Annie Oakley’s Hometown in the Wild West (of Ohio)
By Dominique King

Annie Oakley’s Hometown in the Wild West (of Ohio)

Learn all about the sharpshooter and her connection to Ohio. 

I grew up thinking that Annie Oakley came from the Wild West. I didn’t realize she came from the wilds of western Ohio until we spotted a small sign pointing to her gravesite along a two-lane highway near Greenville.

Oakley gained fame traveling the country as the sharpshooting star attraction of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Born Phoebe Ann Mosey at North Star in Darke County Ohio in 1860, she experienced extreme poverty as a child, especially after her father died in 1866. She used her father’s old rifle to hunt local game to feed her family and sell meat to help pay off the mortgage on the family farm.

In 1875, she won a shooting contest in Cincinnati, meeting marksman Frank Butler in the process. The couple eventually married and Butler, recognizing his wife’s superior shooting skill, became her manager and assistant as she took the stage name of Annie Oakley.

Oakley and Butler died within weeks of each other in 1926. When we first saw their side-by-side graves in Brock Cemetery more than a decade ago, there was just a small sign marking the site. We saw the Ohio state historical marker, erected in 2003, during our most recent visit.

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Darke County goes all out to celebrate its “Little Sure Shot” during its Annie Oakley Days Celebration July 27-29 in downtown Greenville and at the Darke County Fairgrounds.

We also re-visited Oakley’s gravesite and saw the largest known collection of Oakley artifacts at the Garst Museum.

While learning about Ohio’s Annie Oakley connection was fascinating, there was a lot more to learn about the area at Greenville’s Garst Museum.

The Garst family donated their home to the Darke County Historical Society as a museum in 1946. Today, it is a complex with over 35,000 square feet of display space and more than 300,000 artifacts.

Other notable collections at the Garst include: military uniforms and artifacts dating from the War of 1812 through the present; a gallery dedicated to broadcaster and world traveler Lowell Thomas, who deftly used the “new media” of his day like radio, films and television to bring the world to American theaters and living rooms during the mid-20th century; and the Crossroads of Destiny exhibit.

Crossroads of Destiny is a permanent exhibit tracing events leading up to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, which paved the way for America’s westward expansion.

Greenville was home to one of the largest stockade forts ever built in the country, a 50-acre Army camp from 1793 until 1796 and site of the treaty signing involving 12 Native American nations and the United States.

Many of the 1,000 artifacts in the Crossroads of Destiny exhibit came from area archeological digs funded by the museum.

Hungry after a morning of cemetery and museum exploring?

Deanna York of the Darke County Visitors Bureau suggests catching a bite at Michael Anthony’s at the Inn, The Bistro Of Broadway or the Made-rite Sandwich Shoppe, continuing your Greenville explorations at the Bear’s Mill or the KitchenAid Experience Retail and Factory Tour, or capping your trip with a visit to the Winery at Versailles.

To find more adventures in Ohio, click here!

About the Author

Dominique King is a metro Detroit writer, hockey fan and frequent visitor to Ohio. She began her writing career as a freelance writer for local newspapers, covering business, art and regional travel topics for the Mirror Newspapers, the Daily Tribune and Hour Detroit Magazine. She has a degree in Communications (M.A.) from Detroit's Wayne State University and an interest in history. You can find Dominique writing about Midwest travel at https://www.midwestguest.com or connect with her on Twitter @midwestguest.