Category Archives: Arizona Ghost Towns

The Hash Knife Around Holbrook: Chapter One

Chapter One: Beginnings of the Brand

c 2019 by Jan MacKell Collins

This chapter is excerpted from The Hash Knife Around Holbrook, available in both paperback at https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467130936 or on audio at https://www.amazon.com/Hash-Knife-Around-Holbrook-America/dp/B00UTSFP1W/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=.

Most historians agree that Hash Knife history began in 1874 when John Nicholas Simpson registered his first brand, the “Long S”. Simpson moved to Weatherford, Texas from Tennessee in 1866, operating a dry goods store between 1867 and 1872 before turning to ranching. In about 1874, the “Long S” brand was soon replaced by that of a hash knife: a common cooking tool whose brand was difficult to alter.

 

The new Hash Knife brand was certainly in place by 1877 when Simpson and his partner, James Couts, were using it. Tennessee native James Robertson Couts was a farmer when he moved to Weatherford, Texas in 1865. A year later, he used money earned from a cattle drive to California to establish the first bank at Weatherford. By 1872 he was one of the wealthiest men in the region. Couts purchased a half interest in John Nicholas Simpson’s cattle outfit in 1877. About a year later, Simpson and Couts registered the Hash Knife brand in Taylor County, Texas.

 

Thus began a long and illustrious life for the legendary Hash Knife brand. The first ranch headquarters was a dugout above Cedar Creek that would later become Abilene. Simpson made sure Abilene’s first railroad, the Texas & Pacific Railway, would run right by his ranch. He furthermore made sure the town was built directly along the tracks to assure its success. Shortly afterwards, Simpson expanded the brand west to Pecos and Baylor County, and formed the Continental Cattle Company.

 

In Baylor County Simpson did business with the infamous Millett brothers, the area’s own bad boys. The Millett brothers were a rough bunch when John Simpson met them. Citizens of nearby Seymour feared them. Ott Black, who worked for the Milletts and the Hash Knife, called the Millett Ranch “one of the toughest spots this side of hell” and commented that only “a rustler or gunman could get work with them.”

 

Even as he witnessed a bloody shootout at the Millett Ranch while signing the papers, Simpson purchased some land and cattle. He also continued buying smaller outfits around Texas while making even grander plans for a range in Montana.

 

The Hash Knife’s first trip to Montana was most likely dangerous and more than a little exciting. Cowboys on the trip had probably never been out of Texas, making their journey a true eye-opener. Cowboys on the trail relied heavily on nourishing grub and strong coffee to make it through the long workday. In 1882 Jacob “Dutch Jake” Heckman served as the cook on the Continental Land and Cattle Company’s first jaunt from Texas to Montana.

 

The Montana holdings, built along the Little  Missouri River, were located roughly 20 miles from the tiny community of Stoneville. Three years would pass before Ekalaka was founded, shortening the distance from civilization to just 20 miles. The Continental Land and Cattle Company headquarters were built on Box Elder Creek. When the first herds arrived in the summer of 1882, foreman William Lefors arranged for two cabins to serve as headquarters. The foreman used one cabin on the left for his home and office. Cowboys slept and ate their meals in the other cabin.

 

Plenty of other cowboys came and went during the Hash Knife’s time in Montana. Other men who worked for the Montana outfit were Clarence Sisley, Pete Buzman, Johnnie Pannel and Jay Griffen Shelden, who joined the Hash Knife outfit at Box Elder Creek. In 1885 Stoneville was renamed Alzada in honor of his mother, Laura Alzada Flagg. Shelden later married and homesteaded at Alzada, but his wife couldn’t bear the loneliness of ranch life and left him. Shelden died in Belle Fourche in 1912.

 

Some of these men came with the cattle from Texas. Montana cowboys looked upon the Texas cattle as poor stock; worse yet, their keepers appeared equally lanky in stature. Cowboy Walt Colburn noted that Texas cowboys “were a different breed of cowhand for the most part.”

 

Puzzling over whether lanky Texas cattle and cowboys could survive Montana’s cooler altitudes was soon overshadowed by George Axelby a Hash Knife cowboy who came with the herd from Texas but soon turned rogue. Within a short time he was hunting buffalo, fighting with Native Americans and forming a gang with other Hash Knife cowboys-turned-outlaws. Axelby’s actions soon caught the attention of authorities, who battled it out with the gang at Stoneville. There were several casualties. Axelby escaped, only to be killed four months later.

 

In 1884 the Continental Cattle Company combined its holdings with the Mill Iron Cattle Company in Montana and sported the new name of the Continental Land and Cattle Company. The Mill Iron Ranch was located roughly 80 miles from Stoneville, with the Continental Land and Cattle Company somewhere between the two places. The Great Western Cattle Trail from Texas ended at Stoneville, but Hash Knife cattle still needed to be pushed on to one of the two ranches. Still, the Mill Iron Ranch benefited greatly from the Western Trail.

 

There is little doubt that Hash Knife cowboys appreciated a night at the Mill Iron, whose bunkhouse likely offered better lodging than the cabin on Box Elder Creek. Henry Warren, the ever flexible employee of the Hash Knife, was in charge of the Mill Iron operations.

 

During the 1880s, the federal government rationed beef to various Indian reservations in Wyoming, Dakota Territory and Montana. This allowed the Hash Knife to sell their beef at government prices. The largest shipment was likely 2,500 head delivered to Fort Yates, North Dakota in 1883.

