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Life and Adventures of Calamity Jane by Marthy Cannary Burk

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My maiden name was Marthy Cannary. I was born in
Princeton, Missourri, May 1st, 1852. Father and mother were
natives of Ohio. I had two brothers and three sisters, I being the
oldest of the children. As a child I always had a fondness for
adventure and out-door exercise and especial fondness for
horses which I began to ride at an early age and continued to do
so until I became an expert rider being able to ride the most
vicious and stubborn of horses, in fact the greater portion of my
life in early times was spent in this manner.

In 1865 we emigrated from our homes in Missourri by the
overland route to Virginia City, Montana, taking five months to
make the journey. While on the way the greater portion of my
time was spent in hunting along with the men and hunters of
the party, in fact I was at all times with the men when there was
excitement and adventures to be had. By the time we reached
Virginia City I was considered a remarkable good shot and a
fearless rider for a girl of my age. I remember many
occurrences on the journey from Missourri to Montana. Many
times in crossing the mountains the conditions of the trail were
so bad that we frequently had to lower the wagons over ledges
by hand with ropes for they were so rough and rugged that
horses were of no use. We also had many exciting times fording
streams for many of the streams in our way were noted for
quicksands and boggy places, where, unless we were very
careful, we would have lost horses and all. Then we had many
dangers to encounter in the way of streams swelling on account
of heavy rains. On occasions of that kind the men would usually
select the best places to cross the streams, myself on more than
one occasion have mounted my pony and swam across the
stream several times merely to amuse myself and have had
many narow escapes from having both myself and pony washed
away to certain death, but as the pioneers of those days had
plenty of courage we overcame all obstacles and reached
Virginia City in safety.

Mother died at Black Foot, Montana, 1866, where we
buried her. I left Montana in Spring of 1866, for Utah, arriving
at Salt Lake city during the summer. Remained in Utah until
1867, where my father died, then went to Fort Bridger,
Wyoming Territory, where we arrived May 1, 1868, then went
to Piedmont, Wyoming, with U.P. Railway. Joined General
Custer as a scout at Fort Russell, Wyoming, in 1870, and
started for Arizona for the Indian Campaign. Up to this time I
had always worn the costume of my sex. When I joined Custer I
donned the uniform of a soldier. It was a bit awkward at first
but I soon got to be perfectly at home in men's clothes.

Was in Arizona up to the winter of 1871 and during that
time I had a great many adventures with the Indians, for as a
scout I had a great many dangerous missions to perform and
while I was in many close places always succeeded in getting
away safely for by this time I was considered the most reckless
and daring rider and one of the best shots in the western

After that campaign I returned to Fort Sanders,
Wyoming, remained there until spring of 1872, when we were
ordered out to the Muscle Shell or Nursey Pursey Indian
outbreak. In that war Generals Custer, Miles, Terry and Crook
were all engaged. This campaign lasted until fall of 1873.

It was during this campaign that I was christened
Calamity Jane. It was on Goose Creek, Wyoming, where the
town of Sheridan is now located. Capt. Egan was in command
of the Post. We were ordered out to quell an uprising of the
Indians, and were out for several days, had numerous
skirmishes during which six of the soldiers were killed and
several severely wounded. When on returning to the Post we
were ambushed about a mile and a half from our destination.
When fired upon Capt. Egan was shot. I was riding in advance
and on hearing the firing turned in my saddle and saw the
Captain reeling in his saddle as though about to fall. I turned
my horse and galloped back with all haste to his side and got
there in time to catch him as he was falling. I lifted him onto
my horse in front of me and succeeded in getting him safely to
the Fort. Capt. Egan on recovering, laughingly said: ``I name
you Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains.'' I have borne that
name up to the present time. We were afterwards ordered to
Fort Custer, where Custer city now stands, where we arrived in
the spring of 1874; remained around Fort Custer all summer
and were ordered to Fort Russell in fall of 1874, where we
remained until spring of 1875; was then ordered to the Black
Hills to protect miners, as that country was controlled by the
Sioux Indians and the government had to send the soldiers to
protect the lives of the miners and settlers in that section.
Remained there until fall of 1875 and wintered at Fort
Laramie. In spring of 1876, we were ordered north with
General Crook to join Gen'ls Miles, Terry and Custer at Big
Horn river. During this march I swam the Platte river at Fort
Fetterman as I was the bearer of important dispatches. I had a
ninety mile ride to make, being wet and cold, I contracted a
severe illness and was sent back in Gen. Crook's ambulance to
Fort Fetterman where I laid in the hospital for fourteen days.
When able to ride I started for Fort Laramie where I met Wm.
Hickock, better known as Wild Bill, and we started for
Deadwood, where we arrived about June.

