The Legend of Calamity Jane

by Dawn Graves


Calamity Jane, the best-known frontier woman in the Old West, is reported to have visited and even lived in Sidney for a time.

The story of her life is full of  both impressive and terrible deeds, many of them exaggerated by storytellers and by Calamity Jane herself. 

Because she was an army scout, an explorer and a performer, we might normally picture her wearing leather chaps, spurs and carrying a gun. But Calamity was also a dance-hall girl, paid to dance with and entertain patrons.

E.A. Swearingen, the proprietor of the Gem dance hall in Deadwood where she was working, needed more girls in the early days of his establishment. At that time, there were only four – including Calamity Jane and a man who was dressed as a woman. 

It is said that Swearingen sent Calamity to Sidney to recruit more women to work for him. 

She came back with 10 girls, who she had persuaded to come by telling stories about the vast wealth in the region.

According to some historians, Calamity Jane also had a child in Sidney who was fathered by a soldier of Fort Sidney. This story isn't likely to be true, however.

She was acquainted with “Wild Bill” Hickok, who is also said to have spent time in Sidney. She was buried next to him in Deadwood when she died in 1903.