Mary Porter: Queen of Fort Worth Madams

In almost every town in the old West lonely cowboys could find entertainment in a red light district. Fort Worth, Texas’s was bigger and a lot rowdier than most. Due to the notoriety, it became known as Hell’s Half Acre and it comprised Tenth to Fifteenth Streets while Houston, Main, and Rusk (now Commerce) crossed. Boarding houses (wink, wink,) gambling parlors, hotels and saloons lined the avenues and it became a hideout for outlaws and violent criminals. The murder rate was high on a nightly basis. But if a woman had enough guts and could stomach the hard life, she could make a good living.

One woman was Mary Porter. She was born in Ireland in 1844 and came to Fort Worth about 1885 where she operated a high-end brothel. She employed four girls: Kittie Wilson, Etta Daniels, Mabel Thomason, and May Keller.

From 1893 to 1897, Mary was arrested 130 times but never spent a night in jail. Her clients were the wealthy and powerful and they made sure they kept her in business. Her fines usually ran around $100 but she viewed that as the price of doing business. (I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of Mary.)

She operated within the laws—didn’t advertise, kept fighting to a minimum, got regular medical checkups for her girls, and kept a clean house. She was well-respected as someone in that business, and her girls sang her praises. Still, depression, suicide, and murder were things they all faced.

In 1887 following the famous shootout between Jim Courtright and Luke Short, a prostitute named Miss Sally was discovered nailed to an outhouse door. The murderer was never caught.

As the years passed, Madame Mary Porter’s fame and coffers grew. But somewhere before the turn of the century, a committee made up of ladies of the Union Bethel Mission and accompanied by two officers paid her a visit. They demanded that she vacate the premises by Monday, that her house was needed for other purposes. If she refused to leave, she would be the subject of a grand jury investigation.

Mary thought long and hard, then she told her girls to start packing. She moved out all right—into one just a few doors down. The committee didn’t bother her again. On the 1900 census, she listed her occupation as “boarding house keeper.”

She once entertained the Wild Bunch led by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid plus other notable outlaws.

June 10, 1905, Mary suddenly died leaving an estate valued at $20,000 ($500,000 in today’s currency.) They buried her in an unmarked grave in Oakwood Cemetery. Then in 2009, over 100 years of her death, a group of citizens got together and bought her a gravestone engraved with the simple words, “Call me madam.”

I love stories that give colorful accounts of what life must’ve been like before we became “modernized.” I can close my eyes and picture this seedy part of Fort Worth and the rough and tumble daily existence. I wish I knew more of Mary’s story and what led her to prostitution. Maybe she got trapped in it as so many other women were who found themselves alone. There weren’t many occupations available for women to make a living at.

So, what part about the old west do you love in books and movies? What part do you hate?

The Collecting Bug

Yes, I’m a collector. I confess. I’d be a member of Collector’s Anonymous if there were such a thing. In fact, I’d probably be their president.

My collection tendencies involve coins minted in the U.S., shells rocks, postage stamps, books, and dust bunnies. You may think the last one funny but you should see the dust in my house. I can usually write my name on the furniture. But really, I’m way, way too busy to clean.

I have collecting to do and books to write and fun to be had.

I began collecting Morgan silver dollar coins way back when I was a teenager. I love holding them in my hand and imagining them being in the pocket of a cowboy or outlaw. It was the currency of choice in the West. My most prized is a $20 gold piece and an 1881 Morgan that carries a San Francisco mint mark. Over the years my collection has grown and it’s given me immense satisfaction. I also collected all the state quarters and the president dollars. I also have the Sacagawea dollars, the Susan B. Anthony ones, and also the Kennedy half dollars. I guess I just like money.

Some of my postage stamp collection includes Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan and many others.

And I love my rocks. I can’t go anywhere without picking up more. I’m just fascinated with stones (and shells) of all kinds. I have several prehistoric ones that have small fish imbedded in them.