During the month of June I acted as a pony express rider
carrying the U.S. mail between Deadwood and Custer, a
distance of fifty miles, over one of the roughest trails in the
Black Hills country. As many of the riders before me had been
held up and robbed of their packages, mail and money that
they carried, for that was the only means of getting mail and
money between these points. It was considered the most
dangerous route in the Hills, but as my reputation as a rider
and quick shot was well known, I was molested very little, for
the toll gatherers looked on me as being a good fellow, and they
knew that I never missed my mark. I made the round trip every
two days which was considered pretty good riding in that
country. Remained around Deadwood all that summer visiting
all the camps within an area of one hundred miles. My friend,
Wild Bill, remained in Deadwood during the summer with the
exception of occasional visits to the camps. On the 2nd of
August, while setting at a gambling table in the Bell Union
saloon, in Deadwood, he was shot in the back of the head by the
notorious Jack McCall, a desperado. I was in Deadwood at the
time and on hearing of the killing made my way at once to the
scene of the shooting and found that my friend had been killed
by McCall. I at once started to look for the assassian and found
him at Shurdy's butcher shop and grabbed a meat cleaver and
made him throw up his hands; through the excitement on
hearing of Bill's death, having left my weapons on the post of
my bed. He was then taken to a log cabin and locked up, well
secured as every one thought, but he got away and was
afterwards caught at Fagan's ranch on Horse Creek, on the old
Cheyenne road and was then taken to Yankton, Dak., where he
was tried, sentenced and hung.

I remained around Deadwood locating claims, going from
camp to camp until the spring of 1877, where one morning, I
saddled my horse and rode towards Crook city. I had gone
about twelve miles from Deadwood, at the mouth of
Whitewood creek, when I met the overland mail running from
Cheyenne to Deadwood. The horses on a run, about two
hundred yards from the station; upon looking closely I saw they
were pursued by Indians. The horses ran to the barn as was
their custom. As the horses stopped I rode along side of the
coach and found the driver John Slaughter, lying face
downwards in the boot of the stage, he having been shot by the
Indians. When the stage got to the station the Indians hid in the
bushes. I immediately removed all baggage from the coach
except the mail. I then took the driver's seat and with all haste
drove to Deadwood, carrying the six passengers and the dead

I left Deadwood in the fall of 1877, and went to Bear Butte
Creek with the 7th Cavalry. During the fall and winter we built
Fort Meade and the town of Sturgis. In 1878 I left the
command and went to Rapid city and put in the year

In 1879 I went to Fort Pierre and drove trains from Rapid
city to Fort Pierre for Frank Witc then drove teams from
Fort Pierce to Sturgis for Fred. Evans. This teaming was done
with oxen as they were better fitted for the work than horses,
owing to the rough nature of the country.

In 1881 I went to Wyoming and returned in 1882 to Miles
city and took up a ranch on the Yellow Stone, raising stock and
cattle, also kept a way side inn, where the weary traveler could
be accommodated with food, drink, or trouble if he looked for
it. Left the ranch in 1883, went to California, going through
the States and territories, reached Ogden the latter part of
1883, and San Francisco in 1884. Left San Francisco in the
summer of 1884 for Texas, stopping at Fort Yuma, Arizona,
the hottest spot in the United States. Stopping at all points of
interest until I reached El Paso in the fall. While in El Paso, I
met Mr. Clinton Burk, a native of Texas, who I married in
August 1885. As I thought I had travelled through life long
enough alone and thought it was about time to take a partner
for the rest of my days. We remained in Texas leading a quiet
home life until 1889. On October 28th, 1887, I became the
mother of a girl baby, the very image of its father, at least that
is what he said, but who has the temper of its mother.

When we left Texas we went to Boulder, Colo., where we
kept a hotel until 1893, after which we travelled through
Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, then back
to Montana, then to Dakota, arriving in Deadwood October
9th, 1895, after an absence of seventeen years.

My arrival in Deadwood after an absence of so many years
created quite an excitement among my many friends of the
past, to such an extent that a vast number of the citizens who
had come to Deadwood during my absence who had heard so
much of Calamity Jane and her many adventures in former
years were anxious to see me. Among the many whom I met
were several gentlemen from eastern cities who advised me to
allow myself to be placed before the public in such a manner as
to give the people of the eastern cities an opportunity of seeing
the Woman Scout who was made so famous through her daring
career in the West and Black Hill countries.

An agent of Kohl & Middleton, the celebrated Museum
men came to Deadwood, through the solicitation of the
gentleman who I had met there and arrangements were made
to place me before the public in this manner. My first
engagement began at the Palace Museum, Minneapolis,
January 20th, 1896, under Kohl and Middleton's management.

Hoping that this little history of my life may interest all
readers, I remain as in the older days,


Mrs. M. BURK


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