May Prospector of the Month: Calamity Jane

May Prospector of the Month: Calamity Jane

As we celebrate strong women, who better to feature as our May Prospector of the Month than Calamity Jane, the legendary frontierswoman of the American West.

Mother’s Day is this month, and we want to say Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful moms. Your love, strength, and sacrifices are truly appreciated. 

As we celebrate strong women, who better to feature as our May Prospector of the Month than Calamity Jane, the legendary frontierswoman of the American West. 

Born Martha Jane Canary, the exact details of her early life are unclear. (Partly because of her life on the move, and partly because she inspired Tall Tales – and occasionally encouraged them.) She eventually became known as Calamity Jane, and was famous for her sharpshooting skills, bold personality, and adventurous spirit.

According to most sources, she was born in the early 1850s in Missouri and soon moved West. On her own from an early age, she held a number of jobs before winding up in Deadwood in 1876. In Deadwood, Calamity Jane worked as a “bullwhacker,” hauling goods and machinery to other camps and became well-known throughout the Black Hills. 

A woman in Custer, for example, Matilda Hanna Ward White Starbuck, wrote in her memoir about meeting Calamity Jane. Starbuck wrote that she was home alone with the children when she saw a woman in a “clean light print dress” and a “little shawl” approaching her. Eager to meet one of the other women in the camp, she invited Calamity Jane inside, not knowing who she was. Calamity Jane was looking for a doctor, but stayed to visit and made fast friends with the children in the house. She left a message for the doctor – someone else in the camp needed attention – but didn’t leave her own name. Starbuck says when the “men folks” returned, they immediately knew who Starbuck’s visitor had been. Her brother described Calamity Jane as “the best shot, the best scout, in the camp.” 

Despite her rough exterior, Calamity Jane was also noted for her compassion, particularly in nursing the sick during Deadwood’s smallpox outbreak. Her life has inspired numerous books, movies and folklore, solidifying her place as a fascinating and iconic character in American history. 

Her name is often linked with Wild Bill Hickock, whom she met in Deadwood. Various sources say she was in love with Hickock despite his lack of interest. According to Britannica, Calamity Jane lived with Clinton (Charley) Burke and eventually married him in 1891. A few years later, she was on tour with Buffalo Bill Cody’s famous Wild West show. 

She returned to the Black Hills in 1903 and spent the last years of her life working as a cook and housekeeper at a brothel in Belle Fourche. She is buried next to Wild Bill Hickock at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood. 

In collaboration with Deadwood History Inc., we are featuring a prospector every month this year. First Gold Gaming is named due to the proximity of where gold was initially struck in Deadwood. Featuring the miners – and frontierswomen – who formed this region is a way for us to connect with our local culture. Though not a prospector, Calamity Jane is certainly one of the biggest legends to call Deadwood home.

Looking to make your own fortune? Stop by First Gold Gaming on May 25 for our Gold Cash Blast Giveaways, where we’ll award $1,000 in cash to 13 different winners every half an hour from 5 pm to 11 pm, and a grand prize of $5,000 at 11:30 pm (That’s a total of $18,000 in prizes.)

You could also win up to $8,600 in our weekend Hot Seat giveaway on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, or try a midweek hot seat every Wednesday and Thursday. Also try our Lucky 7 Cash and Fabulous Promo events for chances to win $1,000.

Give us a call at 800-274-1876 or visit our website to book a room and strike your own First Gold.   Part of the Deadwood History Inc. collection

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