Monday, March 3, 2008

Cascade County, Montana. Mary Fields.

A note for Women History Month.

Mary Fields was born in 1832 as a slave in Tennessee. She grew up an orphan, never married and had no children.

Mary Fields lived by her wits and her strength. She traveled north to Ohio, settled in Toledo and worked for the Ursuline convent in that city.

The nuns of the Ursuline order became her family. Mother Amadeus then the superior of that order, served as Mary’s mother.

The nuns moved to Montana and Mary stayed behind in Ohio. When Mary learned that Mother Amadeus' health was failing, she went west to help out.

After Mother Amadeus health returned, Mary decided to stay and help build the St. Peter's mission school in Cascade County, Montana.

Mary was a strong woman. She packed a pistol for protection. She was known also as a hard-drinking woman, who needed nobody to fight a battle for her.

Because of her behavior, Mary was eventually turned away from the mission but the Ursuline nuns financed a new business for her.

With the support of the nuns, Mary opened a cafe.

Mary's generous and charitable spirit drove her business into the ground several times because she would feed the hungry.

In 1895 she found a job that suited her. She signed on as a U.S. mail coach driver for the Cascade County region of central Montana.

Mary and her mule Moses, never missed a day of work. It was in this capacity that Mary earned her nickname "Stagecoach", for her unfailing reliability.

Mary loved the children of Cascade County, Montana. She supported the local baseball team as their number one fan.

Mary died in 1914 at Cascade, Montana. Her grave is marked with a simple cross.

This note is based on material available from Vernice Jackson, the Lakewood Public Library and Sister Mary Rose Krupp, Ursuline Convent Offices, 4045 Indian Rd., Toledo, OH 43606.

Additional material can be found at Robert Miller, The Story of Stagecoach Mary Fields (Silver Burdett Press, 1995) and an article in Ebony 32 (October 1977), pp.96-98. A classic photo of Mary Fields with a rifle is available on the website of Women in History provided by actress Vernice Jackson.

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