A few years ago we took some excerpts from a book written by Robert Burns. Recorded here are brief outlines of men who have served in the office of Sheriff of Shelby County. Although some of these outlines seem very sketchy, this book was not written until the 1960s, some 150 years after the county was organized. In some cases, the family and decedents of some of these men have long disappeared from our county. The recorded herein are facts as they have been taken from county historical accounts of decedents. The purpose of this page is to acknowledge these men's contributions to the history of Shelby County.
Daniel V. Dingman, Sr. (1819 to 1820)
Sheriff Dingman was born in New Jersey in 1782. He came to Shelby County when he was 25 years old. He was a veteran of the War of 1812. He settled in a section of Perry Township that is now Clinton Township where St. Route Number 47 and the Dingman-Slagle Road intersect. He followed the occupation of farming and had a family of ten children. He was very active in the organization of Shelby County and was appointed the first Sheriff on June 12, 1819. There still is a section of East Sidney on the tax plat called Dingmansburg. Sheriff Dingman died on April 3rd, 1861.
Thomas Ruckman (1820 to 1825)
There is no information available on the personal life of Sheriff Ruckman outside of the fact that he operated a mill near the edge of Sidney. Sheriff Ruckman was very active in the organization of Shelby County and played an important part in having Sidney established as the county seat. He was the first man to be elected Sheriff of Shelby County and the first man to be re-elected. During his tenure in office, the Sheriff's Office and jail were moved from Hardin to Sidney. He took the first prisoner from Shelby County to the State Penitentiary. He also served as clerk of County Commissioners and as the county auditor. He served also as Clinton Township Trustee, clerk, and Constable.
Adam Hull (1825 to 1829)
Adam Hull was born in Pendleton County, West Virginia (then a part of Virginia). He married Elizabeth Havener. The exact date they came to Shelby County is unknown. Hull was active in the early organization of Shelby County. Hull left Shelby County in 1830 and went to Eel Township, Allen County, Indiana. Served as the first justice of the peace in Elle Township. Adam had seven children: Adam, Jr., Rufus K., Harvey Peter, Barbara, Katherine, Henry, Elizabeth, and Jane. He was quite an outdoorsman and was quite a wrestler. Hull later became quite notable in the history of Allen County, Indiana. He died September 4th, 1838.
Archibald DeFrees (1829 to 1831)
Information on the life of Sheriff DeFrees is sketchy. Along with serving as Sheriff, he also served as the county's first tax collector. He also served on the county's first Grand Jury. His name is mentioned many times on early records and accounts of Shelby County being organized as a county. His marriage license to a Wilkison girl from Perry Township is one of the oldest on record.
Amos D. Kennard (1831 to 1837 & 1841 to 1847)
There is little or no information available on the personal life of Amos D. Kennard. His name is mentioned quite frequently in early organization records of Shelby County. It is believed he was from Turtle Creek Township. He was the first man to be elected Sheriff on separate terms and his being elected six times to the office of Sheriff indicated he was a popular man. He also served as County Recorded from 1837 to 1838.
Richard Hathaway (1837 to 1839)
There is no information available on the person life of Richard Hathaway. He served as County Auditor after serving one term as Sheriff.
Joseph H. Kirkendall (1839 to 1841 and 1847 to 1851)
There is no information available on the personal life of Joseph Kirkendall, however it is believed he was from the Sidney area as he served as Clinton Township Constable in 1837 and served on the Sidney City Council after leaving the Sheriff's Office. He served as Sheriff on two separate occasions.
John R. Francis (1851 to 1853)
Sheriff Francis was from Orange Township. His father was Judge Johnathon Francis, one of Orange Townships and Shelby County's earliest settlers, and a man who played an important part in the organization of Shelby County as a county. He also served as a constable in Clinton Township in 1839. The story goes that Sheriff Francis was asked by his successor, Sheriff Dryden to assist in the hanging of Arthur Artis, and the story goes that Francis's wife said if he helped hang that man, she would leave him. He didn't assist in the hanging.
