LEGIONAIRE PROFILES – Annie Oakley

Annie was born Phoebe Ann Mosey (there is an argument as to whether it’s Moses or not, but according to her family and their website the Annie Oakley Foundation, it is Mosey) in Dark County Ohio. She never lived in the West nor did she go there until she was performing with Bill Cody.

Her childhood was horrible with the notable exception of the time that she spent hunting and alone in the woods. Because her father and first stepfather died without leaving anything to the remaining family members, the Moseys were poor. In the 1860 and 70’s it was a practice to farm out children to caretakers. Annie was sent first to a poor farm, then she was then sent to live with a family she only referred to later as ‘the Wolves.’ There she was both physically and mentally abused. Finally, she ran away from them. Annie’s mother married a third time.

Annie’s new Stepfather was a good man but not a big earner. She decided it was up to her to feed the family. This is when she took to days in the woods, hunting game. Much to her mother’s chagrin, Annie’s outdoor time took her away from school. But the food was urgently needed. Annie did so well that by the time she was 18, she was catching more than her family needed. She would sell the surplus to a local grocer, who in turn sold the game to hotels in Cincinnati. Quickly, her catches became popular as she would shoot the game in the head and not where it would spoil the meat.

In 1881, Frank (Jimmy) Butler was challenging local shooters to a competition – it was how he made a living. The Cincinnati Hotel owner, hosting the event, invited Annie to shoot. She beat Butler, a professional shooter 10 years older than she. He later said, “I was a beaten man the moment she appeared.” They married a year later in Windsor, Canada. When she wasn’t with him, he would send her poetry he’d written. They never parted for long. Their marriage lasted over half a century and they died within 12 days of each other. Frank, in the end, quit eating when his wife died and had no interest in living without her.

Frank was well ahead of most men of his time. Born in Ireland, he understood what it meant to be oppressed and poor. When it came to his wife, he put his own career on hold to become her manager. He said, “She outclassed me.” He devoted his days to promoting her and supporting her performance.

At first, Buffalo Bill Cody didn’t want to hire Annie. He already had a sharp shooter in his newly formed Wild West. But Nate Salisbury, the show’s manager, saw her practicing the act she had used with the Sells Brother’s Circus, and hired her on the spot. The relationship between Cody and Annie was typical of a friendship, it had many up’s and a few down’s. She called him ‘Colonel and he called her “Missy.” She and Frank toured with Cody for 16 seasons total. She was also very close with another shooter: Johnny Baker, the Cowboy Kid. She treated his children as if they were her own, or at least favored nieces. Frank and Annie had no children of their own.

Miss Oakley was traveling aboard the Union Pacific Railway to St. Louis with a small cadre of performers from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show when she met Mr. Phileas Fogg – during his first trip around the world in 80 days. Fogg and Oakley got along famously through their joint love for card games and sharp shooting. Although Fogg’s accuracy with a firearm has always been questionable, he enjoys the fun of the sport anyhow, and decided to make a wager with Annie in a shooting match. Annie won, and her prize was honorary membership in La Legion Fantastique with all the rights and privileges of a senior member. Her skills and strength have aided many of the Legion’s members by training them for exploratory missions, advising Fogg on travel routes in The United States of America, and as a tough negotiator while assembling what has been called “The Fogg Collection”. It was through Annie that Fogg was introduced to Professor Pierre Arronax – once thought to have been the last man to have seen the infamous Captain Nemo alive.

 

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One Response to “LEGIONAIRE PROFILES – Annie Oakley”

  1. Annie Oakley Says:

    My goodness I dislike that picture. Well, its the only one Col. Cody and Mr. Salisbury don’t have exclusive rights to. Perhaps I’ll arrange for something a bit different.

    Of course, as Mr. Butler (my husband) would say, I don’t like any pictures of me.

    I should point out that Mr. Fogg and I played Wist and Cribbage. I am not a believer in gambling with cards.

    AO

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