Mattie Silks, or Martha Ready (1848-1929), was a leading madam and brothel keeper in the latter part of the 19th century.
Born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, raised in Indiana, Silks began her working career in Springfield, Illinois. She was one of the best known madams in the west, having brothels in Dodge City, Kansas and Denver, Colorado, where demand for women was high due to the Colorado gold rushes.
Other stories say she was born in Kansas - had enterprises in Fairplay, Colorado -
You might look for her character in the Sharon Stone/ Gene Hackman / Gary Sinesi movie "The Quick and the Dead" The minister in the movie is even named "Cort." One scene - a wedding in Mattie's saloon - was cut. It had the only cameo appearance by Bruce Campbell.
One neighbor, Art Armstrong, had the HX brand, and another, Thomas Ashton, had the HVV. Cort registered for the HXX brand ! You can imagine the accusations.
(The Rattler on February 1, 1902 referenced "the old Armstrong ranch east of town." - The 1900's references to the "Ashton Ranch" placed it east of Laird)
One Yuma person said "The Thompson's always sold more livestock than they raised."
"Their cows always had twin calves.".
"They work best at night.".
"Dragging the long rope"
Maverick Factory - A herd of cattle that increases faster than any normal rate of reproduction -- usually with a high percentage of suspicious-looking brands
Mattie discharged the foreman, known locally as Dirty Face Murphy, and hired in his place Jack Ready, a tall and handsome mountain of a man.
|Name:||Martha A Silks|
|Spouse Name:||Cortez D Thompson|
|Marriage Date:||6 Jul 1884|
|Source Title 1:||Miami County|
|Source Title 2:||Index to Marriage Record 1850-1920 Inclusive|
|Source Title 3:||Original Record Located County Clerks Office, Peru, INDIANA|
Cort loved horses, obviously. He gave Sam Shafer this rocking horse.
Harry Arthur Gant writes
Cort Thomson acquired a piece of land in 3 N 42 W in 1890 via a Cash Claim, another in August 1895 (160 acres in a strip across sections 4 and 5) via Homestead, and an additional piece (the north one-quarter of section 8) in June 1895 via a Timber Claim. So "Cort" acquired land from the government in three different ways. If anyone is in Washington, D.C., it would be interesting to see the applications for each of those. AND for "Mattie's" homestead application a few years later.
That's about 15 miles straight north of Laird, Colorado
If you look at the Township Map you'll see a little pond - so that area likely had exceptionally available water for livestock. Raymond "Pat" Workman wrote that in 1938 "we moved to a ranch a half mile south of where the Thompson lake used to be." - so it was an intermittent pond.
All the land in that township was acquired by BLM transfer, and I didn't see any prior to 1890. Mattie may have bought livestock and Cortez ran them on open range.
That township is partly in Colorado, and part in Nebraska (Dundy County). On the Nebraska side, there are no land patents prior to 1903 in the BLM records. So the Thomson ranch likely grazed cattle on open range even across the state line.
One blogger wrote "Ella Wilson was a prostitute in Skagway who worked for
Mattie Silks at the Red Onion. She was strangled to death not long before Soapy
Smith was shot, and Mattie Silks claimed to overhear through the wall of a room,
Soapy and his men dividing up the three thousand dollars that was stolen from
the poor girl's crib. Silks was convinced that Soapy had done the murder"
One of the local wags--shortly after the memorial to Frank Reid was erected with its famous epitaph "He gave his life for the honor of Scagway"--scribbled on Ella Wilson's marker, "She gave her honor for the life of Scagway."
Jeff Smith, writing about the Yukon trip, claims "There is no doubt that Ella Wilson was murdered. The newspapers claimed it was a robbery gone all wrong. Ella was found tied up and gagged, with a pillow cover over her head. She had suffocated. I can't go into great detail as all this information is in my book, yet to be published, but I will tell you that madam Mattie Silks knew Soapy in Denver Colorado. Smith and Silks were not on good terms with each other as each backed opposite city politics. Her husband Cort, a backer of Jeff's rivals had been involved in a saloon gunbattle that Soapy participated in. Shots were fired from several guns and one man fell dead. Cort was arrested for the murder but aquited. blames finger pointed in all directions. Years later a good friend of Soapy's good friends hinted that it was Soapy who had fired the deadly round.
