Wert County Sheriff's Office History - 1800s
Wert County was organized in 1835 and the election of the first Sheriff
was held in 1837. William Major was elected with a salary of $2.00. He
resigned the next year and in 1838 Thomas R. Kear, his Deputy was elected
In 1838, the County Commissioners issued an order to have a jail
constructed. The contract was issued to Jesse King of Mercer County to be
built on or before November 1st 1839, at a cost of $483.00. The money for
the jail was to come from the sale of lots in Van Wert. The first jail was
built next to the courthouse with one side occupied by the Sheriff and his
The jail was built of hewed logs, the sides having three thickness, the
middle ties being upright. The door was a heavy wooden one, with the
outside covered with sheet iron. As the lumber dried out the logs could
easily be pried apart so that escape was very easy. Many instances
occurred when a prisoner would crawl out of the jail through the logs
during the night, go to a saloon and spend the night, and then crawl back
into the jail before daybreak.
The railroad reached Van Wert by 1852 and shortly thereafter came the
telegraph. It was becoming easier to move the prisoners to Lima for safe
keeping and with the telegraph, messages could reach the Sheriff much
In January of 1861, the question of a new jail had come before the people,
they voted yes and the commissioners approved a bid of $6,356.00 to be
given to S.F. Fletcher for the building of the second jail. It was
constructed of brick and stood close to the courthouse. A year later a
second floor was added which also included the Sheriffs quarters.
By 1888, the present jail had become unsuitable, there were many escape
attempts due to the jail being in such poor condition. In 1891, the voters
said yes to a new jail. In 1892, the third jail in Van Wert County was
Wert County Sheriff's Office History - 1900s
1926, the commissioners decided the Sheriff's Office needed to
purchase a vehicle and bought a Chevrolet Reynolds Sedan Model 1925,
equipped with new tires for $575.00.
It was not until 1953, that the first of many proposals submitted to the
voters which would provide a 2 year 2-mill levy to improve the courthouse
and jail. By this time the Sheriff was able to have 2-way radios put into
use and was able to use the county engineers tower.
By 1970, a LEADS NCIC computer network was added to the Sheriff's office.
In 1980, there were still problems with the jail situation. The old jail,
built in 1891 had been in disrepair for several years. Prisoners were
transported to different locations. For years the county commissioners had
spoken of a new jail but it had been turned down by the voters.
In March of 1980, the state ordered the jail closed.
In 1988, the Van Wert County Sheriff's Office opened it's new office
located at 113 N. Market Street in Van Wert.
Wert County Sheriff's Office History - The Present
Van Wert County Sheriff Stan Owens took office in 1989. It was an
exciting and very busy beginning with the demolition of the old jail, plus
the work it took for the commissioners to get the money so a new facility
could be constructed. The jail issue had existed for over 16 years and it
was time to build a new jail. The construction consisted of two phases.
Phase I was the acquisition of the Traditions Restaurant property at a
cost of $665,374.28. Phase II was the construction of the 82 bed facility
in 1997 & 1998 at a cost of $3,796,700.90, with a total of
$1,625,000.00 paid by state grant monies, thus the net cost to the Van
Wert County tax payers for the Phase II portion was $1,871,700.90. The new
jail facility was open in September of 1998. On February 17, 1999 a
mortgage burning was held as the new Van Wert County Correctional Facility
was paid off.
Many new programs have been implemented including the DARE program which
started in 1993 at Crestview Schools with other county and city schools
becoming involved in the following years. Also established was a 911
review board that initiates 911 in Van Wert County, as well as the jail
inmate work crew program.
The Van Wert County Sheriff's Office strives to meet today's challenges in
a professional manner with an attitude of service to all of Van Wert
County and its residents.
| Van Wert
|Thomas R. Kear
|Thomas R. Kear
|Jacob C. Parkinson
|Charles P. Richie
|Joseph R. Updegrove
|Charles R. Richie
|A. B. Gleason
|Jesse R. Stith
|Hal D. Heistand
|Isaac P. Tudor
|Eugene R. Conn
|Fred J Hott
|Henry B. Wilson
|J. Herman Gunsett
|Joe C. Sells
|F. Roy Shaffer
|F. Roy Shaffer
|Wilmer L Clay
|Don G. Thomas
|Jerry B. Brittsan
|Stan D. Owens
|Thomas M. Riggenbach
||(2013 - Present)
Special thanks to to Helen Prill for
research for this page.