December 15, 2016

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: Calamity Jane

Martha Jane Cannary (or Canary) is a unique character in the lore of the West. She spent a portion of her childhood in Virginia City (Montana Territory) but was orphaned at the age of twelve. The eldest of six, she worked at a variety of jobs to support her younger siblings. It was as a scout for the U.S. Army that she first traveled to Deadwood (Dakota Territory), where many of the tall tales about her life took root. The source of her nickname is uncertain. Cannary claimed it related to her acts of heroism, i.e., she was a good friend to have in a calamity. As an adult, Cannary ranched near Miles City, Montana, and for many years, Calamity Jane sightings appeared in Montana newspapers. These accounts documented her heavy drinking, which is said to have contributed to her death at age 51. At her request, she was buried in Deadwood next to her friend, "Wild Bill" Hickok.

Key dates

1852—Born in Missouri.
1865—With her family travels by wagon to Montana Territory. During the five-month journey, Martha hunts with the men, honing her shooting skills.
1876—Meets James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok in Deadwood, South Dakota.
1882—Buys a ranch on the Yellowstone River.
1895—Travels throughout the Midwest with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show, performing astride her horse as a sharpshooter.
1903—Dies in a Terry, South Dakota, hotel room.

From the newspapers

To find more

Search for the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: calamity jane, martha jane cannary (or canary), wild bill hickok, buffalo bill cody

Written by Catherine W. Ockey