Did you know that America’s first female sheriff was Kiowa County’s own Mabel Chase?
Mabel C. Chase, a democrat, was elected as Kiowa County’s sheriff on November 2, 1926. Before that time, women were appointed temporarily as sheriff, but one had never been elected.
According to the Wichita Eagle-Beacon in 1980, “Law Enforcement came easily to Mabel and Frank Chase. Frank had a veterinary hospital in Haviland when they were married in 1899, and in 1901 he was appointed ‘Special Constable’ for the town. He held that appointment until 1918, when they moved to a farm between Haviland and Greensburg.”
In 1923, Frank became sheriff of Kiowa County and appointed his wife, Mabel, as undersheriff. She did all the bookwork while he enforced the law. The biggest culprits the Chases’ faced during this time period, bootleggers and the International Workers of the World, who were referred to as “Wobblies” and were accused of burning down wheat fields.
Kansas’s sheriffs were prohibited from serving more than two consecutive terms, so the people of Kiowa County urged Mabel to run for Sheriff, knowing that she would appoint Frank as undersheriff. On January 10, 1927, Mabel was sworn in and she was the first female sheriff.
Frank had used his own car, a 1926 Hudson Super Six, for his police work. Realizing that his wife might have to be in it on occasion, he armor-plated the doors and top and installed bulletproof glass. Mabel mostly handled the paperwork, but did go out on call on occasion. While doing that, she persuaded the county commissioners to buy a Thompson submachine gun, the first ever bought for a Kansas sheriff.
Holding the gun and standing beside the armored car, she posed for a rare picture with her husband. A replica of the gun, a biography and a picture of Mabel Chase are all in the Kiowa County Historical Museum & Soda Fountain, in the Kiowa County Commons Building at 320 S. Main Street in Greensburg, KS. Come see all of our rich history and learn about the unique individuals that shaped not only Kiowa County History, but Kansas as well. Hours are Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m-5:30 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. The soda fountain which is a part of the museum is full-functioning and opens at noon, Tuesday-Saturday. Look out for specials on their website and starting the week after Memorial Day, there will be new summer hours. Also, look for “Kid’s Summer Movie Camp” and other activities coming up in the near future. Admission to the museum is $2 for adults, $1 for seniors/students.