The first Nelson County Sheriff was appointed June 9, 1883. Sheriff Josiah Pierce received $4,000 a year for enforcing the law in Nelson County. 

Since that date 23 men have been elected to the Sheriff's position.

Earlier Sheriffs were elected for a two-year term; since 1962 they have served a four-year term.

Sheriffs are now required to have eleven weeks of basic training at the Law Enforcement Training Center in Bismarck and yearly in-service training, plus re-certification to carry sidearms.

Sheriffs of Nelson County
Josiah Pierce, Frank K. McCoy, Oliver Knudson, Samuel Dahl, Gilbert Jorgenson Thorvold Sween, Peter E. Sandlie, C.E. Johnson, A.H. Smart, Sandler Peterson, Lewis Bakke, T.E. Latourette, M.K. Fjeld, E.T. Swendseid, Fred Nelson, J.R. Tangen, Martin Lindvig, B.W. Kabeary, Lloyd O. Craft , Arthur F. Varty, Dale Quam, Kelly J. Janke, Keith Olson, and Kurt Schwind.

Sheriff Martin Lindvig and Sheriff Fred Nelson were both elected to five terms (not consecutive). 
In earlier years the jail was provided behind the old courthouse for county prisoners. The new courthouse has no jail facilities. County prisoners are now boarded at the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center in Devils Lake, ND.