Former Sheriffs

John M. Hensley

Hensley, John M

Appointed: 1889 – 1893

John Murray Hensley was born on November 10, 1850, at Cass County, Missouri to John J. and Margaret Murray Hensley. In 1853, the Hensley family left their farm and came across the plains in wagons drawn by eight cows to California.

The family settled in Calaveras County until 1860, when they moved to Tulare County. After a brief stay in Tulare County, the family moved to Fresno County in the fall of 1861.

They settled on the Fresno River, six miles from Raymond. Hensley helped his father with the family livestock and from the age of 9 spent most of his time in a saddle. Hensley started to earn his own livelihood at 16 by working for various stockmen. In 1870, Hensley struck out on his own in Tulare County where he owned section of land and a flock of sheep. Eight thousand of his nine thousand sheep died because of the drought, which was in effect in 1877. Hensley sold his ranch in Tulare County and returned to his home on the Fresno River. Hensley married Harriet Monroe in Woodville, Tulare County in 1877. The Hensleys had five children.

Hensley held several contracts with Fresno County to maintain the road between Buchanan and Coarse Gold Gulch. He was elected Constable of the First Township in Madera in November of 1884 and served until 1888.

John M. Hensley was elected Sheriff of Fresno County on November 6, 1888 and was administered the oath of office on January 8, 1889. Hensley served the people of Fresno County as Sheriff until January 3, 1893.

Sheriff Hensley and his Deputies confronted some of the most significant events in Fresno County law enforcement history. In December of 1890, Frank O. Vincent murdered his wife and would be hung in 1893. Evans and Sontag held up trains and killed three Lawmen in a six-month period. The Dalton's escaped from Tulare County jail and had to be pursued to eastern Fresno County in December of 1891. These events plus the inevitable murders, robberies and the day to day matters that the Sheriff was responsible for made Hensley's term of office one of the busiest.

John M. Hensley who had resided in Fresno while Sheriff, returned to Madera upon leaving office. He resumed his business interest in raising sheep and was quite successful.

Sheriff Hensley died on March 14, 1925 and was buried on March 17, 1925 at Arbor Vitae Cemetery.

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