Monday, February 18, 2013

Calamity Jane And Wild Bill Hickok



                                            
                                      The Legendary Calamity Jane by Sarah J. McNeal



Most of us think of Calamity Jane as a funny character in the movies. We’ve come to believe she was Wild Bill Hickok’s  sidekick and maybe even his love interest, but not everything we’ve heard or seen in the movies was quite the way it really was.
Calamity Jane was born Martha Jane Canary, the eldest of six children in Princeton, Missouri May 1, 1852. Her parents were Robert and Charlotte Canary. They moved by wagon train from Missouri to Virginia City, Montana. Charlotte died of pneumonia along the way in Black Foot, Montana. In 1866 they moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where Robert bought a forty acre farm, but he died a year later and Jane took over as head of the household. In 1868, she moved her siblings to Fort Bridger, Wyoming then took the Union Pacific Railroad to Piedmont, Wyoming.
For a few years she worked at many different jobs including a nurse, cook, dance hall girl, dish washer and ox team driver until she became a scout at Fort Russell in 1874. It is also said that she became a part time prostitute at Fort Laramie Three-Mile Hog Ranch. She was considered pretty, but she had very little education and was illiterate. In 1885 she was involved in several military campaigns  against Native Americans. It was during these campaigns that she became known as Calamity Jane. She loved to tell the story about how they were ambushed returning to their post when Captain Egan became wounded. She caught him before he fell from his horse and, according to Jane, he supposedly said, “I name you Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains.” In 1904 Captain Jack Crawford disclaimed Jane’s story by saying  Calamity Jane "...never saw service in any capacity under either General Crook or General Miles. She never saw a lynching and never was in an Indian fight. She was simply a notorious character, dissolute and devilish, but possessed a generous streak which made her popular."
One story about Calamity Jane was, however, verified as true. In 1875 Jane’s detachment was ordered to the Big Horn River under General Crook. With important dispatches in her care, she swam the Platte River and traveled 90 miles at top speed though wet and cold to deliver them. She became ill afterwards. After a few weeks of recuperation, she rode to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and later, in July 1876, she joined a wagon train headed north, which is where she first met Wild Bill Hickok, contrary to her later claims.
Calamity Jane accompanied the Newton-Jenny Party into the Black Hills in 1875, along with California Joe and Valentine McGillycuddy.  By this time, her youthful good looks were gone; her skin had become leathery and tanned from the elements of sun and wind, she had grown muscular and unfeminine, and her hair was stringy and seldom washed.


