Sunday, June 25, 2006

Martha Jane Cannary Burke (Calamity Jane)

Calamity Jane was born around 1852 in Missouri, as Martha Jane Cannary. When the Gold Rush began she moved to Deadwood, Dakota in the Black Hills of what we know now as South Dakota.

Calamity told folks that she and Wild Bill Hickok had married and that he was the father of her child, but nothing is known about the child and it is presumed to have been given up for adoption. Sadly, her true love, Wild Bill Hickok was murdered in 1876. She was admired for her tireless nursing of smallpox victims in the epidemic that struck in 1878.

Calamity is best known for her wearing of men's clothing and her fiery temper. In fact, she was nicknamed "Calamity" becuase any man who bothered her was threatened to endure a "calamity." Given her reputation, even the Sioux Indians left her alone because of her "calamity" and other eccentricities.

In 1891 she married Clinton Burke and they lived together for at least six years.

In her later years she appeared in Wild West shows, including the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, touring around the country featuring her riding and shooting skills. Unfortunately, her chronic alcoholism and fighting led to many many problems and she was fired from the show in 1901. She retired to Deadwood where she later died of pneumonia. She was buried next to Wild Bill Hickok.


Copyright M. A. Webb, 2004-2006. All Rights Reserved

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