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Historian Skvarenina releases book about sheriffs

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GREENFIELD — Noting the importance of preserving history and acknowledging those who have helped make it, Hancock County historian Joe Skvarenina has written a book about law enforcement officers called “A History of the Hancock County Sheriff.”

“I started a long time ago in trying to compile a history of the sheriff’s department,” Skvarenina said.

He first began working on the project through Sheriff Bud Gray. Then, current Sheriff Mike Shepherd liked the idea and encouraged Skvarenina to continue the project.

The small volume looks at the sheriff’s department starting in 1828, the year of the first Hancock County sheriff, to the present day and recognizes those local leaders in law enforcement.

In the introduction of the book Skvarenina writes that he wanted to showcase the county sheriffs’ accomplishments, and that the book acknowledges their efforts and recognizes the political climate under which they functioned.

“The first sheriff back in 1828 was John Foster,” Skvarenina said. “Back in those days, the sheriff was appointed by the governor.”

He said it was fascinating to learn about the challenges the sheriffs faced in that era. For example, in the years prior to the Civil War, a number of families faced strife over loyalties to North or South.

“Back then, the sheriff had a lot of hard times in keeping everybody apart,” Skvarenina said. “He even had to put some people in jail for disorderly conduct.”

The book takes readers through the entire history of the Hancock County sheriff, showcasing a snippet of each person associated with the position.

“Those people served, and they deserve to be recognized,” Skvarenina said. “It’s an element of history, and we can do it now so it won’t be lost in the future.”

Through his research, Skvarenina said he was surprised when he found the county has had only one female sheriff. That was in 1945, when Rosa Merele Fisk took over for her husband, Ira Webster Fisk, who died during his second term in 1945.

Skvarenina also learned that for a long time, it was often just the sheriff and perhaps one deputy trying to enforce the law. It’s that type of information Skvarenina thinks needs to be told along with a few other historical stories.

“The sheriff used to live in the jail,” Skvarenina said. “That was his residence.”

While the book is only 32 pages long, it is filled with old photos and details of each sheriff’s time in office.”It’s just sort of weaving a blanket of the history in the community,” Skvarenina said.

The book can be found at the Hancock County Library or the Hancock County Sheriff’s department.  

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