Mary “Stagecoach Mary” Fields

Mary “Stagecoach Mary” Fields

Birth
Hickman County, Tennessee, USA
Death 5 Dec 1914 (aged 82)
Cascade, Cascade County, Montana, USA
Burial Cascade, Cascade County, Montana, USA
Memorial ID 8742943 View Source
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A Black gun-toting female in the American Wild west. She was six feet tall, heavy, tough, short-tempered, two-fisted, powerful, and packed a pair of six-shooters and an eight or ten-gauge shotgun. A legend in her own time, she was also known as STAGECOACH MARY. She lived by her wits and her strength. She traveled north to Ohio, settled in Toledo and worked for the Catholic convent. She formed a strong bond with Mother Amadeus. When the nuns moved to Montana and Mary learned of Mother Amadeus' failing health, she went west to help out. Having nursed Mother Amadeus back to health, she decided to stay and help build the St. Peter's mission school. She protected the nuns. In 1895, she landed a job carrying the United States Mail for the Cascade County region of central Montana. She and her mule Moses, never missed a day, and it was in this capacity that she earned her nickname of "Stagecoach Mary", for her unfailing reliability. She died in 1914 of a failure of her liver. Neighbors buried her in the Hillside Cemetery in Cascade, marking the spot with a simple wooden cross which may still exist today.∼African-American Pioneer. Fields was born a slave and was freed when slavery was outlawed in the United States, in 1865. She then worked in the home of Judge Edmund Dunne. When Dunne's wife Josephine died in 1883, in San Antonio, Florida, Fields took the family's five children to their aunt, Mother Mary Amadeus, the mother superior of an Ursuline convent in Toledo, Ohio. In 1884, Mother Amadeus was sent to Montana Territory to establish a school for Native American girls at St. Peter's Mission, west of Cascade. Learning that Amadeus was stricken with pneumonia, Fields hurried to Montana to nurse her back to health. Amadeus recovered, and Fields stayed at St. Peter's, hauling freight, doing laundry, growing vegetables, tending chickens, and repairing buildings, and eventually became the forewoman. The Native Americans called Fields "White Crow", because "she acts like a white woman but has black skin". Local whites did not know what to make of her. One schoolgirl wrote an essay saying, "She drinks whiskey, and she swears, and she is a republican, which makes her a low, foul creature." In 1894, after several complaints and an incident with a disgruntled male subordinate that involved gunplay, the bishop ordered her to leave the convent. Mother Amadeus helped her open a restaurant in nearby Cascade. Fields would serve food to anyone, whether they could pay or not, and the restaurant went broke in about 10 months. In 1895, although approximately 63 years old, she was hired as a mail carrier because she was the fastest applicant to hitch a team of six horses. Fields was the first African-American female star route mail carrier in the United States and the second woman in the U.S. and first African-American woman to work for the U.S. Postal Service. Fields drove the route with horses and a mule named Moses. She never missed a day, and her reliability earned her the nickname "Stagecoach". If the snow was too deep for her horses, Fields delivered the mail on snowshoes, carrying the sacks on her shoulders. She was a respected public figure in Cascade, Montana and the town closed its schools to celebrate her birthday each year. When Montana passed a law forbidding women to enter saloons, the mayor of Cascade granted Fields an exemption. In 1903, at age 71, she retired from star route mail carrier service. Fields continued to babysit many Cascade children and owned and operated a laundry service from her home. She died in 1914 at Columbus Hospital in Great Falls, Montana but was buried outside Cascade, Montana.