Peg Leg AnnieWhile backpacking in the remote Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, grandson Skylar Schisler, old friend Dan’l Case, and I came upon a ghost town left over from the great Idaho gold rush of the 1860s. From a population of about 2,500 at its peak, Rocky Bar now consisted of a few decaying buildings slowly melting back into the earth—and the ghosts of the miners and women who once made it boom.

Among the ghosts I could almost hear the voice of Peg Leg Annie McIntyre.

Women were scarce on the mining frontier. Those belles who joined the rush, most of whom were “soiled doves,” lived as rough and boisterously as their male counterparts.

Felicia Ann McIntyre was 6-years old on Independence Day 1864 when she rode into Rocky Bar perched on her father’s shoulders. Her mother had died at childbirth. Her father, Stephen, fell dead in a claim dispute that led to gunfire, leaving Annie alone and an orphan at age 12 in one of the mining West’s most lawless towns. Thus launched the saga of “Peg Leg Annie.”

Through the local ladies of the night, Annie met a prospector named Thomas Morrow and moved in with him when she was 14-years-old. She married him three years later. It was not a marriage made in Heaven. Morrow was an abusive husband prone to drunkenness and wife beating.

Within the year, the Morrows departed Rocky Bar for parts unknown. Annie returned a widow in about 1889, now a mature woman. Rumor had it that she had taken matters—and a .45 Colt—into her own hands regarding her brutish husband.

Peg Leg rockybar1867-aWise in the ways of gold camps, Annie prospered over the next several years. As a madam, she owned and operated “houses of entertainment” as well as boarding houses, saloons and mining claims. After her experience with her no-account husband she swore she would never fall in love again.

Then into Rocky Bar rode a tall, good-looking, fast-talking drifter. No one in town knew where Henry Longheme came from or where he was going. He tarried long enough to weasel his way into Annie’s home, into her heart, and then to swindle her out of her life savings before he moved on.

Now in her 30s, Annie had pulled herself out of previous tragedies with grit and courage. But after this latest misadventure of being left penniless by the man she loved, she sank into bitterness and into her cups. She and her best friend, prostitute Emma von Losche, better known as “Dutch Em,” could be found almost any evening blazing a raucous trail through the saloons and dance halls of Rocky Bar.

On a late evening in May 1896, Annie and Em were hitting their usual watering holes in the mining camp of nearby Atlanta when they decided to hike 17 miles up through James Creek Summit Pass and around Bald Mountain to attend a dance in Rocky Bar. Well on their way to stumbling down drunk, they grabbed a couple of extra bottles to keep them warm and took off.

A high-country blizzard swept through during the night, engulfing the entire mountain in curtains of snowfall. The two women sought refuge in the shelter of a large boulder where they huddled together to conserve body heat and escape the storm’s fury.

Two days later, the mail carrier between Atlanta and Rocky Bar came upon Annie flailing about in deep snow, jabbering incoherently, her feet and legs frozen as solid as blocks of ice. Search parties located Dutch Em frozen to death at the big boulder.

By the time a doctor arrived in Atlanta from Mountain Home 80 miles away, gangrene had claimed Annie’s legs. The doctor laid her out on a kitchen table, shot her up with anesthetics, and amputated both legs above the ankles. Months later, after she healed, Annie fashioned a pair of woolen pads for her stumps that enabled her to walk, albeit clumsily, and that garnered her the handle by which she became forever known: Peg Leg Annie.

Peg Leg Annie finished life bootlegging whiskey from her lonely cabin in Rocky Bar while drinking up much of her profits. She became a common fixture in a chair in front of her cabin with a loaded shotgun across her lap to prevent customers from walking off with her stores.

The Saga of Peg Leg Annie ended in Rocky Bar in 1934 when she “gave up the ghost” to cancer at the age of 76, a symbol of the hardy women who populated the gold boom camps of the Wild West. Rocky Bar likewise “gave up the ghost” thereafter. Someone noted in eulogy that Annie was of a generation made up of tougher, drunker stock.

Charles W. Sasser is author of over 60 published books available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and most book stores. He has also published in excess of 3,000 magazine articles and short stories. His latest book is Crushing The Collective: The Last Chance to Keep America Free and Self-Governing. A historian, he has articles pending publication in American History, WWII History, Vietnam, Lost Treasure, Oklahoma Living, Wild West. . .