 

By 1885, the Continental Land and Cattle Company’s letterhead from the main office in Dallas included both the Hash Knife and Mill Iron brands. A branch office was also located in St. Louis. Principle officers of the company occasionally left their cushy suites in these big cities to visit Hash Knife ranches in Texas, Montana and later, Arizona.

 

The opportunity to expand to other states came when surveyor Edward Kinsley of the Atlanta & Pacific Railroad spied Arizona’s vast lands. The Aztec Land and Cattle Company formed, and the Hash Knife brand moved there with its reputation still under fire.

 

John Simpson’s brother, Ed, was hired as manager of the Aztec Land and Cattle Company before resigning in 1890. Simpson and Couts also hired Henry Warren, a former government freighter and sometime client of James Couts, around 1877. Over time he became a trustee for the Continental Land and Cattle Company, serving as both manager and president of the Aztec Land and Cattle Company in Arizona. Warren stayed with the Aztec until his death in Arizona in 1917.

 

Back in Texas, the Hash Knife continued operations for many years. The Knox Brothers may have owned the ranch before Elmer Stevens and Roy Stevens bought it in the early 1920s, and Lowe Stout was their ranch foreman. During the Great Depression the ranch was turned back to the Knox Brothers, and John D. Mounce lived at the ranch with his family. Later, a Mr. Anderson leased the ranch. As for Stout, he and his wife, Alice Robertson, ranched on Miller Creek for many years.

 

When the Hash Knife in Baylor County decided to build new headquarters overlooking the Brazos River, the old headquarters became home to the Howe family. Aubrey and Midlred Howe Lunsford inherited the house in 1953. According to one source, “It had seen 90 years of service and was pretty well ready for the scrap pile.” The Lunsfords tore it down.

 

Likewise, the Hash Knife also continued operations in Montana for several years. In 1897, the State of Montana accused the Continental Land and Cattle Company of failing to pay enough taxes. Hash Knife cowboys who were witnesses at the trial included Phil DeFrand, Ed Ramsberg, Jim Connley, Frank Castleberry and H.H. Floyd.

 

Good Time Girls of Arizona & New Mexico: A Red Light History of the Southwest

c 2019 by Jan MacKell Collins

As part of the new Good Time Girls series in historical prostitution, I am please once again to announce that my new book, Good Time Girls of Arizona and New Mexico has arrived!

It is no secret that I absolutely love writing about shady ladies of the past. Their bravery, dilligence and determination to survive make many of them heroes in my book. Here we have women bearing raw and untamed lands, oppressive heat, little water and a host of unknowns to settle in the southwest during a time when most “respectful” women dared not cross the overland trails. Oppressive too was the society in which these ladies lives, overcoming public shaming and shunning to make their way in a man’s world. Their stories naturally range from tragic to triumphant; all of them should be remembered as human beings, sisters, wives, daughters and mothers.

Expanding on the research I did for Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains (University of New Mexico Press, 2009 – out of print) and Wild Women of Prescott, Arizona (The History Press, 2015), this tome is a closer look at some of the ladies I wanted to know more about. Included here are chapters on Jennie Bauters, Big Bertha (of Williams, AZ), Sarah Bowman, Lizzie McGrath, Sadie Orchard, May Prescott, Jennie Scott, Silver City Millie and Dona Tules—all madams who were astute businesswomen and wielded much power and profit during their time. Also included are lesser known women such as the Sammie Dean of Jerome, AZ and the fierce Bronco Sue Yonkers. I visited ladies of the camp, wanton women on the Santa Fe Trail, and plenty of other women who dared to work in the prostitution industry and defied the laws, societies and men who tried to suppress them.

For those of you wishing to order the book, you can do so at this link: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781493038114/Good-Time-Girls-of-Arizona-and-New-Mexico-A-Red-Light-History-of-the-American-Southwest

 

Good Girls Gone Bad: An Overview of Prostitution in the West

c 2018 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in True West magazine.

There is no better way to liven up a conversation than to bring up the intriguing subject of prostitution history in the West. After all, talking about sex is interesting. The thought of someone paying for it brings up a facet that diverts from societal and cultural ideals about how and when sex should be employed. It also brings forth a slew of questions, from how business was conducted to how the industry maintained a business relationship with governments big and small. In between are enough bawdy stories to make a sailor blush.

Writers about prostitution have covered pretty much every aspect of this naughtiest of subjects. Their offerings have ranged from official documents classifying prostitution as a crime to news articles both serious and lighthearted, with lots of gray area in between. Many history books have served well to give the reader some excellent insight into the red light underworld. Unfortunately, even the most scholarly history can easily be romanticized as a number of B-grade movies and television shows will attest. 

Although prostitution in the West could indeed be gritty and dangerous, it was not always so. The industry’s fascinating timeline dates to the days of mountain man rendezvous, when certain Native Americans offered their wives and daughters for sex with their Anglo “guests”. Most tribes regarded sex as a very healthy and integral part of life. The Assiniboine Indians of the Great Northern Plains commonly lent out their daughters for sex, always in trade for goods. The more the girls brought, the greater the respect for them and their families. Extreme promiscuity, however, was largely frowned upon among by all Native Americans.

One of the earliest cultured women to make their presence known in the west was Santa Fe’s celebrated courtesan, Madam Gertrude Tules. Known by many other names, Gertrude first appeared in New Mexico in 1815. In 1822 she married Manuel Antonio Sisneros and set about alternating her time as a mother with honing her gambling skills. She began playing cards professionally in about 1825, traveling to outlying camps and even paying fines as she continuously won at the tables. By 1841 Gertrude was single again and romancing powerful and intelligent men who could assist in her career even as she opened her first brothel. 

