From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Adams, Mary and Maria [Dutrieuille]

Mary and Maria Adams were sisters from Kentucky. In 1875 Maria moved to Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory to join Mary, who worked for the family of Lieutenant-Colonel George A. Custer. Mary was a cook and Maria was hired as a maid. They were later joined by their younger sister Karlene and their cousin Nancy Mucks, both from Kentucky. 

There is an ongoing debate as to whether Mary or Maria (or neither) was in camp with Custer the day before the Battle of Little Big Horn, and if she overheard Custer being given verbal orders by General Terry, instructing him to use his own judgment and do what he thought best should he strike the Indian trail. In 1878, in Bismarck of Dakota Territory, a notarized statement was taken from Mary as to what she had overheard at the camp, opening the door to speculation that Custer had not disobeyed orders. Other sources say that it was actually Maria who was in the camp. Though, letters written by Custer named Mary as his cook in the camp, while Lieutenant Charles L. Gurley reported that Mary was at the house and opened the door when he brought the news of the death of Lieutenant-Colonel Custer and his men.

In 1873, Mary had come from Elizabethtown, KY, to the Dakota Territory with Custer and his regiment (part of the 7th Cavalry). Custer and the regiment had been ordered to Kentucky after the Battle of Washita in 1871. After about a year and a half, they moved on to Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory. Mary Adams accompanied Custer, as his cook when he was on military expositions away from the fort. After Custer's death at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876, Mary and Maria Adams left Fort Abraham Lincoln. They moved to Montana where Mary died in 1879, she was born in 1849. According to author J. S. Manion, Mary and Maria were probably born in Lexington, KY.

In 1880, Maria was working as a laundress when she met and married John Lambert "Duke" Dutrieuille, a barber in Benton who owned his own shop. Duke died in 1911, and Maria moved with their two children, Frank and Marie, to Great Falls, Montana. Maria Adams Dutrieuille died in 1939, she was born around 1852, according to the 1880 U.S. Federal Census.

For more on the Dutrieuille family in Montana see Small Collection 1584 at the Montana Historical Society Research Center, and in the Photo Archives are pictures of Duke and Maria Dutrieuille (Collection PAc 80-23). See also the "Club Woman: Marie Dutrieuille Ellis," pp.126-128, in chapter 7 by P. Riley in African American Women Confront the West, 1600-2000 edited by Q. Taylor and S. A. W. Moore. For more on the debate as to whether Mary Adams was in camp with Lieutenant-Colonel George A. Custer just prior to the Battle of Little Big Horn, see Custer Legends by L. A. Frost; Archaeology, History, and Custer's Last Battle: the Little Big Horn reexamined by R. A. Fox, Jr.; Custer and the Little Big Horn: a psychobiographical inquiry by C. K. Hofling; and General Terry's Last Statement to Custer: new evidence on the Mary Adams affidavit by J. S. Manion.

Kentucky County & Region

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Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Elizabethtown, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Adams, Mary and Maria [Dutrieuille],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 12, 2024,

Last modified: 2017-09-29 23:35:50