In 1876, Calamity Jane settled in the area of Deadwood, South Dakota in the Black Hills. She became friends with Dora DuFran who was the leading madam of the area and worked for Dora on occasion. She became friendly with Wild Bill Hickok and Charlie Utter after she traveled with them to Deadwood in Utter's wagon train. Jane greatly admired Hickok, in fact it was said that she was infatuated with him. After Hickok was killed during a poker game in which he held a hand of two aces and two eights on August 2, 1876, Calamity Jane claimed to have been married to Hickok and that Hickok was the father of her child she named Jean, who she said was born on September 25, 1873, and whom she later put up for adoption by Jim O'Neil and his wife. Of course, there are no records to prove the birth of a child, and the romantic relationship was most likely another of Jane’s fabrications. On September 6, 1941, the U.S. Department of Public Welfare granted old age assistance to a Jean Hickok Burkhardt McCormick,  who claimed to be the legal offspring of Martha Jane Canary and James Butler Hickok, after being presented with evidence that Calamity Jane and Wild Bill had married at Benson's Landing, Montana Territory, on September 25, 1873, documentation being written in a Bible which was supposedly signed by two ministers and numerous witnesses. However, McCormick's claim has been vigorously challenged because of a variety of discrepancies.
After Hickok’s death Jane claimed that she went after his murderer, Jack McCall with a meat cleaver, but her story is unsubstantiated. Following McCall's eventual hanging, Jane continued living in the Deadwood area for some time, and at one point she did help save several passengers in an overland stagecoach by diverting several Plains Indians who were in pursuit of the stage. The stagecoach driver, John Slaughter, was killed and Jane took over the reins and drove the stage on to its destination at Deadwood. Also in late 1876, Jane nursed the victims of a smallpox epidemic in the Deadwood area. It seems the more we learn of Calamity Jane, the more difficult it becomes to know the truth from the lie. It was said of Wild Bill that he found Calamity loud and obnoxious and wanted nothing to do with her. Before his death, he had married Agnes Lake Thatcher.
In 1881, she bought a ranch west of Miles City, Montana along the Yellowstone River where she kept an inn. After marrying the Texan Clinton Burke, she moved to Boulder and had a daughter, Jane, who was given to foster parents. Calamity Jane didn’t appear to be interested in being a parent.
In 1893, Calamity Jane joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show as a storyteller. She also participated in the 1901 Pan-American Exposition. She was often depressed and had become an alcoholic. Jane’s addiction to liquor was evident even in her younger years. One story of her alcohol driven exploits took place on June 10, 1876 when she rented a horse and buggy in Cheyenne for a mile-or-so joy ride to Fort Russell and back. Calamity was so drunk that she passed right by her destination without noticing it and finally ended up about 90 miles away at Fort Laramie.
 Jane returned to the Black Hills in 1903 and found Dora Dufran was still running her business and, for the next few months, Jane earned her keep by cooking and doing the laundry for Dora’s brothel girls in Belle Fourche. In July, she travelled to Terry, South Dakota. While staying in the Calloway Hotel on August 1, 1903, she died at the age of 51. It was reported that she had been drinking heavily on board a train and became very ill. The train's conductor carried her off the train and she died soon after. According to Jean McCormick who claimed to be the daughter of Jane and Hickok,  a bundle of letters to her was found in Jane’s belongings, which she had never sent. The authenticity of these letters is not accepted by some, largely because there is no other verification of them and it is well known that Jane was functionally illiterate.
Calamity Jane was buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery in South Dakota next to Wild Bill Hickok.  The four men who planned her funeral, Albert Malter, Frank Ankeney, Jim Carson, and Anson Higby, later stated that since Wild Bill Hickok had “absolutely no use” for Jane while he was alive, they decided to play a posthumous joke on Wild Bill Hickok by giving Calamity an eternal resting place by his side. It seems an unkind joke for both Wild Bill and Calamity Jane. Other accounts state she requested to be buried beside Wild Bill, “the only man I ever loved.” Like most of her life, the truth lies hidden somewhere between the falsehoods.
Historians have had a difficult time of sorting out the real facts of Calamity Jane’s life and adventures. Jane told tall tales of her escapades, most of them unsubstantiated, but there is no doubt that her adventures were colorful and that she was well liked for her generosity and kindness. Though she was addicted to alcohol and wanderlust, she was always willing to face hardship and danger for the sake of others.


I am looking forward to the upcoming release of The Light of Valmora, Legends of Winatuke, a paranormal book at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery.


A quest for an enchanted light...a Gypsy’s love...and a warrior’s sacrifice to save Valmora.

THE LIGHT OF VALMORA BLURB
To free his father from the witch-queen of the Dark Isle, Falcon must find the legendary Light of Valmora that lies hidden in the darkest place on earth—right under the witch’s feet.  To complicate things further, he is falling in love with Izabelle, the Gypsy woman who loves his brother, Peregrine.
Izabelle struggles with her feelings for her first love, Peregrine, and her growing affection for his brother, Falcon.
No one may survive the quest for the Light of Valmora or the wicked queen of the Dark Isle who intends to rule the world of Winatuke.

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A haunted house, a trunk and a date with destiny.

