little-known secrets behind the men & women who shaped
9-year-old girl supports family with her
By Paul Niemann
Send a link to a friend
[October 01, 2009]
Phoebe Moses lived an interesting life. As a
9-year-old girl, she hunted for food to support her family. As a
teenager, she starred in "Buffalo Bill's Wild West" show. When she
was 21, she beat a man in a shooting contest and then married him.
She also spent her entire fortune on the charities that she
Phoebe (that's pronounced "Phoebe") was her given name, but it was
her stage name by which you know her.
Phoebe, born in a log cabin in 1860, was the fifth of seven
children of Jacob and Susan Moses, a Quaker couple living in rural
western Ohio. She couldn't read, but she sure could shoot.
She lost her father when she was just 6 years old. A few years
later, she began hunting for food to help feed the family. She was
such a good aim that she could shoot the head off a running quail.
She was so good at hunting that she was able to support the
family by selling her game to local residents. Local hotel owners
preferred the food that Phoebe shot because she always shot the
animals in the head, meaning that there would be no buckshot left in
the animal. She did well enough to pay off the mortgage on the
family home in just three years!
This petite woman -- who stood only 5-feet tall as an adult --
went on to become one of the "Wild West's" biggest celebrities. She
could split the edge of a playing card with her first shot and then
shoot five more holes in that same card before it hit the ground.
[to top of second column]
In 1881, the spunky little Phoebe competed against a famous
shooter named Frank Butler in a contest near Greenville, Ohio. Now,
Frank Butler was considered one of the top three marksmen in his
day, but he was no match for Phoebe Ann Moses. He lost when he
missed his 25th shot, but things still turned out well for him.
Frank and Phoebe began dating, and they married the following year.
So she became Phoebe Ann Butler, the greatest American woman to
ever shoot a gun, right?
Wrong. This woman, who would go on to perform with Sitting Bull
and Buffalo Bill, would take a nickname of her own; actually, it was
more of a stage name than a nickname. She took her stage name after
the Cincinnati neighborhood where she and Frank lived.
Phoebe Moses became known as Annie Oakley.
After they were married, she worked as Frank's assistant in his
show, but they both realized that Annie Oakley had more talent than
he did, so he became her assistant.
Paul Niemann's column has appeared in
more than 80 newspapers and counting. He is the author of the
"Invention Mysteries" series of books and can be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2009