Gertrude served an elite group of customers that included churchmen, army officers and politicians. Her presence at social affairs was often noted by the papers but in time descriptions of her fluctuated. “An old woman with false hair and teeth,” commented pioneer wife Susan Shelby Magoffin. “Young and blooming as ever,” reported the Santa Fe Republican. Beauty was, indeed, in the eye of the beholder.

By the time of her death, in 1852, Madam T had amassed a considerable amount of wealth in property, jewelry, winnings, brothel proceeds and debts owed to her by other gamblers. By then, more and more predominantly male settlers were coming West. The need for female companionship grew. Exploring, mining and surviving in the early camps of the Rocky Mountains was harsh and lonely. In some places men pined for women to the extent they would pay just to view or touch female undergarments, whether or not a woman was wearing them. Any man bringing his wife to the frontier was considered rude if he declined to bring his mate to social functions and permit her to dance with other men.

Many of the few but brave women making their way from the east were looking for riches via the skin trade. At the very least, they probably hoped some lucky miner would strike it rich and marry them. As pioneers began settling the west beginning in the late 1840’s, a series of mining camps, boomtowns, whistlestops, towns and cities began springing up. Almost without exception, these places became home to at least one or two soiled doves, if not a full on roaring red light district.

A number of red light districts evolved into the social centers of their communities. Places like Butte Montana, Cripple Creek Colorado, Cheyenne Wyoming, Albuquerque New Mexico and many more supported large populations of prostitutes who actually contributed heavily to city economies in the way of business licenses, fees and fines. Within the industry, the true professionals learned how to handle customers, what to charge and how to avoid drug abuse, violence, pregnancy and social diseases.

As the industry grew, so did the number of women who approached prostitution as a true business profession. It was a limited success; prostitutes working above the bars or in the seedier whorehouses rarely made enough to retire and often ended their lives by suicide, overdose or illnesses associated with in living in squalid places on the primitive frontier. Gonorrhea, Syphilis and Chlamydia, potentially fatal maladies, ran rampant during the 1800’s. An 1865 hospital report in Idaho City, Idaho stated that one out of every seven patients was suffering from venereal disease. Botched abortions and murder rounded out the number of women who died while working as prostitutes.

Madams who had more control over their businesses fared better, but not much. Witness the legendary Pearl DeVere, who arrived in Cripple Creek in 1894 and soon was running the most successful parlor house on Myers Avenue. By the time the first of two devastating fires in1896 burned her brothel to the ground, the divine Ms. DeVere had enough clout to borrow money from a New York investor and build an even better pleasure palace. Six months later, she overdosed on morphine following one of her Saturday night soirees.

Madam “Belgian Jennie” Banters of Jerome, Arizona ran several brothels. One of her places included a lavish waiting room where “a trim maid in spangled short skirt and a revealing bodice” brought drinks to clients. Jennie was allegedly extremely wealthy when she moved to Goldroad, south of Kingman. In 1905 her ex-lover broke down her door and shot her. Jennie ran into the street, but the man chased her down and shot her twice more. He left long enough to reload his gun but soon returned. “Observing that she was not yet dead,” reported the Mohave County Miner, “he moved her head so that he could get a better shot, and then deliberately fired the pistol.” Jennie’s killer was hanged for the murder in 1907.

On the opposite end of the spectrum were women like Denver’s Mattie Silks who stated, “I went into the sporting life for business reasons and for no other. It was a way for a woman in those days to make money and I made it.” Mattie ran a number of brothels in Illinois and Kansas before coming to Colorado with a “portable boarding house for young ladies”. During her career Mattie owned several brothels, married at least twice, kept a lover and regularly paid fines for running houses of prostitution. She also had a reputation for excellent service and often sheltered the homeless. Once, she netted a cool $38,000 running a bordello for three months in Dawson City, Alaska. Mattie spent her wealth well, having only a few thousand dollars left when she died in 1929.

Laura Evens of Salida Colorado, was also known for her civic duties, even as she admitted to being a party girl. “I was pretty young when I first became a sporting woman,” she later recalled, “and loved to sing and dance and get drunk and have a good time.” Her carefree attitude aside, Laura would pay young boys in cash to run her errands, admonishing them to tell their mothers, “You earned the money in honest work for a stranger.” She also sheltered abused wives and secretly paid the wages of men recovering from injuries on the job. “I doubt if anybody will ever know how many people Laura helped,” said a Salida politician in later years. “She was an entire Department of Social Services long before there was such a thing.” When Laura died in 1953 at the age of 90, she was buried in a lavender casket.

No matter their good deeds, all prostitutes suffered blatant hypocrisy at the hands of local government. Cities accepted monthly fines, fees, payoffs and taxes from their red light ladies even as authorities continually staged raids and arrests. In 1908 Dora Topham, the leading madam of Ogden Utah, was actually hired by Salt Lake City officials to operate a “legal” red light district. The idea appealed to Dora, who viewed prostitution with a realistic eye. “I know, and you know, that prostitution has existed since the earliest ages,” she explained, “and if you are honest with yourselves, you will admit that it will continue to exist, no matter what may be said or done from the pulpit or through the exertions of women’s clubs.”

