I often tell people that most of my friends are dead, and this is what I mean…I love this woman. Don’t ask me why, except she was a good woman and had a wonderful life, but I have read everything I can about her and she has a place in my heart.
This chapter is excepted from “the Story of Bodie,” by Ella M. Cain…Rosa May was a prostitute in the town of Bodie, which is now a ghost town protected by the State of California…her story is charming, and I think it would be of interest to anyone interested in the life of the Old American West. Visit my photo gallery of the ghost town of Bodie, CA here
Story of Rosa May
Virgin Alley had a new sign, “The Highgrade.” It swung back and forth in the breeze over the latest house of ill repute on that long street inhabited by the demimonde of the camp.
The newly arrived occupant of the Highgrade was a dark-eyed, curly headed, petite French girl by the name of Rosa May. She had lived at 18 D Street in Virginia City, and later at No. 1 Ormsby Street in Carson City, Nevada. Then Bodie beckoned with its golden, and what turned out to be, its diamond-studded hand, and Rosa answered the call.
In a short time she became the idol and toast of all the men who frequented the sporting district of the town, and they were many.
One miner was heard to remark, ” She was a gal who had a smile you’d go to hell for, and never regret it.” Yes, Rosa was the undisputed queen of Bodie’s underworld !
It was most natural that Ernest Marks, owner and proprietor of the Laurel Palace Saloon, should fall head over heels in love with her. That was no surprise to anyone; but the surprise and disappointment was that Rosa seemed to have a “hankerin” after Ernest.
Ernest wasn’t bad looking. He was tall and dark, with a slight mustache, and, true to the Hebrew blood in his veins, had inherited the traditional trait of making money. He lavished plenty of it on Rosa, in diamonds and furs. He allowed the other girls from the Red Light to frequent his place at night, and dance to the tunes that the old fiddler played, but Rosa was never there. A shade of jealousy and rage would pass over his face if her name was mentioned lightly by any of his drinking customers. One evening a Cornishman named Billy Owens, who had come into some money on the death of his mother, called “Fire in the Head !” and the whole house rose up for a drink. “Make it champagne, Ernest,” he ordered; then, mounting a chair, with his glass raised in his hand, he shouted : “Here’s to Rosa May, the darlingest, sweetest little bunch of loveliness that ever came into this camp. She’s mine!” Ernest turned as white as a sheet, and, reaching down behind the bar. He grabbed the pistol that he had kept there for emergencies. He pointed it straight at, Billy, and coolly and deliberately said, “Don’t drink to that toast, Billy—or I’ll fill you full of lead. No other man but me can toast Rosa at this bar, or any other bar in this whole damn camp.” Billy was raising his glass to drink, when suddenly pistol shots sounded from behind him—and the lights went out, for some level headed customer knew Ernest meant what he said. From that time on bad blood was known to exist between Ernest and Billy. Continue reading