Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Stagecoach Mary For Western Wednesday...!

We have talked about Mary before, but I figured we could pay her another visit.

While there were many colorful men in the old west, not many women are heard about. That's one reason that Mary is so unique. Not only was she colorful, but quite well known in certain states. Interesting history surrounding Mary, as this article from Listverse shows.

Mary Fields

Photo via Wikimedia

Also known as “Stagecoach Mary,” Mary Fields was one of the most formidable women of the Old West. Said to be a match for any man, she enjoyed brawling and was known to brag that she could knock any challenger out with a single punch. Newspapers of the time claimed that she broke more noses than anyone else in central Montana and she always backed herself up with a six-shooter holstered under her apron. She liked to drink, smoked bad homemade cigars, and was so respected in her adopted hometown of Cascade, Montana, that her birthday was made a school holiday every year.

Born a slave in Tennessee, Mary gained her freedom after the Civil War. She subsequently worked on the steamboat Robert E. Lee during its famous race with the Natchez, when the crew even tossed ham and bacon into the boilers and sat on the release valves to build the steam pressure higher. In 1885, she moved to Cascade, Montana, to work for the nuns of St. Peter’s Convent. She did all the heavy work, including hauling supplies, carpentry, and stonemasonry. One of her most famous deeds came when wolves attacked her supply wagon during a night run. The horses were spooked and the wagon overturned, but Mary stood guard over the supplies until morning, keeping the wolves at bay with her trusty revolver.

The nuns loved Mary, but she was forced to resign after Montana’s first Catholic bishop heard of her brawling and a rumored gunfight. Shortly afterward, she hitched a team of horses faster than any other applicant and was hired to deliver mail to the towns around Cascade, braving blizzards and harsh terrain in the process. She was 60 at the time and only the second woman ever hired by the US Postal Service.

There was also a softer side to Mary. She loved baseball and always presented the Cascade team with bouquets of flowers from her garden. She babysat for most of the children in town, including the actor Gary Cooper, who recalled her fondly later in life. After retiring from delivering mail, she tried to open a restaurant, but went broke because she always let those in need eat for free. When her house burned down in 1912, the whole town came together to build her a new one. A 1910 contract to lease a hotel in town includes a clause stipulating that Mary could always eat for free. She was also the only woman allowed to drink in the local saloon. She passed away of liver failure in 1914.

Yes indeed...I'd say Mary was quite the character. One of those types that certainly helped to create the "Wild, Wild West!"

Coffee in the kitchen this morning because it's storming again.


linda m said...

She certainly was a character. I must say I admire her for what she made of herself and her situations in life. Than you for sharing this delightful woman with us. She had "spunk".

Chickenmom said...

She sure did, Linda! Wonder what today's special snowflakes would think of her!

Gorges Smythe said...

Interesting character!

HermitJim said...

Hey Linda...
That she certainly had, in abundance! Quite the character, for sure!
Thanks for stopping by today!

Hey Phyllis...
Everyone must have thought well of her, considering the times.
Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Gorges...
She certainly was, if nothing else!
Thanks for the visit this morning!

JO said...

Great story this morning. Wonder if there is a book about her that would be great.

We must have had a great rain during the nice the road has lots of puddles. Kitchen works well

Dizzy-Dick said...

I bet that women would tell it like it was and you had to listen, too. I never heard of her, but now that I have, I have to respect her. Thanks Hermit for sharing that story.