Click Here to View Sheriff Photos
Click Here to View Sheriffs List

Jerry Lohrey was appointed in November 1969 as Sheriff of Sherman County to fill out the term of Cornish Lee "Leo" Roberts, who resigned when he went to work for the Federal Probation Department. Lohrey won the election in 1970 and has only faced two opponents in all the elections since.

The Sherman County Sheriff was born on June 19, 1936 in Park Rapids, Minn. His family left Minnesota when he was less than a year old, moving to Kansas. Lohrey attended high school in Augusta, Kansas and then went into the U.S. Navy from 1955 to 1957. When he returned to Augusta, he was hired as a patrolman for the Augusta Police Department from 1958 to 1962, spending his last year as a Sergeant on the night shift for the Police Department in a town of some 6,000 residents.

Lohrey moved to Sherman County in 1963 when Leo Roberts was Sheriff. He was hired in 1965 by Roberts as the department's only Deputy, taking over the Sheriff's position four years later when Roberts moved on to the federal job.

The Sheriff's Office, which covers a county that is 831 square miles in size, has two Deputies and a tax collector. The Sheriff's Office in the northern Oregon county remains the tax collector. Sherman County has a population of some 2,200 residents.

Lohrey still uses the original jail log that was started in 1889 when Sherman County was established.

Lohrey and his wife, Dawn, have four grown children, including a 22-year-old son who is a Reserve Police Officer for the Sisters Police Department.

Sherman County

Enos Miles Leslie was appointed in early 1889 as Sheriff of Sherman County, shortly after the county was created on Feb. 25, 1889 from the northeast corner of Wasco County. Leslie is the first of 13 Sheriffs to have served in Sherman County through 1991.

Sherman County was named for Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman and was separated from Wasco County for two reasons -- its unique geological setting and the settlers' interest in setting up their own political process.

The rolling hills in Sherman County are bordered by the steep canyons of the John Day River to the east, Deschutes River to the west, Columbia River on the north and Buck Hollow to the south.

Stockmen in the 1870s began to settle in the area that is now Sherman County and by 1881, homesteaders arrived to permanently change the area by plowing and fencing the tall grass. Since that time, the county has been a wheat-growing area with miles of grain on rolling hills of wind-blown, glacial silt.

There is no timber in Sherman County. It has a serene landscape with spectacular views of canyons and rivers with mountains in the backdrop. Wheat, barley and cattle grazing are the principal industries in the county.

Recreation is popular on the rivers in Sherman County, from fly-fishing and white-water rafting the Deschutes to water-skiing, wind-surfing, boating, fishing and rafting on the John Day and Columbia rivers. Sherman County is one of the leaders in the state in soil and water conservation.

Points of interest in the county include the historic Sherman County Courthouse, the county museum, Gordon Ridge and Butte, John Day Dam, Sherar's Grade, Deschutes State Park and LePage Park.

The county's first appointed Sheriff, Enos Miles Leslie, served nearly five years before William Holder, who was born in 1854 in Benton County, was elected in 1894 and served as Sheriff until 1900 -- three, two-year terms. After leaving the Sheriff's Office, he had a newspaper in Shaniko and later, in Prineville.

Thomas Ramsey McGinnis, an Ohio native, was elected to two, two year terms, serving as Sherman County Sheriff from 1900 to 1904. He moved to Sherman County in 1895 after farming for 12 years in Iowa and Nebraska.

McGinnis was followed by William Benjamin "Ben" McCoy, who also served two consecutive two-year terms from 1904 to 1908. Born on March 29, 1850, in Springfield, Ill., McCoy moved to Sherman County in 1888. He served for four years as a Deputy before being elected Sheriff.

Jay C. Freeman, a native of Bolivar, Mo., served as Sherman County Sheriff from 1908 to 1913. In later years, it is believed he served as Mayor of Moro and was postmaster of the Sherman County city from 1935 to 1949.

James Carroll McKean followed Freeman with two, two-year terms as Sherman County Sheriff from 1913 to 1917. Born in 1882 in Washington, Penn., McKean moved to Oregon at the turn of the century and was elected Sheriff of Sherman County 13 years later. He was followed by Forest Grove native Philmore "Phil" Buxton, who was Sheriff from 1917 to 1921.

Hugh Chrisman was elected in 1921 and served the longest term of any Sherman County Sheriff when he held the office until 1937. Hugh Chrisman was the brother of Wasco County Sheriff Levi Chrisman.

