New Appalachian Moments Blog Post!
By Scott Ballard
While she might have beat the heat and vacationed at the Green Park Inn, Annie Oakley’s main connection to Blowing Rock really comes from her operating a shooting range at Mayview Manor in 1924.
Born in Ohio, Annie began hunting and shooting to supplement the family’s diet after her father passed away…she also sold game to local restaurants and hotels. She said her mother was perfectly horrified when she began shooting and tried to keep her in school, but Annie said she would often run away and go quail hunting in the woods.
When Frank Butler, the featured marksman of a traveling show offered a $100 prize to anyone who could beat him…a 15 year old girl, barely five feet tall, stepped up and took the challenge. After trading 25 bulls eye shots, the marksman missed but Annie did not. Frank would later say that he probably lost as soon as he saw the pretty young lady toe the mark. The sharpshooter didn’t leave town empty-handed, he won Annie heart and the two were married a year later.
Annie rose to superstardom with the Buffalo Bill Wild West show featuring Sitting Bull, who called Annie “Watanya Cicilla” or “little sure shot.” Her most famous trick was to split a playing card, edge on, and put several more holes in it before it hit the ground while using a .22 caliber at 90 feet.
Another great trick was shooting the ashes off of her husband’s cigarette…I am relatively certain there weren’t any cross words in that household especially if that trick was performed on a regular basis! She once shot the ashes off a cigarette in Kaiser Wilhelm’s mouth during a European tour…it was said that if she had only missed that one time, she might have prevented World War I…She did send a letter to the Kaiser after the War started asking for a second shot…he didn’t respond.
Throughout her career it is believed that Annie taught upwards of 15,000 women how to shoot. She is quoted as saying that she would like to see every woman know how to handle a gun as naturally as they know how to handle babies.
Even though Annie was 63 years old when she operated that shooting range at the Mayview, she still hit 98 out of 100 clays during one demonstration. Annie passed away just over two years later. The Mayview closed in 1966 and was demolished in 1978. All that remains are our memories. If you’d like to hear the audio version, click below and please like, share and comment so more folks can read about Miss Annie!