Dora truly considered herself a “reformer”, explaining to her prospective employees “the awful shame, degradation, and misery that is invariably the final result of seamy life in the underworld.” Only if the girl was absolutely determined to pursue the prostitution path would Dora hire her. Per Salt Lake City’s approval, Dora oversaw construction of the “Stockade”, a city block surrounded by a high wall with several cribs, six parlor houses, a dancehall, saloons, a cigar store and even a small jail cell. Up to one hundred fifty women could work in the Stockade at any one time.

Unfortunately, the Stockade failed for numerous reasons. Prostitutes around town refused to sell their properties or move into the Stockade under the watchful eyes of authorities, requiring Dora to hire girls from out of town. Employees felt stifled by the stringent rules and regulations. Customers were hesitant to be seen entering the premises. Rules were broken. Raids were still staged to appease county, state and federal laws. There were public outcries. Ultimately, in 1911, Dora was accused of working as a madam by the same officials who had in fact hired her to do so. Dora had enough. She closed all of her brothels, changed her name, and quietly moved to San Francisco.

Authorities took a different approach with madam Laura Bell McDaniel of Colorado City, Colorado. Raised in Missouri, Laura Bell married and divorced before landing in Salida, Colorado as a single mother. After her second husband shot a man to death in front of her, Laura Bell left him and moved to Colorado City. She opened her first brothel in 1888. Most extraordinary was her relationship with her family, who lived nearby. The “Queen of the Colorado City Tenderloin” weathered two fires, sent her daughter to school, ran several bordellos and hobnobbed with the powerful businessmen of nearby Colorado Springs. When she refused to shut down in 1917,  authorities framed her for purchasing stolen liquor. She was acquitted, but died the next day in a mysterious car accident witnessed only by men from the District Attorney’s office in Colorado Springs.

Three major factors contributed to the end of frontier prostitution in about 1918. The first was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, formed as more and more wives came West and discovered what their men had been doing in the new land. Second were numerous military posts who were tiring of their soldiers falling victim to drunkenness, fights, social disease and other maladies associated with prostitution. “Our health tests have proven that if a potential recruit spends twelve hours in Billings, he’s unfit for military service,” a military officer warned Montana officials in 1918. “I am talking about your line of cribs where naked women lean over window sills and entice young boys in for fifty cents or a dollar. Close that south-side line in twenty four hours or the military will move in and do it for you.” Finally, national Prohibition in 1919 served to take all the fun out of partying and greatly reduced the red light districts. Prostitution as it was known in the West is truly a bygone era.

Victoria Behan: The Forgotten Life of an Embittered Wife

C 2018 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in True West magazine.

“I have been nearly driven to distraction!” So said Victoria Zaff Behan of her well known husband, John Harris Behan. This was in 1875 when, after six years of a more-than-rocky marriage, the lady decided to call it quits.

Victoria had already seen her share of struggles. She hardly knew her father, if at all. Her mother, Harriet Zaff, was a German immigrant. Harriet was living in Missouri when she gave birth to her first child, Benjamin, in about 1847. A daughter, Catherine, was born in 1849. In 1850 Harriet and her brood, sans a husband, were living with Leopold and Catharine Zaff in Jefferson, Indiana.

Harriet’s ramblings next took her to California. Victoria’s birth in 1852 was followed by that of her sister, Louisa, in 1854. By 1860 Harriet and her daughters were living at the gold mining camp of Little York in Nevada County, while Benjamin stayed behind with the Zaffs in Indiana.

How Harriet made her way among the miners of Little York remains a mystery. The census identifies her as a widow, but clues are scant as to the identity of her husband. He may have been Godfrey Zaff, a fellow German who was living in a Sacramento boarding house in 1850. The census that year indicates Zaff was married and labored as a “cutter of garments”. He died in April of 1860 at Nevada City, roughly seven miles from Little York.

Five months later, Harriet Zaff married John Bourke at Red Dog, located just a mile or so from Little York. Bourke was one of thousands of Irish immigrants who had joined the 49ers flocking to California’s goldfields. A son, John, was born to the Bourkes in 1862. The family next spent time in Mohave County, Arizona Territory before relocating to the budding city of Prescott in the winter of 1864.  

In Prescott, Bourke quickly found work managing the Quartz Rock Saloon. Between 1864 and 1867 he also joined the Arizona Pioneer and Historical Society, served as Yavapai County Sheriff and was ultimately elected County Recorder. For the first time, Victoria experienced a stable family life. She attended school, enjoyed her stepfather’s fine reputation in town, and became acquainted with Deputy Sheriff Johnny Behan.

John Harris Behan was born in 1844 to Irish immigrants in Missouri. He had been to California and joined the Union during the Civil War before serving as a clerk to the First Arizona Legislative Assembly at Prescott. In 1866 Bourke appointed him deputy sheriff and he quickly became popular. A September 1867 edition of the Arizona Miner, Prescott’s newspaper, kindly commented on Behan’s impending journey to visit family in Missouri. “We wish you a pleasant trip, Johnny,” the paper said, “and hope you will soon return in company with a better half.”

Behan’s “better half” would turn out to be Victoria Zaff. A couple of career mistakes aside, Johnny seemed a good prospect for marriage. He had a great job and was well liked. Besides, there was one more good reason to marry him: Victoria was pregnant. The couple wisely exchanged vows in far-away San Francisco in March of 1869. Their daughter, Henrietta, was born the following June. The couple no doubt hoped nobody would do the math. They didn’t, at least publicly.

