Calamity Jane

Early Deadwood

Calamity Jane was a hard drinking woman who wore men’s clothing, used coarse language, chewed tobacco and was reportedly quite handy with a gun. Historians often dispute certain details of her autobiography, and some portions have been proven to be false, but the following is a portion of the autobiographical information that was reportedly provided to a newspaper in Billings, Montana in 1896:

My maiden name was Marthy Cannary. I was born in Princeton, Missouri, May 1, 1852. Father and mother were natives of Ohio. I had two brothers and three sister—I being the oldest of the children. As a child, I always had a fondness for adventure and outdoor exercise and a special fondness for horses which I began to ride at an early age and continued to do so until I became an expert rider being able to ride the most vicious and stubborn of horses; in fact, the greater portion of my life in early times was spent in this manner.

In 1865 we emigrated from our homes in Missouri by the overland route to Virginia City, Montana, taking five months to make the journey. While on the way, the greater portion of my time was spent in hunting along with the men and hunters of the party; in fact, I was–at all times–with the men when there was excitement and adventures to be had. By the time we reached Virginia City, I was considered a remarkably good shot and a fearless rider for a girl of my age. Mother died at Black Foot, Montana, 1866, where we buried her. I left Montana in Spring of 1866 for Utah, arriving at Salt Lake City during the summer–remained in Utah until 1867, where my father died. Then went to Fort Bridger, Wyoming Territory, where we arrived May 1, 1868, then went to Piedmont, Wyoming, with U.P. Railway. Joined General Custer as a scout at Fort Russell, Wyoming, in 1870, and started for Arizona for the Indian Campaign. Up to this time I had always worn the costume of my sex. When I joined Custer I donned the uniform of a soldier. It was a bit awkward at first, but I soon got to be perfectly at home in men’s clothes. (This connection to Custer is a claim that was later proven false.)

Was in Arizona up to the winter of 1871 and during that time I had a great many adventures with the Indians—for as a scout I had a great many dangerous missions to perform. While I was in many close places, I always succeeded in getting away safely … for by this time I was considered the most reckless and daring rider and one of the best shots in the western country.