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Mary Fields was born on this date in 1832. She was a Black entrepreneur and stagecoach driver.
Fields was born a slave in Tennessee; she grew up an orphan, never married, and had no children. Fields lived by her wits and her inner strength. She traveled north to Ohio, settled in Toledo, and worked for the Catholic convent where she formed a strong bond with Mother Amadeus. The nuns of her early life were her family. 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.
Fields was a "Black gun-totin'" female in the American Wild West who was six feet tall, heavy, tough, short-tempered, two-fisted, powerful, and she carried a pair of six-shooters and an eight or ten-gauge shotgun. Fields loved the children of Cascade County and supported the local baseball team as their number one fan. When turned away from the mission because of her behavior, the nuns financed her in opening her own cafe. Mary's big heart drove her business into the ground several times because she would feed the hungry.
Yet in 1895, she found a job that suited her, as a U.S. mail coach driver for the Cascade County region of central Montana. She and her mule, Moses, never missed a day, and it was in this aptitude that she became a legend in her own time known as Stagecoach Mary for her unfailing reliability. She died in 1914 in Cascade, Montana. Her grave is marked with a simple cross.
The Black West by William Loren Katz.
A Touchtone Book, published by Simon & Shuster Inc.
Copyright 1987, 1996 by Ethrac Publications, Inc.