ANSONIA — In many ways, even while alive, famed sharpshooter Annie Oakley was larger than life.
Now, nearly 90 years after her death, a mural of “Little Sure Shot” on a Darke County barn towers above even the tallest among us.
On Friday, dignitaries and citizens gathered in Dawn, Ohio — an unincorporated community east of Ansonia to officially unveil a portrait of the county’s legendary native daughter.
The mural, facing north, is approximately 10 miles north of Greenville, seven miles south of North Star, and won’t be easily ignored by southbound drivers on U.S. Route 127.
The painting, done by barn painter Scott Hagan, shows Oakley in a standing position, aiming her rifle and includes her quote, “Aim at a high mark and you’ll hit it.”
The painting took less than four days to complete. Hagan, well-known for painting barns in each of the state’s 88 counties to celebrate Ohio’s Bicentennial in 2003, was unable to attend the ceremony, however.
The barn itself is owned by Bob and Donna Peters, farmers who have lived at the location since 1971. The idea for having the barn painted came from their daughter, Sara Menzie, who saw a Facebook post by the Ohio History Connection seeking wooden barns for historical paintings.
“They were looking for a wooden barn on a well-traveled route and this ended up being it,” said Mrs. Peters.
Ohio History Connection Board President Glenda Greenwood said this is the second historical barn mural done in the state. The first mural completed was a representation of President Rutherford B. Hayes on a barn in Sandusky County, also painted by Hagan.
“We’re championing the project and finding local partners throughout the state,” said Greenwood. “The thing that we love about this, is that it’s the second barn [in Ohio] and it’s a female.”
Darke County Visitor’s Bureau Executive Director Matt Staugler welcomed attendees and introduced the speakers, including Greenwood, Darke County Commissioner Mike Stegall, State Representative Jim Buchy, and Annie Oakley’s great grand niece, Bonnie Perry.
“The family of Annie would like to express appreciation to Ohio History Connection, the Darke County Visitor’s Bureau, the Garst Museum, the Annie Oakley Center Foundation, and all of the area contributors that are helping to keep Annie’s legacy alive,” said Perry, after telling the audience a little bit of her family’s history, adding, “And a big ‘Thank You’ to Bob and Donna Peters for allowing this beautiful mural to be painted for the enjoyment of all the people passing by.”
Commissioner Stegall said, “This latest undertaking, the barn painting of ‘Little Sure Shot,’ Annie Oakley, will be a visual reminder to passersby that Darke County is more than just another county in Ohio. It will be a reminder that we acknowledge our glorious past and our heroes, past and present, and that our past examples are going to lead us to a brighter future.”
“Annie Oakley is, in my opinion, the epitome of the American dream,” said Rep. Buchy, “because she used her talent to be so successful in life. The thing that makes it so special is that she developed that talent out of need and force. She became a marksman because she literally had to provide food on the Mosey table. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of so many Americans.”
“She never gave up, she never quit. That is the leadership we all emulate,” Buchy added. “And by the way, it is the leadership that is so significant and [the] hallmark of Darke County. My House district…there’s no better place to live in the world. Why? Because of the leadership of people like Annie Oakley, who blazed the trail, set the pace, for us to rear our families with that thinking.”