Friday, November 19, 2010

A visit to a bawdy-house

Every Family has them! You know, those relatives that some don't want mentioned?
Personally, I like those relatives! They add color and uniqueness to a Family Tree.
And while I wish I could say that the woman featured in today's post was a relative, at least she knew some of Hubby's relatives...... and maybe some of yours!

When we last left Fort Smith, Arkansas ( click here) it was a bustling and growing port town located on the Arkansas River as well as on the border of Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Soldiers, Adventurers, and Settlers created a demand for many services. Prostitution being one of them. Several bordellos were established just before the turn of the last century. These bawdy houses were all located along the river front in what was called "The Row". Prostitution was legal and the City of Fort Smith required that all 'working girls' receive a monthly health check. Those that passed received a certificate which was displayed. The cost of this certificate was $5.00.

     This is the health certificate I received when I last visited Miss Laura's. {giggle} Really! All female visitors receive one of these.   * See Juicy Tidbits below!

One of the houses in this red-light district was the Starr House, owned and operated by Pearl Starr, the daughter of Belle Starr. Belle Star, for those of you who don't recognize the name, was a famous woman 'outlaw' of the late 1800s. Click here to read about her.)

Belle Starr

Pearl Starr was born Rosie Lee Reed in 1868. She moved frequently until her father's death in 1874. Her mother then married a Cherokee Indian named Sam Starr and the family settled near the Canadian River in what was then Indian Territory (Oklahoma). After Belle Starr's death in 1889, numerous dime novels were written about her and the Starr name became famous. Rosie then changed her name to Pearl Starr.
In 1891, Pearl became a prostitute and capitalized on her new name. She soon purchased a bordello which was known as the Starr House. This house could be recognized by the bright red star which was surrounded by lighted pearls. She remained in business until the early 1920s when she moved to Arizona. She died in 1925.

Pearl Starr

And now for the family connection.....  Sam Starr, Pearl's step-father, was a first cousin to Hubby's Great, Great Grandmother. Sam Starr's father and Hubby's Great, Great, Great Grandmother were brother and sister.

Juicy Tidbits ~~

The City of Fort Smith outlawed prostitution in 1924 but one bawdy house remained in business into the 1940s. This was Miss Laura's Social Club. And it is the only bordello still standing today - the others were either burned to the ground in the fire of 1910 or fell into disrepair and later demolished. Miss Laura's now houses the Fort Smith Visitor Center.

Miss Laura's was the classiest house on The Row. The Gentlemen visitors would be entertained in the parlor with cigars and brandy and visit with the girls, who were fully dressed, before heading upstairs to the girl's room to take care of business. Miss Laura's also commanded top dollar for the special treatment - a whopping $3.00!
To read more about Liss Laura's, click here and click here.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I guess they didn't call it the Wild, Wild West for nothing!

Aine O'Brien said...

Fantastic post! How interesting!

Aisha said...

that is totally wicked, thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I said a Madam but of course once I grew up I wasn't brave enough. How wonderful to have such history - Hugs and sparkles - WG

Róisín said...

Oh, I LOVED this post! Very interesting indeed. I know what you mean about those taboo family tree members too, we've a few ourselves, but they really are always the most fascinating. This woman sounds great! Well, hope you're having a nice day!