Lillian Smith (trick shooter)

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Lillian Frances Smith
Lillian Smith 1886.jpg
Born(1871-08-04)August 4, 1871
DiedFebruary 3, 1930(1930-02-03) (aged 58)
Resting placeOdd Fellows Cemetery
Ponca City, Oklahoma
Other namesPrincess Wenona
Occupationtrick shooter and trick rider
  • James "Jim Kid" Willoughby
    (m. 1886-1889, divorced)
  • Theodore Powell
    (m. 1897-1898, divorced)
  • Charles Franklin Hafley
    (m. 1899-1908, divorced)
  • William Eagle Shirt
    (m. 1912, divorced)
  • Wayne A. Beasley
    (m. 1912-1913, divorced)
  • Emil W. Lenders
    (1914-1926, separated)
  • Levi W. Smith, Jr.
  • Rebecca T. Robinson

Lillian Frances Smith (August 4, 1871 – February 3, 1930)[1] was a young trick shooter and trick rider[2] who joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1886, at the age of fifteen. She was billed as "the champion California huntress,"[3] and was a direct rival to Annie Oakley in the show.[4][5]


Lillian Frances Smith was born in 1871 in Coleville, California to Levi Woodbury Smith, Jr. and Rebecca T. Robinson, the third of four children.[6][7][8] Her parents were originally from Massachusetts and moved to Coleville in 1867.[6][9][10] Smith began shooting at the age of 7 and was already competing by the age of 10.[3] In 1886, at the age of 15, she joined Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show, where she met her rival, Annie Oakley. Apparently, Smith and Oakley were never on very friendly terms;[11] Smith was a braggart and at one point declared "Annie Oakley was done for."[3] Moreover, in contrast to Annie, who was an extremely conservative dresser, Lillian enjoyed flashy clothing and had a reputation as a "shameless flirt." Both Smith and Oakley traveled to Great Britain with the Wild West Show and met Queen Victoria in 1887. Smith's poor performance at the annual Wimbledon rifle competition (as opposed to Oakley's favorable performance) brought mocking coverage by both the British and American press. A friend of Smith attempted to reverse the roles of Smith and Oakley in his recounting of the competition (and London's reception), but the claims received public responses by reputable sources.[3] Smith left the show in 1889 (when Oakley returned to it).

In 1907, Smith moved permanently to Oklahoma and became a fixture with the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show, performing as "Princess Wenona", a fictionalized Sioux princess.[12] However, she continued to perform in other shows like Pawnee Bill's. After another 13 years as a record-setting sharpshooter and performer, Smith retired around 1920 and died in 1930 in Ponca City, Oklahoma, the home town of the 101 Ranch. She is buried at Odd Fellows Cemetery in Ponca City.[13] Her grave was unmarked until a monumental headstone was placed there in 1999 by the 101 Ranch Old Timers Association.[14] Another source mentions there was a small headstone with the name "P. Wenona" buried under the grass over time since her interment.[15]

Smith was married at least five times throughout her life. The order of her husbands has differed between sources.[6][16] All of her marriages ended in divorce.[6] She did not have any children.[17]

Birthdate discrepancy[edit]

Although Smith's headstone has her birthdate being February 3, 1871, it is most likely incorrect and placed there for posthumous flair as it gives the coincidence of death being on her 59th birthday.[6] One source has Smith possibly born in August 1871 or 1872 depending on newspapers.[6] Other sources have her being born in the autumn months of 1871, including one from Buffalo Bill's Wild West Company.[18][19] According to a recently released biography on Smith by author Julia Bricklin, she was born on August 4, 1871, which would coincide with the time period of the previously mentioned sources.[1]


  1. ^ a b America's Best Female Sharpshooter: The Rise and Fall of Lillian Frances Smith by Julia Bricklin, University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 978-0-8061-5633-0, 2017, William F. Cody Series on the history and culture of the American West, page 15; Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  2. ^ Russell Martin (1983). Cowboy: The Enduring Myth of the Wild West, p. 334: "By 1887, a dozen women had joined The Wild West, including Lilian Smith, a trick shot and trick rider; "Ma" Whitaker, who portrayed the settler's wife in cabin attack scenes; Georgie Duffy, "Rough Rider of Wyoming"; and Emma Lake Hickok, ..."
  3. ^ a b c d Biography of Lillian Smith in "Annie Oakley", on the PBS website dedicated to the American Experience series, originally broadcast on 8 May 2006.
  4. ^ Laura Browder (2006). Her Best Shot: Women And Guns in America: "Lillian Smith, whom Buffalo Bill dubbed the Champion Rifle Shot of the World, often received equal billing with Oakley and captured an equal amount of attention from reviewers. Smith joined the show in .., and two years later an article ..."
  5. ^ Ronald W. Lackmann (1997). Women of the Western Frontier in Fact, Fiction, and Film, p. 71: "By 1887, a dozen other women were also being featured in Buffalo Bill's show, but none could hold a candle to Annie Oakley as far as public popularity was concerned. One pretty equestrienne named Lillian Smith, who had joined the show in ..."
  6. ^ a b c d e f, Lillian Smith: The On-Target 'California Girl' by Julia Bricklin, Retrieved Dec. 27, 2014.
  7. ^, 1870 United States Federal Census, Retrieved Dec. 29, 2014.
  8. ^, Massachusetts Birth Records (1840-1915), Retrieved Feb. 19, 2015.
  9. ^, 1900 United States Federal Census, Retrieved Dec. 29, 2014.
  10. ^, Massachusetts Marriage Records (1840-1915), Retrieved Dec. 29, 2014.
  11. ^ Larry McMurtry (2006). The Colonel and Little Missie: Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, and the ... , p. 153: "Lillian Smith was billed as a rapid-fire shooter; she broke innumerable glass balls or plates in quick succession. Insofar as there was a division of labor in this early stage of the show's evolution, Lillian Smith was the rifle shot, Annie Oakley the genius of the shotgun. Annie, who could shoot either weapon proficiently, decided to up the ante by developing acts in which she herself was in motion."
  12. ^ Wallis, Michael (2000). The Real Wild West: The 101 Ranch and the Creation of the American West. St. Martin's Press. p. 672. ISBN 978-0-312-26381-2. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
  13. ^ Find-A-Grave (Lillian Frances Smith), Retrieved Dec. 27, 2014.
  14. ^ NewsOK (August 21, 1999), Rifelewoman's Grave Found In Cemetery In Ponca City by Michael McNutt, Retrieved Dec. 29, 2014.
  15. ^ Blogspot, Sweethearts of the West: Authors Writing Romance Set Under the Western Skies by Sarah J. McNeal (The 101 Ranch and Wild West Show), July 18, 2014], Retrieved Feb. 20, 2015.
  16. ^ Oklahoma Historical Society, Pawnee Bill Ranch (Lillian Smith), Retrieved Dec. 27, 2014.
  17. ^ Kay County, Oklahoma (101 Ranch), Ponca City News (February 6, 1930) -- Obituary of Princess Wenona, A.K.A. Lillian Smith, Retrieved Dec. 27, 2014.
  18. ^ Shirl Kasper, Annie Oakley, 1948, Library of Congress ISBN 0-8061-2418-0, University of Oklahoma Press (1992), page 60, Retrieved Jan. 11, 2015.
  19. ^ Buffalo Bill's Wild West Company, Buffalo Bill's Wild West, America's National Entertainment: An Illustrated Treatise Of Historical Facts And Sketches, 1887, Allen, Scott & Co. London, page 49, Retrieved Jan. 11, 2015.

See also[edit]