Lola Barton discovers a warp in time in an old trunk when she falls into 1910. She finds herself married to Joseph Wilding, a stranger shadowed by secrets. Mistaken for Callie McGraw, a thief and a woman of ill repute, Lola finds her life is threatened by a scoundrel. Joe stands between her and certain death. With danger threatening all around and secrets keeping them apart, can Joe and Lola find their destiny together? Or will time and circumstance forever divide them?
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38 comments:

  1. I've always thought Calamity Jane's life sad. As you said, Sarah, the truth is probably somewhere in her tall tales.

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  2. That is one fascinating story, Sarah! Thanks for sharing it. I watched the HBO series Deadwood, and that is how they portrayed their relationship, as an infatuation on Jane's part. Best of luck with your new book, sounds good!

    Julie
    shelley_runyon@yahoo.com

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  3. i like western ad then the more you now when you can learn what happens in the past i love old type of book and love to read all of them

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  4. Sometimes it's hard to remember that famous people on TV and in the movies were actually real ones, and not just fiction.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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  5. We're hugs fans of the HBO series Deadwood, and this was very interesting to read. This gives me some details I didn't realize about the real people behind the characters.

    Lindy
    aromagik@yahoo.com

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  6. I really felt sorry for Calamity Jane, too, Caroline. By the time I finished researching her, I felt dang depressed. Her life wasn't good from beginning to end, but she had so many opportunities to turn it around and didn't...that's even sadder.
    Thank you so much for coming by and commenting, Caroline.

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  7. Julie, I wish I had HBO. I would have loved seeing the Deadwood series. I'm glad that they showed her life more like the reality than the fictional version we usually hear. I think that's still amazing that they hired her on as a scout--a woman, in that era, how unusual.
    Thank you so much for coming by and commenting.

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  8. Actually, I don't have HBO either, Sarah. I got the series from Netflix originally, and then my daughter surprised me and bought the entire series from Amazon for me for Christmas! Most wonderful gift I could have imagined!

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  9. I agree, Desi, that it's so interesting to learn the real facts about historical characters. Some were more heroic than even te movies portrayed them like Rob Roy Macgreggor and others are built up to be more than they ever were in real life.
    Thank you for dropping by and commenting.

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  10. Honestly, Morgan, I used to think Calamity Jane was just a character in stories. I think it's fascinating to learn about who these famous people really were and what they did that makes us remember them.
    I really appreciate you coming by and commenting.

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  11. Lindy, I wish I had HBO and could have seen the Deadwood series. I'm glad they portrayed Calamity Jane more true to the person she really was.
    Thank you for taking the time to come by and comment. I like the little image that comes up as your picture. It's so cute.

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  12. Julie, I don't have Netflex either. *sigh* Deadwood must have been fantastic. Maybe I should seriously think about getting Netflex. I'm missing out of stuff.
    Thank you for coming by and commenting.

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  13. Hi Sarah, what a fascinating gal she was. And I always recall "dead man's hand", aces and eights. Thanks for the abundance of fun details today.

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  14. Hey Tanya. Yeah, I remembered that famous factoid about Wild Bill's hand of aces and eights when he died. I think it's amazing, the difference in the way Jane looked from her youth to her older years. Her hard life really took a toll on her.
    Thank you so much for your comments.

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  15. What a great story. I love reading westerns and your book sound fabulous and different. I would love to read it. These old stories fascinate me. Thanks for sharing with us today and for the great giveaway.

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  16. Sorry forgot my email

    quiltlady110 AT gmail DOT com

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  17. Wow, Quilt Lady, that's quite a compliment. Thank you so much. And thank you for coming by and leaving this very nice comment.

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  18. wow I never really knew that much about CALAMITY JANE ,but if only half of whats written about her is true WHAT A LIFE she must have led,and what a great idea for a charater base loosely on her here's my email address htompki@yahoo.com .....and snail mail helene tompkins 901 fort . wayne ave apt.#505 indianapolis , indiana 46202

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  19. Hey Helene. I was amazed at the jobs Jane did...scouting for the army. Who would have thought a woman would be doing that kind of thing back then? She was fearless.
    Thank you so much for coming by and leaving a comment.

