Oliver P. Benefiel, the subject of this sketch, and republican candidate for the important position of Sheriff of Sheridan County, appears before the sovereign people asking their suffrages for the first time in his life. He was born in Pulaski County, Indiana in 1859. While yet a boy he came to Eastern Kansas, where he remained until 1877, when he started west again, visiting Colorado and Idaho, residing in various places in these states until 1895. Then he started east, bound for Pierre, South Dakota, with a herd of horses. Again, turning west, he came to Wyoming and settled at Hyattville and took a contract to carry the mail across the mountains between Hyattville and Big Horn. This task, he and his partner, accomplished through deep snow, howling blizzards and extreme cold weather, a task never accomplished before or since. We mention this to show his devotion to duty. At that time the people of the Big Horn basin were dependent upon this star route across the mountains for their mail, and this man delivered it to them at the risk of his life on every trip.
In 1898 he bought a livery stock in Sheridan, moved here and went into business which he conducted for several years. After this he traveled over several adjoining states buying horses for Moncreiffe Brothers, buying and selling cattle and horse, etc., etc.
Oliver P. Benefiel was around 47 years old and had lived in Sheridan eight years when he sought the county sheriff’s post in 1906.
His ad in Oct. 16 Sheridan Post that year, written in third person, noted he was “asking (the voters’) suffrage for the first time in his life.”
The voters responded. Benefiel, a Republican, defeated Democratic opponent J. H. Ivey by nearly 300 votes – 1,294 to just over 1,000 for Ivey.
The incumbent sheriff, Oliver J. Smyth, apparently did not seek re-election.
Except for information that he, himself, provided in his ad, records in the Wyoming Room of Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library give little information on the man.
Benefiel noted that he was born in Pulaski County, Indiana, in 1859, “moved to eastern Kansas while a boy” and after staying there a few years, resumed his westward trek with a move to Colorado in 1877.
During the next several years, he lived in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Idaho. In 1895, he moved to Pierre, S.D., “with a herd of horses.”
He relocated to Hyattville in Wyoming sometime during the next three years. He took a contract carrying mail across the Big Horn Mountains between Hyattville and Big Horn.
He bought a livery stock in Sheridan in 1898, and for the next few years his livelihood included buying and selling horses and cattle. Among those for whom he handled horses were the Moncreiffe Brothers of Big Horn.
Benefiel became Sheridan County’s eighth sheriff. The first was James M. Enochs. Enochs began his law enforcement career in this area in 1885 as stock inspector and deputy sheriff for what was then northern Johnson County.
When Sheridan County split from Johnson in 1888, Enochs was appointed the new county’s first sheriff. Tome Keese became the first sheriff elected to the office later that year. Sheriff’s terms were for one year for the first few years, but the tenure had been expanded to the current four years by 1906.
Information on Benefiel after his election is scarce. He was sworn into office on Jan. 7, 1907, and served through 1910. The Jan. 4, 1907, Sheridan Post noted that he had selected Ole Mossberg as his only deputy.
The Polk Directory for the years that Benefiel served as sheriff lists his address as 49 W. Whitney in Sheridan. He may have left the area after his tenure; Polk’s for 1912 and subsequent years show no listing for him.
A check of cemetery and obituary records also offers no clues.