"Stagecoach Mary" Fields - Talk led by Becky Stone
Mary Fields was the only African-American living in Cascade, Montana from 1885 until she died in 1914. Fields lived and worked at the St Peters mission school located about 20 miles outside of Cascade that served a few white, but mostly Blackfeet, girls. Fields was drawn there by her fierce loyalty to and deep friendship with Mother Mary Amadeus, the Mother Superior. Mary Fields eventually lost her job at the mission school, but she moved into Cascade and never left.
Much of her history is unknown because slaveholders rarely kept records on the lives of their property. Fields had been enslaved in Tennessee, but the end of the Civil War led to her working for wages on steamboats on the Mississippi, then for an Ursuline Convent in Toledo, Ohio, and eventually working for room and board at the Ursuline mission school on the Birdtail Prairie in Montana. Fields was an exceptional person. She was literate. (That in itself is a great feat for a former slave.) She was a master gardener. Mary was an excellent farm hand who could repair most equipment as needed. She was a crack shot with a rifle, a good cook, and she had a way with horses, dogs, and children. She ran her own businesses – a laundry, a restaurant, and offered childcare in Cascade. At the age of 70, she became the first African-American woman to become a star route carrier from Cascade out to her beloved Ursuline mission with all stops in between. She delivered the mail faithfully to the mission and isolated homesteads in blizzards, freezing cold, and blasting heat for eight years. Hence, Fields earned everyone’s respect and the moniker of “Stagecoach Mary” in addition to being called “Black Mary” and “N — Mary”. She was a legend in her own time. The town showed their love to her by giving her privileges not afforded most women, by patronizing her businesses, and by rebuilding her house when it burned down. The town’s children celebrated her birthday twice a year at the schoolhouse, and the townspeople celebrated her life in one of the largest funerals held in Cascade at that time. Earl Monroe was one of the children who grew up with Mary as a caretaker. Years after her death, he replaced the unmarked cross on her grave with a granite tombstone that reads simply Mary Fields 1832-1914. No labels such as “Black” or “Stagecoach” are in front of her name. It was as Mary would have wanted it.
LIVE IN PERSON PROGRAM – Hughes Main Library.
LIVESTREAM VIEWING - Want to watch from home?
The Talk will be livestreamed and questions will be taken from the virtual audience. A link to the livestream will be available at the History Comes Alive website when the event starts.
This event is not a costumed performance but will feature audience Q/A. Becky Stone will perform as "Stagecoach Mary" Fields in the History Comes Alive Festival June 7 – 16, 2024.