La Crosse County SO

(Click above for a picture of the County)




In August of 1925 a county supervisor named Guenther complained to the board about irregularities in the accounts of the sheriff's department.  The board looked into the problem, but Guenther felt that supporters of the sheriff were not diligent in their investigation so he took his complaint to the governor.


In November of that year, Governor Blaine appointed a commissioner to look into the matter.  A hearing was held in December of 1925.


Testimony was given that Sheriff Ristow had released a prisoner without authority after receiving $75.  A deposit of that amount was made in the sheriff's personal checking account on the same day.


The county had been billed for boarding prisoners in the jail that were not there.  Testimony was given that on several occasions people were arrested for non-payment of fines.  If the fines were paid, the sheriff would release them, but continue to show them on the jail register, collecting board money until their release date.  Because a large part of the sheriff's income cam from board at the jail, it became a practice to patrol the rail yards in the afternoon to collect vagrants.  They were place din jail for the evening only to be released by court the next day.  This gave the sheriff the opportunity to charge the county 3 meals for each man.


As this was during prohibition, (La Crosse County went "wet" in March of 1926) the sheriff executed several search warrants under the direction of State and Federal authorities.  (As a side note - bids for equipment purchased to assist the sheriff in these raids include:  eight 38 caliber Colt 4" revolvers, four 38 caliber Colt 6" revolvers, eight 12 gauge Winchester Riot guns, two Thompson Machine Guns, 45 caliber with 50 shot drum magazines, eight pair of Peerless Hand Cuffs, and two pair of Bean Hand Cuffs for the insane.  Smith Hardware had the winning bid at $976.)


Testimony showed that the sheriff later sold seized barrels and sugar, splitting the money with the janitor from the jail.  He also sold as scrap the copper from busted stills keeping the proceeds.  On one occasion he seized slot machines and punch boards in a raid.  He was ordered to destroy the machines, boards and liquor.  He allegedly sold these items and kept the proceeds.  The money from the machines was also kept.  His personal balance was $3.60 the day of the raid and he made a deposit the next day, all in coins.


Before becoming sheriff, he was part owner of the Ristow Motor Company.  He retained interest in the business while in office, contrary to policy at that time.  He billed the County for reimbursement of the expenses incurred transporting and storing equipment he seized.  The department books showed no outlay for these expenses.  Testimony shoed he had kept the materials at his own garage.


Monies receipted for payment of fines at the jail were deposited in his own account by "mistake."


On February 13, 1926, Governor Blaine ordered the sheriff removed from office.  The following week the appointed H.L. Wilcox to fill the remainder of the term.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV