Gambling and Prostitution

1890 Photo of Guthrie looking southeast from 2nd Street and Oklahoma toward the U. S. Land Office, Hell’s Half Acre, Capitol Hotel, and Blue Belle Saloon. Believed to be a 4th of July parade. http://www.forensicgenealogy.info/contest_5_results.html

Police docket records for the first decade of existence for Guthrie (Logan County, Oklahoma Territory) reveal that government operations depended heavily on fines levied against prostitutes, those who maintained houses of gambling, and those who disturbed the peace by cursing, fighting, loitering, or other minor offenses. Taxes and licenses supplemented the city’s income. Major crimes such as murder fell under the jurisdiction of the federal court at Fort Smith.

Despite the heavy and persistent fines, gambling and prostitution flourished in this new frontier town. As shown in the following yearly summary of offenses, these activities tapered off slowly. By 1900, less than a third of the number of fines were levied against gamblers and prostitutes than had occurred in the peak year of 1893.

As the city gained its footing, additional laws were passed. For example, in 1891 fines were instituted for failure to license a dog, suggesting that dogs running loose had become a problem. With a continuing influx of people from other more settled places around the nation, greater pressure fell upon town fathers to clean up. Hogs and cattle became the subject of complaints as did the proper maintenance of outdoor privies. However, even by 1900, the number of arrests by Guthrie police for prostitution and gambling still topped any other offense.

As other sections of the former Indian Nations (Oklahoma) opened to white settlement, the front lines of gamblers and prostitutes moved to the newest places where largely male populations could be counted on as eager customers. Further west, mining of precious metals in California, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and other areas formed the last frontier of rough and ready places where gamblers and ladies of the night could earn a profitable income.

At the time, journalist Frederick Barde reported on the gambling scene at Guthrie for the Kansas City Star, as recorded by Michael J. Hightower in his 2013 book Banking in Oklahoma Before Statehood:

Those who made it to Guthrie with their wallets intact might have visited the Reeves brothers’ gambling house operated by Dick and Bill Reeves. Opened on the day of the Run of ’89 in a big tent “where there was room enough for 1,500 men and women to gamble and drink and carouse,” the Reeves brothers ran their business in Guthrie for twenty years. Barde’s description of the famed honky-tonk confirms an image of the western saloon that has never yielded its place in our collective memory: “Gamblers from every State tackled the game that ran night and day in that sleepless place. Hundreds of thousands of dollars passed over its tables. The six-shooter and the dirk settled many a dispute, and the dead man was hauled away and the blood scrubbed from the floor as part of the day’s business. Outlaw gangs that infested Oklahoma in those days risked their loot against the faro bank and the roulette wheel—and usually lost.”[1]

As late as 1898, the situation in Guthrie continued to outrage the city’s more upstanding citizenry, as reflected in this editorial in the Guthrie Daily Leader.

Why is not some action taken toward driving out the hundreds of tramps, bums and tinhorn gamblers that infest the city? The streets and alleys fairly swarm with such vermin and with our present small police force the city is not safe. I hear daily of petty thieving done by this gentry. Such characters do a town no good and I think it high time to begin a crusade. Every night the joints on Second street are crowded with bums, who, after the lights go out, enter on a campaign of larceny. If the evil cannot be checked in any other way, then close the joints.[2]

Oklahoma Avenue 1893 Guthrie

Laws passed in 1893 in Oklahoma Territory allowed cities to levy an occupation tax on gaming tables, among many other activities including but not limited to auctioneers, contractors, druggists, restaurants, butchers, taverns, hawkers, peddlers, bankers, brokers, pawnbrokers, merchants of all kinds, grocers, wagons, carts, furniture dealers, real estate agents, and all kinds of exhibitions for pay.[3] The same 1893 law allowed cities to prohibit houses of gambling as well as prostitution, tippling shops, billiard tables, bowling alleys, etc., and specifically prohibits the granting of license for gambling or prostitution.[4] Observers might conclude that Guthrie’s town fathers deemed these activities too lucrative to completely banish, allowing gambling and prostitution to flourish in order to make the most of the fines they produced.

Also passed that year, a law stated that any officer of the law found to be drinking or gambling could be removed from office upon complaint by any citizen. This law may have been the cause of Bill Tilghman’s sudden change of career. After being appointed deputy marshal in Spring 1893, he gave up ownership of his gambling house.[5] Yet these stringent laws, including those that penalized property owners if their tenants pursued any such forbidden activities, seem to have been largely ignored by boom towns of those lawless years, as Guthrie’s police docket reveals.

