Billings residents learn more about Calamity Jane through a historic car tour

BILLINGS — The life of Calamity Jane is mysterious, but people in Billings got a chance to learn more about her and the impact she had on the city on a four-stop car tour filled with historical impersonators.

“One more little bump wouldn’t hurt,” Calamity Jane impersonator Scotty Bettise said Saturday.

Bettise was just one of several Calamity Jane impersonators who offered the public a glimpse into the notorious life of the American border guard.


Alina Hauter/MTN News

“The reality was that she came from a very poor family in Missouri, and they came to Virginia City, Montana,” Bettise said.

Organized by the Yellowstone Historical Society as part of their Histories Mysteries program, the first stop on the tour was at the Yellowstone County Museum.

Locals got a taste of one of Calamity Jane’s favorite hobbies, the Faro card game, and were able to see some of the actual game pieces she used in the past.

“We have game pieces right here from Calamity Jane. They were donated to the county museum,” said Yellowstone County Museum Director Terry Steiner.


Alina Hauter/MTN News

Billings natives like Sue Agnew and John Mueller were surprised by what they learned about the notorious host.

“Well actually, I didn’t know her real name, Martha, Martha Canary,” Agnew said.

The name Calamity Jane became her nickname after it became popular through novels and newspaper articles.

“It was fun to find out that she did the Billings regularly,” Mueller said.

Many people don’t realize that Calamity Jane lived in Billings for a while. Another destination on the tour was the 17thth St. West and Polly Dr. And the house has since replaced the old cabin where Calamity Jane used to spend her time.


Alina Hauter/MTN News

Another stop on the tour was behind the L&L building downtown in what used to be Chinatown. Calamity Jane also stayed in that building and according to historians, she tried to sue the building’s owner, Yee Sam Lee, and lost.

The last stop on the car tour was Mountview Cemetery, where Calamity Jane’s daughter, Jane McCormick, is buried. McCormick’s father was Wild Bill Hickock.

For Virginia and Britton Wick, the tour provided them with insights they would never have learned otherwise.

“This is kind of interesting because it gives you more background. I didn’t know she was a drunkard,” said Virginia Wick.


Alina Hauter/MTN News

Although Calamity Jane’s life is shrouded in mystery, the Yellowstone Historical Society has preserved her memory and provided Billings residents with a glimpse into the past.

If you would like to learn more about Histories Mysteries or the Yellowstone Historical Society, please visit Yellowstone County Museum (ycmhistory.org).

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