The family Behan became a respected presence in Prescott. In January of 1870 the Arizona Miner noted the couple was building a stylish home on Capitol Hill, “one of the prettiest spots on the townsite.” Then in July of 1871 a second child, Albert Price, was born. Over the next two years, Johnny was elected Sheriff and appointed to the Seventh  Arizona Territorial Legislature.

Gradually, however, Behan began spending more and more time away from home. In time Victoria became aware that her husband favored Prescott’s Whiskey Row and its adjoining red light district. After awhile there was no sense in Behan keeping his habits a secret; Victoria later claimed she knew all along that her husband “openly and notoriously visited houses of ill fame and prostitution.”

The marriage crumbled further when Behan lost his re-election campaign for Sheriff in 1874. On those occasions when he actually managed to make it home from Whiskey Row, Victoria remembered their terrible fights. During those times, Victoria claimed, Johnny would approach her in “a threatening and menacing manner calling me names such as whore and other epithets of like character and by falsely charging me with having had criminal intercourse with other men, threatened to turn me out of the house, quarreling with, and abusing me, swearing and threatening to inflict upon me personal violence.”

Perhaps it was such an argument in December of 1874 that sent Johnny into the arms of prostitute Sada Mansfield. There, according to Victoria, Johnny “did consort, cohabit and have sexual intercourse with the said [woman]…openly and notoriously causing great scandal…all of which came to the knowledge of this plaintiff.”

The Arizona Weekly Miner yielded no clues to the Behan’s failing marriage in the coming months, reporting instead on Johnny’s prospecting efforts in Mohave County and daughter Henrietta making the honor roll at school. But Behan’s discrepancies were outed on May 22, 1875 when Victoria filed for divorce. She was granted one in June and received custody of her children, plus child support—but for Albert only. Naturally, the glaring crossing out of Henrietta’s name on the divorce record led rumors as to why. Now, the ugly little secrets that had been harbored within the Behans’ private circle were on public display for all to see.

Local newspapers declined to comment on the divorce, but Victoria could not have missed the articles about Behan’s continued successes in law enforcement and politics. The newspapers were good to Victoria too, commenting on her charitable efforts and complimenting her family. “We have known [Mrs. Bourke] and her fair daughters to be industrious and an ornament to our good society,” praised the Weekly Miner in December of 1876.

The Behan’s separate lives were forced to come together once more when Henrietta succumbed to scarlet fever in March of 1877. Albert was also afflicted but escaped with a hearing impairment. From then on, Behan remained much a part of Albert’s life. During an excursion in 1879, “Mr. Behan took his little son Albert with him, and will in a short time place him under the care of an eminent physician in San Francisco for the purpose of having him treated for a slight deafness, occasioned by a severe sickness two years ago,” confirmed the Weekly Arizona Miner.

Victoria continued rebuilding her reputation. Memories of her scandalous divorce were fading, and in June of 1879 Lily Fremont, daughter of Governor John C. Fremont, noted in her diary that “Mrs. Behan, Mrs. Luke and Mrs. Rodenburg called.” Clearly, Victoria was moving on with her life. Behan, meanwhile, was rescued from an angry mob of Chinese men in late 1879 by constable Virgil Earp. It was perhaps this embarrassing incident that inspired him to open a saloon at Tip Top, a budding mining community in the nearby Bradshaw Mountains.

Behan was still at Tip Top when the census was taken on June 1, 1880, as was the notorious Ms. Mansfield with whom he had cavorted in Prescott. As for Victoria, she and Albert were still living with Harriet Bourke in Prescott. Victoria may have been blissfully unaware that her ex was pursuing a new love interest, Josephine Sarah Marcus. She most certainly knew of the affair, however, when Behan moved to Tombstone in 1881. If Behan told his ex-wife about his additional plans for another visit to San Francisco, he probably left out that he was going there to give an engagement ring to Marcus and convince her to join him in Arizona.

It is hard to say whether Victoria would have let Albert go live with his father in Tombstone had she known of Behan’s plan. Behan and son arrived in town in September of 1881 and awaited Josephine’s arrival in December. Soon, she was spending time at Behan’s Grand Hotel, caring for Albert when his father was away. “I came to love him as my own,” Josephine later said of Albert. “He was the only child I ever had in any sense of the word.”

Next, Behan and his new flame made plans to procure a house where they could live with Albert. It is likely that Victoria was unaware of the plan, or that the new “Mrs. Behan” had taken her nine-year-old son to his hearing specialist appointment in San Francisco. Allegedly though, that is what Josephine did. Upon returning to Tombstone, however, she found Johnny (possibly in bed) with another woman.

Josephine Marcus’ ensuing break up with Behan landed her in the arms of his political adversary, lawman Wyatt Earp. In August 1881, newspapers noted that Victoria had taken a trip to Mohave County, “visiting her sisters, cousins and aunts.” It is entirely possible she also retrieved Albert, for there is no mention of him being in Tombstone during the famed shoot-out at the O.K. Corral a few months later.

Albert would have arrived in Prescott in time to attend his mother’s wedding to Charles Randall on September 15. Randall was a hardware merchant who was, from all appearances, much better suited for Victoria. Heartbreak came, however, when the Randalls tried for children of their own. A daughter was stillborn in April of 1884 and another baby also died in November. A son, Owen Miner, was born in 1885 but lived just over a year. Victoria overcame her grief by focusing on Albert, who was sent to a California college in 1888.

In 1889 the Randalls were living at the Congress Mine when Victoria died suddenly on May 16 from “an attack of acute rheumatism.” The lady would have appreciated her epitaph in the Prescott Courier which read in part, “She was a good, true woman and friends, of which she had a great many, will be greatly grieved over her loss.” Pallbearers at her funeral included Yavapai County Sheriff “Buckey” O’Neill and former Prescott mayor Morris Goldwater.

