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Santa Cruz County History - Crime & Public Safety
Harlots and Whorehouses: Fallen Angels of Front Street, Part 3
by Phil Reader
"Stories of the World's Oldest Profession in 19th Century Santa Cruz County"
Fallen Angels of Front Street, Part 3
Perhaps the best known brothel in the city of Santa Cruz was that which was operated by Emma Cooper and located, of course, on Front Street. Emma's house was in existence long before the town was incorporated on March 31, 1866. At the time, Santa Cruz consisted of about only forty seven sundry stores, including three hotels, five restaurants, two livery stables, and "twenty seven saloons." The local citizen of the day did enjoy the pleasures of the flesh.
Emma Cooper, who was born in 1835 at New York, opened her bawdy house just a few doors away from the mercantile store belonging to the Cooper Brothers. Even though she was not related, the name similarity was a constant embarrassment to the socially prominent brothers.
Her place was a favorite hang out of the city fathers as well as the boys from the powder works, lime kilns, and saw mills. It also witnessed more then it's share of gunplay and was the abode of the charming Jane Allison. At some point after 1877, Emma and Jane moved on to greener pastures.
The 1870 census of the city of Santa Cruz yields up this surprise. In a small residence on Water Street (now North Pacific Avenue), between the stately home of Dr. Benjamin Knight and Pat Moran's Blacksmith Shop, there were enumerated three nineteen year old young ladies, named: Lizzie Miller, Mary Tellery, and Minnie Lee. They boastfully listed their occupations as "Courtesans."
John Keeny, "Fisherman"
In 1887, when the puritanical Grand Jury was rolling though the red light districts of Santa Cruz and Wastonville, they indicted John Keeny, who called himself a fisherman, on the misdemeanor charge of "Keeping a disorderly house" - the catch phrase for a whorehouse. Also indicted with him were two of his girls, Maria Patronelia and Jane Smith (Refugia Alba) for residing in a house of ill fame. Keeny's place was located at the east end of the lower bridge over the San Lorenzo (the Soquel Avenue bridge) near the Bausch Brewery.
At their trial, the two girls were found guilty. Maria was given the choice of either a $5 fine or five days in jail. Refugia was sentenced to imprisonment for fifty days or a fine of $50. They both quickly handed over the money. The case against Keeny was dropped after he agreed to close down his establishment.
Keeny, a pioneer resident of Santa Cruz, returned to the sea, fishing the waters of Monterey Bay until after the turn of the century. His brothel was the the only one that fell victim to the forces of purity that year.
Madame Pauline's Favorite
"The chaste COURIER says that the notorious Pauline takes that delectable sheet because she wants the 'freshest.' Freshest is good, and we will not dispute the proposition that when buzzards pounce down on a festering carcass that they want the 'freshest' morsels of nastiness. Throw a physic to the dogs, but give the COURIER a vomit, the same it is giving it's readers."
[Taken from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Saturday, July 28, 1877, in response to an article which appeared in the Santa Cruz Courier in which editor Greene Majors brags that his journal enjoys a monopoly on Madame Pauline's patronage.]
"Last Sunday evening two adolescent youth, who we will call Richard III, and Louis Napoleon, were strolling up a certain street, ostensibly for the purpose of calling on two school maidens (?) who dwelleth in a castle not in Pescadero. Arriving there they demanded admittance, but were told to 'Get' as their company was not desired on that evening. The young men declined to accept the invitation. The maidens fired geographies, grammars, etc, at them, but they didn't fire them out. Gaining admittance into the room, after a hard struggle, they were sadly surprised to see Robert the Tall and Henry the Fat, seated in different corners of the room, apparently nonplussed at the intrusion of the visitors. In the meantime the battle between the youths and the maidens went bravely on. Finally one of the girls picked up a poker, and pitched a curve at the youths, and was out by Louis, catching it in the eye. While the battle was raging the two favored ones in the room had pretended sleep, and would do nothing but encourage the young ladies in their struggle. After the verdant youths had been 'fired out' of the doors, one of the young ladies sweetly remarked, 'It is a nice evening, boys to walk."
[Taken from the Santa Cruz Sentinel , Saturday, November 1, 1879.]
Ah, for the days of the Wild West
Lost to history is the name of the whorehouse that fell prey to the bullets of Tiburcio Vasquez, Francisco Barcenas, and Garcia Rodriguez on that fateful night of September 10, 1871. They left their hideout at the Mattias Lorenzana farm near Vine Hill where they were hiding after robbing the Visalia stage at Soap Lake near Hollister and proceeded down Branciforte Drive and up Water Street toward Santa Cruz. Their plan was to spring Garcia's brother Narciso from the stone jail on Mission Hill. But first they stopped at a brothel on the corner of Water and Sand Lane (Ocean Street). However, they were denied access for reasons of propriety, so in anger they pulled out their pistols and opened fire.
They rode around the building shooting out all of the windows and doing heavy damage to the front door. One of the pistol balls penetrated into the house, striking the madame in the breast. Her life was saved by the metal ribbing in her corset when the ball struck it and lodged harmlessly in the garment's padding. The bandidos took off galloping out across the San Lorenzo River towards town and their shootout with Bob Liddell.
In the ill fated whorehouse at the time were many of the city fathers and, as one writer states, many of them were sent scurrying south red faced on vacations forced upon them by an irate spouse.
Excerpted from: It Is Not My Intention to Be Captured. Copyright 1995 Phil Reader. Reproduced with the permission of Phil Reader.
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