James C. Dryden (1853 to 1857 & 1859 to 1861)
There is no information on the life of Sheriff Dryden, except that he and his family were among the earlier settlers in Franklin Township. He also served as a township trustee in Franklin Township. Sheriff Dryden performed a feat only performed by one Sheriff. He was Sheriff when Arthur Artis killed his daughter, one of Shelby County's oldest and most prominent murders. Artis was convicted of the crime and was sentenced to be hanged by the Judge. Sheriff Dryden was the hangman, and he was paid a hundred dollars for the task. Issac Harshbarger, who later became Sheriff, assisted him.
Jason F. Skillen (1857 to 1859)
There is not too much information available on the personal life of Sheriff Skillen. It is known that he was a businessman in the Sidney area. A building located on the north side of the square was known as the Skillen building. He operated a gravel pit also. He had a son-in-law, Benjamin McLean, who later became Sheriff.
Mathew Ensey (1861 to 1863)
There is no information available on the personal life of Sheriff Ensey. It is believed he was from Sidney or the immediate area as it shows that he served as Clinton Township Trustee and on the Sidney City Council in 1859.
Benjamen McLean (1863 to 1867)
Sheriff Mclean was born in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, on March 9th, 1821. He was the father of six children and was a salesman before becoming Sheriff. Sheriff McLean is the only Sheriff in the history of Shelby County to die in the line of duty. He died on February 9th, 1866 from wounds he received from a beating he took trying to arrest two horse-thieves at night on the north side of Sidney square. He had one son, William, who became a prominent Sidney industrialist.
Isaac Harshbarger (1867 to 1871)
Sheriff Harshbarger was born in Montgomery County in 1825. He was twelve years old when his family moved to this county and settled in Salem Township. Early in life, he followed the vocation of tailoring and he had a family of five children. He once served as town marshal for Port Jefferson. He also served as county coroner. He served as U.S. Marshal after leaving the Sheriff's Office.
Charles Eisenstein (1871 to 1875)
Sheriff Eisenstein was born in Germany in 1836. How old he was or where his parents settled before he came to Shelby County is unknown. He came to Sidney when he was 19. He was an enterprising young man and was soon in business. He was Sheriff when the jail was erected at the downtown location (203 E Court Street). He also served two terms as county coroner. He had one son Frank, whom together operated a tavern after leaving the Sheriff's Office. He had a grandson, Walter Eisenstein, Sr. served as a county recorded. He died in 1918.
Alexander Ramsay (1875 to 1879)
There is no information available on Sheriff Ramsay except he was from Sidney and operated a livery stable at one time.
Henry M. Lehman (1879 to 1883)
Sheriff Lehman was born in Pennsylvania in the year 1836. His father was a Revolutionary War Veteran and came to Shelby County to settle in Franklin Township. Henry Lehman first followed the vocation of farming. He enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War and was captured by the South. He operated a business in both Sidney and Botkins. He had four children. Two sons became catholic priests, one of which was born at the jail. His one son was Monsignor Edward Lehman, longtime pastor of Sidney Holy Angels Church.
Thomas M. Hussey (1883 to 1887)
Sheriff Hussey was born in Greene County in 1845 and his family settled near Port Jefferson when Sheriff Hussey was one year old. He came a farmer early in life and then went into the construction business. He constructed many of the roads and bridges in Shelby County. He was elected Sheriff. After leaving the Sheriff's Office he operated a livery stable and was also elected county commissioner for three terms. He died March 4th, 1918. He had four children, SE., Frank, Walter, and Nora.
Gottlieb E. Allinger (1887 to 1889)
Sheriff Allinger was born in Germany in 1840. He came to the Untied Stated when he was a young boy of seven. His family settled near Port Jefferson and he was a farmer for awhile. He then opened a Mill in Port Jefferson. He was active in the affairs of Salem Township, serving as clerk, trustee, and treasurer. His mill burned and he ran for Sheriff and was elected. After leaving the Sheriff's Office he went to Jackson Center and opened another mill. He helped bring the railroad to Jackson Center. He had three children, Lopie, Minnie, and Jennie.
Joseph Ratterman (1889 to 1893)
Sheriff Ratterman was born in McLean Township in 1850. Early in life he was a farmer and then he opened a mill in Fort Loramie. The mill burned and he came a salesman for a nursery. He was elected Sheriff after leaving the Sheriff's Office. He gain became a salesman for a nursery. He was the father of eight children.