Charles Randall remained at Congress, where he was elected postmaster in 1891. He eventually remarried and returned to Prescott. As for Albert, Victoria’s only surviving child maintained relationships with his family up to their deaths. He also pursued a career in law enforcement, an endeavor his parents surely would have been proud of. Between 1894 and 1922, Albert worked for the United States Customs Houses in Nogales, Yuma and Ajo. Beginning in 1897, his job included working as an undersheriff in those towns. He was still employed as such in 1912, when his father died in Tucson.

From 1918 to 1922, Albert achieved notoriety as a United States Marshal at Ajo. In 1927, according to Josephine and others, Albert visited she and Wyatt Earp at their Los Angeles home. During the visit Albert warned Wyatt that Billy Breakenridge, a former deputy sheriff under Johnny Behan, was writing a book with the intention of making Wyatt look bad (the tome, Helldorado, was published in 1928). “It seems a bit strange as I think of it,” Josephine later commented, “that the son of Sheriff Behan should show this interest in the reputation of his father’s political enemy. But the character of the two men—Wyatt Earp and the sheriff’s son—answers that, and the friendly gesture on the part of the younger man is a compliment to both.”

Ten years later, Josephine visited Albert at Tucson on the way to Tombstone for a “research trip”. With her were Harold and Vinneola Earp Ackerman who, with Mabel Earp Cason, planned to write a manuscript about Wyatt. Neither Breakenridge, the Ackermans, nor Cason interviewed Albert. If they had, he might have mentioned Victoria—although Josephine would have probably prevented such information from appearing in any public works.

With the deaths of Victoria’s sister Louisa in 1934 and Charles Randall 1942, fewer people remained who personally knew Victoria Zaff Behan. Alone with no immediate family, Albert Behan retired to the Arizona Pioneers’ Home in Prescott. When he died in 1949, his death certificate listed his parents as “unknown”. Even Albert Behan took the secret of his parents’ scandalous divorce to the grave.

Jerome, Arizona: America’s Ghost City

c 2016 by Jan MacKell Collins

Everyone, it seems, knows where Jerome is. From locals to tourists and people in far away places, this enigmatic little town—perched on Cleopatra Hill between Flagstaff and Prescott—draws visitors daily. There is an unexplainable charm about Jerome, ranging from its rollercoaster of historic mining eras to the unique shops scattered throughout town.

Jerome’s humble beginnings date to 1876 when the budding mining camp formed as claims were staked in the area. Copper was the name of the game, and in 1880, Frederick Augustus Tritle (soon to be Territorial Governor) and mining engineer Frederick Thomas began buying up claims. Soon after Tritle was named Governor, the partners brought in several eastern investors to form the United Verde Copper Company. One of them, attorney Eugene Jerome of New York, was made secretary and, consequently, the mining camp was named for him.

By 1883, Jerome had a post office and smelter. The “UV”, as it was known, also constructed wagon roads leading to Prescott, the Verde Valley and the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad at Ash Fork. A school opened in 1884. The miners of Jerome included those of American descent, but also Chinese, Croations, Irishmen, Italians, Mexicans and Spaniards. Their families mingled among each other and attended churches and social functions together.

The success of the UV was short-lived due to the price of copper falling by 50% in late 1884. Jerome suffered the first of many downward slides until about 1888, when William Clark purchased the mine, made improvements, enlarged the smelter and built the United Verde & Pacific Railroad to Jerome Junction some 27 miles from town. A public library opened in 1889, and by 1890 the population was up to 250 people.

Jerome eventually grew to be the fourth largest town in Arizona, but suffered from no less than four disastrous fires over time beginning in 1894. The town rebuilt after each conflagration, but also suffered issues as certain buildings occasionally slid downhill in the wake of jarring mine blasts. Hardy as it was, however, Jerome overcame these problems and incorporated in 1899. Local merchant and rancher William Munds was the first mayor, and within a year the population had reached 2,500 residents.

Being a large mining town naturally brought some unsavory elements to Jerome. Although there were plenty of upstanding businesses, there were also plenty of saloons, gambling halls and brothels. In 1903, the New York Sun dubbed Jerome “the wickedest town in the West”. Two years later, Mayor George W. Hull (who incidentally owned most of the land in town), ordered Jerome’s soiled doves to cease business along the main drag. The ladies complied, moving one street over—to Hull Avenue.

By 1917, Jerome’s mining industry was thoroughly broken in. There were roughly 20 working mines and during World War I, as copper prices reached an all—time high, miners went on strike for higher wages. Most of them were in turn deported from the district, some courtesy of two cattle cars belonging to the UV. The men were taken as far away as Kingman and even Columbus, New Mexico where they were released and advised never to set foot in Jerome again. Only a few of them ever returned.

The Great Depression once again slowed mining operations, and the UV was purchased by Phelps Dodge. Things picked up again due to high demand for copper during WWII, but the mine eventually closed again in 1953. Recognizing Jerome’s amazing and lively history, the Jerome Historical Society formed that same year. The Society began working with Phelps Dodge to preserve the town buildings, and even purchased numerous structures. In 1965, mine owner Jimmie Douglas’ palatial mansion on the outskirts of town was made into a state park, and two years later Jerome was designated a National Historic District.

