Phoebe Ann Mozee was born in Patterson Township, Ohio, on August 13, 1860, to Susan and Jacob Moses. She was reared on a rented farm, and was the fifth of seven children. Her siblings called her Annie, and she would take the stage name Oakley, reportedly after Oakley, Ohio.
Her father died in 1866 from pneumonia and overexposure in freezing weather. Her mother remarried, but was widowed again. At the time, her mother had to put Annie in the care of the superintendent of the county poor farm where she learned to embroider and sew; she also spent some time with a local family in near servitude, by whom she was mentally and physically abused.
Annie began to shoot game at age nine to support her mother and siblings. She quickly proved to be a dead shot and word spread so much that at age sixteen, Annie went to Cincinnati to enter a shooting contest with Frank E. Butler (1850-1926), an accomplished marksman who performed in vaudeville. Annie won the match by one point and she won Frank Butler's heart as well. They were married in 1876 and she became his assistant in his traveling shooting act. Frank soon realized she was far more talented and relinquished the limelight to her, becoming her assistant and personal manager. In 1885 they joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, run by the legendary frontiersman and showman Buffalo Bill Cody.
The Wild West show
Annie Oakley was the star attraction of the Wild West Show for 17 years. She was an amazing shot. One day she shot 4,472 of 5,000 glass balls tossed in midair, and she could shoot a dime out of the air at 90 feet. She could hit a playing card five or six times with the edge facing her at 90 feet. That is how free tickets with holes punched in them came to be called "Annie Oakleys." Another of her acts was to shoot the ashes off a cigarette held in her husbandís mouth. She was easily recognized by the large number of shooting medals she wore on her chest and her diminutive height of only 5 feet tall.
Wrecked by a train
In the fall of 1901 tragedy struck the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show when the show train had a head on collision with another train. Annie was seriously hurt when she was thrown from her bed and her spine was injured. She underwent five operations and was left partially paralyzed for a time, but she went on to make a full recovery.
In the fall of 1921 Annie and Frank were involved in an auto accident near Daytona, Florida. Annie was pinned under the car which resulted in a dislocated hip and fractured ankle. She spent months in the hospital and was never able to walk without a brace. At this time Annie did not think she had long to live and that no one would want her medals so she had them melted down and sold the gold for a little over $100 and gave the money to a children's hospital in the south.
When the United States was pulled into World War I in 1917, Annie offered to raise a regiment of woman volunteers to fight in the war. She had made the same offer during the Spanish-American War - neither time was it accepted. She also volunteered to teach marksmanship to the troops. Oakley gave her time to the National War Council of the Young Men's Christian Association, War Camp Community Service and the Red Cross. The Butlers' dog, Dave, became the "Red Cross Dog" by sniffing out donations of cash hidden in handkerchiefs.
In 1922, Annie began making plans for a comeback, and in a shooting contest in Pinehurst, North Carolina, she hit 100 clay targets straight from 16 yards ó she was 62 at the time.
A star flames out
On November 3, 1926 Annie Oakley died of pernicious anemia, in Greenville, Ohio, at the age of 66. Frank, who was ill at the time, was at the home of Annie's sister in Ferndale, Michigan, and was unable to attend her funeral. He died on November 21, just 18 days later - they had been married 50 years.
On Thanksgiving Day, Annie Oakley and her husband, Frank Butler, were buried in Brock cemetery, near the place of her birth. Identical stones mark their graves, with their names and the simple inscription "At Rest."
MOTTO OF ANNIE OAKLEY
"Aim at a high mark and you will hit it.
No, not the first time, nor the second, and maybe not the third.
But keep on aiming and keep on shooting,
For only practice will make you perfect.
Finally you'll hit the bull's eye of Success."