Howell County was organized on March 2, 1857 from Oregon County and has a county classification of class III and is named for Thomas Howell, son of Josiah Howell who made the first settlement in Howell Valley.  The first Circuit Court met in a log cabin one mile east of West Plains, according to an 1876 account.  A small, wooden courthouse was built on the square in West Plains in 1859.  It was damaged during the Civil War in 1862. The county was reorganized three years later, but all of the county records were destroyed in an 1866 fire. A second courthouse was built in West Plains in 1869. It was a small, three-room, frame building, about 24 by 30 feet.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Howell County has a total area of 928 square miles (2,400 km2), of which 927 square miles (2,400 km2) is land and 1.1 square miles (2.8 km2) (0.1%) is water.  It is the third-largest county in Missouri by land area and fourth-largest by total area.

After legislation in 1857 and the passing of the bill organizing the County of Howell; Benjamin Alsup, Jas. Ellison and Joseph H. Russell became the first county justices, Joseph Howell was the first Sheriff, and Joseph Harris the first clerk. Judge Ellison soon resigned his office and John McDaniel was appointed to fill his place. The county was attached to the 15th Judicial circuit over which Judge Albert Jackson presided. Judge John R. Woodside was the first circuit attorney. The first circuit court was held in a little log cabin one mile east of West Plains, and there was but one case on the docket. 

The Howell County Sheriff's Office strives to maintain a strategic vision of culture, laws and innovative resources in order to promote a decentralized community policing which creates partnerships between Law Enforcement and other organizations like government agencies, community members, nonprofit service providers, private businesses and the media.   This emphasizes that our office will work closely with local citizens and community agencies in designing and implementing a variety of crime prevention strategies and problem-solving measures.  It is understood the media represents a powerful pattern by which Law Enforcement can communicate with the community.  Law Enforcement alone, cannot solve every public safety problem, so interactive partnerships must be created.  Our office strives to change the role of Law Enforcement from a static, reactive, incident-driven bureaucracy to a more dynamic, open, quality-oriented partnership.