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Martha Jane "Calamity Jane" Canary
Birth: May 1, 1852
Princeton
Mercer County
Missouri, USA
Death: Aug. 1, 1903
Terry
Lawrence County
South Dakota, USA

American Folk Figure, Frontierswoman. She is best remembered for her association with famous Western lawman, scout, and gunfighter, James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok. Her early life that she documented in an autobiographical pamphlet later in her life is subject to inaccuracies and exaggeration. She was born the oldest of six children to parents who were farmers and received little to no formal education and was illiterate. In 1865 the family moved to Virginia City, Montana, and her mother died during the trip. The following year her father relocated the family to Salt Lake City, Utah where he began farming but he died a year later. She then became the head of the family and took her siblings to Fort Bridger, Wyoming Territory, in 1868 and then on to Piedmont, Wyoming Territory, where she worked at various odd jobs in order to sustain the family. Accounts from this period describe her as being "extremely attractive" and a "pretty, dark-eyed girl." In 1874 she became a scout at Fort Russell, Wyoming Territory (now Francis E. Warren Air Force Base) where she also became a part-time prostitute at the Fort Laramie Three-Mile Hog Ranch. It was during this time that she received her nickname "Calamity Jane" when she rescued her post commander, one Captain Egan, from an Indian attack outside the post. According to her account, he had been wounded on his horse during the skirmish and was about to fall off when she rode up to him and lifted him onto her horse and carried him safely back to the post. In 1875 she accompanied the military-escorted Newton-Jenney Party, a scientific expedition, into the Black Hills of South Dakota to map the area. By this time her beauty had all but vanished and her skin was leathery and tanned from exposure to the Sun and wind, she had become muscular and unfeminine, and her hair was stringy and rarely washed. A year later she settled in Deadwood, South Dakota, where she met "Wild Bill" Hickok and became obsessed with his personality and life. When Hickok was killed during a poker game on August 2, 1876, she claimed to have been married to him three years earlier in Montana Territory and was the father of a child that she gave up for adoption. No official records exist proving either the marriage or birth and her romantic slant to their relationship was probably fabricated. She continued to live in Deadwood and performed other heroic acts, including nursing victims of a smallpox epidemic in late 1876 and the rescue of a stagecoach from an Indian attack where she took over the reins from the stagecoach driver who was killed in the attack and brought it safely to its destination at Deadwood. In 1881 she bought a ranch along the Yellowstone River, near Miles City, Montana, and operated an inn. She then married Clinton Burke and moved to Boulder, Colorado, and opened another inn. In 1893 she began appearing in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show as a storyteller and in 1896 she joined the traveling Kohn and Middleton Dime Museum as a performer, appearing on stage in buckskins and reciting her adventures, which she embellished in great fashion, including the fabricated story that she served under Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer on several occasions. In 1901 she participated in the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. By this time she had become an alcoholic and suffered from depression. She returned to the Black Hills in 1903 where she worked for Madame Dora DuFran in Deadwood. In July of that year she traveled by train to Terry, South Dakota and she became ill on the trip and died at the Calloway Hotel, most likely from acute alcoholism.
 (bio by: William Bjornstad) 
 
Family links: 
 Spouse:
  James Butler Hickok (1837 - 1876)
 
 Children:
  Jean H. Hickok McCormick (1873 - 1951)*
 
*Calculated relationship
 
Burial:
Mount Moriah Cemetery
Deadwood
Lawrence County
South Dakota, USA
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 166
Martha Jane Calamity Jane Canary
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Martha Jane Calamity Jane Canary
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Martha Jane Calamity Jane Canary
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