February is Black History Month, and while Montana might not have a large black population, one Montana woman of color was a pioneer by every definition of the word.

For those who aren't familiar with Mary Fields and her role in Montana and the breaking of color barriers, you're missing out on an important part of Montana's history. Fields wasn't born in The Treasure State but settled here back in 1884.

Born into slavery in Tennessee, Fields would lead a life that would no doubt make a heck of a movie. If the rumors are true, she was as strong as any man and over time would make history here in Montana and the United States.

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Mary Fields, who later in life would be known as "Stagecoach Mary" was not only the first female United States Mail Carrier of color in Montana, but in the United States as well. She took the position at the age of 60 and was known to be as "rough and tough" as the Montana terrain.

"Stagecoach Mary" became a bit of a celebrity in her later years.

Credit: Reunion Black Family
Credit: Reunion Black Family

Once she gave up her postal route, she would do odd jobs around the town such as laundry and babysitting.  According to Old West Org one of the children she would take care of occasionally was Gary Cooper, who would later grow up to be an Oscar Winning Actor.

The stories go that once she retired, Mary would hang around the bars in the Cascade area and folks would buy her drinks in hopes that she would entertain them with her legendary tales. In fact, according to sources, after women were banished from entering saloons in Montana, the Mayor of Cascade granted her a special exemption.

Credit: Canva
Credit: Canva

Mary was a beloved figure in her community and the town would celebrate her birthday each year. Mary's birthday was such a big deal, that the local school would let out so that the children could celebrate.

Mary Fields passed away in 1914 and her funeral was one of the biggest in the area. She is buried outside of Cascade, Montana.

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Gallery Credit: Derek Wolf

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