Jerome’s history continues today with museums, shops and history spread all throughout the town. In 2012 the Jerome Historical Society formed the “Trilogy of Metals”, linking with Victor, Colorado and Virginia City, Nevada. Visitors can get a special passport, spend time and money in each town and return their stamped passport to the Historical Society for a wooden plaque with commemorative coins. A visit to Jerome is a great place to start, and end, an amazing journey about mining history.

Stories of Jerome’s wicked past can be found in Wild Women of Prescott, Arizona by Jan MacKell Collins.

The Hash Knife Around Holbrook: Introduction

The following is excerpted from The Hash Knife Around Holbrook, c 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins.

The book is available through ArcadiaPublishing.com, on Audible.com, or order from Western History Books on Amazon.com for a signed copy.

The Hash Knife brand—fashioned after a common cooking tool popular amongst camp cooks and ranch wives—has been a staple of cattle history for roughly 140 years. Established by John Nicholas Simpson in Texas, the brand has served ranches in Montana, Arizona and beyond. Companies who owned the brand—namely the Continental Land and Cattle Company, the Aztec Land and Cattle Company and Babbitt Brothers—functioned as some of the largest and most profitable organizations of their time. Between 1878 and 1901, five large-range ranches were established using the Hash Knife brand.

            Through the years, the brand has taken on a romance of its own. The admiration seems equally shared by those who worked for the Hash Knife, those who know of someone who did, or those who wish they had done so themselves. The picture or even a memory of cowboys roping cattle on the dusty prairies or gathering around the chuckwagon evokes a sentimental love for the cowboy way of life. Forget that working on the range was hard and often dangerous. To those men who did it, working cattle was worth the risk and gave them some of the best memories of their lives.

            In fact, the Hash Knife seems to have grown into its own symbol of cowboy life. During the last century, the name has come to identify any cowboy, ranch or company associated with the brand. And there were plenty of them. The men of the Hash Knife ranged from studious businessmen from New York to hard working cow punchers to rustlers and outlaws. The rustlers and outlaws are of particular interest to history buffs, since they add a bit of color to the story.

            It is true that by the 1880’s, the Hash Knife’s association with the notorious Millett brothers in Texas, plus a shoot out in Montana, had somewhat tainted the brand’s good name. When the Aztec Land and Cattle Company was formed to bring the Hash Knife to Arizona in 1884, the owners likely hoped the outfit would shed itself of its unsavory reputation. Some of the hands had been with the brand since the beginning. Many of them were good, hardworking men. A few others were not.

            The Aztec, as it was often referred to, acquired two million acres between Holbrook and Flagstaff. The cattle had hardly settled in before stories began circulating about rowdy cattle thieves, drunks and robbers terrorizing Holbrook. Their well-publicized exploits eventually inspired authors Zane Grey, W.C. Tuttle, Clarence W. Durham and others to expand on the boys’ daring adventures and write fictional novels about them. The Hash Knife soon became, and remained, a fascinating entanglement of fact, fiction and folklore.

                By the time Burton C. “Cap” Mossman was hired as superintendent in 1898, rustlers and outlaws did seem to be rampant around the Hash Knife. Mossman set to work cleaning house, firing half the crew within a month. He was assisted by foreman Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Wallace, with whom he had worked in Texas and hired soon after joining the Hash Knife. Wallace in turn hired cowboy George W. Hennessey, and the three men became lifelong friends.

            By 1899 there were some 30 hands working for the brand. There is no denying that a few questionable characters may have still been in the group, but by then the good guys far outweighed the bad guys. “The Hash Knife had the name of being a hard drinking, hard fighting outfit,” Hennessey later remembered, “but I never worked with a better bunch of men.”

            Good or bad, the cowboys of the Hash Knife worked hard. The Aztec had suffered through a particularly hard winter the year before and was now combating feed shortages and a four-year drought. After 17 years of owning the Hash Knife brand, the Aztec sold out to Babbitt Brothers of Flagstaff. It took about a year to settle matters and ship out the cattle, after which Cap Mossman resigned. Wallace and Hennessey followed suit within a few years.

            Babbitt Brothers carried on the brand, but many considered the sale the end of an era. Improved railroads, automobiles, telephones and other newfangled inventions were slowly changing the way of life across the west. The four Aztec headquarters between Holbrook and Joseph City, as well as eight line camps out on the range, slowly fell into disuse and all but disappeared. Some of the cowboys stuck around and worked for other outfits while others rode off into the sunset, never to be heard from again. But none of them forgot about the Hash Knife brand.

            For Wallace and Hennessey, working for the Hash Knife evolved into quite the family affair both during their time with the Aztec and after. Upon leaving the company Hennessey, Wallace, Wallace’s son Emmet, and fellow cowboy James Donohoe began establishing their own cattle companies, forming partnerships, and registering their own brands. Later, Hennessey and Donohoe each married one of Wallace’s six daughters.

            Even as Hennessey and Wallace became noted cattlemen in their own rights, the Hash Knife somehow remained an integral part of their lives. Long before Hennessey was elected mayor of Holbrook, newspapers continually recalled his days with the outfit. Wallace later purchased the OW Ranch west of Payson. The ranch was formerly owned by the Blevins family during the 1887 Pleasant Valley War, a notable skirmish involving both the Blevins and some Hash Knife men. When Hennessey died in 1973, he was revered as being the last surviving original Hash Knife cowboy.

