One of Vinton County’s most notable claims to fame is that the county is home to Ohio’s first female sheriff. Maude Collins was the happily married young mother of five in 1925. She served as a small-town jail matron working alongside her handsome husband Vinton County Sheriff Fletcher Collins until he was shot at close range and killed while arresting a man on the charge of speeding.
More than 250 automobiles made up the funeral procession that stretched for nearly a mile as it made its way from the jail in McArthur to the Village of Hamden where another 50 cars were already waiting. A great throng of people from the area crowded the area around the United Brethren Church for Fletcher’s funeral, because the tiny church was unable to contain the large number of people who had come to pay their last respects. Newspaper accounts of the day reported that the stricken young widow and her five little children withstood the strain bravely.
While the tragedy of Fletcher’s untimely death shattered the world Maude had known, it also put her in a position to make history. She was eventually appointed to fill the vacancy left by her husband’s death, and in 1926 was formally elected in a landslide vote that made her the first female sheriff in the State of Ohio.
Not a mere figurehead, Maude was a capable sheriff. She was the first woman to ever deliver prisoners to the state penitentiary, a task she fulfilled fully armed in 1929. And her detective skills were considerable. On one case, she cleverly determined that a murderer had worn someone else’s shoes to leave misleading footprints. Sheriff Maude subsequently persuaded the female she had suspected all along to confess to wearing the shoes of another, who had previously been the primary male suspect, thereby solving a double homicide and gaining national fame when the case was reported in Master Detective magazine.
When it came to the attention of the Vinton County Historical Society that a woman had been elected sheriff in 1976 had been recognized as Ohio’s first female sheriff, the group nominated Maude for the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in order to correct the mistake. On October 24, 2000, Maude’s granddaughter traveled from California to accept the award at the induction ceremony, an honor that officially confirmed Maude as Ohio’s first female sheriff.
Maude Collins died in 1972 at the age of 78 and is buried with her husband in the Hamden Cemetery.