In 1898 Cort and Mattie decided to set up her gentlemanly goods (prostitution) shop in the Klondike. Business reasons sent Mattie to Skagway, but Cort stayed clear of the town due to Soapy. It was at this time that Ella Wilson was killed and robbed. Mattie left Skagway and did not tell her story until she reached Seattle, out of the long grasp of the soap gang.
Mattie claimed she heard Soapy, the U.S. deputy marshal, and others talking about Ella and the money, and that Soapy told his men to go after Mattie next.
Wray Rattler October 1898 (either Mattie returned from the Yukon - or she "planted" newspaper stories to keep residency for homesteading purposes
November 4, 1898 "Mrs. C.D. Thompson received a telegram from her husband in California saying that he was on his way to Haigler. It will be remembered that he was reported lost at sea while on his way to the Alaskan gold fields. - Haigler Items in Benkleman Chronicle."
Yuma Pioneer of August 1899
October 1899 "C.D. Thompson is building cattle sheds. Charlie Vaness and Lone Rife are doing the work."
Wray Rattler November 4, 1899
January 1900 (Literally, to be sent to the countryside )
Rattler October 1899 (so he must live near Laird) He opened a barber shop later that year
Rattler - February 1900
Yuma Pioneer April 1900
The Rattler's April 7, 1900 reported that "Mrs. C.D. Thompson was down from Denver Thursday and Friday on business connected with the ranch." (That would have been April 5th and 6th.This was a front-page item, not one from the Laird correspondent)
The same issue, in the Laird column, said "Perry Burns of Denver was visiting at the Thompson ranch."
and that "C.T. Grant of Wray was overseeing work on the race track, which was completed recently."
Yuma Pioneer April 13, 1900
The Wray Rattler - Saturday, April 14, 1900 -
Cort D. Thomson is dead. He came up from his ranch Friday night, suffering with acute pain which developed into pneumonia and 10:50 Wednesday morning (that would be April 11) he passed away. He was attended by his wife during his illness, and she accompanied the remains to Denver on the1:50 train the same day. A nephew of the deceased has taken charge of the ranch. Cort was a heavy drinker and it is said that on account of the ravages made by the whiskey that he was unable to successfully cope with the disease.
If the April 7 Rattler story is right, Mattie was in time to take Cort to Wray.
Another version says that Mattie suspected Cort was going to sell her horses (he was in financial difficulty) and had come to prevent that. This version said Cort developed ptomaine from eating spoiled oysters, and died at sunup April 12 at "Grandma Simpson's" hotel
The latter story might be supported by the Rattler of a WEEK later - Saturday April 21, 1900
That would be April 14 - if it's correct, Mattie took Cort's body to Denver on Wednesday, and came back to Wray on Saturday to take care of business.
The following week's paper reported that John Brown had bought the C.D. Thompson cattle.
Laurette Simpson, born April 1826 in Ohio, is a hotel keeper on Chief Street in Wray in 1900. (so the old Commercial Hotel by the railroad tracks was not where Cort died). Her widowed son James, born 1848, is the hotel clerk.
Grandson Olin J. born September 1881 in Illinois and granddaughter Blanch J. born April 1886 in Nebraska, also live there.
The excitement might have inspired young Olin in December 1900 to participate in the school newsletter.
THE OWL. -- PUBLISHED BI-MONTHLY.
J. C. COUNTER AND J. O. SIMPSON -- Editors and Publishers.
(J.H. Simpson, with Blanch and his mother STILL ALIVE AT 84, have moved to
Brighton, Colorado. In 1910 J.H. is a farmer)
(In 1920 school-teacher Blanch and her older sister stenographer Nellie, both single, are living with sister Alice Cowan - 42- and her husband Wm. Cowan - mail carrier - on Sherman Street in Denver)
Also residing at the hotel in 1900 is Ray Culow - a 26-year-old dentist (maybe he assisted in moving the body to the train depot).
The Commercial Hotel on the west side of Chief Street (now Main Street) was destroyed in the 1908 downtown fire, "but were able to get their goods out."
