Honoring Deputy A.W. Grimes
The broken and decaying tombstone lay on the ground for countless years, unseen by those speeding by along the well-travelled road and even by those walking through the cemetery. The stone was that of a Williamson County sheriff’s deputy time had forgotten—until a present-day deputy decided to resurrect his memory.
That forgotten deputy—Ahijah W. Grimes—was born July 5, 1850, in Bastrop, Texas. His family lineage includes his uncle Albert Grimes, who fell defending the Alamo, and his grandfather Jesse Grimes, a judge and a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence.
A. W. Grimes’ career as a Texas lawman began in 1874 as Bastrop’s city marshal. In September 1876, the County Commissioners Court appointed him Precinct 6 Constable. Like many Texas men of his time, Grimes was a Mason and belonged to Gamble Lodge 244 in Bastrop.
In 1877, Grimes joined his brother, Albert, as a member of the Texas Rangers but left after serving for only two months. He moved his wife and three children to Round Rock in 1878 to work for Miller’s Exchange Bank. Shortly after arriving, he was appointed by the Williamson County Sheriff, Sam Strayhorn, as a deputy for the growing city of Round Rock.
Historical accounts say that on July 19, 1878, Grimes and Travis County Deputy Sheriff Maurice Moore were patrolling the streets of Round Rock after hearing that outlaws had arrived in town to rob the local bank. When the lawmen saw Sam Bass and his gang enter the local grocery store with firearms, Grimes approached them and asked for their guns. In response, the outlaws started to shoot, hitting Grimes half a dozen times and killing him before he could return fire.
Fast-forward 137 years later: Sergeant Craig Gripentrog, Traffic Enforcement and S.W.A.T. Supervisor for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, was “trying to create a new program for new deputies when they get out of the academy . . . to create some esprit de corps.” The officers came across Grimes’ broken and decaying tombstone in a historic Round Rock Cemetery, located—perhaps ironically, in hindsight—off Sam Bass Road.
Gripentrog knew the story of A. W. Grimes and wanted to honor him and the other Williamson County deputies killed in the line of duty by maintaining their tombstones. Unfortunately, Grimes’ tombstone could not be repaired, so Gripentrog reached out to Craig Zimmerhanzel of San Gabriel Monuments in Taylor. Zimmerhanzel donated a new granite tombstone for Grimes, which was dedicated on April 10th of this year. Grimes’ original tombstone was donated to the Williamson Museum in Georgetown.
Although Grimes has received increased recognition over the years, with a portion of F.M. 1460 in Round Rock—A.W. Grimes Boulevard—now named for him, Gripentrog didn’t think the recognition was enough. “A. W. Grimes has lived in the shadow of Sam Bass for too long,” he says. “He has been called the ‘forgotten deputy,’ and as a fellow deputy and Mason, I felt it was my duty to right this wrong.” Inscribed on the back of Grimes’ new tombstone is a dedication from the current Sheriff’s Department: “Gone but not Forgotten.”
While those driving past the cemetery still may not be aware of the role Grimes played in Texas history, Sgt. Gripentrog’s efforts ensure that A. W. Grimes will be remembered and honored by future cadet academies of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office.