BROCK – “When Annie ran away a man paid her fare home… she always regretted not asking his name,” said Laura Francis, Miss Annie Oakley 2011 and Annie Oakley Committee Member. Francis spoke to about three dozen people who made the Pilgrimage to Brock Cemetery July 24 to pay tribute to the famous Darke County native and Wild West performer. Annie is buried alongside her husband, Frank Butler.
She had been asked to say a few words at the annual Pilgrimage where Hayley Maher, Miss Annie Oakley 2014, had just paid tribute to Annie by placing a wreath at her grave.
“My grandpa, John Baumgardner, made the gun they (Miss Annie Oakleys) carry with them throughout the year. His wish was, someday, a granddaughter would carry it. He got that wish in 2011.” Francis talked – sometimes emotionally –about her history and experiences.
Later, Hannah Linebaugh, 2006 Miss Annie Oakley and Committee Member, recalled her own experience. Noting Francis’ emotion, she said when she won… “I went running to my mom with tears streaming down my face… this means so much to me.”
An integral part of the Pilgrimage is the essay contest open to young girls throughout Darke County. This year’s winners were Daisy Brim, 13, Mississinawa Valley; Johnna Siegrist, 11, Tri-Village; and Layla Carrington, 13, Greenville Junior High School.
The theme of the contest is what Annie Oakley means to them… Brim said she realized Annie’s motto, which says, in part, ‘Aim at a high mark and you will hit it,’ was not just about shooting. It was about how you live your life. “If I keep trying,” she said, “I can overcome any challenge.”
Linebaugh is in charge of the Pilgrimage each year. “It almost didn’t happen one year,” she said. “I went rushing to Plessinger Florist… the next day I picked up a beautiful wreath. Every year since then it seems he has added a flower, making it just a little more beautiful.” Linebaugh also noted Darke County Guns & Ammo contributed the prize money awarded to the three young women for their winning essays.
Linebaugh said it becomes an emotional experience as those winning the shooting contest begin to understand what it means to represent Annie Oakley for a year. “That’s why I do this,” she said, “so other girls can have the opportunity.”
Following the 30-minute ceremony, people began entering their vehicles and leaving… all except one. Linebaugh stayed behind to pay her respects.
Hayley Maher, Miss Annie Oakley 2014, places a wreath at Annie Oakley’s grave during the annual Pilgrimage to Brock Cemetery. (Bob Robinson photo)