            Today the descendants of the Hash Knife’s many cowboys, as well as a good number of admirers, continue to keep the brand’s history alive. A handful of ranches, bed and breakfasts, monuments, clubs and even a musical group lay claim to the Hash Knife name. Perhaps the best known of these is the annual Hashknife Pony Express Ride which takes place between Holbrook and Scottsdale each year.

            Details on the history of the brand have also been lovingly documented in fine works by Jim Bob Tinsley, Robert Carlock and Stella Hughes. Tinsley’s work, The Hash Knife Brand, gives a good overview of the Hash Knife’s evolution from a Texas cattle camp to a reigning ranch of Arizona. Carlock, who worked for the Aztec Land and Cattle Company, was able to provide more intimate details in his book, The Hashknife. Hughes’ husband Mack worked for the Hash Knife during the 1920’s. Her book, Hashknife Cowboy, provides insight into the brand’s later years through Mack’s eyes.

            In this newest rendition of Hash Knife history, George Hennessey and Frank Wallace also get to tell their stories for the first time. Their history, and that of the Hash Knife, is gathered from a number of books and articles, but also from first hand accounts written by themselves, their wives, their children and their grandchildren. Family stories have been passed down. Scrapbooks, photographs, letters and other memorabilia have been carefully saved. The end result is another facet of history that should be told while there are some who still remember it, and also so that it will not be forgotten.

Hidden Harlots at the Heart of History

c 2017 by Jan MacKell Collins

For nearly thirty years, the long-gone, loose women of the American West have been chasing me around. I began by taking an interest in one, a prominent madam named Laura Bell McDaniel of Old Colorado City, Colorado. In researching her, more women followed, and before I knew it I was up to my ears in shady ladies.

Not that I minded, but I do have other history interests to write about. Over time, however, I have discovered that even when I am researching something entirely different from the prostitution history of the West, the ladies still show up. They casually appear in old news articles, right next to the one I’m reading. They pop up in old property ledgers, law books and miscellaneous documents. In census records, my trained eye automatically spots words like “sporting”, “red light” or any other term applied to women of the night.

Fortunately, the ladies have paid me for spending time with them by allowing me to write about them in relative peace. Three of the books I have written focus on the world’s oldest profession. The newest one, Wild Women of Prescott, Arizona, came out just a couple of years ago. This book focuses on the time period between 1860 and 1918, when the west was still quite young and struggling to come of age.

I’m not telling you this just in the name of shameless self-promotion. Rather, I enjoy emphasizing how the prostitution industry was an important aspect of western history as we know it. Love it or hate it, nearly every camp, boomtown and city sported its own special neighborhood where lonely miners, traveling salesmen, local husbands and other men could escape the drudgery of their lives with a little female companionship.

The ladies of the lamplight did much more than provide entertainment. In addition to their services, these women purchased property, paid taxes, bought business licenses, contributed monthly fines and fees to city coffers, shopped locally, and made untold numbers of donations to charities, schools, churches and other causes. Their posh parlors were often the scene of impromptu meetings between prominent men to discuss civic affairs, laws and other important issues of the day. The right madam knew every man in town, and willingly offered advice and opinions on sensitive matters. These unseen, unappreciated contributions helped shape the west and assisted places that are now fine, upstanding communities.

In places like Prescott, prominent men of the city actually owned and rented houses of prostitution to women who not only generated local business but also assisted in making important decisions regarding city growth, politics and commerce. What went on in the bordello generally stayed in the bordello, making for a great place in which to conduct business and other important meetings. The men knew the madam would keep their secrets, and that whatever plans they discussed were less likely to be overheard by the wrong person.

For me, this information is secondary to the fact that most prostitutes were amazingly brave to work in a dangerous industry. The realm of prostitution often included violence, drug and alcohol abuse and a slew of personal problems ranging from suicidal tendencies to unwanted pregnancies. The law could offer only limited assistance in times of trouble, usually after that fact – if any assistance was rendered at all. The sad stories overwhelmingly outweigh the good ones with tales of abuse, stabbings, shootings, suicide, death from overdose, stillborn children, asylum or jail time, lonely deaths and sad endings. I can only counter this blatant history with a healthy handful of success stories ending in wealth, vindication and happy days.

Many women, including Prescott madams Mollie Sheppard, Annie Hamilton, Gabe Wiley, Lida Winchell and others were willing to put themselves at risk in order to make their way in a man’s world. Done right, running a bordello was an attractive alternative to living the boring life of a housewife or working menial jobs which kept women in poverty. It also provided a means to widows with little mouths to feed. A woman had to take much care to keep from suffering from her own vices and succumbing to the hazards of working as a prostitute.

Fortunately for all, Prescott was more tolerant than most places across the West. Residents exhibited a most unique tenderness for the girls of the “restricted district”, allowing them to work and live within the confines of fairly lenient laws and ordinances. For many men, the working girls were “friends with benefits”, women who offered soft skin, scented necks, open arms, and even open ears as the men voiced their troubles. The men’s memories remained fond long after the girls were gone, gleaned through the occasional interview or perhaps an eloquently written obituary if one of them passed away.

Refreshingly, writing Wild Women of Prescott reminded me that the spirit of those sporting girls remains very real today as women of my generation struggle more than ever for empowerment. Always an advocate of the old “you can’t know where you are going until you know where you have been” adage, I find that my readers sense that the needs and wants of women are not much different now than they were then. In the old west prostitute’s case, here was a class of women who dared to venture forth and try to make money with the only tangible weapon they had.

If you are a fan of the wild west, I hope you can find time to pick up a copy of the book. You can find it at history.net, as well as Amazon.