Friday, March 18, 2016

Lulu Bell Parr - Wild West Champion

With Nancy J. Farrier

Lulu Bell Parr_Photo by Terry Baer
We’ve all heard of the famous cowgirls, Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane. We know of their prowess with guns and horses, and the way they made a name for themselves in an era when women weren’t know to have such skills. One of the lesser known women who had a claim to fame in the time period is Lulu Bell Parr.


Lulu grew up in Indiana. Her parents died when she was very young, probably 3-years-old. She and her brother went to live with an aunt and uncle in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Living on their farm, Lulu fell in love with the animals and became a skilled rider by the time she was eight-years-old.


Although not much is known about Lulu’s early years, she left home in 1903 and joined the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show. She had skill in doing trick riding and shooting guns, but she excelled at riding bucking broncos. She seemed to have a knack for riding an unbroken horse and the people who flocked to the shows loved to watch her. At one point she was titled, “Champion Lady Bucking Horse Rider of the World.”


In 1908, Lulu left Pawnee Bill’s show and joined Colonel Cummins Wild West Brighton Tour. She wanted the chance to go to Europe and perform there. The highlight of her trip was the chance to perform in front of King Edward in England.

Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill

The following year, Lulu left Colonel Cummins because she had the chance to be part of the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Back in the United States, she traveled with Buffalo Bill until 1913. Buffalo Bill was so taken with Lulu that he presented her with an ivory handled colt with the words engraved, “Buffalo Bill Code to Lulu Parr – 1911.”


In 1916, Lulu moved back to the Pawnee Bill show, but the popularity of the Wild West shows was beginning to wane. Until her retirement in 1929, she went from one small time show to another. By the time she retired at fifty-three, she was broke.

Photo by Terry Baer

Lulu went to Ohio and lived with her brother and his wife. She often entertained neighborhood children with her stories of the wild west and the adventures she’d experienced. She collected mementos from her time with the shows. Lulu’s outfits that she wore were intricate and colorful. Lulu died in 1960 from a stroke.



Have you ever heard of Lulu Bell Parr? While most of us have heard of Buffalo Bill, have you ever heard of Pawnee Bill or Colonel Cummings? I would love to hear your thoughts.  



Nancy J Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and two grandsons. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Karen Ball of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.

16 comments:

  1. I've heard the name Lulu Bell before, but I never knew anything about her. And I've never heard of the two gentlemen before. This was quite interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for commenting chappydebbie. I'm glad you enjoyed the blog.

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  2. I've been a fan of Annie Oakley since we did a class play one year based on Annie Get Your Gun! As to LuLu, I've not heard of her but she sounds interesting!

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    1. Yes, Annie Oakley is very well known, but I'd never heard of Lulu until recently. Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. Nancy, I loved your post about Lula Bell. We have a Pawnee Bill ranch in OK, and they host Wild West shows on the weekends during the summer. It's a fun summer evening, especially for us historical writers. Here's a link: http://www.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.18022 This has me thinking that I should take my granddaughter there this summer. :)

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    1. Vickie, how fun that would be. Thank you for sharing the link. If I'm ever in OK, I'll have to try to stop there.

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  4. Never heard of Lulu but she sounds fascinating as much about that era was. Love the history and will be researching more about her and other women of the west for my western fiction in progress. Women like Stage Coach Mary and Lulu were made of sturdy stuff we can only imagine. Good post.

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    1. Marlene, thanks for your comments. I find the western history fascinating too. In March 2014, my blog was about Stagecoach Mary. Another interesting bit of history.

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  5. This is fascinating, Nancy! My mother was born in 1916 in the Kokomo, IN, area, and she was named Lulu. I always heard that she was named for Little Lulu, but because of the timeframe I wonder if Lulu Bell might have factored into it too. Her parents were Amish, btw, though Mom became Mennonite. And she informally changed her name to Lula later in life, so evidently she didn't like Lulu!

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    1. J.M., interesting thoughts about your mother's name being influenced by Lulu Bell. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. What a great post, Nancy! I was unaware of LuLu but what a woman! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Melanie, I'm so glad you enjoyed reading about Lulu Bell. I'm so glad you stopped by.

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  7. Very interesting, Nancy! I'd never heard of Lulu Bell Parr, Pawnee
    Bill, or Colonel Cummins. Living where I do I'm not as familiar with
    the actual history of the Old West. It's neat that Lulu's aunt and
    uncle let her pursue the riding that she loved.

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    1. Kathleen, I hadn't heard of any of them until recently. I saw a picture of Lulu Bell and wanted to learn more about her. Such fun research. Thanks for your comments.

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  8. I had not heard of any of these heroes except Wild Bill Cody. Sm Wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  9. That's really fascinating, she's from my neck of the woods and I've never heard of her. Thanks for sharing her story!

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