Hugh Chrisman was followed by Charles C. Wilson, who was Sheriff from 1937 to June 30, 1946, when he resigned.

World War II veteran Cecil Norman Fields was appointed to take Wilson's place, serving as Sheriff until his death in December 1957.

George John Geiser Jr. was appointed to take Field's place and was Sheriff of Sherman County until June 1960, when he resigned. A native of Helena, Mont., Geiser came to Oregon in 1952. In addition to being Sheriff of Sherman County, Geiser was a Moro City Councilman for one term, served as the City Treasurer and was Moro Fire Chief in 1969.

Cornish Lee "Leo" Roberts was a Deputy in Sherman County for two months in 1960 before he was appointed to take Geiser's place as Sheriff. A native of Denver, Colo., he moved to Oregon in 1937. He served as Sheriff of Sherman County until November, 1969, when he resigned. He was Mayor of the city of Wasco in 1962 and 1968. Roberts graduated from Wasco High School and owned and operated Chevron service stations from 1953 to 1957 in both Wasco and Grass Valley.

When Roberts resigned in late 1969, Lohrey was appointed to take his place and has been Sheriff ever since.
Body in the Sagebrush

It took hundreds of man hours and thousands of miles to track down the killer of Montana farm hand Dewey Burrell. The investigation by Oregon State Police, the Sherman County Sheriff's Office and authorities in both Montana and California consumed five 180 and one-half years, but failed to answer all the questions raised about the killer and the victim.

Two Oregon State road maintenance workers found a man's body partially hidden by sagebrush off U.S. Highway 97 on Nov. 21, 1938. The top of the victim' s head had been severely battered, but there was no weapon in sight.

The two workers notified the Oregon State Police office at The Dalles, 19 miles west of where the body was found. Sgt. Frank Grimm, who would later become assistant director of the Oregon State Police Identification Bureau in Salem, told the maintenance workers to return to the spot where the body was found and to await his Troopers' arrival. Then Grimm called Sherman County Sheriff Charles C. Wilson at Moro, Ore., to inform him of the grisly find. Wilson called Sherman County Coroner Dr. Thompson Coberth.

The three men, along with State Trooper Charles U'Ren (later Sergeant in charge of the OSP's office in The Dalles) and T. Lester Johnson, Sherman County District Attorney, arrived at the scene about the same time.

Corbeth determined from his preliminary examination of the body that the victim was bludgeoned to death with a heavy object, possibly a hammer. The victim had been hit in the head three or four times with severe force and had been dead about two days, Corbeth surmised.

What puzzled Wilson, Grimm and the others was the victim's billfold which yielded two different pieces of identification: A California driver's license issued to Dewey Burrell of Gridley, Calif., and an Oregon liquor purchaser's permit issued to an Ed Burke of Redmond, Ore.

A further search of the victim's clothing turned up a folded piece of paper, an apparent work contract specifying the bearer had been signed by an employment agency for a month's work, at the rate of $6 a day. Neither the agency's name nor the laborer's name were contained in the agreement form, commonly used by employment agencies which supply work forces for various businesses or individuals.

However, the investigators discovered the name "Missoulian" in small type on one corner of the paper. It was from the daily newspaper in Missoula, Mont. -The Daily Missoulian -- printed in the newspaper' s job shop.

Some faint tire tracks were found on the ground leading from the area where the body was found to the highway. Wilson theorized that the victim, whose true identity was still a mystery at the time, may have picked up a hitchhiker who then robbed and killed the victim before driving off with his vehicle.

Grimm had another theory: Maybe the victim was thumbing a ride and after being picked up, flashed a roll of bills. The driver could have killed him, dumped the body and drove off.

But District Attorney Johnson wasn't convinced robbery was the motive for the victim's death. The brutality of the attack led him to believe this was a crime of passion prompted by anger or hatred.

Whatever the motive, investigators' first concern was identifying the victim and digging up some information about his past which might explain the murder.

First, investigators alerted neighboring police agencies about the crime by police radio and teletype. Then a telegram was sent to authorities in Gridley, Calif., requesting any information they could uncover on Dewey Burnell, the name on the driver's license.

While awaiting response to their inquires, the investigators began working on the home front. U'Ren and Grimm canvassed communities adjacent to the slaying site in hopes of finding any clues to the victim's movements prior to his death. Sheriff Wilson went to Redmond to check on the liquor purchaser permit issued to Ed Burke.

