Continued from 7/8/18 Read Part One here.
In 1879, a fire raged through Deadwood, burning many places to the ground including Mollie’s. The day before the fire, one of Mollie’s girls had died due to either injury from a cat bite, or some other illness. She lay in her coffin in Mollie’s parlor as the roof caught fire. Mollie made no action to save her furnishings or herself until someone could take the young woman’s body to the neighboring town of City Creek, for burial.
Though Mollie had a reputation for a lack of generosity toward other “soiled doves” of Deadwood, the newspapers, particularly the Black Hills Daily Times, loved to stir up controversy concerning the popular madam. In one instance, the Times alluded to Mollie providing information to the U.S. Marshall regarding three of her competitors selling alcohol without a license. Mollie retorted back in a note to the Times stating she would do nothing of the kind against her “sisters in sin.” The Times later stated they received their information from another source.
Though newspapers like the Black Hills Daily Times loved to report stories of Mollie’s wickedness, they also gave her credit for her generosity with local girls like Miss Pettijohn and Miss Woodall, and also for her financial support of Irish Famine Relief.
According to Bryant, with the passing of time, the stories of Mollie Johnson became less and less frequent. He alludes to the idea she traveled more, or that perhaps the newspapers just lost interest. Maybe with age, Mollie settled down and didn’t give them much to write about.
We may never know what prodded Mollie to become a prostitute like so many other women who settled in the west. Perhaps she had no family and struggled to survive, or perhaps she saw an opportunity to become a businesswoman in a time that didn’t allow women to prosper by any other means. Whether or not the stories are true, the accounts of Mollie’s life and her business paint a colorful portrait of a woman who made an impact on the town of Deadwood, South Dakota, and the history of the wild west of the late 1800’s.