It’s Black History Month, and for round 2 of our “celebrate heritage” series, we’re proud to feature a true pioneer and total badass – Stagecoach Mary.
Mary Fields was America’s first Black postwoman, which in that time meant protecting stagecoaches from bandits over great distances and challenging terrain. Legend has it that she’d even once fought off a pack of wolves!
But she didn’t start there. Mary was born into slavery around 1832 in Hickman County, Tennessee.
At the end of the Civil War, she was freed and moved north up the Mississippi River where she worked on a steamboat named the “Robert E. Lee”. She ended up moving to Ohio to work as a servant for a Judge Edmund Dunne. Dunne’s sister Mother Amadeus then offered Mary a Groundskeeper job at St. Peter’s Convent in the wilds of Montana.
A towering figure, Mary was over six feet tall and was said to have the “temperament of a grizzly bear”. When she wasn’t working at the mission or managing the farm, Mary Fields went to saloons, got into fistfights, and smoked cigars.
It wasn’t until the age of 60, when she would become a stagecoach driver. Mary secured the position when she hitched a team of six horses to a postal coach faster than anyone else. Her daily trek was 17-mile stretch from Cascade to St. Peter’s.
Remarkably, her stage coach was never held up or robbed.
On her 81st birthday, local newspaperAnaconda Standard wrote of Stagecoach Mary:
“Mary’s friends claimed if a fly landed on the ear of one of [her horses], she could use her choice of either shooting it off or picking it off with her whip end. And if she was in a mind to, she could break the fly’s hind leg with her whip and then shoot its eye out with a revolver.”
Mary Fields’ strength and work ethic inspired women in her time and her influence continues today.