David Hill wrote for the Forecaster a long time ago (2000):

Annie Oakley had links to Chebeague Island

by David R. Hill

Last year, my wife Nancy and I had the pleasure of seeing Marilu Henner and Tom Wopat starring in the San Diego production of "Annie Get Your Gun." While waiting for the show to begin, I turned to Nancy and wondered out loud who they would have playing my grandfather. "Why would your grandfather be in this?," Nancy asked. "Why not," I said, "he was a better shot than Annie Oakley!"

The front page of the Portland Press Herald reported on New Years Day, 1958, "Man Who Outshot Annie Oakley Dies." Portland's two television stations at the time, WCSH and WGAN (now WGME), also reported the death of the Chebeague Island native who launched his career as a sharpshooter by defeating the famed Annie Oakley in a contest arranged behind his back.

William G. (Billy) Hill was born on Chebeague in 1881 in a house that is now the home to the Great Chebeague Golf Club, which he actually helped to found almost fifty years later.

He got a one dollar air rifle for a present when he was around ten years old and quickly became adept at hitting small objects thrown into the air. During the summers of his teenage years, Billy worked as a bellboy and night clerk at the Rangely Lake House. While there, he joined the Rangely Gun Club and spent his spare time sharpening his already remarkable shooting skills, much to the admirationof the club members.

During his last summer at the Rangely Lake House around 1897, a guest from New Jersey arranged a shooting match between Billy and the famous Annie Oakley, then about 37 years old and working for Remington Arms Company performing exhibitions and demonstrating Remington arms and ammunition.

This match was a surprise to Billy, who otherwise would have never agreed to it. The challenge was to break small glass balls with a .22 caliber rifle. Annie did pretty well, breaking 88 out of 100 thrown into the air. But my grandfather missed only one. I've always wondered whether the one he missed was among the last dozen, just so he wouldn't skunk her completely. I've also wondered whether Billy was shooting a Remington rifle when he defeated Annie.

Annie Oakley was very impressed with the young boy from Maine and made a deal with him if he would agree to finish high school (not unlike finishing college today), he would have a job with Remington Arms Company when he graduated. But in the meantime he would have to practice, practice, practice with arms and ammunition supplied by Remington.

A couple of years later, Billy became a Maine Guide. One of his clients claimed to have heard of his prowess with a rifle and asked to see him shoot. After witnessing Billy in action, George W. Jenkins introduced himself as the president of Remington Arms Company and the deal was sealed Billy Hill would work as a sales representative for the company, demonstrating the power and accuracy of Remington arms and ammunition. Annie had kept her end of the deal.

Billy went on to a forty-five year long career with Remington, including teaching troops around the country to shoot during World War II. After the war, he retired back to his birthplace, Chebeague Island.

Irving Berlin's musical "Annie Get Your Gun" opened on Broadway in 1946 and ran for 1,146 performances, followed by the 1950 movie version and a children's TV series which ran from 1952 through 1956. The Broadway show introduced such standards as "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly," "Anything You Can Do," "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun" and the show-stopping "There's No Business Like Show Business."

In 1957, Evening Express reporter Mary Doughty from Chebeague Island wrote what Billy Hill thought of Mary Martin's recent television portrayal of Annie Oakley. "Well, there's no denying she's a cute trick, a top-ranking entertainer, and I'm sure Annie would have had a great kick at her get-up, for those togs she wore were funny indeed to me. Annie would have loved the entire performance though she'd have known from that first shot that Mary Martin couldn't hit the side of a barn door."

I can only guess what his assessment of Bradley and Tyler Putnam's performances would be in Greely High School's upcoming production of "Annie Get Your Gun." But I suspect it would be glowing with pride (if not a little bit of prejudice), since Bradley and Tyler of Chebeague Island are Billy Hill's great-great-grandsons.

Bradley and Tyler, along with fellow Chebeaguers Lauren Miller and Tom Damon (who are also distant relatives of Billy Hill) are all involved in the Greely production, which runs from Thursday,November 15 through Sunday, November 18. For more information, interested people are asked tocall Greely High School at 829-4805.

But I'd still like to see a stage production that tells the whole story of Annie Oakley and the kid from Chebeague Island!