03 September 2011

"Stagecoach" Mary Fields

"Stagecoach" Mary Fields was born in March 1832... in Hickman County Tennessee and moved to the Great Falls, Montana area. Fields was the first female African American carrier for the mail service in Montana. She also owned several businesses in Cascade County Montana and drove the stagecoach, hence her nickname. Fields was an extremely popular person in Virginia City, Montana, so much so, that a Virginia City ordinance was enacted that made it legal for her to enter a saloon, a place forbidden by law to any other self-respecting woman, except Mary, not engaged in the honky-tonk business.
Text and image from the Billings, Montana Examiner article about the High Plains Women's Museum, via the interesting Hey to Your Mama N'em blog, via Fuck Yeah, Victorians!

Addendum:  prompted by Ninabi's comment, I tracked down more of Mary Fields' history at Cascade Montana


  1. How could Mary Field's story be so hidden? What a delight to read of nuns, guns, mail delivery and baseball.

    I noticed the dog at her feet- she was an animal lover, too.

  2. The real ‘Stagecoach Mary’ story:

    Mary Fields, Black Mary, and ‘Stagecoach Mary’ are all one of the same person. Mary was born in 1832, a slave in Arkansas and was owned by a Catholic family; the plantation owner had a single girl child the same age as Mary. Mary’s mother was the House Slave Servant and the plantation owners’ favorite cook; therefore Mary was always in the main house, in the kitchen and not in the fields, as a Field Slave. Mary’s father was a Field Slave, and Field Slaves were not allowed in the Main House, much less, to court a House Slave. Mary’s mother became pregnant by Mary’s father and he was beaten and sold to another plantation for getting Mary’s mother pregnant. After Mary’s birth, Mary’s mother and her were allowed to stay in the main house, and Mary became the plantation owner daughters’ playmate, therefore being the owners daughter’s playmate, Mary was allowed to read and write, a rarity for that time.

    After the emancipation and coming into adulthood, Mary was 6 feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds. Mary became her own woman and traveled solely from Arkansas, up and down the Mississippi River, to Ohio, then finally to Montana where she got her nickname at the turn of the 20th Century. She earned this nickname by working for the “United States Postal System” delivering the United States Mail through adverse conditions that would have discouraged the most hardened frontiersmen of her time. All by herself, she never missed a day for 8 years, carrying the U. S. Mail and other important documents that helped settle the wild open territory of central west Montana.

    Mary had no fear of man, nor beast, and this sometimes got her into trouble. She delivered the mail regardless of the heat of the day, cold of night, wind, rain, sleet, snow, blizzards, Indians and Outlaws.

    Mary was a cigar smoking, shotgun and pistol toting Negro Woman, who even frequented saloons drinking whiskey with the men, a privilege only given to her, as a woman. However, not even this fact, sealed Mary's credentials given to her, her credentials boasted that, “She would knockout any man with one punch”, a claim which she proved true.

    Her fame was so acclaimed, even the Actor, Gary Cooper, two time Academy Award Winner, told a story about her in 1959 which appeared in Ebony Magazine that same year. While, Annie Oakley and Martha Canary (Calamity Jane) were creating their history with Buffalo Bill, Stagecoach Mary was making “her Epic Journey!”

    Despite Mary's hardness, she had another side of her, a kindness so strong, even today, in the beginning of the 21st Century, the town of Cascade, Montana, and other surrounding communities celebrate her birthday. The Epic movie is in pre-production mode. Check out website at http://www.stagecoachmary.net


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