This is Mary Fields. Mary was born into slavery on May 15, 1832 in Tennessee. She was a 200 pound plus, six-feet tall, strong, short-tempered, tough, heavy, two-fisted, drinking, cigar smoking, woman who packed a pair of two six-shooters and an eight to ten gauge shotgun. She wore men’s clothing under a dress and apron because of the extreme cold weather. After the Civil War she made her way westward in 1884 to Cascade County, West Central Montana. There she found adventure and work at a convent called the St. Peter Mission as a freight hauler. Mary formed a close relationship and provided protection for the nuns at the convent. She became known as “Black Mary.” She was always heavily armed. She helped them build a school through eight severe winters in which she did the all hard work.
Mary was known to get in many altercations with the men of the area. On one occasion, a man made insulting faces and gestures at her in which Mary hit him in the face with a stone, subsequently the man went sprinting to the Canadian border. On another occasion, she engaged in a shoot out with a hired hand at the mission in which her bullet was to close for comfort, causing the man to catch a hint and flee. Mary not only held her own with men, but with beasts too. One night, while returning to the mission with supplies, her horses were frightened by wolves. Mary kept the wolves at bay and she was found the next morning sitting on the upturned wagon, with her weapons poised, guarding her horses and supplies.
In 1895, the Bishop of the mission decided to send Mary away because of her wild behaviors. Mary and the nuns were sad at Mary’s departure. Upon her departure, the head nun Mother Amadeus helped Mary to open a restaurant twice. Although Mary was rough, she was kind-hearted which resulted in the failure of her restaurant business because she was too free-hearted to customers who didn’t pay.
Soon afterwards, Mary found a job as a mail carrier for the U.S. government. She was the 2nd woman in the U.S. to become a mail carrier. Mary and her mule, Moses, never missed a day on the job working no matter what the weather and no matter how rugged the terrain; through bitterly cold wintry blizzards to sweltering summer heat. Mary unlike many delivered mail to remote miners’ cabins and other remote outposts which helped in the land claiming process (thus why she became known as Stagecoach Mary). These efforts on Mary’s part helped develop Central Montana, an achievement which she is given little credit for. She continued work as a mail carrier until she was in her sixties, but such tough work began to wear her down. She retired from mail delivery and at the age of seventy she opened her own laundry business.
At seventy years old, Mary was still drinking, smoking, and hanging in saloons. At 72 she knocked out one of the men at a bar one day for not paying his laundry bill. Taking satisfaction in knocking him out, she considered the bill paid, but he didn’t mind because the knockout rid him of a bad tooth. Mary passed away in 1914 from liver failure. She was buried in Cascade’s Hillside Cemetery with a simple cross marking her grave site. Although Mary was a baaadass sista, she has made significant contributions to the American Old West History.
I Salute This AMAZING HER-story making Sista!
I am Mary Fields.
People call me “Black Mary.”
People call me “Stagecoach Mary.”
I live in Cascade, Tennessee.
I am six feet tall.
I weigh over two hundred pounds.
A woman of the 19th Century,
I do bold and exciting things.
I wear pants.
I smoke a big black cigar.
I drink whiskey.
I carry a pistol.
I love adventure.
I travel the country,
driving a stagecoach,
delivering the mail to distant towns.
Strong, I fight through rainstorms.
Tough, I fight through snowstorms.
I risk hurricanes and tornadoes.
I am independent.
No body tells me what to do.
No body tells me where to go.
When I’m not delivering mail,
I like to build buildings.
|I like to smoke and drink in bars with the men.
I like to be rough.
I like to be rowdy.
I also like to be loving.
I like to be caring.
I like to baby sit.
I like to plant flowers and tend my garden.
I like to give away corsages and bouquets.
I like being me, Mary Fields.
Black Cowboys. (2010). Stagecoach Mary Fields. Retrieved from http://www.blackcowboys.com/maryfields.htm
Empak Enterprises. (1986). Mary Fields. A Salute to Black Pioneers, Vol III. Empak Publishing Co.