and Grant's Central Mississippi Campaign, was forced to leave his men and the Army because of persistent illness.

Donahoo's Regiment lost 5 Officers and 114 Enlisted men who were killed in action. Four Officers and 205 Enlisted men were lost to disease during the war. Donahoo returned home to Lisbon and in April of 1864 left for California by train, residing in Stockton and Antioch before eventually moving to Fresno in 1869. Donahoo involved himself with varied business ventures such as; a blacksmith shop, roads, saw mills, lumberyards, commercial property, and agricultural property. In 1869, Donahoo married Ella Barker. They had one boy and four girls.

On September 7, 1870, a special election was held in Supervisorial District Two. Michael J. Donahoo was elected to finish the term of J. G. Simpson and served until 1872. Donahoo was elected to the Office of Sheriff on November 7, 1882, assumed office in 1883, and served until 1885. Donahoo was the first successful Republican candidate to run for office in Fresno County where the Democrats had a majority of more than 500 voters.

Sheriff Donahoo was confronted by the same crime issues as his predecessors; murders, theft of livestock, and one of the first stagecoach robberies in Fresno County. The jail was built in 1874, was located in the basement of the courthouse, and was often filled to overflowing. Expansion of jail capacity had not kept up with the growth of the population. The press of the day noted over-crowding, rough conditions, and safety issues that confronted officers who worked with-in the jail.

Sheriff Donahoo died at his home in Oakland, Calif., surrounded by his family on Sunday, July 26, 1896.

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