Mary Fields gives us so many lessons on how to embrace and live in freedom, on being a trailblazer, the power of partnership, and being who you are, no matter what the world thinks. I’m so inspired by her that I may start offering some Stagecoach Mary merch.
In the works….
Mary Fields was born into slavery in Hickman County, Tenn. around 1832. After the Civil War, she was freed, and high-tailed it to Mississippi to work on the Robert E. Lee as a chambermaid. Fields would regale anyone who would listen with stories about the famous race in 1870 between the Lee and the Natchez, where the crew tossed ham and bacon into the boilers in order to build the steam pressure higher.
Fields had a childhood friend who became an Ursuline nun named Sister Amadeus. When Sister Amadeus moved to a convent in Toledo, Ohio, Fields followed her there. Sister Amadeus was then asked to serve St. Peter’s Convent near what was to become Cascade, Montana. Cascade was a small town that developed from the new Montana Central railroad route between Helena and Great Falls.
Mother Amadeus fell extremely ill with pneumonia, and asked her dear friend Mary to come to her. Fields moved to Cascade in 1885, and after nursing Mother Amadeus to health, she worked for the nuns of St. Peter’s Convent. They absolutely loved her, along with the people of the town.
She liked to drink, smoked bad homemade cigars, and was so respected in her adopted hometown of Cascade, Montana, that her birthday was made a school holiday every year.
At 200 pounds, she was said to be a match for any two men in Montana Territory. She had a standing bet that she could knock a man out with one punch, and she never lost a dime to anyone foolish enough to take her up on that bet. By order of the mayor, she was the only woman of reputable character in Cascade allowed to drink in the local bar, and while she enjoyed the privilege, she never drank to excess. She was often spotted smoking cigars in public, and she liked to argue politics with anyone.
A woman after my own heart.
I talk a bit more about Mary Fields and her impact on the West and on our nation’s history. Because Black History is American History.