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  20. My goodness, she sure had a wild life and I bet if we had the truth it would be even more interesting than what was made up. It's fun getting to read about all of her exploits. Thanks, Sarah.

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  21. What a fascinating story, Sarah! I've directed the Calamity Jane musical twice, and did some research into the real Martha Jane, but this has told me so much more. I feel quite sad that Bill Hickok had no time for her. Unrequited love - and fantasy on her part?

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  22. Hi Sarah. Great post! Calamity Jane sure was a character. I hope she's happy resting next to wild Bill. :)

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  23. What a fabulous story, Sarah. Thanks for sharing this today. She certainly met disaster head-on, didn't she? I'm sure she was never bored!

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  24. Well, poor Jane. She sounds like a pathological liar, but a good hearted one. What a fascinating story, Sarah. I didn't know about this and it's one I will not forget. Thanks for your research and sharing it with us! Congratulations on your new release, too! It looks AWESOME!
    Cheryl

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  25. The facts of her life are quite amazing. Fabulous thank you.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  26. Great post, Sarah. I knew Calamity wasn't much like Doris Day, but I never knew the whole story

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  27. Paula, I had no idea you directed a musical. You've got all these talents. I'm so impressed.
    I thought Jane was a sad case of unrequited love, too.
    I wonder what she would have been like if she had lived in modern times. We'd be reading about her in the news for certain.

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  28. Well Lyn, I guess Jane's happy lying next to Wild Bill, but I'm not so sure about Wild Bill's happiness about it. I imagine his wife is rolling over in her grave as we speak.

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  29. Hey Linda. Either Jane was never bored because she was off on some adventure, or she was bored all the time and seeking adventure to cure it. LOL She did meet disaster head on. Her whole life seemed to be a disaster.

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  30. Hey Cheryl, my friend. I agree that Jane seemed to be a patological liar. I don't think she could help it. She wanted to be bigger than life and have people love her. Underneath all her bravato it seemed to me that she was just lost and lonely. She would probably love it if she knew how we remember her after all these years. For all the excitement, adventure and mishaps, she led such a heartbreaking life.

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  31. Thank you so much for coming by and leaving a comment, Mary. I really appreciate it.

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  32. I agree, Jenny, I don't think Jane was much like Doris Day who portrayed her in the movie or that the movie was even close to Jane's real life. Of course, that's the version of Jane's life that I believed to be true until I researched her.
    Thank you for coming by and commenting.

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  33. Hello Paisley. There is so much conflict about what really happened in Jane's life and she lied about so many things that we'll probably never know the truth about some of the events in her life. She was something of a rock star in her day, both the darkness and the entertainment.

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  34. Jane and Wild Bill had an adventurous love story, I guess. I never really knew that she might just invent stories and maybe tell outright lies. But whatever she did, for whatever reason, we only have the historic facts to learn all about her. It sounds like she really had a thing for Bill--maybe her love was returned, maybe it wasn't. How many times has that happened in the history of mankind? Fascinating story, Sarah. Good job!

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  35. I always thought that Jane and Wild Bill were a romantic couple, but seems the facts are that Bill's love for Jane was mostly in Jane's imagination. It made me feel sorry for her. We may never know the whole truth. I would feel better if Bill had cared for her at least a little.
    Thank you for your compliment, Celia.

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  36. I have selected a winner...and that winner is...Helene!
    Congratulations Helene. I will be sending you the paperback of Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride (I already have your physical address.)
    I want to thank everyone who came by and commented and those who entered the contest. I appreciate each and everyone of you. Thank you.

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  37. I really appreciate this bit of history on Calamity Jane, Caroline. I've often wondered about Calamity and the truth in the stories about her. Thanks for offering the info in this interview. I'm a big fan of stories about the Old West, fiction and non-fiction.

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  38. Janice, thank you so much for commenting. No one may ever know the wole truth about Calamity Jane since her own stories conflict with those of others, but no one can doubt she was quite the character.

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