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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Prostitution in Medford



    The female fringes of society, who anchored in Medford after being driven out of other towns, are making themselves very conspicuous hereabouts, flaunting their vulgar presence before the men, women and children in the day and occasionally making the night hideous with their orgies. They are a pest to the community and the sooner the authorities rid the town of them the better for our boys and girls. Yet it is alleged that the commercial and business interests of a town "that amounts to anything" must have them. Their greed for gold is a monster whose avarice has no mercy for home, honor or virtue.
    Some weeks ago Dr. Kirchgessner was called on by John Angle to see a woman of ill fame who was bleeding to death from what was probably the effects of an abortion. The Dr. refused to go and upon Angle insisting the Dr. replied in substance that he should go to somebody else to doctor his sick women of ill fame. Angle, who is a shoulder-striker [bully, ruffian], gave Dr. Kirchgessner a course of treatment not recorded in the works or fee bills of the M.D. fraternity. The Doctor’s head (after the treatment) was too large for the cupola of his stovepipe, his other eye was winked out and his nose presented more the appearance of a hornet’s nest. The Dr. did not swear out a warrant, but bided his time and had the grand jury indict Angle this week for assault and battery.
Valley Record, Ashland, Oregon, April 12, 1894, page 3


    The soiled pigeons have folded their tents and, like the Arabs, have quietly stolen away--and few tears there are shed over their departure.

"News of the City," Medford Mail, June 1, 1894, page 3


FINED $100
For Keeping a Bawdy House--The Calaboose Has an Inmate.
    Gabe Plymale and his wife (who are the parents of an infant a few months old), together with a young man named Gainey, were arrested by Marshal Howard on Friday, charged with keeping a bawdy house within the city limits of Medford. The parties are all well known in the tenderloin. The name of the party who swore out the complaint has not been divulged.
    The case was called in Recorder Snell's court in the afternoon and attracted considerable attention. W. E. Phipps, the city attorney, appeared for the prosecution and D. H. Hartson for the defense.
    One of the parties pleaded guilty and was fined $100. He was given time in which to arrange his "business affairs," which probably means that he was allowed to leave town with the understanding that he would return at the pain of having the sentence of the court enforced against him. His wife was released on her own recognizance, and had already skipped for more congenial climes.
    The other defendant stood trial, and the Recorder, after hearing the evidence of several witnesses, adjudged him guilty and imposed a fine of $50, in default of which he was sent to the city bastille for 25 days.

Democratic Times, 
Jacksonville,
August 7, 1902, page 6


JUDGE DRAKE ROBBED.
Christmas Tour of Medford's Bad Lands Was Expensive.
    MEDFORD, Or., Dec. 28.--(Special.)--Judge Thomas Drake, of Klamath Falls, while spending his Christmas in Jackson County, alleges that he was robbed of $350 in a house of ill fame in Medford.
    Tim Mills and Camilla Clark were arrested today, charged with the crime, and had their examination before Judge Stewart this afternoon. They were bound over to await the action of the court under $500 and $1000 bail respectively. They were taken to Jacksonville and placed in the county jail.

Morning Oregonian, Portland, December 29, 1904, page 7


Girl Drinks Carbolic Acid.
    MEDFORD, Or., March 11.--(Special.)--Edna Heaton, a 16-year-old girl, despondent over the neglect of her lover, attempted to shuffle off the responsibilities of life this morning by taking carbolic acid. The prompt use of a stomach pump saved her life, although she is frightfully burned. The unhappy girl resides in Grants Pass, but has been a figure in the subsocial stratum of Medford life for some months.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, March 12, 1907, page 6



Should Be Suppressed.
    It would seem that a bawdy house is flourishing right in the residence district of Medford, on A Street. Fellows calling themselves men have been seen packing beer to the soiled doves inhabiting the bagnio, and disgraceful scenes, fighting and shrieking, to the annoyance of the neighborhood, are not uncommon.
    It seems that the lesson set by the circuit judge not long ago, when he fined a female guilty of conducting an establishment of this kind $150 and costs, has already been forgotten.
    Why do the authorities permit the existence of this disorderly joint? Where is the police when these nasty orgies are being enacted?
    Such nuisances cannot be abated too soon.
Southern Oregonian, August 21, 1907


She Was Held to Answer.
    The woman who has been maintaining a bawdy house on A Street, not far from Seventh, was arrested Thursday evening, charged with that offense, by Constable Tull. One of the residents of that neighborhood swore to the complaint. Justice Stewart bound her over, to appear at the September term of the circuit court. She furnished a cash bond of $250 and departed for other scenes. The other inmates of the bagnio had skipped before the officer arrived.
    It seems that the disturbance which was the cause of the complaint was started by a couple of young men surcharged with liquor, one of whom knocked down an inmate of the place and received similar treatment from a visitor. They have seen fit to make themselves scarce, but may be arrested later..
Southern Oregonian, August 24, 1907


