Calamity Jane

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:


Report That a Buffalo Woman Has Offered the Famous Old Plainswoman a Home.

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:


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 been arrested.










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.

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