History

Phelps County Sheriff’s Office History and Some Interesting Information

 

COUNTY SEAT:

Holdrege is the third county seat location in Phelps County. The first county seat was in Williamsburg in Williamsburg Township in the northern part of the county. Information about Williamsburg is scarce but Rolf Johnson wrote that there were four buildings in Williamsburg when he arrived in 1876.

Early County Board records indicate on July 10, 1878 the board met pursuant to adjournment with Commissioners, A.S. Baldwin, Chairman Dilworth, & Joseph Meehan.

Some Stories About the Sheriffs

JAMES SWEEZE: Unmarked Grave of Former Sheriff and Would-Be-Killer

Somewhere in the prairies of southwestern Phelps County near Spring Creek lies the unmarked grave of a would-be-killer who died in 1877.  Articles in the newspaper state James Sweeze was Sheriff at the time. The deceased, William P. Miller, a former Sheriff, lived in a combination dugout and log cabin. Miller always carried a gun & threatened his neighbors. He kidnapped a 16 year old girl and kept her imprisoned. Shortly after the birth of her second child, the girl escaped.

After the escape, Miller appeared to reform. However, as the years passed, more threats to the neighbors were reported. On July 19, 1877, Miller attempted to carry out his death threats. He threatened to kill Sweezy.  Sweezy ordered him to surrender without result.  Miller died from three gunshot wounds that day.

 

SHERIFF HANSON:  The Thirties

G.Royal Hanson’s biography mentions his duties as sheriff. “He was on call day and night. Having no deputy, he had to handle all aspects of civil, criminal, juveniles, and delinquent taxes. As County Health Chairman he quarantined all contagious diseases.”

“Probably the roughest, rawest, era of law breaking was the bootlegging period, and was probably the era that gave him the most headaches.”

A bank robbery occurred in 1934. Three men took $5000.00 and hostages, who were later released. Investigators branched out to many states. One of the robbers was killed in a car accident, one turned state’s evidence, and the third was sentenced to 25 years.

In December 1934 a baby was found in a suitcase at the local hospital in Holdrege. The suitcase had been sitting in the waiting room for several hours before the baby was found.

Sheriff Hanson was notified. All efforts to find the mother failed and a hearing was held and the court ordered the baby boy be put in the Home for Dependent Children, Lincoln, for adoption.

The attempted derailment of a Burlington Zephyr near Holdrege in 1936 was another of his top cases. it took a three week investigation to secure confessions from the suspects.

In another case a murderer’s body was found before the victim’s body was discovered.

 

SHERIFF GEWECKE: Murders and Threats

Sheriff Wilber Gewecke’s time as sheriff had difficult periods as well.  On January 11, 1959, Carl “Shorty” a gas station night attendant was murdered and his body found in a rural Harlan County roadside ditch. Although dozens of people were interviewed, the murder was never solved.

On January 7, 1960 a local intoxicated man shot into the home of a neighbor of Sheriff Gewecke, thinking it was the Sheriff’s home.  “The next evening I was out following some leads on the shooting and the man called my wife and informed her that he had killed me, and was coming to our house to kill her and the three
kids, “Gewecke said.”  He returned home to find his wife lying dead of a heart attack in
the hallway and the phone torn off the wall.

 

SHERIFF NEWMAN: The Great Holdrege Shoot-Out

Dwayne Newman was Sheriff when the Holdrege Shoot-out took place on August 18, 1989.  Two convicts were plucked from a Colorado Medium Security Prison by a hijacked helicopter. The helicopter and pilot had been taken at gun point by the convict’s two girlfriends prior to the escape. Eight hours later the group was spotted in Holdrege in a Ryder van and a shoot out took place involving several law enforcement agencies including the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department, including Sheriff Dewayne Newman.  Numerous rounds were fired by the convicts as well as law enforcement officers.  The convicts were finally captured right here in Holdrege after one of them was wounded.

SHERIFF TOM NUTT:

Sheriff Nutt was elected to the office after retiring from the Nebraska State Patrol as a sergeant. He is a graduate of the FBI’s National Law Enforcement Academy and has a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Sheriff Nutt was able to have the court house expanded in 2003 to the new facility that includes a larger Correctional Unit, and several new offices in the east wing of the courthouse. One of these Offices is the current Sheriff’s Office.

 

SHERIFF GENE SAMUELSON:

 

Current Sheriff, Gene Samuelson, has a department that includes 5 deputies,  2 reserve deputies, a head jailer, & 14 corrections officers. The Sheriff’s department and correctional facility are located at the Phelps County Justice Center in Holdrege, Ne.

 

PAST COUNTY SHERIFFS

FROM 1872 – 1878 WILLIAM P. MILLER, JAMES SWEEZY, & FRANK SWEEZY, & JAMES BALDWIN WERE MENTIONED.

JOHN SHAFER……………………………………………. 1873-1877

FRANK HALLGAREN……………………………………. 1877-1881

A. A. WYATT…………………………………………….. 1881-1883

L. A. NEWMAN…………………………………………… 1883-1885

E. A. ERICKSON………………………………………… 1885-1889

J. A. RUBY………………………………………………….. 1889-1891

D. S. CONLEY…………………………………………….. 1891-1893

SIMON KNUDSON……………………………………… 1893-1899

J. N. GUSTUS……………………………………………… 1899-1911

GUSTAV ANDERSON…………………………………. 1911-1915

G. A. ANDERSON………………………………………… 1915-1923

ROYAL HANSON…………………………………………. 1923-1955

WILBUR GEWECKE……………………………………. 1955-1971

DWAYNE NEWMAN…………………………………….. 1971-1979

MERLE DIVIS………………………………………………. 1979-1983

DWAYNE NEWMAN…………………………………….. 1983-1998

TOM L NUTT…………………………………………………. 1998-2011

GENE SAMUELSON ……………..………….  2011-PRESENT

      

 

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