Royal The, Mrs Julia Levenberry propr, furn rms 320 E Main
Polk's Jackson County Directory 1912, page 122


Tin Plate Ordinance in Portland
    Portland, Ore., has passed the "tin plate ordinance." As reported in The Survey for February 8, the ordinance provides that on all hotels, rooming houses, lodging houses, tenement houses, apartment houses and saloons, the name of the owner of the building and his address shall be fastened near the main entrance so that it can easily be read. The measure is one of a number recommended by the local vice commission to solve the social evil. Those who do not comply with the ordinance will be subject to a fine of $100 on conviction in the municipal court. The proprietors of hotels, rooming houses and tenement houses are preparing to contest the bonding ordinance passed on the recommendation of the Vice Commission. Proprietors of such buildings are required by the measure to file a surety bond of $1,000 with the city as a guarantee that they will not permit immoral conditions to exist on their premises. The act provides that the bond shall be confiscated after a second conviction of a violation of its terms.
The American City, March 1913, page 319


    Two of Medford's fair ladies, charged with fighting, were found guilty and charged $5.00 and costs in the police court Saturday.

"Local News," Jacksonville Post, February 7, 1914, page 3


NEGRO ACQUITTED BY FORGETFULNESS
OF GIRL IN CASE
    Charles Turner, a negro, on trial in the circuit court on a charge of living in and about a house of ill fame, was acquitted by a jury this morning after short deliberation. A. A. Johnson, indicted on a similar charge, and a pioneer of the Rogue River Valley, will be on trial Monday.
    Turner's acquittal was largely due to a change of heart on the part of Dolly Johnson, age eighteen, and the girl in the case, whose story before the justice court resulted in the binding over of Turner. On the stand Friday afternoon her memory regarding important details was hazy. She claimed she could remember nothing because her mind was not clear, due to too much homemade wine.
    One feature of the case was the charge of the defense that prosecutor Kelly used undue influence to get the girl to testify as she did before the justice court.
    Charles Estes pled guilty to dynamiting fish in Bear Creek, was fined $250 and sentence was suspended by the court pending good behavior and the promise that he would report once a month to the prosecuting attorney.
Medford Mail Tribune, February 28, 1914, page 8



JOHNSON SENTENCED TWO TO FIFTEEN YEARS IN PEN
    A. A. Johnson, convicted of living in and about a house of ill fame, was sentenced Friday morning to serve from two to 15 years in the state penitentiary. V. Odin has appealed to the supreme court from his conviction for rape.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, March 7, 1914, page 2


    A. A. Johnson, age 72 years, a pioneer of the Rogue River Valley, convicted at the last term of court of living in and about a house of ill fame, was sentenced from 2 to 25 years in the state prison yesterday by Judge Morrow. The state institution will not be entirely new for the old man; was there once before. He received the verdict without a show of emotion.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, March 7, 1914, page 2


UNDESIRABLES HERE FROM CALIFORNIA
    Enforcement of the red-light abatement act in California has caused a migration of scarlet women and the male parasites from the larger cities of that state, and according to reports Medford has received a contingent. They are reported to have taken quarters in local hotels and lodging houses. Chief of Police Hittson said this morning that he knew nothing of the reported influx of undesirables and that he had noticed no new faces on the streets.
    Medford has not had a moral wave since the Royal Rooming House episode of two years ago.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 13, 1915, page 2



FALLEN COUPLE TO LEAVE TOWN
    Laura Graves, a fallen woman, and Ray Langlois, a fallen man, her companion in a series of escapades in drunkenness and debauchery, were found guilty of vagrancy before Justice of the Peace Glenn O. Taylor, Friday afternoon, and given sentences of 30 days in jail, and a fine of $100. The fine and the sentence were commuted for both upon their promise to be outside of Jackson County this afternoon by 5:00 o'clock.
    Thursday night the woman and Langlois and a rival for the hand of Mrs. Graves engaged in a fight with beer bottles on East Main Street, the battle raging at its height upon the lawn of Chief of Police Hittson. This brought the pair to the city jail, the third party escaping on horseback.
    For the last three months, the police say she has been in a continual state of intoxication, sleeping in barns, vacant houses and haystacks. Recently, Mrs. Graves has been working on a ranch. During most of this period she has associated with tramps and presided at alley "can rushing" parties. The woman says she is a confirmed alcoholic.
    Ray Langlois, whose courting of Mrs. Graves has brought him into prominence, is well known to the police.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 18, 1915, page 2



    A woman named Edwards, who operated the Florida Rooming House, was arrested by Chief of Police Hittson last night and put up $25 cash bail for her appearance in police court this morning. Up to early this afternoon she had failed to appear, and it was said that she had left town. A man who was in the rooming house at the same time was also arrested but was released in court today. This is the initial arrest in the cleanup campaign against rooming houses.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, July 5, 1918, page 2


    The two ordinances designed to clean up the rooming house evil in Medford, as recommended by the state council of defense and the war department, were finally passed after a long and vociferous barrage fire by councilman Keene, who finally cast his vote for the measure on the plea that the war department had made the request and it should be granted, but he believed the action would lead to no earthly good. An emergency clause was attached which renders both measures immediately operative.
"Council Raises Salaries; Passes Clean-Up Laws," Medford Mail Tribune, July 5, 1918, page 4


    The Florida Rooming House no longer exists, its proprietress, Mrs. Jim Edwards, having forfeited her bail bond following her arrest last week, and disappeared from the city after having sold the furnishings to a second hand dealer. The goods were moved out from the rooms today.

