Western Life

Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley was a famous American exhibition shooter and sharpshooter, born in August 13, 1860.  She’s known by many names, such as “Phoebe Anne Oakley”, “Little Sure Shot”, “Watanya Cicilla”, “Mrs. Annie Butler” and more. She defeated traveling-show marksman, Frank E. Butler (who she later married), in a shooting match. That is when her talent actually became known.

Early Life

Annie Oakley was born near Woodland, in Darke County, Ohio. Annie was the sixth child in her family. Her siblings included: Mary Jane, Elizabeth, Lydia, Catherine, Sarah Ellen, Hulda, John and a still born brother. Annie Oakley’s father fought in the 1812 war and died at an age of 66, due to pneumonia.

As a child, Annie was not able to attain a proper education due to poverty following the demise of her father. At the age of seven, Annie began trapping, followed by hunting and shooting by the age of eight. She did this in order to support her widowed mother and siblings.

Soon she became a well-known shooter throughout the region, especially after winning against Frank E. Butler, in a shooting match. Frank E. Butler and Annie Oakley soon got married.


Frank and Annie started performing on-stage together, and stayed in Cincinnati for a while. She adopted the name Oakley during that time. Most people assume that she did that based on the name of the person who paid her train fare when she was a kid. In 1885, they joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show where she was given the name “Watanya Cicilla”. People called her “little sure shot” in advertisements. Oakley also performed in Europe for Queen Victoria, President Marie François Sadi Carnot of France, and King Umberto I of Italy.

Butler and Oakley resided in Nutley, New Jersey, from 1892 to 1904. She also promoted, encouraged and talked about the service of women in combat operations for US armed forces.

In 1901, Oakley was badly injured in an accident, and after five operations and temporary paralysis, Oakley recovered. People also say that throughout her career, Annie taught more than 15000 women how to use a gun. In 1902, Annie left the Buffalo Bill Show and moved towards her acting career. Butler and Oakley performed in Thomas Edison’s (A friend of Buffalo Bill) Kinetoscope film the “Little Sure Shot of the Wild West”. Oakley was an amazing performer and a shooter, she never failed to impress her audience. She also contributed towards womens rights and other causes, in order to support the women around her. In the year 1925, Annie’s health began to decline and at the age of 66, she died of pernicious anemia in Greenville.

Buttler became extremely depressed after Oakley’s death and stopped eating. He died just 18 days after Annie’s death. Oakley’s personal possessions are exhibited in the National Annie Oakley Center and Garst Museum in Ohio.

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