February 3, 1905 Wray Gazette
December 17, 1909 Wray Rattler
Cort died before the 1900 census - but Mattie reported her residence as Yuma County (the people before and after her were residents of Laird, so she was either living in the town or had someone there give the census-taker the information !)
In August 1900 the Yuma Pioneer reported:
Martha A. Thompson, born in Pennsylvania of Pennsylvania parents in April 1845. Widowed,
with Theresa Thompson, niece, born January 1890 in Colorado with a Pennsylvania father and Missouri mother.
AND Mattie Silks - under that name, is in the 1900 census for Denver - head of a household on Market Street, born in New York, with eight young single female boarders with no occupation. The names and places of birth given the census-taker sure look contrived.
So she maintained two personae ?
Pioneer June 1901
Rattler July 1901
Rattler February 15, 1902
Jack might be the J.P. Ready charged with intoxication in Denver Magistrate Court in October 1903.
Gazette March 1905
Rattler March 1905 - This is the Jack Ready that Mattie later married.
Rattler June 1906 - and maybe he also was a witness....
Rattler March 1905
Rattler December 1906
Mattie must have put some livestock in her niece's name - Rattler February 1907
Rattler September 1907
Gazette September 1907
Rattler March 1909
Rattler April 1909 (guess it was still called the Thompson ranch....)
Rattler January 1913
Rattler October 1913 - this is from an area north of Wray, not Laird. So there was no phone service to the ranch at that time.
Rattler March 1914
Rattler March 1914
Rattler June 1914
Rattler December 1914
Rattler May 1917
Rattler October 1917
Rattler December 1917
She also hired a man named Jack Ready to be her new financial advisor, as well as bouncer. Mattie was lonely and in search of companionship, and so it wasn't long before the two were intimately involved. They spent many years "dating" and becoming best of friends. In 1923, at the age of 77, Mattie said "I do" and married "Handsome" Jack Ready.
The ceremony was performed by G.A. Schmidt, a minister, in Denver May 1, 1923. The names on the marriage record are John Ready and Martha Thomson.
|Mattie's third husband John (Handsome
Jack) Ready died May 23, 1931. He is buried about one block
north of Mattie and Cort."
Wonder if he's related to the John P. Ready in the Denver divorce case in 1931 - the other party being Olive V. Ready. This John is younger, born about 1898.
June 18, 1959 Yuma Pioneer
Theresa Thomson in 1906 and 1907 had the K7 brand registered to her (the newspapers publish them, like other legal notices.)
In the 1910 census, Theresa Thomson, born in 1888, is head of a household on Market Street in Denver, with a 48-year-old servant and nine female boarders with "own income."
It's possible she's the lodger in 1920 on Clay Street in Denver in the John Thomas household. John is 48, a self-employed auto express driver, and his wife is 46. Seem old to have a seven-year-old son.... Theresa is single, 29, born in Colorado, and is a laundress (very common to give that occupation to census-takers).
According to one Ancestry member, she married James Aaron Johnson April 19, 1924. and died in Goldendale, Kickitat County, Washington.
|Name: Theresa L Johnson Date of Death: 3 Dec 1967 Klickitat Certificate: 028177|
If she's the same Theresa Johnson in 1930 Yakima County, Washington - born in Colorado in 1890 - she said she was 34 when first married. She's married to James A. Johnson, age 33, a "helper" at Valley Iron Works. They don't have any children.
FindAGrave has a Theresa L. Johnson in the IOOF cemetery at Goldendate, Klickitat County, Washington, born in 1890, dying in 1967. Block H, Lot 8.00, Space 2
Goldendale, WA. IOOF
There's a James A. Johnson in the same cemetery, 1896 - 1979, in Block H, Lot 8.00 Space 1
|Last Residence:||98620 Goldendale, Klickitat, Washington,|
|Born:||22 Nov 1896|
|Last Benefit:||98620 Goldendale, Klickitat, Washington,|
|Died:||Sep 1979 Washington Death index has September 29, 1979|
|State (Year) SSN issued:||Washington (Before 1951)|
If he's the same on in the WWI draft registration cards, he was in Yakima - mother was Iva Johnson -
1900 census has Ivy as the mother.- father James Johnson - Okanagan County, Washington
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