My books . . . you should see my shelves. But then maybe it’s a good thing you can’t. I have my prized autographed collection, my romance section, and then I have a good-sized portion of research books of every subject you can imagine. I wouldn’t take a million dollars for my books. I have a 1930 copy of Little Women, a 1933 Zane Grey, a 1942 Emilie Loring romance called “Rainbow at Dusk,” and the second book Nora Roberts wrote called “Sacred Sins.” Plus, I have a ton of others by Jodi Thomas, Lorraine Heath, Sharon Sala, Pam Morsi, Johanna Lindsay, and on and on.

Research books take up two complete bookshelves. I have ones on life in the American West, a set of Time Life books on the West, books on ships, horses, birds, plants, clothing, medicinal herbs, and food. Most are used very often and they’re crucial in creating my stories.

But, I’m not the only collector….

For instance….my mother collected bells, anything Avon, and collector plates.

My sister Jan collects music CDs and there are some she wouldn’t turn loose of no matter what.

My oldest granddaughter collects unusual shot glasses.

Michael Phelps is a collector of Olympic medals—28 to be exact. Twenty-three of them are gold. Yay! What a guy and what a swimmer!

Then, there are the characters in my books.

Tempest LeDoux (Give Me a Cowboy) collects husbands. Five previous ones and she worked on #6 during the story. All she wants in life is to find one good man to love who won’t up and die on her. McKenna Smith is real skittish though. Tempest doesn’t have a good track record.

Jessie McClain (Knight on the Texas Plains) collects orphaned children. She can’t help it. She has a soft heart and loves kids.

Rand Sinclair (Twice a Texas Bride) collects keys. He’s never going to be locked in a dark basement again.

Roan Penny (To Catch a Texas Star) collects knowledge so he can figure a way out of every situation. It helps him survive.

Marley Rose McClain (To Catch a Texas Star) collects and writes stories which she entertains the children with. I loved making her an author.

Granny Jack (To Catch a Texas Star) collects cats. She has a bunch of them.

Now it’s your turn……

Are you a collector? If so, what things do you collect? I’d like to know. You can borrow my collection of dust bunnies if you want ‘em. They’re real easy to take care of.

What the Heck is a Hand Pie?

Pies have been around since Medieval times when they needed something to seal in the juices of cooked meat or fruit. Someone (whoever it was earned my undying gratitude) developed dough and it was perfect.

But in the 1800s, these upstart, practical Americans came up with something truly ingenious–the FRIED PIE.

No one really knows where they originated but a good many believe they came from the mountains of the Carolinas, Kentucky, and Virginia.

Early on, they were called “hand pies” or “crab lanterns.” Maybe you know them as turnovers which are similar but not really the same.

Whatever they were called, they were enthusiastically received. They were portable, no mess and you held them in your hand. Didn’t need a fork or plate. Folks could pack them into saddlebags, lunch pails, take them on trains or out on the range.

First, for those who don’t know what they are, I should probably explain. Picture this– a circle of dough, a filling of either fruit or meat on one side, the other half folded over then crimped with a fork to seal the edges, after which they’re put into a fryer of hot grease.

Absolutely out of this world!

Even the health conscious can enjoy them….baked.

Many prefer a meat filling of beef or chicken and those are really yummy too. The Hispanics have something similar called empanadas. Oh man, I love those too!

I like that they’re an old treat and have been around for a long time. I close my eyes sometimes and picture a wife bringing a plate of them to the table and how eyes would light up.

Some would argue that fried pies are a Southern treat, but hold up there, pardner!

Our 14th president, Franklin Pierce, who hailed from New Hampshire, craved fried pies and brought them with him to the White House. (1853-1857)

In Texas Mail Order Bride, my middle brother bachelor Rand Sinclair’s mother made them and Rand sold them out of his Lily of the West Saloon. Cooper Thorne with his notorious sweet tooth was a regular customer. His favorite was peach along with a bottle of sarsaparilla.

I love apricot the best but I like them all and can eat my weight in them. Sometimes I resort to buying them in the grocery store but they really can’t compare to homemade.

How about you? Have you eaten a fried pie (or baked)? What do you think of them? Which are your favorites?


What Does It Take To Make a Great Historical Western Romance Anthology?

Hey, Everyone. Please welcome Charlene Raddon this week. She has a great anthology to tell you about. Lots of very talented authors in this western collection with her! So settle back and listen to Charlene tell how she did this. 

