Roy Wilhelm: Meek details design of sheriff's home, jail

Last week’s column mentioned that Horace Stephen Buckland, a son of the famous Civil War hero Ralph Buckland, was credited with playing a big part in acquiring land adjoining the courthouse and the building of the sheriff’s residence and jail on that land.

That building now houses the county commissioners’ offices.

Horace Buckland, who was highly successful himself, attending Harvard Law School and becoming Common Pleas Court judge, served on the “superintending committee” for the new jail more than 130 years ago.

Many of us can remember that that office building once served that dual purpose of sheriff’s residence and jail.

Personally, as a young reporter I spent a little time there.  Not in the jail, folks, but covering the news.  I don’t believe the sheriff still lived there, but the jail certainly was used.

I’ve also heard many mentions of the fact that one-time students at St. Joseph recall that the high school across Clover Street was a boredom breaking attraction for those held in the cells.

Gen. Ralph Buckland led the 72nd Ohio to success in the Civil War. The volunteer infantry regiment included men from Sandusky and Ottawa counties. At the time, men from the same town would be put into the same unit, and heavy losses to that unit could wipe out many men from one town.

The jail-residence building was erected in 1890 to 1892 with the $36,000 cost funded by the issuance of bonds approved by a special act of the Ohio State Legislature.

According to Meek’s “Twentieth Century History of Sandusky County,” the “ground plan” for the sheriff’s residence was 52-feet by 50-feet with the jail proper being 48-feet by 40-feet.

The jail, however, covered three floors. There were eight cells on the first two floors and these were for male prisoners.  On the third level were six cells set aside for female prisoners — “suitably prepared,” according to Meek.

Civil War veteran Lorenzo Dick served as sheriff

The sheriff at the time of construction was Lorenzo Dick, who had served with honor and was imprisoned himself during the Civil War. Oddly, while in prison, he was commissioned captain in the Union Army, but did not know of the promotion until he reached home.

He was honorably discharged May 15, 1865, and after years in the restaurant and grocery business, he was elected sheriff in 1889.  He served two terms as sheriff and was then elected mayor of Fremont.

Rutherford B. Hayes spoke at jail cornerstone ceremony

The former president Rutherford B. Hayes, who was a champion of jail reform, particularly separation of the hardened criminals from others, was the speaker for the ceremonies at the laying of the cornerstone on Nov. 6, 1890.

Gen. Roeliff Frinkerhoff of the Ohio Board of Charities sent a message that certainly said that Hayes’ concerns were answered in the new jail: “your jail plans will make it entirely practicable to secure absolute separation of prisoners, so as to shut off all contaminating influence.”

Widely known and respected J. C. Johnson was the architect for the gray stone structure with Lake Superior red sand stone ornaments. Theodore Brockman was the contractor.

Roy Wilhelm started a 40-year career at The News-Messenger in 1965 as a reporter. Now retired, he writes a column for both The News-Messenger and News Herald. 

This article originally appeared on Fremont News-Messenger: Roy Wilhelm: Meek details design of sheriff's home, jail