By BRUCE COLLIER
Chick Huettel, Joe Stanko and Chuck Ebbecke have written a brief but concise history of the posse in Walton County. The 61-page book is filled with text, photos and information on the sometimes informal practices of law enforcement in Walton County. Included is a quick history of the term “posse,” its various applications, and a none-too-flattering account of the Crackers, considered by lawmen to be “more threatening than any running outlaw or Indians.” Huettel is retired from the Memphis Police Department, and says that the book was a sort of good faith initiation gesture from dedicated citizens to the sheriff’s office, a way to be “accepted” by professional lawmen. The bibliography lists personal recollections, newspaper and archival sources, articles, and the resources of the Coastal Heritage Preservation Society (which shares cooperative credit with the authors).
The popular image of the posse, nurtured by Westerns, is of a group of ad hoc private citizens, specially and temporarily sworn to help with specific missions. In early Walton County, the posse was often the only law of any kind, helping out the elected sheriff, described as “almost a lone wolf in the wilds of the county.”
The book contains anecdotal lore about assorted outlaws and hard cases that visited (or plagued) this area, the Walton County Militia, a Freeport posse, and a list of Walton County sheriffs from Michael Vaughn Sr. (in office 1827-1830) to current Sheriff Michael A. Adkinson Jr.
The three authors are themselves members of the modern Walton County Sheriff’s Posse, formed in 2010 under Sheriff Adkinson. The posse consists of both trained and untrained volunteers. There are two female members, including coordinator Leah Snaith. There are presently three corporals and one sergeant. Posse members are not armed, and cannot make arrests, though they can give tickets. They perform residential checks, do goodwill promotions, parades, day and night patrols, provide emergency assistance, report on neighborhood activity, and speak at area schools, clubs and service organizations. The object of the posse is to take some of the burden off the professional deputies. There are currently 15 members, and the posse is actively seeking new members to bring the number up to 25. For more information go to www.waltonso.org. and click on “volunteer program.”