Stage Coach Mary was born into slavery in TN and named Mary Fields. Her slave master was a Judge. Mary was a 6 ft, 250lb woman who knew how to shoot, carried a pistol and rifle on her at all times, drank whiskey, smoked cigars, didn’t take shit from anyone, and was extremely hard working, loyal and intellegent.
Once freed, she worked for a convent and then went to building stone buildings, and a church. I mention the stone buildings because the work was manual and meant that the heavy stones often had to be carried physically by the men, and by Mary. Mary was not scared of labor intensive work and refused the help of men, preferring instead to carry large rock boulders on her back.
Mary didn’t back down and would stand up to fight any man. Because of her swearing, whiskey drinking, cigar smoking, and the fact that Mary liked to dress like a man to be comfortable, word got to her employer at a convent, and Mary lost her job and was asked to leave. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as she was asked to become a mail carrier in Montana in the small town of Cascade. Mary was the first Black resident of Cascade, and the only one during her residency.
Mail carriers had to be ever vigilant to not be robbed at gun point, and she sometimes had to go into “hostile” territories, so the position was created for her. Mary would hitch her own horses to the stagecoach, load up the hundreds of pounds of mail, and then trek through snow, in the rain, through streams, on ice, and rocky roads. She also traveled alone usually, and wasn’t intimidated by traveling men or Native Americans. Mary was 60 years old at the time and maneuvered through uncharted territory to deliver mail and took her job seriously. Mary never missed a day of work and was said to have strapped the heavy bundles of mail to her back and walk through the snow with it when the stagecoach couldn’t make it through. Mary worked well into her 70’s.
She died in her late 80’s and had the largest funeral in the history of the town. Everyone knew Mary and while it was true that Mary had had quite a few scuffles in her time, Mary was known for her generosity to help anyone in need, mostly children.
Mary is an inspiration to women that refuse to live by the rules, and in roles created for us, by men. She died being true to herself, living as she pleased without hurting anyone, unless they came looking for it.
Mary Fields - Stagecoach Mary: 1832 - 1914
Mary Fields, the first Black woman to become a USPS mail carrier in the history of the United States.
For more information about Mary Fields, watch documentary Discovering Mary made by Joyce Marie Fitzpatrick!
Photo: Mary Fields and one of her dogs.the