Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Josephine, Red Beard and Crazy Joe - a blog post revisited

I posted on a peculiar census record here back in April. Now a comment has appeared on that post from Ann Hathaway Boll, who wrote:

"I am an amateur genealogist and historian in Wichita, KS. A friend directed me to your peculiar census record, knowing I research madames and prostitutes of early Wichita.

"The census taker was undoubtedly all too well aware of the occupations of the members of the Palmer household, and was probably bored when he wrote those occupations for the female boarders. Josephine DeMerritt was the first name on the next page of the census, and that's why she and Nellie didn't get the same treatment as the ladies on the previous page.

"I can tell you for certain that Josephine was indeed a prostitute, and Nellie almost certainly was as well. The Palmers ran a brothel. It wasn't as fancy as a parlor house, but it was better than a crib on the line. At the time of the 1870 census, the railroad in Kansas only ran as far south as Ellsworth.

"By the time of the 1871 season, the railhead had been extended to Newton, and Josephine had gone south as well. She had become the mistress of Edward T. "Red" Beard, who ran a dance hall in Newton. By 1872, the railhead had been extended to Wichita and Red and Josephine had a dance hall in Delano, the lawless township on the west side of the Arkansas River from Wichita.

"Red had a running feud with "Rowdy Joe" Lowe, who had also moved his rival dance hall south with the railhead, and right next door to Red's. It all came to a head on a day in October 1873 when Rowdy Joe shot Red Beard.

"Josephine claimed that Red had made her a co-owner of the dance hall in Delano, but when Red's wife showed up in Wichita the papers were proved to be a forgery. Josephine spent a couple of years in Leavenworth Penitentiary, was released, and ended up in Leadville, CO.

"After escaping to Fort Worth, Texas, Rowdy Joe spent some time in Leadville as well, before ending his days in Denver. Josephine was one of the few prostitutes I have researched who used her own name instead of an assumed name. "

My thanks to Ann for providing those insights. I hope she doesn't mind my promoting her research work to the top of my blog stack. It's amazing what information you can find if you have access to the records, and the patience to search them. I hope that Ann enjoys her research!

That census record was one of the funniest I've ever seen - not because they were prostitutes, but because of the unique "occupations" given in the census records.

I Googled the name "Josephine DeMerritt" to see if there was any other information online. There are only two hits for Josephine, my earlier post and an expired eBay auction for a book described as "Gunfighters-Lawmen-Army Scouts-Buffalo Hunters-Old West" which apparently has the names of Red and Josephine in it, since they are listed in the book description on the web page.

1 comment:

Chris said...

There are two more interesting results if you search for Josephine at Google Book Search.