Guthrie’s first decade of arrests were as follows:

1889 May thru Dec

Trespass 9

Trespass/Stealing 28

Assault/Fighting 8

Disturb Peace 14

Public Intoxication 1

Conduct Business w/o License 4

Fake Credentials 1 (doctor)

Maintain a House of Gambling 1 (Fine 10.00)

Maintain a Place for Prostitution 2 & Prostitution 46 (Range of fines: 8.50 – 36.00)

1890

Trespass 2

Assault/Fighting: 13

Failure to Pay Business Tax 7

Sell Beverage w/o License 1

Profane Language 6

Disturb Peace 5

Firearm 3

Public Intoxication 13

Maintain Public Nuisance 1

Maintain a House of Gambling 25 (Average fines: 10.75)

Maintain a Place for Prostitution 9 & Prostitution 43 (Average fine: 7.50)

1891

Assault 16 – 1 pitchfork, 1 w/ hoe

Disturb Peace/Fighting/Profanity 128

Discharge Firearm 3

Public Intoxication 30

Failure to Pay Business Tax 9

Maintain a House of Gambling 120 (Range of fines: 15.00 – 35.00)

Maintain a Place for Prostitution 9

Prostitution 148 (Range of fines: 7.50 – 10.00)

Unusual: Unregistered dog: 3

On Street w/o visible means of support 1

Left on ground exposed cow 1

Saloon open on Sunday or after hours: 3

1892

Assault 7

Disturb Peace/Fighting 156

Public Intoxication 52

Failure to Pay Business Tax 14

Maintain Public Nuisance 2 (one charge for hogs)

Maintain a House of Gambling 142 (Range of fines: 10.00 – 40.00)

Prostitution 202 (Range of fines: 7.50 – 10.00)

Unusual: Frequently found in house of prostitution, fined 46.55

Business open earlier than 5 am

Indecent exposure

Not burying dead pony

1893

Assault/Fighting 50

Disturb Peace 244 (many charges for “bad language”)

Loiter/Vagrant 24

Public Intoxication 84

Maintain a House of Gambling 29 (Range of fines: 8.50 – 40.00) (No arrests after March)

Prostitution 337 (Average fine: 10.15 – 13.65)

Unusual: Riding horse on sidewalk

Keep hogs in filthy condition

1894

Assault/Fighting 25

Disturb Peace 96

Loiter/Vagrant 6

Public Intoxication 93

Maintain a House of Gambling 1 arrest* (16.65 only recorded charge/fine, June)

Prostitution 270 (Average fine: 10.15 – 13.65)

(Terms used in booking: Place of Assignation, Bawdy House, Keeper, Inmate, House of Ill Fame)

Unusual: Allow horses to run at large

Carry on sexual intercourse at Arlington Hotel

Slaughter animals

Dress not belonging to his sex

* Mysteriously, arrests for gambling ceased entirely from April 1893 throughout 1894 and remained at a low rate in 1895.

1895

Assault 22

Disturb Peace 62

Loiter/Vagrant 16

Assault/Fighting 22

Public Intoxication 160

Maintain a House of Gambling 35 (Average fine: 16.65 – 31.65)

Prostitution 219 (Average fine: 11.65 – 31.65)

(Includes “occupy room for unlawful sexual activity”; “use room in restaurant for assignation”)

Unusual: Appear on street in lewd manner

Garbage in streets and alley

Allow cow to run at large

Hogs in city

Cow in dirty pen

Fail to close saloon at 12 a.m.

Group assault on John ‘Chinaman’

1896

Assault 30

Disturb Peace 77

Loiter/Vagrant 1

Public Intoxication 66

Maintain a House of Gambling 52 (Average fine: 16.65 – 31.65

Prostitution 152 (Average fine: 11.65 – 31.65)

Unusual: Leaving team of horses unattended

Keep meat market open after 9 a.m. Sunday

1897

Assault/Fighting 23

Disturb Peace 95

Loiter/Vagrant 27

Public Intoxication 147

Maintain a House of Gambling 61

Prostitution 207 (Three women filed physician certificates, assumed to verify state of health); arrests for cohabitation: 23

Unusual: Appear on street in unbecoming dress (female)

1898

Assault/Fighting 21

Disturb Peace 78

Loiter/Vagrant 30

Public Intoxication 95

Maintain a House of Gambling 41

Prostitution 169 (Cohabit: 36)

Unusual: Remove contents of privy without license

Sale of liquor on Sunday

1899

Assault/Fighting 34

Disturb Peace 55

Loiter/Vagrant 32

Public Intoxication 181

Maintain a House of Gambling 64 (Average fine $40)

