Old Roswell: No country for women and dogs

August 3, 2013 • Local News

Dogs and women did not fare well in old Roswell. Marshal Robert E. Maddux, 1899-1902, was given a salary of $75 a month. When hired, he was given specific instructions to kill every unlicensed dog and arrest every female who was intoxicated, entered a saloon, a gambling house or dressed in an immoderate fashion. The women targeted by the original ordinance did not necessarily include those who were prostitutes.

The language of the ordinances about dogs is suggestive. The charge leveled against people who did not pay license fees was “harboring illegal dogs,” which indicates that the dogs were criminal and not the owner, who failed to obtain the required licenses and tags. It was the owner, though, who paid the fines, which also revealed a gender bias.

The fines listed in 1915 for a harboring an unlicensed male dog were $1; a female dog, $2.

Richard Lucero, past president of the Historical Society of Southeast New Mexico, noted that men who were seen in the company of “lewd or immodest” women [auth] could be fined $5, but prostitutes were fined a full $50.

He pointed to the case of Annie Todd recorded in the Police Judge’s Docket of 1909. The trial took place on Nov. 27, 1909, and must have been part of a raid, for the three woman and three men were charged with violations of city ordinances.

According to the docket, an officer followed a male customer who was picked up by a carriage at his house and taken to the Oriental Boarding House on Virginia Street. One man was charged with “rooming at a bawdy house.” Annie Todd and Grace Willcox were charged with being an inmate of a bawdy house. A third woman, with the name spelled variously as McCutchin, McCluchen and McCeuchins, was also arrested, along with Joe, who may have been a husband.

One man was found “undressed” in a room. The officer observed during the trial that he had had two women enter his room in a 15-minute period.

During the hearing, two of the men — including the one who was found undressed — claimed that they did not know that this was a bawdy house; they thought it was a boarding house and needed and expected only a room. The court records expressed doubts about their testimony.

One, most likely the driver, told the court he did not know he was married, then later stated he did know his present wife, Franklyn, had a reputation.

The women were fined. Annie Todd was jailed for 30 days and paid $61.25 in fines and Grace Willcox paid $62, of which $2 was paid to Marshal Ray Woofton for making the bust. The two men, notably, were not fined despite the fact that the court did not believe their protestations of innocence. The “missus” of whatever name was also jailed, as was husband Joe, for 30 days.

The justice system was not always blind. In a March 1910 case, one J.P Standefer, also documented as P.J. Standefer, was charged with contributing to the support of a bawdy house. The defendant pleaded not guilty. He eventually confessed to paying $5 and $10 for services. He was fined $50, but spared jail time.

Houses that rented to known prostitutes were fined between $25 and $30. No distinction was made between a house out of which a “lewd woman” might operate and a personal residence. Tents were listed among possible rentals.

Bowling alleys, or tenpin alleys, must have had a bad reputation, for it was illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to go into a bowling alley.

The ordinance excluding the young from the evils of bowling extended to cover schools among the individuals / institutions that could not take minors into bowling alleys without being fined.

Drunkenness was of particular interest in the Police Judges Docket. One can almost chart the weekends by the number of charges of drunkenness and fights recorded in a single day. The fine was between $2 and $5, along with a night in jail to sleep off the excesses of consumption.

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