Monday, August 3, 2009

Annie Oakley --Darke County's Favorite Daughter

Probably at least 100 times during this trip I have been asked where I was from and when I answered Darke County Ohio not one person knew where it was, but then I would say Darke County is the home of Annie Oakley and there would be instant recognition. They still did not know where Darke County was but Annie Oakley made it cool and I was also cool by association.
Several folks said their grand parents had seen Annie perform with Buffalo Bill's traveleing shows. One Indian guy from North Dakota said a couple of his relatives had even performed in the Buff Bill show and knew Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull et. al..
Annie Oakley is big news all over this country and especially the West where I have been traveling. When I toured the Circus Museum in Peru Indiana the first display I saw featured Annie Oakley. The lady was phenominal and did things like shooting dimes out of her husband Frank Butler's hand and ashes off cigarettes in his mouth. She did many trick shots with many assistants and was automatic.
While talking to John Fugate the famous ringmaster , head guy at the museum and circus historian I learned that Annie only hit Frank once and nipped off the end of one of his fingers. I had not heard that before and will check that out with the A.O. experts in Darke County A.O. museum.

Annie and her husband/manager are buried in Brock Cemetary which is less than a half mile from our family farm and we have taken visitors there many times.
At the upper left of this pic showing the entrance to Brock Cemetary you can see the sign that points the way to Annie's grave.

Annie's family name was Moses and several other members of her family are buried in Brock Cemetary as well. When I was a young kid I remember hearing some of the older people in the community talk of knowing the Moses family and seeing Annie in her later yearss when she visited the area. At the time this was important to me only because there was TV show about Annie Oakley which made her look like a female Roy Rogers--western cowgirl. I did not have a clue what she was really about until I was older.

I distinctly remember that TV show because every episode showed "Annie" standing tall on the back of a galloping horse shooting at stuff with a rifle (and never missing). Also the town she lived in was called Diablo and I was fascinated by that name, always wanted to go there.

I was surprised today at all the coins laying on her grave as well as the flowers. I must be ignorant of this coin custom and will have to learn more about it. The same thing was true at the statue of Ronald Reagaan in Eureka Illinois--coins were laying there as well.
That picture on the the little pillar on the right of the grave is fairly recent and very interesting. There is a close upp of this in a following post.

There were even coins on Annie's husband's grave--Frank Butler . Annie met Frank and won his heart when she beat him at a shooting competition in Cincinnati when he was the leading shooter in the country. He immediately quit, became Annie's manager and then married her. A very unusual romantic story, but then again Annie Moses was an unusual lady.
Her life story is phenominally interesting and worth reading:

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  1. It seems like a similar tradition like placing a small stone at a grave (the end of Schindler's List). Basically it lets people know that this grave was visited and that this person hasn't been forgotten. It's also seen as good luck in some cultures. Another explanation is they are paying the toll for the departed to pay for passage to the other side (otherwise the dead would wander the shores and never cross the river Styx).

  2. JC--thanks so much for the info--I kinda suspected something like you describe but had not really encountered it before.

    As I write this I wonder why bigger denominations of $$$ are not used--mostly I see pennies and Annie's grave had a bunch of quarters.
    If a visitor wants to let others know they were there why not leave a lasting impression with fin or a 10 spot or even something larger.
    My feeling is that Ronald Reagan in particular would perk up if somebody left a C-note at his place.