For this Old Dude get’s started I promise not to drag each of the Gals past out to such great lengths as previously. If I tickle your imagination you can get more on Google or Yahoo. Just remember these people each are using information supplied by other from the past and much of it simply not substantiated by official documents.
“Calamity” Jane Cannary
Martha Jane Cannary was born according to official 1860 records in the year of Mercer County, Missouri in 1844. But with female vanity she latter claimed May 1, 1852 as the date of her birth.
In 1865 her family moved to Virginia City, Montana. Her mother died of what was called washer woman pneumonia. Her father then moved on and died in the gold camps. Martha Jane was the oldest of five children. With the death of her father she took over the responsibility of finding homes for her siblings. It is believed to have been on her own by the age of thirteen. There being no place for a young girl on her own in the rugged west, she adopted the dress and manner of a male. she learned to smoke, drink and chew tobacco and apparently she became most proficient in the use of coarse language.
No real records support the many legends that surround her wild and woolly life. she claimed to have been a solider, stage driver, bull whacker, army scout and Indian fighter. she claimed to have served under General George Custer in two different campaigns. One in Arizona, where Custer never served. She was supposed to have been on the Big Horn Expedition and missed the massacre due to sickness.
It is known by records that she was in Deadwood arriving just after Wild Bill Hickok’s own entrance on the scene. She had a imaginative fascination of Hitchcock, and claimed a romance that most likely did not exist. Even to the point of saying that they had married and she bore him a daughter. When Hickok was killed she went on a bender to end all benders.
It is known that during a smallpox epidemic in Deadwood she nursed the sick tirelessly with out regard of her own health. She moved on and after she left Deadwood she mostly drifted around and finally married a man named Clinton Burke in 1885, and bore him a daughter. Burk was a low life and eventually was convected of embezzlement and fled. the daughter was eventually taken away from Calamity. and Calamity continued drifting. Even trying appearing on stage and touring with Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. But her drunkenness caused her to be let go. In 1901 she was found ill and drunk in a negro house of prostitution in Horr, Montana. Two years later she collapsed in Terry, a mining town near Deadwood. she died on August 1, 1903. At her request she was buried twenty feet to the side of Wild Bill Hitchcock. Her stone was inscribed with the date of Aug. 3, the twenty-seventh anniversary of Wild Bill’s death.
Here is Jane’s headstone, in the back, with Wild Bill’s in the middle and a commemorative Wild Bill Marker in the front. Click on any picture for more images and information.
How she got the name of Calamity has never been fully explained. One old timer said that if she straddled a rail fencethe damn thing would rise up and buck her off. Another explanation was that at the time women were refered to as “Janes” and any one who messed her would meet with a Calamity. She always wore a mans wide brimmed hat even with a dress. In a near the end in a photo taken at Wild Bill’s grave she is seen wearing one. Also in the picture you can plainly see the broad flattened nose suggesting she had it broken at least once. One thing is sure she did not look like Doris Day, Jane Russel, Yvoone de-Carlo who all portrayed her in films. I gotta tip my hat and reveal my bald spot on top to Robin Wiggert who played her in the HBO series of “DEADWOOD”. The series was great and I believe miz. Wiggert nailed Calamity like no-one else ever has. (all hell looks like I lied again, this was longer than I intended)
Stagecoach drivers had a big hand in winning the west and Charlie Pharkhurst was a bizarre and most fascinating one. Charlie stood about five feet seven inches tall, He wore a black patch over one eye, having lost it to a horse with ill temper. the other eye rested in a darkened, weathered face of one who works in the elements. His tobacco-stained chin and lips were unencumbered with whiskers as most outdoors-men of the time were. He had a high tenor whisky voice. He was not boisterous or given much to story telling. In fact he was considered kinds standoffish. How ever others were not shy about telling stories about Old One Eye Charlie. Passengers and acquaintances told stories that grew into legends.
Charlies stage run took him across a rickety bridge over the Tuolumne River. A surly passenger yelled to Charlie whip up those damn horses I have a important meeting to attend. This did not set well with Charlie, he whipped his horses into a dead run on the twisting mountain road and thundering toward the bridge it could be seen swaying and creaking due to the roaring flood waters storming down the river. So the storie goes as Charlie hit the bridge it started collapsing behind the rear wheel as he speed across. As the story goes the business man had fainted by the time they reached the other side. On one run Charlie was stopped and robbed by a bandit named Sugar foot because he wore sugar bags on his feet. Charlie swore it would never happen to him again. He purchased a pistol and the next attempt he shot and kidded Sugarfoot and wounded two of his henchmen. No other attempts were ever made on a stage driven by Charlie.
Details of charlies early years are sketchy. It is believed that Charlie ran away from a orphanage in Massachusetts and wound up in Worcester. He went to work as a stable-boy for a Ebenezer Balch who taught him to drive a buggy team which he hired to residents of a local hotel. Charlie slept in the stable a practice he continued through out his career. He claimed he got along with horses better than people. Through contact with a pair of men who started a stage line in the mining country of California he was offer a paying job if he came west.
Charlie was very critical of driver who drank on the job or mistreated their animals. Charlie was a loner seldom socializing and never bathed in public nor visited houses of ill-repute. He was kind to children and even was known to loan or give money to prostitutes in need.
When the railroad and rheumatism forced Charlie to quit the stage line me moved tothe Santa Cruz area and tried ranching and running a stage stop. In 1867 he registered to vote in the 1868 election. His registration stated him as Parkhurst Charles, D, age 55, Occupation farmer, native of New Hampshire,
charlies rheumatism worsened and he developed cancer of the tongue. He spent his final years in a cabin near Watsonville, refusing and medical help threatening to shoot any doctor who came near him. Death came on December 28, 1879. The Doctors examination of Charlie revealed that Charlie was a fully developed woman and had given live birth at one time. All indications appear that charlie started out life as a girl but like some others women she took on a mans persona to get by in a mans world.
Charlies fellow lodge members so greatly respected him that insisted burial take place in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Watsonville. Fresh flowers are often left on the grave-site by those who revere the memory of the wests most unusual history maker, the first registered woman voter in the United States. Oh yes Charlies name was “Charlotte”.
Well it had been my intention to include at least two more on this outting but this chapter has grown pondrus as it is so will quit for now.
Gotta whip up those hoss’s and get outta here. Till next time Adios (imagine the sound of fading hoof beats)