Title: The Wild West Comes to Palatka
Location: St. John's Ave. at South Eleventh Street
Sponsors: City of Palatka
Friends of the Conlee Snyder Mural Committee, Inc.
Artists: Nina Larkin Mateyunas
Size: 13 feet by 56 feet
On February 21, 1908, Annie Oakley and her husband Frank Butler brought their shooting exhibition to Palatka as part of a tour of towns and cities in the South to drum up business for the Union Metallic Cartridge and Remington companies. The group, called “The Southern Squad,” performed difficult feats of trap shooting at the Georgia Southern and Florida Railway’s depot on the riverfront in Palatka and drew a large crowd of not only sportsmen and trap shooters but also women and children.
In addition to Oakley and Butler, The Southern Squad included Capt. Tom A. Marshall, Col. T. J. Anthony, W. H. Heer, and George Maxwell. But of course, the person who drew the crowds and was featured in the newspaper with her picture was Annie Oakley, arguably one of the most famous women in the country in the 1890s and early 1900s.
Oakley along with her husband Frank Butler had worked in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show for 16 years from 1885 until 1901. A consummate entertainer, she put on a great show, jumping onto gun tables and shooting clay pigeons before they hit the ground, hitting targets while riding a bicycle with no hands, shooting cigarettes out of Butler’s mouth.
In 1901, after a train wreck, the couple decided to retire from the Wild West Show, but eventually went to work for Union Metallic Cartridge Company promoting products for a growing number of trap shooters across the country. She officially retired in 1913.
In 1922 in Florida, Annie Oakley severely injured her hip in a car accident, from which she never fully recovered. She died in November 1923 and her husband Frank Butler died three weeks later.
The pictures above and below show scenes from the dedication ceremony.
Special thanks are due to Marcia Lane, from whom much of this material was borrowed.