Jesse and Ruth Lane Garfield
First Sheriff of Golden Valley County ~ Montana's First Woman Sheriff

 

First Sheriff of Golden Valley County, Montana
Jesse Garfield  March 17, 1883 ~ December 18, 1920
Killed in the Line of Duty

 

Born in 1883, in Richmond, Virginia, Jesse Garfield came horseback to Montana in 1904, and homesteaded northeast of Broadview.in 1910, he met Ruth Lane, a young lady from Iowa who was in Montana visiting relatives.  In 1912, Ruth returned to Montana from Iowa, and she and Jesse were married.  Their son, Ford Garfield, was born in 1913.   The family moved about, living near Lavina, Cushman and Slayton until 1920, when they moved to Ryegate.
June 24, 1920, Golden Valley County was created with Jesse Garfield being the newly elected sheriff.  He was elected to another term as sheriff in the November, 1920, election.

On December 6, 1920, before Jesse was sworn in to his first full term as sheriff, he went to the Snowy Mountains to investigate neighbors' complaints against a man named Lampson.  When Jesse knocked on Lampson's door, the "deranged" rancher shot Jesse with a shotgun loaded with slugs.  Jesse, though grievously wounded, escaped to his car and managed to drive some distance towards the town of Franklin before discovering the car's gas tank had also been hit by a slug and was out of gas.

Jesse, bleeding profusely, walked the rest of the way to Franklin where a freight train was stopped.  The train's crew and Dr. Lubeley of Ryegate took Jesse to the hospital in Billings, where he died December 18, 1920.

 

 

Montana's First Woman Sheriff  Ruth Lane Garfield
July 23, 1892 ~ January 9, 1974

 

Following the murder of Sheriff Jesse Garfield, the Golden Valley County Commissioners appointed his widow, Ruth, to fulfill the two-year term the young woman's husband had not yet started.
As sheriff, Ruth received the same pay as her husband had, $166 a month.   Slender, petite Ruth never carried a gun while in office.  In a 1966 interview with the Billings Gazette, she admitted, "If I had, some man would have taken it away from me."
Ruth served her husband's two-year term as sheriff, with Henry Ringwald as her undersheriff.  At the end of the school day, her young son, Ford, would walk the short distance from the grade school to the Golden Valley County courthouse, which houses the sheriff's office and jail, to wait for his mother.  Following Ruth's term as sheriff, the newly elected sheriff, Dick Carr, appointed her as his undersheriff and probation officer.  When that two-year appointment ended, Ruth retired from law enforcement.

 

Photos courtesy of Ford and Barbara Garfield, Cushman, MT

 

Golden Valley County Page | Montana Law Enforcement Officers Memorial


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