Prostitution 136 (Cohabit: 28) (Average fine $10)

Unusual: Maintain filthy condition injurious to public health

Overflowing privy vault

Steal 27 hen’s eggs

1900

Assault/Fighting 30

Disturb Peace 73

Loiter/Vagrant 14

Public Intoxication 243

Maintain a House of Gambling 33

Prostitution 142

Unusual: Giving musical concert on the street without a license

~~~

[1] Hightower, Michael J. Banking in Oklahoma Before Statehood. University of Oklahoma Press, 2013. 198  For more on Barde, see http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=BA019

[2] “Protest Against Bums,” The Guthrie Daily Leader (Guthrie, Oklahoma). March 3, 1898. 4

[3] The Compiled Laws of Oklahoma, 1909. Vol. I. Piper-Reed Book Company, 1909. Chapter 14, Article  3, Section 681

[4] Ibid, Section 683

[5] Ibid, Article 6, Section 753

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Another War With The Indians

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This past weekend I attended my 50-year class reunion. I blogged about that last time around. While I was there, I visited the fabulous Coleman Theater, a restored 1930s opera house that graces the main street of Miami Oklahoma. The guided tour through its opulent staircases and gilded facades included a narrative about George Coleman himself.[1]

coleman_theater_interiorWhat lingered in my mind afterwards and grows ever more prominent in my thoughts even now is about how Mr. Coleman made his money. You see, in 1904 that area of Northeast Oklahoma was found to harbor vast deposits of lead and zinc. During the years of production, Oklahoma mines produced 1.3 million tons of recoverable lead and 5.2 million tons of recoverable zinc.[2] The discovery of such potential wealth undoubtedly helped drive the state’s push for statehood in 1907.

George and initially his brother Albert made such a success of this mining operation that they earned a million dollars a week. No wonder George could import African mahogany and commission a massive chandelier of Venetian glass, sparing no expense for a theater that would remind him of his summer home near Versailles. After Albert’s poor health forced his relocation to Colorado, George expanded his empire to build cattle ranches and finance local businesses.chandelier

This fabulous exploitation of natural resources supplied industrial processes which, for example, galvanized steel against corrosion. Zinc is also used to make die-cast alloys, brass and zinc oxides and chemicals. Prior to the early 1900s, lead was used in the United States primarily in ammunition, burial vault liners, ceramic glazes, leaded glass and crystal, paints or other protective coatings, pewter, and water lines and pipes. The first and second world wars placed such demand on the mines that crews worked around the clock. Automobiles boosted demand for lead not only for batteries but also as a fuel additive.

Safely buried underground by Mother Nature, lead never goes away once mined and brought to the surface.[3]

Once the tour ended, I was like, wait a minute.  I asked a question of my friend who lives there. “How is it that George Coleman made all this money? What about the Native Americans who supposedly owned these lands?”

He laughed. “They got five percent. There were a few rich Quapaws.”

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Picher, Oklahoma

I’m still grappling with this. While the Colemans and a few connected business associates raked in millions, the local landowners made a few thousand. Worse, one hundred years later we see the real costs of this enterprise. Consider, for example, the nearby town of Picher, a ghost town now, formerly a major national center of lead and zinc mining at the heart of the Tri-State Mining District.

Wikipedia: “More than a century of unrestricted subsurface excavation dangerously undermined most of Picher’s town buildings and left giant piles of toxic metal-contaminated mine tailings (known as chat) heaped throughout the area. The discovery of the cave-in risks, groundwater contamination, and health effects associated with the chat piles and subsurface shafts resulted in the site being included in 1980 in the Tar Creek Superfund Site by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The state collaborated on mitigation and remediation measures, but a 1996 study found that 34% of the children in Picher suffered from lead poisoning due to these environmental effects, which could result in lifelong neurological problems. Eventually the EPA and the state of Oklahoma agreed to a mandatory evacuation and buyout of the entire township.”

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Collapsed mining pit near Picher

Naturally it was the Quapaw and other Native American tribes who suffered permanent damage from this exposure as well as the loss of lands. Even as recently as my school years in that region, it was a regular entertainment to hang out at the chat piles where guys would show off their skill with cars and motorcycles, stirring up clouds of dust as they scaled the steep inclines.

So it’s not enough that the original inhabitants of this continent were forced away from their homes and hunting grounds as white settlers took over. The insult and injury only deepened as we first gave them new lands with the promise they could be assured of controlling it for the rest of time. Less than eighty years later, Boomers, Sooners, and other massive in-migrations of white ownership swept in. And, as a bonus, left the tribes with irreversible damage to the land.