E.P. Ailes (1894 to 1897)
Sheriff Ailes was born in Franklin Township in 1845. Early in life he became a farmer and then became a sales man for a lumber company. He was elected Sheriff. After leaving the Sheriff's Office he went into business in Sidney. He had four children, Nora, Bessie, Charles, and Robert. He was related to Mrs. Ed Gearhart, wife of another Sheriff. He was noted for his staunch Democrat standings.
William H. Fristoe (1897 to 1901)
Sheriff Fristoe was born in Hocking County in 1851. He was 13 years old when he came to Shelby County with his family and they settled in Orange Township. He became a farmer and carpenter in early life, and later went into farm implement sales. He was better known as "Hen" and was a tall man for his time at 6'4". He was once marshal of Sidney. After leading the Sheriff's Office he became Deputy State Oil Inspector. He had two children. A street in East Sidney now known as Fielding Road was known by older residents of that area as Fristoe Hill.
Anthony Brandwie (1901 to 1905)
Sheriff Brandwie was born in McLean Township in 1851. He was a tall man, believed to be the tallest Sheriff standing at 6'6". He was a farmer and later became a dairy farmer and also operated a dairy. He raised a family of six children. He died in 1927.
David Snow (1905 to 1910)
Sheriff Snow was born in Iowa in 1848. Early in life he was a carpenter. He was from Mount Jefferson in Loramie Township. He later became an auctioneer. He raised a family of six children (two sons and four daughters). He died in 1917.
Robert Burns (1915 to 1918)
Sheriff Burns was born in Turtle Creek Township and early in life was a farmer. He then moved to the Oran area where he became a blacksmith. He was elected Sheriff. After leaving the Sheriff's Office he again became a farmer. He had two children, Hugh and a daughter. He died in 1934.
Edwin E. Gearhart (1910 to 1914)
Sheriff Gearhart was born in Perry Township in 1862. Early in life he was a farmer and then went into the meat business operating a slaughterhouse north of Sidney. After serving as Sheriff he operated a meat market in Sidney. He had four children. His two sons, Robert and Clifford, also served as Sheriff of Shelby County. Early in life he also served as Marshal of Port Jefferson.
Edd McVay (1919 to 1920)
Sheriff McVay was born in Perry Township on March 14th, 1864. Sheriff McVay was in the grocery business, and then operated a laundry, and a contractor before becoming Sheriff. After serving as Sheriff he came an insurance sales man. He had two children, Elizabeth and Louis. Mr. McVay was a very avid Republican. He died in March 30th, 1947. He was a first cousin of the second Sheriff Robert Burns grandmother.
Frank Clark (1921 to 1924)
Sheriff Clark was born in Salem Township near Maplewood. Early in life he was a farmer and then he became an auctioneer and was widely known. After serving as Sheriff eh again became an auctioneer. He had three children, Robert, James, and Albert. He died on May 24th, 1964.
Sylvanius E. Dilbone (1925 to 1928)
Sheriff Dilbone was born in Green Township. He became a farmer early in life and then a salesman. He moved to Illinois, only to return in a few years. He had two children, William and Bess. His son, William, served a Deputy under him and succeeded him as Sheriff, making the first father-son combination to serve as Sheriff. After leaving the Sheriff's Office he became an auto salesman and dealer. He was known for his great sense of humor and quite a robust fellow.
William Dilbone (1929 to 1932)
William Dilbone was born in Mason City, Illinois in 1901. He served as a Deputy Sheriff under his father and succeeded him as Sheriff. When he left the Sheriff's Office he became a rural mail carrier and retried from that position. He had two children.
Clifford Gearhart (1933 to 1936)
Sheriff Gearhart was born in Perry Township. He assisted his father early in life as a butcher and in operating a slaughterhouse. He became an electrician and once wired the courthouse. He was elected Sheriff. After leaving the Sheriff's Office we went to Arizona for his health and died in 1967. He was a part of the second father-son combination to serve as Sheriff of Shelby County.
