Annie Oakley…Did You Know?

06 05 annie oakley 1880sAnnie Oakley (August 13, 1860 – November 3, 1926), also known as Little Sure Shot, is famous for her shooting expertise.

But did you know . . .

Annie’s real name is Phoebe Ann Mosey. Her parents, Jacob and Susan Mosey, were Quakers from Pennsylvania.

Annie, the sixth of nine children, was born in a cabin in Darke County, Ohio ( a rural county on the Ohio-Indiana border). Her father fought in the War of 1812 and died of pneumonia when Annie was five.

Seven-year-old Annie trapped and hunted game to sell to local shopkeepers, hotels, and restaurants to support her widowed mother and siblings.

Before she was ten, she was “bound out” to a local family where she endured physical and emotional abuse. After two years, she ran away from the couple she only referred to as “the wolves.”

“I saw a squirrel run down over the grass in front of the house, through the orchard and stop on a fence to get a hickory nut . . . . It was a wonderful shot, going right through the head from side to side.”

Annie Oakley talking about her first shot; she was only eight years old.

06 05 annie oakley posterAnnie met her future husband, Ralph Butler, when he was performing as a marksman in Cincinnati. He bet a local hotel owner that he could beat any of the local talent. The hotelier brought out fifteen-year-old Annie. Ralph lost and they were married a year later. He was about thirteen years her senior.

The date of the shooting match and their marriage is in dispute. Annie was often presented as being five to six years younger than her actual age during her show business career.

Annie may have chosen Oakley as her stage name because that was the name of the neighborhood where she and Frank lived when they began performing together. Or it may have been the last name of a man who once paid her train fare.

06 05 annie oakley c 1899Annie and Ralph joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1885 and traveled with him to Europe for the Paris Exposition.

During the European tour, which lasted three years, Annie performed for Britain’s Queen Victoria, Italy’s King Umberto I, France’s President Marie Francois Sadi Carnot, and Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Considered America’s first female star, Annie earned more than any of the other performers except for Bill Cody.

When she was 66, Annie died of pernicious anemia in 1925. Ralph was so grief-stricken, he stopped eating and died a few days later. It’s rumored that Annie’s ashes, stored in one of her trophies, was placed inside Ralph’s coffin which was buried at Brock Cemetery near Greenville, Ohio.

06 05 annie oakley 1922Annie was inducted into the:

  • Trapshooting Hall of Fame
  • National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
  • National Women’s Hall of Fame
  • Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame
  • New Jersey Hall of Fame

The Garst Museum and The National Annie Oakley Center in Greenville exhibit a large collection of memorabilia, including personal possessions and firearms.

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