As a side note, this is similar to the standard practice of industry to locate their waste heaps and polluting processes in low-income and minority neighborhoods, both in the United States as well as Third World nations.

Which brings even more into focus the current stand-off in North Dakota over an oil pipeline. According to an Associated Press report, “the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile project would carry nearly a half-million barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota’s oil fields through South Dakota and Iowa to an existing pipeline in Patoka, Illinois, where shippers can access Midwest and Gulf Coast markets. Announced in 2014, supporters said the pipeline would create more markets and reduce truck and oil train traffic — the latter of which has been a growing concern after a spate of fiery derailments of trains carrying North Dakota crude.

“The Standing Rock Sioux’s lawsuit challenges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to grant permits at more than 200 water crossings. Filed on behalf of the tribe by environmental group Earthjustice, the suit says the project violates several federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act, and will disturb sacred sites outside of the 2.3-million acre reservation. A separate lawsuit filed Thursday by the Yankton Sioux tribe in South Dakota challenges the same thing.” The lawsuit alleges that the pipeline, which would be placed less than a mile upstream of the tribe’s reservation, could impact drinking water for more than 8,000 tribal members and millions who rely on it downstream.[4]

Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the owners of the project, says the pipeline includes safeguards such as leak detection equipment, and workers monitoring the pipeline remotely in Texas could close block valves on it within three minutes if a breach is detected. Sounds good. Let’s ask the Quapaw how well those kinds of promises work out.

In a last ditch effort to stop the bulldozers, other Native American tribes and other supporters of the resistance have joined the Sioux in forming a human barrier to future work. Tribal leaders identified several sacred ceremonial sites and burial grounds which lie on private land in the path of the pipeline, citing these locations as even more reason to halt the project. The day after tribal officials identified these sites and added them to their lawsuit, pipeline crews bulldozed through them, an allegation which Energy Transfer Partners denies. This led to last Saturday’s clash between protesters and private security guards; law enforcement officials said four security guards and two guard dogs were injured, while a tribal spokesman said six people were bitten by the dogs and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed.

animas_river_spill_2015-08-06There’s no end to the examples of white exploitation of resources discovered in supposedly guaranteed Indian lands. It’s an oft told tale of grab the money and run. The 2014 spill of a gold mine tailings pond in Colorado provided colorful images of a golden-colored stream as the pollution entered the Animas River. Workers accidentally destroyed the plug holding water trapped inside the mine, overflowing the pond and spilling three million gallons of mine waste water and tailings, including heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, and other toxic elements including arsenic, beryllium, zinc, iron and copper.[5] Downstream, the impact continues to be felt in three states most particularly in the Navaho Nation where they suffered damage to their crops, home gardens, and cattle herds. Arizona Senator John McCain has estimated that the tribe’s damages could exceed $335 million. So far, they’ve received $150,000.

Absurd that this kind of arrogance would occur time and time again. There is no excuse, no possible gain, that justifies more of the same. While this oil pipeline in North Dakota is not planned to cross Sioux land, any leak will compromise their water supply. There is no such thing as a foolproof technology. Sooner or later, the pipeline will fail.

It’s not just the Sioux who are fighting this pipeline. White landowners have gone to court and mounted protests as well. Conveniently and not surprisingly, laws of eminent domain may apply, forcing landowners to accept the pipeline’s passage whether they want it or not. As explained by attorneys, “existing South Dakota law allows for pipelines holding themselves out as ‘common carriers’ engaged in the sale of commodities, like crude oil, to utilize public condemnation when necessary.”[6]

At least when George Coleman set about raping Northeast Oklahoma, the residents got a nice vaudeville theater out of the deal. There is nothing anyone in the Dakotas or anywhere else in this pipeline’s route will gain other than a one-time payment for the easement rights. Somewhere down the line, the oil will out.

Want to help? Visit the resistance website for more information. http://sacredstonecamp.org/

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[1] http://www.colemantheatre.org/opening-weekend

[2] https://www.ok.gov/mines/Minerals_Program/Mineral_Information_by_Type/Lead_and_Zinc/

[3] https://www.thenation.com/article/secret-history-lead/

[4] http://bigstory.ap.org/article/c0db8074f3464835ab90b0400afaee71/ap-explains-whats-dakota-access-oil-pipeline

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Gold_King_Mine_waste_water_spill

[6] http://www.lexenergy.net/pipeline-easements-a-fair-deal/