When people think of pioneers of the wild west several images come to mind: the gritty gunslinger, the uncompromising lawman, or even the wagon train families. However, there is a much different image to be had for those that really know the wild west. Imagine a gritty, cigar smoking, whiskey drinking, fist fighting, six foot tall black woman. That is the picture of the famous Stagecoach Mary Fields. She was born in 1832 in Tennessee and decided to travel out west at the age of 52.
Stagecoach Mary had lived a rugged life as a slave that prepared her for the rigors of the wild west. She made her way eventually to Cascade County, Montana where she worked as a hired hand for a group of nuns. She did all manner of physical chores for the sisterhood from cutting wood to picking up supplies. Her temper apparently ran her into trouble with the sisterhood when she had a gunfight with another worker. After her employment ended with the nuns, she tried her hand at restaurant ownership. She was unsuccessful and finally landed the job that would make her famous. She began to deliver the mail and was so regular that she earned the name 'Stagecoach'.
Mary Fields took her job quite seriously and allowed nothing to stand in the way of the mail delivery. She gave meaning to the postal services unofficial motto, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." She finally retired from the postal service in her 70's and then opened a laundry. She continued to have the same grit and supposedly decked a man for trying to cheat her out of a laundry bill. She died in 1914 after living a long and fruitful life in Cascade, Montana.
Stagecoach Mary Fields was a pioneer in many ways. She was unwilling to allow the prejudices of the time to hold her back. She is an inspiration to not only African-Americans and women, but also to those of us attempting to start something new later in life.