Seward County Sheriff
Official: Michael Vance
FAX: (402) 643-4852
Location: 261 South 8th Street, Seward, NE 68434
Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Office of Sheriff – Seward County, Nebraska
The first Sheriff of Seward County was elected in 1865. C.S. Chapin served two years and was succeeded by A. J. Wallingford in 1867. Since then, there have been twenty-two different Sheriffs responsible for law and order in Seward County. The longest tenured Sheriff, Marvin Pollock served twenty consecutive years. Taking office in 1963, Sheriff Pollock held that position until retiring in 1983.
According to The History of Seward County, Nebraska, the first term of the District Court was held in Seward County, at Milford, on November 15, 1869. Judge Geo. B. Lake presided over the court and Frank M. Elsworth was appointed District Attorney. The only state case was against W. H. Tuttle for an assault on Jonathan Gordon. According to the book, “Mr. Tuttle got clear of the charge, but the prevalent impression was that he ought to be fined for not doing a more thorough job.” Ironically, records show that a W. H. Tuttle was elected Sheriff of Seward County in 1869 and served for two years.
Because of difficulty in deciding between Seward, Milford and Camden for the location of the county seat, it wasn’t until 1871 that an “official: courthouse was constructed. As soon as Seward was officially declared the seat of government for Seward County, local citizens built a courthouse themselves near Ninth and Main Street.
On September 20, 1905, the cornerstone for the new courthouse was laid. Located near the intersection of U.S. Highway #34 and Nebraska State Highway #15, the Seward County Courthouse still serves the people of the county. On June 4, 1906, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new courthouse on the public square; however, because of problems encountered during construction, it was not occupied until June, 1907.
The Sheriff’s Office was located in the courthouse after it was built. Construction of a new jail and sheriff’s quarters, located near Ninth and Main took place in 1909. The Sheriff’s Office remained in the County Courthouse until 1979. Initially built to house the Seward Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office, the Seward County Law Enforcement and Detention Center currently houses the E911 Communications Center, the Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center.
One of the first entries in the Seward County Prison Calendar on April 26, 1872, involves a man identified as John Cowen. The cause of commitment lists “Threat to Kill”. According to the ledger, on May 9, 1872, Cowen was discharged by Judge Lake, and under the “Remarks” section it lists “No Cause of Action”.
The first homicide in Seward County occurred in May, 1876. News that the murdered body of Nathan Clough had been found sent chills of horror throughout the county. Clough’s body was discovered in a loft of a barn near the Blue Valley House. Several individuals that frequented the hotel were suspected, and a coroner’s jury was called in to try to unravel the mystery surrounding Clough’s demise.
Rumors began to circulate that the dead man’s brother, Warren Clough, was responsible for his own brother’s death. Before long, the name Warren Clough was on everyone’s lips as the person responsible for the murder. The coroner’s jury, after much public pressure, finally indicted Warren Clough. After a tedious and lengthy trial in York, Warren Clough was convicted and sentenced to life in prison at hard labor. To this day, doubt remains as to the guilt of Warren Clough. Another murder occurred in Seward County during the night of July 7, 1878, and still fascinates area residents and local law enforcement officers. This homicide would end in one of the most memorable conclusions to a criminal case in Seward County history.
A man known as G. L. Monroe, from Kansas, was traveling through Seward County and became acquainted with an Orlando Casler from Beaver Crossing. The two men camped along Lincoln Creek, just west of Seward. During the late afternoon and night of July 7, a violent thunderstorm came up and enveloped much of Seward County. Also, during the stormy night dark deeds were occurring in the campsite occupied by Monroe and Casler. A subsequent investigation revealed that Casler shot and bludgeoned Monroe to death. Casler then weighed down the murdered man’s body and slipped it into the stream nearby.
When Monroe’s body was discovered floating in the river on July 11, suspicion immediately fell on Casler. It wasn’t long before authorities learned that the two men had been seen camping together. News had also spread that Casler had mysteriously acquired a new team of horses. Searching Casler’s home in Beaver Crossing, officers recovered two guns and several articles belonging to Monroe.
While questioning Casler about the case, authorities caught him in several lies that also pointed to his guilt in the murder of Monroe. On July 12, Casler was arrested in connection with Monroe’s death. In describing the murderer in the Seward County Prison Calendar, under the heading “Peculiarities,” authorities described Casler as an “Animal”.
Casler was tried and convicted for the murder of Monroe. The sentence of the court: Death by Hanging. As the date of execution approached, Seward County Sheriff John Sullivan made preparations to carry out the sentence of the District Court. A scaffold was built twenty feet from the jail with a sixteen foot high enclosure erected around it to keep out the curious.
At about noon on May 20, 1879, between four and six thousand people crowded near the County Jail to watch as Casler met his maker. Hundreds pushed past the helpless guards and pulled down the entire enclosure to get a better view of the hanging. Sheriff Sullivan, seeing the mob’s handy work, assured them that the execution would take place at the proper time and that he didn’t need any help in carrying out the sentence of the court.
As Casler was taken from the Jail and placed in position on the gallows, he suddenly broke the silence and said, “I expect this will soon finish Orlando Casler’s life. I am sorry that it is so; I am sorry to have to die as I have to but I hope to meet you in a better land; goodbye gentlemen.” A short time later, at 1:27 p.m., the drop fell and Orlando Casler plunged into oblivion.
The Sheriff’s Office and Jail have seen hundreds of desperate characters over the years, but few people know that, at one time, because of the daring exploits of a Seward County sheriff, the County Jail was designated a Federal Prison.
In 1930, Sheriff Karl Greiner was elected sheriff and during his career encountered many perilous adventures. One such adventure, however, stands out as a highpoint in his years as sheriff.
Early one morning, at about 5 a.m., Greiner receives a call from the Staplehurst operator about a robbery taking place. Greiner knew that burglary suspects were targeting post offices in the surrounding towns and were operating in eastern Nebraska. The thieves were breaking into post offices and blowing safes open seeking cash and treasury bonds. Sheriff Greiner drove north of Seward toward the turnoff to Staplehurst.
Observing two men in a strange car, Sheriff Greiner began to chase them in his car. At times, the vehicles reportedly reached speeds of up to 90 miles per hour between Staplehurst and Seward. At the corner of Eighth Street and Highway #34, where the current Sheriff’s Office is located, the suspects turned west. One of the men began throwing items out of the car while the other man shot a handgun at Greiner.
Capturing the two men about two blocks from the Sheriff’s Office, Greiner brought the two men back and locked them in the Jail. Later that morning, Mrs. Greiner and other helpers recovered the money, mail, stamps and other articles taken from the robbery and thrown from the men as they attempted to escape. Agents from the federal government had arrived at the Jail to take charge of the prisoners. As Mrs. Greiner entered the Jail, she displayed a sealed bottle she had discovered while picking up the items taken in the burglary. When the G-men saw the bottle, they immediately took it from the Sheriff’s wife and explained that it was nitroglycerine. Luckily, it had not exploded when it was thrown from the robber’s car and into the path of Greiner’s vehicle.