* * * * *


Nine outstanding stories from nine outstanding authors!

Putting together an anthology with multiple authors is a study in organizational skill, patience, diplomacy, and coordination. It’s nine people scattered over the United States working together to produce an entertaining read for millions of eager readers.

It isn’t easy.

But having good authors to work with makes a huge difference and in Under a Mulberry Moon, we have just that. Here are the stories included in this exceptional anthology: 

Millwright’s Daughter, Zina Abbott

He’ll risk his future to save her from a domineering uncle.

Worth the Wait, Patricia Pac-Jac Carroll

Love might not come softly, but it better come quickly for those on Sundown Ranch.

A Family for Merry, Carolyn Clemmons

               What will happen when two people are forced together to save a child?

Comes a Specter, Keta Diablo

              A sinister ghost haunts Anya’s ranch. Will the man she’s always loved put aside his bitterness to help her save her child?

The Widow Buys a Groom, P. A. Estelle

Can a woman alone and a man haunted by demons come together to find peace and joy?

Mathew’s Freedom, Cissie Patterson

              Can a man run away from trouble only to find his future in Freedom? Matthew & Brenna must come together to save the one person trying to tear them apart.

The Lady Lassoes an Outlaw, Charlene Raddon

             Caught in the clutches of a ruthless outlaw gang, Aurora and Garret must put the past behind them long enough to save her brother and escape.

A Family for Polly, Jacquie Rogers

            To protect her adopted orphans, Polly makes a deal with Manford—marry her in name only and be on his way—but what’s she to do when her new husband won’t go?

* * * * * 

Amazon link:

I can’t tell you what the other authors in this anthology went through to produce their stories. I can tell you that for me, it was a matter of circumstance, coincidence and hard work. When I agreed to come up with a story for this production, my first thought was, What am I going to write?

To spark my imagination, I went through an old file of novel ideas. Amongst those dusty pages, I found a two-page beginning for a story called “Aurora.” I liked what I read and thought others would too. But I couldn’t remember where I meant to go with this tale and became hung up in trying to reproduce a forgotten idea instead of using Aurora for inspiration in writing a new story.

I flailed around for weeks, decided to do a different story, decided that wouldn’t do, and went back to Aurora. Once I let go of whatever brainstorm had caused me to write those inciting two pages of manuscript, the words flowed out of me and onto the page.

I loved it.

It isn’t easy to love what you write—not without much agony and indecision first. Of course, I did suffer some agony and tons of indecision, but that was a different matter. That was about what to write, not what I did write.

So, The Lady Lassoes an Outlaw was born. I had a blast researching the Outlaw Trail and Robber’s Roost. That area of my home state, Utah, is awe-inspiring and life changing. Who knew such fantastical rock formations could exist? Arches, slot canyons, ancient cultures and petroglyphs. And then there are the outlaws. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid used Robber’s Roost as a hideout more than once and rode the Outlaw Trail numerous times. How awesome to stand there and think that those long ago, but very real, outlaws may have stood in the same spot. Inspiring indeed.

I hope you enjoy The Lady Lassoes and Outlaw as much as I did writing it. And don’t forget the other great stories waiting for you in Under a Mulberry Moon.


Charlene Raddon is a bestselling author of western historical romance novels. She never intended to be a writer. It just sort of happened. Her first book was published by Kensington in 1994. Now, ten books and many years later, she is enjoying being an Indie author. When not at the computer, she crochets, reads, travels, spoils her grandchildren as well as her neurotic cat, and researches new ways to avoid cooking and yardwork.

Oh, and she creates book covers for historical authors at


Old Jails of Texas

Whether you’re reading a western romance or watching a western movie, you’ll find that jails play some part in most of the storylines. They do in my stories as well. Law enforcement was crucial in the settlement of the West and those caught paid a pretty high penalty for their crimes.

This first one was in Mobeetie, Texas. I don’t think the second one was in this state.


As you tell, the jails were anything but plush. They didn’t care that criminals suffered. In fact, they wanted them to suffer and consider the error of their ways. This first one was in Wortham, TX. and the second in Spofford.


