Ruth Lane was visiting relatives in Montana when she met Jesse Garfield, a Yellowstone County homesteader. The couple married in 1912 and later moved to a ranch near Ryegate. Jesse became the first sheriff of newly created Golden Valley County in June of 1920.
He had been reelected to his first full term of office in November but had not yet been sworn in. On December 6, Jesse went out to the Snowy Mountains to investigate a complaint. When he knocked on the rancher’s door, the man fired his rifle, seriously wounding the sheriff. He made it to his car and tried to drive back to town, but the gas tank had been hit and he ran out gas. He walked back to the town of Franklin where a stopped freight train took him to Billings. Jesse died two weeks later. County commissioners appointed Ruth to fill out her husband’s term as sheriff. She never carried a gun, but she earned the same salary as her husband: $166 a month. The couple’s son, Ford, was about seven at the time. Every day after school, he would wait at the jail in the Golden Valley county courthouse for his mom to finish work. Ruth served out her husband’s two year term. Upon his election in 1922, Sheriff Dick Carr appointed Ruth Garfield undersheriff and probation officer. She served in that capacity for two years before retiring from law enforcement. Ruth Lane Garfield was the first female sheriff in Montana.