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Charles L. Denney joined the Curry County Sheriff's Office as a deputy on May 12, 1968 but left six months later to join the Gold Beach Police Department. After eight months with Gold Beach, he was back with the Curry County Sheriff's Office where he has worked his way through the ranks over the past 22 years.

Since returning in 1969, Denney has been a Deputy, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Chief Deputy and Undersheriff before being appointed Sheriff in 1989 to replace the retiring Robert Babb.

Denney was born in Rubbons, Idaho, and later lived in Chehalis, Wash. before moving to Oregon in the summer of 1958. He graduated from Gold Beach Union High School in 1960 and took courses at Southwestern Oregon State College, University of Virginia and Southern Oregon State College. He also attended the FBI National Academy.

He is married to Sharon and they have three children Lisa, Steven and David.


Michael Riley from Montgomery County in New York was appointed the first Sheriff of Curry County in 1856, only three years after he came to Oregon. He is the first of 26 men who have served as Sheriff over, the years in this southern coastal county.

Curry County was established on Dec. 18, 1855 and named after Oregon Territorial Governor George L. Curry. Curry County was formed from Coos County. Port Orford was the county seat until 1859 when it was moved to Ellensburg, a city that later Changed its name to Gold Beach.

Cape Blanco in the northern end of the county juts into the Pacific Ocean, making it the second westernmost point in the United States. Curry County, which stretches to the border of California, covers 1,648 square miles and lists a population of more than 17,000 people.

The county contains valuable standing timber and also offers beautiful coastal scenery and recreational offerings including ocean beaches, rivers and streams, mountain trails, freshwater and saltwater fishing and scenic boat trips. The Port of Brookings is considered one of the safest harbors on the coast for ocean sport fishing.

Agriculture also plays a big part in the economy of Curry County, where there are sheep and cattleranches and dairies as well as cranberry and blueberry farms and horticultural nursery stock. Southern Curry County and an adjacent California county grow 90 percent of all the Easter lilies in the United States. Curry County also is known for its myrtlewood.

Riley, the county's first Sheriff dabbled in agriculture along with a number of other interests before and after he served as leader of law enforcement in Curry County from 1856 to 1862.

He helped build the first jail in the county at Port Orford in 1858. When he left the Sheriff's post, he turned to state politics and was elected to the State Legislature, where he served from 1872 to 1878. He was Curry County Judge from 1884 to 1900. He also at one time was Collector of Customs for the Rogue River and Coos Bay Constable in Coos County. On the business end, Riley owned Riley and Stewart Mercantile in Ellensburg, a sawmill on the Rogue River, a salmon packing business and a farm.

In 1862, Richard Pendergast was elected and served until 1866. He also turned to politics when he left the Sheriff's Office when he was elected to the State Legislature in 1868. Riley then came back for another four-year term, serving from 1866 to 1872, when Asa A. Crook was elected. Crook served less than a year before he resigned and Robert Walker was appointed to fill the vacancy. Walker, a Canadian and the father of Sheriff James Walker, was Sheriff of Curry County until 1874, when Asa Carman was elected and served until 1876. A saloon keeper from Port Orford, Carman was killed in an avalanche on Sixes River eight years after he left office.

Robert Walker was back again from 1876 to 1878.

Asher H. Moore, the father of Sheriff Frederick S. Moore, was elected in 1878 and spent two years as Sheriff before William G. Gauntlett, the grandfather of Sheriff William H. Gauntlett, was elected and served four years. Gauntlett also spent five terms as Clerk of Curry County.

Photograph Left: Charles Bailey
Photograph Right: Jesse Turner

William T. Bailey was elected Sheriff in 1884 and spent four years as head of law enforcement in the county until Frederick S. Moore was elected and served as Sheriff until 1894. Jesse Turner, whose son later was elected Sheriff of the county, was elected in 1894 and was head of law enforcement until the turn of the Century, when James G. Walker was elected and served two years.

In 1902, S.E. Marsters won the election and spent until 1908 as Sheriff, when Norman Tyler was elected and served three years. William A. Bishel was Sheriff from 1911 to 1913 followed by Charles H. Bailey Jr., a former County Assessor who was elected in 1913 and served until 1917. Bailey later went on to become County Judge from 1924 to 1936.

William P. Tolman, who also served as County Assessor, was elected in 1917 and served as Sheriff of Curry County until 1921. F.J. Huntley was elected in 1921 and served until 1929, when J.H. Turner, son of Sheriff Jesse Turner, was elected and spent four years as Sheriff of the county.

Fritz W. Smith was the first Sheriff of the county to serve a lengthy term in office. He was elected in 1933 and spent until 1941 as head of law enforcement in Curry County. Rowland Glenn Sabin, a Wisconsin man who came to Oregon in the 1930s, was elected in 1941 and served until 1963, when he died in office. A former school teacher and Rogue River Guide, Sabin also served as Justice of the Peace at one time.

Photo Left: Wm. G. Gauntlett, Sheriff in 1880, holds grandson Wm. H. Gauntlett, who was Sheriff in 1967.

William H. Gauntlett, grandson of Sheriff William G. Gauntlett, was appointed Sheriff of the county until 1967, when Allen Harry Boice, Chief Deputy of the office from 1963 to 1965, was elected. Boice served 10 years before he resigned. Before taking office as Sheriff, Boice, a native Oregonian, had been Port Commissioner for the Port of Gold Beach from 1963 to 1966.

Chief Deputy Clay Smallwood was appointed to fill the vacancy left when Boice resigned and he served as Sheriff of Curry County until 1979, when George Edwards was elected to a four-year term. Edwards had been with the Los Angeles Plice Department and the Josephine County Sheriff's Office and was Chief of Plice in Gold Beach before he was elected Sheriff of the county.


Sometimes, lawmen have to rely on a single piece of evidence to unravel the most complicated, mysterious crimes.

For Curry County Sheriff Fritz Smith, it was a quarter-size brass button with a U.S. Army insignia, found in some underbrush off the trail where the body of long-time rancher Robert Fantz was discovered by his wife on Nov. 9, 1934.

Fantz and his wife had worked a small ranch in the Siskiyou Mountains in southeast Curry County for years. In fact, they were the only ranchers in the area, miles from any semblance of civilization. Yet, those who knew them knew that the Fantzes as decent, friendly, salt-of-the-earth types who never seemed to cause anyone trouble.

But that tiny bullet hole just above Bob Fantz' heart seemed to indicate the victim had at least one enemy out there in the deep, Southern Oregon woods, Smith told himself.

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