Friday, June 10, 2011

The Truth about Annie Oakley - by Cynthia Vogel, Versailles Area Hisorical Society

Life for the Mosey family had become very difficult after the deaths of Annie’s father Jacob Mosey and stepfather Daniel Brumbaugh. In March 1870, when she was nine, Annie and her sister Sarah Ellen were enrolled at the Darke County Infirmary. Crawford Eddington was the superintendent of the county home. The infirmary housed orphans, indigents of all ages, and mentally ill adults. Annie and her sister helped take care of the “inmates” at the home in exchange for room and board and a chance for an education.

Mrs. Eddington was kind to Annie, but the work at the county home was difficult and Annie was not comfortable with the orphans and the destitute and mentally ill adults who lived there. After only three weeks at the infirmary, Annie got a chance to get work with another family and she accepted. This family, from northern Preble County, are referred to as “the Wolves” in most of Annie’s biographies. According to the 1870 census, Ann Mosey was living with the Boose family in Preble County. A son-in-law, James P. Reynolds, was the farmer who went to the Infirmary and brought Annie home. The family wanted Annie to live with them and take care of their baby. Her wages were to be fifty cents a week and she would also be able to attend school.

However, the experience was not what she was promised. Her life became extremely difficult. She was up at four in the morning doing household chores and preparing the meals for the family. According to Annie’s stories of this time, she was given only leftovers to eat.. She milked cows, carried the milk to the kitchen, fed the calves and pigs, did the gardening, mended clothes, and was still expected to take care of the baby. As for her schooling, she was seldom able to attend classes. Even at this age (10 or 11) Annie was not able to read or write properly. Apparently Mrs. “Wolf” intercepted and destroyed letters to Annie from her family. She often received beatings when she did not finish the work she was told to do. In her autobiography, Annie relates how she was locked out in the snow with no coat or shoes, nearly freezing to death. Her life with this family was miserable and she had no way to communicate her misery to her family or to the Eddingtons back at the Infirmary. Annie did not receive the fifty cents a week, as promised, and it is doubtful that her mother received the money.
After about two years with “the Wolves,” Annie ran away. Not yet a teenager, she boarded a train that took her within a few miles of home. Annie was surprised to learn that her mother had remarried, to a farmer named Joseph Shaw. The family was now living on his small farm south of North Star. All of her older sisters had married and moved away. Annie did not return to her mother’s household at this time. She returned to live with the Eddingtons at the Infirmary and Mr. “Wolf” tried unsuccessfully to force her to return to live with his family in Preble County. She lived in the Eddington household for two more years. Annie called Mrs. Eddington “Auntie.” Auntie amd Mr. Eddington invited Annie to stay with them and help sew for the infirmary residents. She made dresses for the children and comforts, as well as other chores, and was paid for her work. Her mother, younger sisters and brother visited the Eddingtons at Christmas time. This was a happy time for Annie; she also received some formal education and learned to read.

The Shaw family was struggling to make a living and pay off the mortgage on the farm when Annie returned home to the Shaw household. To help out, she began hunting and traping game. Not only did she help supply the family with food for their table, but she was able to sell extra game to a store (run by George and Charles Katzenbarger) in Greenville. The store was located at the southeast corner of the circle in Greenville. She also hunted muskrats, beaver, minks and raccoons and sold their skins. The owners of the store took all of the skins she could bring in. Charles Katzenberger helped her find buyers for the grouse and quail she brought to Greenville. Her business continued to grow and she became the breadwinner for the family. The family was able to pay off the mortgage on the farm and build a nicer home. Some of her wild game had been shipped to the best hotel in Cincinnati.

Next week: How Annie meets Frank Butler


  1. Learned some things about annie I haven`t heard be for .Like this kind of history.

  2. So far this is very well written. I have enjoyed and look forward to the next installment. 10:16, you should go to the Annie festival and take the free bus tour. Also, very interesting. Along, with talking with the impersonator. She seems to have done her homework on Annie too.


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