Wilson's investigation proved fruitless. An Ed Burke had purchased two bottles of whiskey at a Redmond drugstore, but made no other purchases and the druggist never saw him again. A subsequent check with the State Liquor Commission office in Salem turned up no other record of liquor purchases by Burke after the day the permit was issued.

But U'Ren and Grimm were more successful in their search for leads. They found a restaurant owner in Shaniko, Ore., who, after examining a morgue photo of the dead man, recognized the victim as one of three men who had come into the restaurant a few evenings earlier. The other two were young men and all three were traveling in a blue or gray Chevrolet sedan with Washington license plates. After leaving the restaurant they drove north, toward Highway 97, the restaurant owner recalled.

Encouraged by this lead, investigators began a search for the two youths that took several months and which, unfortunately, proved useless. The two youths were cleared after investigators learned the man with them was not the victim. They were in Lakeview, Ore., at the time of the murder.

Sheriff Wilson and his men, however, went back to the murder scene, fishing for some uncovered clues to the murder -- and wound up with a prize catch. A ballpeen hammer was found in a creek, less than 100 feet from where the body was found. It had traces of blood on the head and the initials "D.M." on the end of the handle.

While Sheriff Wilson and his Deputies were continuing their investigation in Sherman County, other investigators went to Missoula to try to find some information about the work contract printed by The Daily Missoulian newspaper. Captain Vayne Gurdane, District Commander of the Oregon State Police in Portland, who had entered the investigation, and Prosecutor Johnson persuaded the newspaper to publish the morgue photo of the victim with all information uncovered about the murder. The photo and story that ran on the front page the following day triggered numerous calls from persons with information on the dead man.

He was positively identified as Dewey Burrell, originally from Marysville, Idaho, who had worked at two different farms near Missoula, harvesting sugarbeets and potatoes. One of his employers described Burrell as an easy-going, but hard-working man who was thrifty with his money.

Further investigation revealed that the same farmer who hired Burrell also hired a former rodeo performer named Dan Morgan. The two had worked together doing farm work on a spread near Missoula. Investigators believed they had uncovered the name behind the initials D.M. and felt the case might soon be resolved.

When confronted, Morgan claimed someone had stolen his tool box, containing a ballpeen hammer, from his car parked in front of a Missoula theater three years earlier. He made a theft report with the police, Morgan said. He also claimed he had not seen Burrell for more than a year.

A check with Missoula Police confirmed that Morgan had reported his tool box stolen. The tool box eventually was found in a Butte, Mont., second hand store. It had been sold to the owner by a young Butte man. The young man, when questioned by authoriies, claimed he found the tool box in Missoula one night and later sold it. But he insisted there was never a ballpeen hammer in the box. The focus of the investigation returned to Dan Morgan.

Investigators returned to the farm where Morgan was working, but discovered he had left a few days earlier, without explanation. A nationwide search was begun for Morgan. A gas station owner told investigators he recalled seeing Morgan and Burrell in Morgan's car in mid November of 1938.

But catching Morgan turned out to be a bigger task than investigators figured. Months turned into years, and every time authorities got a clue to his whereabouts, Morgan would disappear. First, Minneapolis, Minn. Then back in Montana. Then somewhere else.

Finally, investigators were able to trace Morgan to a defense plant in Richmond, Calif. But to their dismay, investigators arrived at the plant only to learn Morgan had quit his job the previous day. However, co-workers told them Morgan had mentioned plans about taking the train to Portland.

Authorities wired Capt. Gurdane at the Oregon State Police headquarters in Portland with the news. Gurdane ordered Troopers to the Union Station train depot in Portland, with photos his office had obtained of Morgan, to catch the suspect when he stepped off the train. Morgan was captured April 13, 1944 -- more than five years after the crime.

During interrogation, Morgan admitted killing Burrell. He said the two had been arguing about where to go while they were traveling along Highway 97. He stopped his car and ordered Burrell to get out and walk. When Burrell refused, Morgan killed him, then dragged his body out into the sagebrush, and fled. He claimed he killed Burrell in self-defense.

Morgan pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison by Sherman County Circuit Court Judge George A. Potter.

The question of how Burrell obtained the liquor purchaser's permit issued to Ed Burke remains a mystery.

Please Click Here To Continuing Reading
"The Railroad Wars"

Return to "A History of Oregon Sheriffs Index"
Return to "A Place Called Oregon"