Annie Oakley


Portrait of Annie OakleyWild West Legends and Heroes

Annie Oakley was born on Aug. 13, 1860 as Phoebe Ann Mosey (Moses). She gained worldwide fame for her unbelievable skill at marksmanship and has come down through history as one of the leading female figures of the American Wild West.

Annie Oakley was born in Darke County on the western edge of Ohio. She was born in a log cabin and her early life was one of hardship. Her father died when she was only 6 years old. Difficulties of life on a farm with 7 children led Annie’s mother to soon remarry. But, she soon became a widow once more. Annie learned to trap animals when she was 7 years of age and by 8 she was hunting to help support her family. She brought home more than enough meat for the table and the excess game was sold to hotels and restaurants for badly needed money. By the time she was 15, she had helped pay off the mortgage on the family home.

However, there was a darker period in her young life. Because the family was so poor, she was not able to go to school, and at the age of 10 was admitted along with her older sister to the Darke County Infirmary. There, she learned some housekeeping skills and was soon farmed out to a local couple. For nearly 2 years she was kept as a slave in deplorable conditions and at age 12 she ran away. Annie returned home to her mother when she was 15.

In 1875, at a Thanksgiving shooting competition in Cincinnati, a hotel owner put up Annie against traveling show marksman, Frank Butler. Butler lost, but won the “match” in the end. He married her! Annie and Frank began touring and performing together and in 1985 they became part of “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” show. She was quite the sensation and became the highest paid performer in the show. The show traveled to Europe and she performed in front of Kings and Queens and other Heads of State throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.

Annie continued to wow audiences year after year with her incredible marksmanship talent. Sitting Bull, on tour with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, gave her the nickname that translated to “Little Sure Shot”.

In 1912, both Annie and her husband retired and settled in Maryland. However, by 1917, having relocated to North Carolina, they left retirement and began performing once more and continued well into her 60s up until 1924. In 1925, her health took a turn for the worse, and she passed away at age 66. Frank Butler was so grieved over her death that he too passed away 18 days later. Both are buried side by side in Greenville, Ohio.

Although, she was not considered a “real” cowgirl from the American Wild West, she certainly made her mark, and she has come down to us as one of the most endearing symbols of the American Wild West. Annie Oakley was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in 1984.

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Annie Oakley

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Annie Oakley
with Rifle (late 1890s)

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