In my upcoming Outlaw Mail Order Bride series the town of Devil’s Crossing don’t have a jail so they put the lawbreakers in a dugout. With the back part in a hill, they only needed a man to guard the front. Ingenious.


There are tons of original old jails here in Texas. Some have been turned into museums, but surprisingly others are still in use after more than a hundred years. There are ones that look like huge fortresses and some that seem to have been added more as an afterthought. In the poor counties lacking access to funds they only had what’s called a strap-iron jail created by strips of metal and must’ve been created by a blacksmith from the looks of things. Strap-iron jails were usually outdoors with no protection from the elements. See some examples above.

But maybe they would’ve been the best. At least they got air-flow. Still, they would’ve had to give up a lot of privacy. And it would’ve been really easy for someone to pass him a gun or the key.


One special tidbit I gleaned from the internet was that in some counties, prisoners were farmed out to willing citizens to keep in their homes for $3.00 a day. I’d never heard that before. Of course as you can imagine, my mind started whirling, thinking of all sorts of things I could put in a story sometime. Here’s one from Crawford, TX and in Uvalde, TX


I think if criminals today had to spend time in these “no frills” jails, they’d walk the straight and narrow when they got out.

What about you? Do you think we’re too soft on lawbreakers? I’ll be in Denver all week at the RWA Writer’s Conference so I may not be able to answer all the comments.

A Reticule: A Woman’s Necessity

From the beginning of time women needed a place to put personal things. And whether you call it a chanery, chatelaine, pocket, reticule, handbag or purse it became something a women couldn’t do without.

The English called reticules “indispensables.” The French called them “ridicules” and mocked women who carried them.

An interesting thing is how very small they were in the beginning in the 1700’s. That was because way back then women rarely carried anything. If she went shopping a maid accompanied her and paid for all the purchases. A woman didn’t talk about money and, heaven forbid, she certainly didn’t HANDLE any.

So, visiting cards, a handkerchief, small bottle of perfume, or the ever-present smelling salts (because you never knew when you were about to keel over) were about all she needed to keep with her.

They were made of all sorts of things—silk, velvet, brocade, leather, straw, old doilies, handkerchiefs. You name it and it could be made into a reticule. And then there were the knitted and crocheted ones. Some had adornment and some were plain Jane.

Usually reticules had a drawstring closure but not always. I have two and they both have a chain handle. Some of the sequins are coming off of the gold one. The other is cloth and has fancy stitiching. If you want to enlarge them click on the image.


In my research, I ran across a notation about women of courting age spending large amounts of time embroidering their name and date on their reticule to show a potential husband her domestic skill. As though that would’ve certainly sealed the deal. Too funny.

Today’s purses are all shapes and sizes and made out of anything you can imagine. Some are inexpensive and some would require me taking out a loan to buy.

This one belonged to my grandmother and was probably the only purse she ever owned.

Lord at the things we carry in our purses!

Just don’t ever ask me to crochet or knit one. This girl is not very domestic.

For years and years I carried a shoulder purse but since have gone to a small clutch that I tuck under my arm. What about you? What kind of purse do you favor? Would you have crocheted one back in the day?

I Have Winners!!

Thank you all for coming to this celebration of To Catch a Texas Star! I had so many comments I added to my giveaway.

Instead of two winners….I now have 5!!

Emma Metz


Debra Shutters

Mrs. Shaun Brinkhurst

Tonya Cherry

Congratulations, ladies! I will contact you for your snail mail addresses or you can drop me a note at linda (at) lindabroday (dot) com.

To Catch a Texas Star Is Here!

To Catch a Texas Star will finally release on Tuesday and I’m so excited to have it in readers’ hands. I can’t wait to see what they think of Roan Penny and Marley McClain.

An Overview of the Story:

Marley is heading into town one morning and spies a man lying just off the road. She sees that he’s in bad shape so she gets him into the back of her wagon and takes him to her family ranch—the Aces ‘n Eights. He lies unconscious for two days with Marley caring for him. While he slowly recovers, he finds an attraction between him and Marley growing. But he’s got to make the men pay who killed his friend and dragged him almost to his death.

