‘Sheriff’ of Sammyville passes away

By Dick Mason, The Observer June 18, 2014 10:40 am

Union County icon remembered for renegade reputation, compassion  

Union County lost a one-of-a-kind character Monday, a man with a big reputation, an even bigger heart and the possessor of answers to an enduring question. 

Sam Horrell, known by many as the sheriff of Sammyville, a collection of 14 rented dwellings about six miles northwest of Elgin, died Monday. Horrell, 84, passed away at his home. His health had been failing for several years.

Until about four years ago, Horrell was the landlord of Sammyville, a community filled with many people down on their luck and sometimes on the wrong side of the law. Its residents welcomed Horrell’s low rent and acceptance.

“He would rent to people nobody else wanted. He would take them in,” said retired Union County Sheriff Steve Oliver.

Known for the pistol strapped to his side, Horrell had an intimidating presence. The gun was sometimes exposed and on other occasions it was under his bib overalls, said Donna Knox of La Grande, a retired chief civil officer for the Union County Sheriff’s Office. Knox made many visits to Sammyville in the 1970s and 1980s.

“Sammyville had a bad reputation then. But I always felt secure when Sammy was there,” Knox said. “He’d come up to me and say, ‘I’m your deputy.’”

Knox would serve legal papers in Sammyville, including ones for domestic violence. It was clear to her that they respected Horrell. Knox explained that when she approached residents with Horrell, she never had any trouble with them.

“He ruled back in the day, he really ruled out there,” said Knox, who lives in La Grande.

For the full story, see Wednesday's issue of The Observer