Medford Mail Tribune, July 8, 1918, page 4


Imperial Rooms, Mrs. Stella Russell prop, 30 N Front
Polk's Jackson County Directory 1921.


Imperial Rooms (Stella Gatton) 30 n Front
Directory, West Coast Directory Company, 1927.   The listing continues essentially unchanged through the 1941 edition.


    There is no "wild night life" here.
    There are no "gilded dens of vice and pleasure."
    There are no institutions that encourage flaming youth to strut itself and flame the limit.
    A home-loving, industrious, progressive city of 100 percent Americans is Medford. The average citizen is pictured as the type that sits at home evenings and reads comfortably of the sins of New York and Chicago before going to bed at the locally conventional hour of 10:00 p.m.
Medford Daily News, December 25, 1928, page 1


LaFonda Rooms (Dorothy Marwick) 207 W Main
1930 Directory, Medford Printing Company, page 108


LaFonda Rooms (Mazie Marston) 207 W Main
Polk's 1937 Directory.   The spelling is "Maizie" through the 1943 Polk's.


Interviewer:
Do you have any stories about the Imperial Rooms or the Rex Rooms in Medford?
Ellis Beeson: Oh, I just knew they existed. I was just a kid then, you know. I didn't know anything about that until I got around, oh, I don't know, 18 or 19. I never did visit them, but I knew of 'em.
    Stella the Redhead, she was the madam of the Imperial Rooms, and Big Eva was the madam of that house [in] Kay Atwood's book [Ashland's Peerless Rooms in Atwood's Jackson County Conversations, page 4]. They always have been and they always will be.
Oral History Interview with Ellis Beeson [born 1903], SOHS tap #46


A 1941 survey housed at the Oregon State Archives estimates there were between four and six houses of prostitution in Medford. A few other Oregon communities in the survey: Grants Pass (one), Eugene (one to three), Klamath Falls (seven), Pendleton (twelve), Portland (53).



"Fancy" Ladies Must Move On
    At the request of army authorities a ban has been placed on prostitution in this area in anticipation of establishment of the army cantonment, now under construction at the Medford site. Known prostitutes have been notified by the police to move on. Discussing the situation, District Attorney George W. Neilson said that there had, of course, been little commercialized prostitution in Medford and practically none in Ashland and other neighboring communities.
    Sheriff Syd I. Brown stated that officials are watching for an influx of prostitutes following cantonment workers or soldiers and that their presence here will not be tolerated.
    The attitude of the army is now backed by the May Act, which gives the federal government power to act against prostitution in military areas.
Medford News, January 30, 1942, page 1


Personal Inspection of Suspected Vice Den Gives Pair the Jitters
    The story leaked out this week about a couple of local men--one a newspaperman, and one an official of the Cantonment Coordinator's Office (we'll give you their names for four bits, payment in advance), who made a personal inspection of the prostitution situation here in Medford. Following [a] statement that the "situation was well in hand," the two men decided to have a look-see for themselves. Well, it's an hilarious story, with the newspaperman having to practically push the Coordinating official up the stairs of one of the Main Street rooming houses recommended by the police as a good one to investigate. The two got up the stairs, and were confronted by the regulation sign: "Ring Bell for Attendant." So they rang the bell, and pretty quick one of the many doors opened and out stepped a girl.
    "D-d-d-do you have rooms here?" the Coordinating official asked, the newspaperman having beat it down the hall when he heard footsteps.
    "Yes, we have rooms," the girl said. "Do you want a room?"
    "D-d-d-do you have any girls?" the official stammered. "That's what we want to know."
    No doubt sensing there was something phony about the deal, after getting a good look at the devilish pair, and perhaps truthfully, too, the girl declared:
    "No, we don't have any girls. They've all left. Orders from the army. We're at war, you know, and the army says we have to close down, so the girls are all gone." She left, slamming the door behind her.
    The two "investigators" got down the stairs in one of those bbbzzzzzzzt maneuvers and were able to report back that as far as they could find out, the town is pure.
    Their chief worry was that someone might see them coming out of the joint, and apparently someone did, because the story was all over town in a day or two.
Medford News, January 30, 1942, page 1




Last revised October 19, 2013