Book tells history of Mason County sheriffs

April 11, 2024

From left: Robert Englebrecht, Larry Stewart, Laude Hartrum, Jeff Fiers, Kim Cole, Ned Nordine

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

PERE MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP — Since Mason County’s beginning in 1855 only 28 men have served as its sheriff. On Thursday, a small ceremony was held at the Mason County Airport terminal honoring the five living sheriffs and presenting them and their families with a history book researched and compiled by Ned Nordine.

“The Sheriffs of Mason County” was conceived by current sheriff, Kim Cole.

Robert Englebrecht signs Laude Hartrum’s book

“When I first became sheriff in 2013, I would take Fridays off and would go out to White Pine Village and look through old newspapers and read stories about the sheriff’s office. During one of those Fridays, Cole struck up a conversation with Mason County Historical Society volunteer Ned Nordine, who had been conducting research for the Mason County Sports Hall of Fame.

“I knew Mr. Nordine from my days as a the DARE officer for the sheriff’s office,” Cole said. “At that time, he was a sixth grade teacher at Foster Elementary.”

Nordine said after he retired from teaching he wanted to give back to the community. He began volunteering at the historical society’s White Pine Village, helping take care of the grounds and also helping in the research library.

“I told Mr. Nordine that I wanted to compile a history of the sheriff’s office,” Cole said. “I have always been interested in that history, mostly because my great-granddad, Henry Cole, served as sheriff from 1899 to 1903.”

Nordine told Cole that he was currently working on another research project, but would tackle the sheriff project after that. Nordine recounted how he looked through newspapers dating back to the 1860s. Those newspapers are among the vast collection of historical documents now located at the Mason County Historical Society’s Mason County Research Center, 130 E. Ludington Ave. in downtown Ludington.

Nordine said he would look up the election results in the newspapers, knowing that the general election always occurs on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of an even-numbered year. But, there was no newspaper published in Mason County until the mid-1860s. With the help of Mason County Clerk Cheryl Kelly, Nordine was able to find expenditure records from the Mason County Board of Supervisors, which listed reimbursements to the sheriffs.

The result was a hard cover book that Nordine self-published, at his own expense, and gave to each of the five living sheriffs, their families and the families of the deceased sheriffs. Those living sheriffs, who each attended Thursday included: Robert Englebrecht (1985-1988), Larry Steward (1989-2004), Laude Hatrum III (2005-2008), Jeff Fiers (2009-2012) and Kim Cole (2013-present).

Nordine thanked several people who helped him with the project including Marty Cupp, Mike Hankwitz, Rick Bentz, and James Anderson (deceased).

“This is great,” Hartrum said. “It’s an honor to receive this book and to be part of the rich history of the sheriff’s office.”

Cole said the book exceeded his expectations.

“I can’t think Mr. Nordine enough for this project,” Cole said. “I know this was quite an undertaking and it means a lot to have this important history documented.”

Cole is also a member of the board of directors of the Historical Society.

Nordine said he has no plans to publish the book and sell it to the public. But, he has given Sheriff Cole the digital file of the book and the rights to publish. Nordine said a copy of the book will also be donated to the Historical Society. Additionally, 14 three-ring binders with notes, photographs and newspaper clippings have been donated to the sheriff’s office and the Historical Society.


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