Marley knows that he’s a drifter and likely won’t stay but her heart tells her she’ll have trouble living without him. Roan is everything she’d looked for but never dreamed of finding. A frightening stranger appears bringing deep foreboding. Then a long-held secret that her parents have kept comes out and shatters everything she knew about herself.

Danger, adventure, and deepening, lasting love make this a story you can’t put down. Will Marley and Roan live to see their happy future? It’s anyone’s guess.

Marley McClain loves to write children’s stories that she reads to the orphans in her parent’s care. She wants to get them published but doesn’t know how. Roan tells her about an ad he saw in the mercantile in San Saba and that sets the wheels in motion.

I’ve never written a story about a writer before but I loved this extra added layer of the story. The children can’t get enough of what she pens and the stories spark their imaginations.

Here a few of the books they would’ve had access to in 1899:

Cinderella – published in 1697

Aesop’s Fables – published 600 BC

Arabian Nights – the 8th century

Mother Goose – 1729

The Swiss Family Robinson – 1812

Ivanhoe – 1819

Rip Van Winkle – 1820

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – 1819

Grimm’s Fairy Tales – 1823

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – 1865

Little Women – 1868

Robin Hood – 1883

Tom Sawyer – 1876

Treasure Island – 1883

There were lots, lots more. Children had plenty to choose from. One of the stories that one little boy loved of Marley’s was about pirates and Jean Lafitte. I had the most fun writing this book and making her an author.

This will wrap up the Texas Heroes series. I hope you’ve liked each one. I’ll launch a new series – Outlaw Mail Order Brides – in January with The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride. It’s about Clay Colby and Tally Shannon that you met in the Men of Legend series. I think you’ll love this book.

Did any of the dates on these old classics surprise you? I didn’t realize that Cinderella went so far back. I mention this one in my upcoming The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride.

Leave a comment about these early classics or just anything to be entered in a drawing for one of two copies of To Catch a Texas Star.



Lizzie Johnson Williams: An Independent Woman

I like stories I run across of women who didn’t let any man put her under his thumb and one who surely didn’t was Elizabeth (Lizzie) Johnson.

She was born in 1840 in Jefferson City, Missouri, one of six children. Thomas Jefferson Johnson and wife Catherine raised the children to be well-educated and have religious upbringing.

Lizzie had exceptional interest in all part of life and was there at the beginning of the cattle boom. She took a job teaching school in 1868 in Lockhart, Texas and was drawn to the men and livestock coming up from South Texas. She earned extra income by keeping books for local cattlemen. She quickly learned that a great deal of money could be made in the cattle business.

She quietly bought some land, hired cowboys, and registered her own brand – a CY. She didn’t bother to tell her family. Didn’t think it was any of their concern.

A few years later she sent cattle up the trail to increase her earnings and did indeed so she sent more the next year and more.

Then she met a man who captured her eye in 1879—Hezekiah Williams—a widower with four sons. Before the wedding, she made him sign a contract that she kept control of her property and all future gains belonged solely to her. Lizzie was 39 years old. This was very rare for the times.

Hezekiah knew nothing about the cattle business but was interested in learning and she began to teach him and a friendly, competitive rivalry rose. On sale days, they arrived at the cattle pens together then went separate ways. She bought for her and he bought his. Funny thing about Lizzie…she would quickly turn around and sell them and buy more. Her profit column lengthened considerably while his shrank.

Another funny thing about Lizzie….when the census takers came around she’d tell them she kept house, never admitting the truth.

She and Hezekiah broke from their families and remained that way to their deaths. Families were moochers and they had nothing to give.

The couple went up the cattle trails together but kept their herds separate. They made at least three trips up the Chisholm and always made a profit, even after the quarantines against Texas Fever. When they arrived in whatever cattle town they drove the herds to, it was Lizzie who brokered and sold the cattle, paid off the hands, and kept a record in her ledger. Other cattlemen soon asked her to keep a record of their sales too which she did. They trusted her.

They had no children together. His four grown sons were enough.

