Martha Jane Canary, the maiden name of "Calamity Jane,"
had no intention of visiting Buffalo in 1901. By that time, she had become a
legend in the minds of people "back East" as a woman of the old West.
In reality, she was no longer the fearless, strong woman in a man's world that
she had once been portrayed by magazine writers, but a homeless alcholic in
search of a party and place to sleep.
But the Exposition publicity department wanted to have the
real Calamity Jane on their Midway and so they hired Mrs. Josephine Brake, a
newspaperwoman, to go west and entice her to come to Buffalo for the season.
Here is what the Buffalo News reported on July 12:
CALAMITY JANE TO END HER DAYS IN BUFFALO
Report That a Buffalo Woman Has Offered
the Famous Old Plainswoman a Home.
FOUND HER POOR, OLD AND SUFFERING
Noted Black Hills Character in Her Day and Had Many Friends in the Army
[Anaconda, Mont., Associated Press) Mrs. Josephine Winfield
Brake, of Buffalo, N.Y., author and newspaper correspondent, has been
in Montana for the past week searching for "Calamity Jane,"
the plainswoman. Yesterday Mrs. Brake discovered "Calamity Jane"
in the hut of a negress at Horr. The poor woman was broken in spirit.
The scene that followed the offer of Mrs. Brake to take Calamity to her
own home in Buffalo where she could spend the remainder of her days in
comfort was pathetic in the extreme and the noted frontierswoman wept
like a child.
Calamity has been on the frontier since she was a young
girl. She was in the Black Hills at the time of the killing of "Wild
Bill" (William Hickock) and it is said that it was she who captured
his murderer. She rendered valuable services to Custer, Reno, Egan and
other Indian fighters. Of late years she has drifted about the State from
place to place, making a livlihood as best she could. The newspapers printed
columns about her through means of which the attention of Gen. Egan and
many other friends of the woman was call to the plight of their friend
of former years..
What the newspaper elected not to communicate was that Calamity
Jane was found in a house of ill repute, sick and intoxicated from a long drunk.
Mrs. Brake succeeded in bringing the 51 year-old "Clamitt" back to
Buffalo where she apparently participated in Indian Congress shows and sham
battles. This was not to last, however. A Buffalo Evening News Story on August
9, describes the scene at that time:
ALAS, "CALAMITY JANE'
The Aged Celebrity, Overcome by Liquor,
Arrested, and Released on Suspended Sentence.
Mrs. Mattie Dorsett, the original "Calamity Jane"
of Wild West fame and who has been with the Indian Congress at the Exposition
during the last month, spent last night behind prison bars.
Patrolman Charles P. Gore of the Austin Street Station
found the old woman on Amherst street, near the Exposition gate, last
night. She was reeling from side to side and did not appear to know where
she was. The woman had been drinking and Gore placed her under arrest.
She spent the night in the matron's custody at the Pearl
Street Station, was taken before Judge Rochford this morning and released
on suspended sentence. Mrs. Dorsett said it was the first time she had
Calamity Jane appears to have left Buffalo sometime in September,
heading back to Montana by way of Chicago. Buffalo Bill is quoted in Buffalo
as having said, "I expect she was no more tired of Buffalo than the Buffalo
police were of her." He is reputed to have given her a ticket and expense
money to return to Montana.
She had only 2 years left to live, dying of the effects of
her alcholism on August 1, 1903, less than 2 weeks after the photo at the top
of this page was taken. She asked to be buried beside Bill Hickock in Deadwood,
South Dakota, and her wish was granted.
For more information, see the book, "Calamity
Jane; a study in historical criticism", Vivian A. Paladin, editor.