Mollie Fly–The Woman at the OK Corral
By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton
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Not much is known about Mollie. You’ve probably never heard of her. But you know her husband. C.S. “Buck” Fly was THE photographer in Tombstone when the shoot-out at the OK Corral went down.
Mary “Mollie” McKie moved with her family to San Francisco sometime in the 1850’s, when she was around 8 or 10. The boisterous town may well be what fostered her desire for adventure, but a good upbringing kept her from falling into vice. In Defiance of the times, she took up the male-dominated hobby of photography. She also took up a husband, Samuel D. Goodrich. Apparently he wasn’t a good fit and, in a day when divorce was rare, Mollie showed him the door after only two years.
Soon, she met the dashing and adventurous Camillus Sidney “Buck” Fly, a young man who had grown up in the Napa Valley. He also loved capturing still life. We don’t know how they met. It’s a shame because they made a lasting impression on each other. We do know they married in Sept. of ‘79 and by December had arrived in the silver boomtown of Tombstone, AZ.
Within a year, they had gone from working in a tent to owning a 12-room boardinghouse that also housed the famous photography studio (the door of which was within spitting distance to the OK Corral). Buck spent a great deal of time riding the range, snapping beautiful photographs of the landscapes, as well as capturing historically valuable pictures of the Indian campaigns. A tiny gal known for her spunk, Mollie accepted the long absences and kept things humming at home. She ran the boardinghouse, took portraits for customers, and raised a daughter. Sometime in the early 1880’s, a young girl by the name of Kitty appeared on the census as a member of their household. It is not known whether she was Fly’s daughter or a simply a child they adopted, but Mollie loved her and took care of her like she was blood.
Part of that care included removing Kitty and herself from a bad situation when Fly’s drinking spiraled out of control. In ’87, Mollie divorced him and the famous photographer left Tombstone. Soldiering on, she kept the studio and boardinghouse running, but there is clear evidence she was nursing a broken heart. Mollie never remarried. She was at Fly’s side in Bisbee, AZ in 1901 when he breathed his last. She then arranged to have him buried in Tombstone, and bought him a nice, well, tombstone.
Mollie was Fly Gallery until 1912. Feeling her age, she retired to Los Angeles and died there in 1925. Prior to her death, she donated all of Fly’s negatives to the Smithsonian, well aware of the contribution her husband had made to history by chronicling the West.
Posted on February 10, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged a lady in defiance, Alaskan Gold Rush, American women, American Women in the Revolutionary War, C.S. Fly, christian fiction, Colonial America, Daughters of the American Revolution, dawson city, Female Patriots, Fremont St., gold rush, heather blanton, heather frey blanton, historical fiction, historical romance, Kathleen Eloise Rockwell, klondike, Klondike Kate, Mollie Fly, ok corral, Old West History, patriots, Photography in the Old West, pioneer women, tombstone, Tombstone AZ, women and guns, women in alaskan history, Women in the Gold Rush, women of the old west, Women who won the west, wyatt earp, Yukon. Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.
I love these little “looks” into the past that you give us, Heather! 🙂
Thanks, Terri. I really appreciate you taking the time to read’em. I promise I will start rewarding with contests very soon!
Heather, where did you get your Mollie Fly info from?
Several sources, all on-line. Historical societies and some .edu archives. I’ve been reading your article. Is the Boon Fly Diary published anywhere?
Do you know the “original” source pertaining to Mollie’s decision to leave C.S. because of his drinking.?…It would be a great help to my writings…
Heather, according to Tombstone newspapers, Mollie was in Tombstone in 1887
and still with C.S…
Epitaph…December 18, 1887…(Partial) “Mrs. Fly, who is also an accomplished photographic artist, will conduct the gallery in the city as usual.” …
Mollie did leave Tombstone in Nov. of 1888 to visit her parents but had returned to Tombstone by December 17, 1888..Epitaph…”C.S. Fly exhibits panoramic views in Florence. Wife remains in charge of of photographic gallery during absence.”
Epitaph…Sept. 9, 1890…”C.S. Fly and wife will leave for a visit to the Chiricahuas today.”…There are more if needed
I really enjoyed reading about all the “Ladies in Defiance”, but this one was especially interesting as Tombstone is one of my favorite movies.
Thank you, Sue! She sure was one of the unsung heroes of Tombstone.
I love this tidbit you shared with me. I will be looking for more of these interesting snips of our history. Thank you!
Sharon, thanks a bunch for reading!I am so inspired and humbled by these women. They just kept a-going, like the Duracell Bunny. I hate that I have to keep these so short, but I can tell ya, there are books here! I want to bring these women to life. One day I will. Would love to have you join me on facebook. Come on over! https://www.facebook.com/heatherfreyblanton
I wonder if Molly would be surprised that we all find her life so fascinating. We all have a story but we seldom think it would be of interest to others. Thanks for the great article Heather. Very interesting.
Gwen, that is so true. Every life is, indeed, a beautiful story. Thank you so very much for reading. Please check back in often, or subscribe, or join me on fb. I will be doing contests this year. I won’t bludgeion you over the head with annoying emails. Everyone needs free books or Amazon gift cards, right?!
Heather, I have just read this and I believe you have just solved a mystery for me. I have 3 tin type photographs by CS Fly 82 taken in Tombstone. Hidden in the folds of the baby’s coat – one letter per fold. Sadie Earp 82. She looks to be about a year old and is standing. I also have a “wedding” tin type photo of Wyatt and Josephine by CS Fly 82 and another, Doc Holiday, Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp CS Fly 82. Along with a straight razor and case, with an almost illegible, but there nevertheless, Wyatt Earp written across the case. These things have been hidden away in a dresser drawer for a possible 90 years and perhaps passed down prior to 1924. I was afraid that the baby had passed away, but now I believe this baby girl who magically showed up in Molly Fly’s household census in the early 80’s was Wyatt and Josephine’s child. So interesting. Thank you
Holy cow, Cheryl! If that’s true, you girl, have got a story on your hands! And I might add the photos are probably crazy valuable! Oh, please scan them and let me see! Please, please, please. Are you saying these photos were found in a baby’s coat?