Lizzie also wrote stories and sold them to magazines. She loved putting words on paper as much as she loved sales figures. She also invested in real estate and increased her holdings.

Sometime around 1905, bandits captured Hezekiah and demanded $50,000 in ransom. Lizzie never hesitated in paying it. But she did make him sign over his property to her. She thought she could take better care of it and did.

On July 26, 1914, he died in El Paso. Lizzie bought a $600 coffin and transported him home. When she signed the undertaker’s bill, she scribbled across it, “I loved the old buzzard this much.”

The light went out in Lizzie, now in her 70s. She dressed in black and kept to herself, alone in a cold, unlit room. She lived frugally on a bowl of vegetable soup and crackers a day. She developed a reputation as a miser and to many it seemed she was starving herself. She finally passed on October 9, 1924 at the age of 84.

Relatives discovered what a fortune she’d kept secret from them. In her apartment behind a board in a bookcase, they found hundreds of dollars in $5 bills and scattered around the room in every crevice were one hundred dollar bills. The total of cash in the room was well over $2,000 in addition to the $65,000 in the bank. After probate, Lizzie’s estate was valued at a quarter of a million dollars.

She wore a lot of hats during the course of her life—teacher, bookkeeper, writer, cattle broker, rancher and real estate baron but what she was most proud of was wife and cattle queen.

Lizzie Johnson Williams was truly a remarkable woman who set history scholars on their ear and blazed a wide path for other women to follow.

Can you imagine such a life back then, the adventure, the sheer magnitude of everything? A life limited only by your willingness to work for what you wanted. Too often we sell ourselves short and give up when we’ve only begun. What part of her story interested you the most? For me it was her love and devotion to her husband. This was a great love story.

Oliver Loving: Dean of the Trail Drivers

Many men stood tall and proud on the frontier but none more so than Oliver Loving—a rancher, trading store owner, and freight hauler. He was also a very handsome man.

He was born in Kentucky in 1812 and moved his wife and kids to Texas in 1843. He received a grant of 639 acres in the Dallas area and set to work raising cattle. But it wasn’t long before he picked up and moved to Palo Pinto County and increased the size of his land holdings to 1,000 acres.

No one was a wiser businessman. When his herd became too large, he decided to drive them north out of Texas on the Shawnee Trail to Colorado and made a considerable profit.

The Civil War came and halted his plans. He was commissioned to provide beef to the Confederate Army for which he was never paid thousands of dollars owed him.

In 1866, he hooked up with rancher Charles Goodnight and they plotted a course that became known as the Goodnight/Loving Trail. Their partnership proved to be very profitable for both. The trail held danger though and passed through Comanche and Kiowa land. It required nerves of steel to make the trip but that was something both men had in common.

In the spring of 1867, Loving and Goodnight left on another drive north. A good way into the trip, Oliver Loving left and went ahead to secure a contract for their herd. He only took one man with him—a trusted scout named Bill Wilson.

They moved onto Indian land with jittery nerves. Days after leaving Goodnight, Loving and Wilson were attacked by Indians and Loving was severely injured. By the time he made it Fort Sumner, New Mexico, he had gangrene and doctors were forced to amputate.

The scout hurried back to Charles Goodnight to tell him what happened. Goodnight arrived at Loving’s bedside and before he died, he made Goodnight promise to bury him in Texas.

Goodnight kept his promise and buried Loving in Weatherford, Texas, near his ranch. Here’s Goodnight’s picture.

Author Larry McMurtry wrote Lonesome Dove loosely based on Oliver Loving and Charles Goodnight. In the movie, Robert Duvall played Gus McCrae who, like Loving, was attacked by Indians and had to have a leg amputated. Tommy Lee Jones rode to his bedside and promised to bury him in Texas. I love this movie by the way!

Loving and Goodnight changed the American West forever and they wrote their own history the way they wanted it.

Oliver Loving was inducted into the Oklahoma National Cowboy Hall of Fame when it was first founded in 1958. I think he would’ve loved that recognition as well as the title Dean of Trail Drivers.

He also had the town of Loving, New Mexico named for him.

What do you think drove men like Oliver Loving to take chances? Fame? Glory? Money? Doing something no one else did?