Tuesday, June 21, 2011

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

When Annie Mosey was fourteen, her older sister Lydia (Mrs. Joseph Stein) invited her to come to Cincinnati and live with them. With her mother’s approval, she left rural Darke County and moved to one of the largest cities in the country. It was here that Annie received an inviation from the owner of the hotel that had bought some of her wild game. The man asked if she would be interested in a shooting match with an expert marksman who was coming to Cincinnati. Annie accepted the challenge, in hopes of winning the $50 prize. This match took place near Annie’s fifteenth birthday – the fall of 1875.

Annie’s opponent was Frank Butler, whose profession was performing at trick-shooting exhibitions. Butler was in his mid 20s, but had already led an adventurous life. Born in Ireland, he sailed to the United States when he was thirteen. After landing in New York, he earned money by cleaning stables, delivering milk with a horse and buggy, and working on a fishing boat. Now he was traveling around the United States, performing in shooting matches. Frank had been married, had two children, and gotten divorced.

Butler was surprised to learn that his opponent was a very young girl. The event called for the two competitors to attempt to shoot 25 live pigeons as they flew out of traps one at a time. Annie successfully brought down all 25 pigeons and Frank missed his 25th bird. Annie won the $50 prize. But that was not all she won. Frank apparently was intrigued with the young sharp shooter and gave her and her family free passes to his stage show in Cincinnati. Shortly after this meeting, the two began a relationship and were married on August 23, 1876. Annie was sixteen and Frank was twenty-six. (They were later remarried in Canada in 1882.) During the early years of their marriage, Frank continued to travel and perform. Annie stayed behind to help her family. On May 1, 1882, Frank’s shooting partner, William Graham, became ill. Frank asked Annie to “fill in.” At first Annie simply held objects for Frank to shoot, but soon Annie took every other shot, and the audience went wild after she hit her targets. Frank noticed her audience appeal and Annie became his new shooting partner. She took the name Annie Oakley (apparently from a suburb of Cincinnati) and the team of Butler and Oakley was soon traveling around the Midwest performing in theaters and skating rinks. Annie used the sewing skills she had learned at the Darke County Infirmary to design and sew her own costumes.

In April 1884, Butler and Oakley joined a circus and traveled with them for the next 42 weeks. Their next move was to join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Who taught Annie to shoot? When she was very young, her father taught her to trap wild animals. After he died she used this skill to provide quail, squirrel and pheasants for the family meals. The traps were made from cornstalks placed in a small trench. The game was lured to the trap with grains of corn, both in the trap and near the trap. The gun that she took down from above the fireplace occurred in the cabin where they lived after Jacob Mosey’s death. Her father did not teach her to shoot. Annie writes, “I just could not let that gun alone, that I did something very naughtly – got the gun down from the rack behind the fireplace when mother was not looking and went out to practice with it.” Apparently she and younger brother John went hunting and Annie killed a rabbit with that first shot. She was eight years old.

When most people shoot a gun, they aim with one eye closed. Apparently Annie kept both eyes open.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Featured Posts

/* Track outbound links in Google Analytics */