Yes, Its very true, but they weren’t found in a baby’s coat. They were found in a dresser drawer belonging to the grandfather of the people (grandchildren) who were now going to sell the house he bought in 1924, They all grew up in the home, and when the grandfather died in 1965, the family retained the same home, and the grandchildren grew up in the same home. Their father then died late last year, and this spring it went up for sale. These items were all found together in the drawer. I understand that they are so fragile, so for them to survive 132 years is remarkable in itself. The drawer, I believe, kept them from the light and protected them. The grandfather was a former undersheriff in Keweenaw county somewhere around the turn of the century and then went on to work for the railroad for 17 years. He was born in 1872 and if I remember correctly his father was also in law enforcement for a time, I believe in Missouri, but I’d have to check on that. Yes, I will be able to send you photo’s. After writing to you last night, my Microsoft blocked my outlook account and being somewhat computer illiterate at this age, I have to get the Geek Squad to get me back in. I managed to access my mail from windows, but my screen is quite messed up. If you are in NY you are 3 hours ahead of me. Yes, I know they are valuable, when you hear the story of how I came to own them you will understand why I feel so incredibly blessed and in some way, “chosen” to save
them and perhaps contribute to a more accurate historical account of the “Tombstone” day’s and why Josephine was so sad and elusive about those day’s til the very end. I don’t understand “blogs” and I don’t really trust the internet, but I do know I should talk to you. If you send me your phone number via email I could call you. The day after I received them I had them professionally inserted (unbound) into acid free artist board and encased in a high grade artists uv protective case. I really don’t want the whole world knowing about this just yet. I am confident that these will pass any forensic testing and any other such scrutinization, but perhaps that will need to be done.
Cheryl, have you had the items authenticated?
Cheryl, this is absolutely fascinating stuff, but right now, this is a very public conversation. Why don’t you email me at email@example.com.
Yes thank you Heather , I will email you today. I need to get into a que for the geek squad though. I just don’t know how to navigate this mail site and don’t want to go near my files until it’s sorted out. I really never thought I would live long enough to see “cyber space” communications and really didn’t try to educate myself. Who could keep up? My daughter
tells me it’s a dangerous place and never to click on anything, so it was really a “leap” for me to respond to your article last night.
I came across this article 4 years too late but I’m responding anyway. I don’t understand why this lady Cheryl would not post the pictures unless she is not telling the truth but instead trying to get attention.
Um, yeah, I think I’ll keep my opinion to myself on that one. Thanks for reading!
Heather, I think you should compile all these articles in one book. I really enjoy getting them on Facebook and in my email. The women inspire me to be bigger and better than I am before reading their stories.
You’re my winner, Jeannette! You get a tote bag and a copy of Hearts in Defiance! Congratulations and Merry CHristmas! Email me your address at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Jeannette, you read my mind. I also am planning on writing novels about a few of these gals, namely Susan McSween and Ella Watson. Thank you for reading!
Please visit http://www.oldwestmagazine.com for more Fly info..
What source provided the following quote?…
“Part of that care included removing Kitty and herself from a bad situation when Fly’s drinking spiraled out of control. In ’87, Mollie divorced him and the famous photographer left Tombstone.”
Mollie and C.S were not divorced in 1887…Mollie and C.S. took in two children…No daughters from previous marriages or between themselves…No known record exists that states Flys adopted anyone…
I have a copy of Boon Fly’s diary and Fly family bible with Fly births beginning with sister Alice Jane Fly in 1836…
Gary S. McLelland
Here’s one: https://www.azwhf.org/inductions/inducted-women/mary-mollie-e-fly-1847-1925/
PS…Mollie lied about her age…According to Illinois census, she was born in 1843…As you well know, many claim to have unauthenticated “artifacts,” and use research without giving credit…
Even the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame get it wrong at times, as we all do…
Good luck with future writings…
Found this! This fella is looking for you! http://www.genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/fly/481/
Thanks Heather…Years ago, I tried to contact Mr. Fly but I was informed he had died….Thanks for the heads up…
Hey, thanks for the information!
http://home.comcast.net/~r.kreiner/flye/pafn12.htm So, these are the references I had handy.
And you can also check these sources. SOURCE: http://library.umkc.edu/spec-col/shadow-catchers/fly.htm
Ancestry.com. 1880 United States Federal Census, 1880 Census Place: Tombstone Village, Pima, Arizona; Roll: T9_36; Family History Film: 1254036; Page: 167.3000; Enumeration District: 2; Image: 0349.
Perhaps she did not legally divorce him, but it does appear she left him in ’87. The census record I looked at said they had one child in the household.
The content from history is really interesting particularly about the topic and you compiled it really nice.
Heather, you state that Kitty Fly is listed on a census as living with the Flys. Quote – “a young girl by the name of Kitty appeared on the census as a member of their household.” Unquote.
I am curious as to exactly which census that would be. The 1880 Tombstone census shows Mary and C.S. Fly along with Fly’s brother, Webster. The Tombstone 1882 census shows the same three people living together in the household. There is no mention of “Kitty”. Could you please advise me about the census, or any official record for that matter, that mentions Kitty? Thanks in advance.
Peter, I wrote this blog way back in 2014 and honestly don’t have access to the notes anymore. I would suggest doing a search on Coral Henry–she is the little girl the Flys unofficially adopted. Thank you for reading!