Santa Cruz County History - People



A Walk Through Time: Sheriff Milton Besse
by Janet Krassow and
by Randy Krassow

Newspapers of the time called Milton (Milt) Besse "the most effective man to hold the important office of sheriff in the history of Santa Cruz." During his ten years in the sheriff's office, he streamlined the department, added more deputies, and raised the standards of employee acceptability and accountability. When he retired from office, the wild years of cattle rustling, horse thieving, and sidewalk shootouts had passed, and -- with the turning of the century -- peace and tranquility followed in its wake.

Photograph of the Memorial for Milton Besse
The Memorial for Milton Besse

Sheriff Besse was born at the family farm in Pescadero on November 4, 1862. His parents and grandparents were pioneers of that north coast town and as a young man, he was a carpenter by trade, and was fully employed when he was elected sheriff for the first time in 1894.

After two terms as the man behind the badge, he resigned and moved to Nevada where he supervised the construction of the Tonopah and Goldfield Railroad. He later moved to San Jose, where he died on October 8, 1926.

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