Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary, was the first African American and the second woman postal carrier in the United States. Born a slave in 1832 in Tennessee, Fields gained her freedom a the end of the Civil War in 1865.
She then moved on to caring for a family, when the wife died, she took their children to live with their aunt, a nun, Mother Mary Amadeus, in Toledo. She then followed Mary to Montana to establish a mission for Native Americans. Fields stayed at the nunnery and became a forewoman hauling freight, doing laundry, growing vegetables, tending chickens, repairing buildings and the like.
The Native Americans called Fields “White Crow” because “she acts like a white woman but has black skin.” Local whites didn’t know what to make of her. One schoolgirl wrote an essay saying “she drinks whiskey, and she swears, and she is a republican, which makes her a low, foul creature.” In 1894, after several complaints, the bishop ordered her to leave the convent.
In 1895, around 60 years old, Fields got a job as a mail carrier because she was the fastest applicant to hitch a team of six horses. She drove the route with horses and a mule named Moses. She never missed a day, and her reliability earned her the nickname “Stagecoach.”
Fields was a respected public figure in Cascade, and on her birthday each year the town closed its schools to celebrate. Mary Fields died in 1914. In 1959, actor and Montana native Gary Cooper wrote an article for Ebony in which he said, “Born a slave somewhere in Tennessee, Mary lived to become one of the freest souls ever to draw a breath.
What an amazing story!