Charles Truman Pitts (1937 to 1948)
Sheriff Pitts was born in Millerstown in Champaign County in 1898 and moved to Green Township. He was a farmer in early life and had the nickname of "Farmer." He was elected Sheriff. He was the first Sheriff to be elected to a four-year term. After leaving the Sheriff's Office he became Superintendent of the Fort Loramie State Park. He had one son, Eugene, who served as a deputy for him. He died in 1953. He was widely known for his great sense of humor and was an avid fisherman and hunter.
Robert Gearhart (1949 to 1964)
Sheriff Gearhart was born in Shelby County in the 1900s. He served as a Deputy under his brother, Cliff. He was a World War Two veteran and operated a dry-cleaning business before coming Sheriff. He served four 4-year terms. This is the longest any person ever served as Sheriff. He moved the Sheriff's Office from the courthouse to the jail. He had two children, Edwin and Judy. Westinghouse employed him after leaving the Sheriff's Office. Gearhart was the first Sheriff to have a two-way radio system.
Robert Burns (1965 to 1968)
Sheriff Burns was born in Sidney on November 15th, 1925. He graduated from Sidney High School and served in the United States Marines during World War Two. He served as County Civil Defense Director and was also employed at Stolle Corporation before Sheriff. He was the biggest man ever to serve as Sheriff, weighing almost 400 pounds. He was the first Sheriff to keep the office open 24 hours a day. He had four children, Joyce, Robert M., Thomas and Lori. He was not related to the first Robert Burns, who served as Sheriff. He resigned as Sheriff in 1968 to accept the appointment as Postmaster of Sidney. A countywide fire radio system was established. There was also a complete radio police system to contact all villages installed.
Donald B. Laws (1968 to 1971)
Sheriff Laws was born in Shelby County and graduated from Anna High School. He served in the United States Air Force for four years. He was on the police force in Tuscon, Arizona for about a year after getting discharged from the Air Force. He returned to Sidney and became a radio news announcer and insurance investigator before being appointed to succeed Sheriff Robert Burns, who resigned. Sheriff Laws has two children, Brian and Timothy.
Don Knasel (1971 to 1975)
Fritz Geis (1975 to 1976)
John R. Lenhart (1976 to 1991)
John Lenhart was a life-long resident of Shelby County and graduated from Jackson Center High School. He was served 15 1/2 years and is one of the longest-running Sheriffs to maintain the office. Lenhart also graduated from the FBI Academy during his service. Lenhart headed up the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association during his tenure. Lenhart left the Office of Sheriff to be the superintendent of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Identification. Under Lenhart law enforcement took quite a change as the 911 system was introduced as a tax levy being passed for construction of a new jail.
Mark H. Schemmel (1991 to 2001)
Sheriff Schemmel was a life-long resident of Shelby County and graduated from Anna High School. Schemmel served as Chief Deputy from September 1986 until becoming Sheriff on July 31st, 1991. Schemmel graduated from the National Sheriff's Institute and National Crime Prevention Institute. Schemmel and his wife, Della, had two children, Markus and Bethany. In 1994, under Schemmel the Sheriff's Office relocated from downtown Sidney to the current location on Gearhart Road
Kevin P. O'Leary (2001 to 2008)
Sheriff O'Leary was raised and born in Sidney, Ohio. O'Leary attended the Sidney School System and is a graduate of Lima Technical College and Bowling Green State University in the Criminal Justice Field. O'Leary began his career with the Sheriff's Office in October of 1981 and took office in January of 2001.
O'Leary follows in his great-grandfather's footsteps.,His great grandfather was Chief William O'Leary who was the first Police Chief of the City of Sidney. His career spanned 56 years of service. O'Leary grandfather was Emerson O'Leary, who was a patrolman for the City of Sidney.
Sheriff O'Leary is single and is a member of the Holy Angels Catholic church. He enjoys working out at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA.
Doug W. Schlagetter (2008 to 2009)
Sheriff Schlagetter was born and raised in Sidney. He was appointed interim Sheriff on January 22nd, 2008. Sheriff Schlagetter and his wife, Karen, have 3 boys and are members of the Holy Angels Catholic Church.