Back in time column: The seedy side of town


As today, people in Stillwater a hundred years ago worked very hard to make a living. Those people working in the lumber industry such as the undercutters, sawyers, cooks and river pigs took pride in their work. The lawyers, business owners and even the clerks worked hard for every dollar that they made. All sorts of professions were practiced in the booming lumber town of Stillwater, including the oldest profession.

When the lumberjacks would come into town after the spring drive, there were places that the men would go to buy new clothes, get a hot bath, a shave, a haircut, and then possibly visit a social gathering spot to find a new “friend.”

Many of the lumberjacks coming out of the woods during the spring would head over to St. Paul’s Hill Street District. There one could find many of the Capitol city’s “Palace’s of Sin,” which was only an hour’s ride on the train from Stillwater. Many of the famous madams in that area were “Mother Mary Robinson,” “Lottie Leighton,” “Frenchy Mable LaSarge,” and the one and only “Nina Clifford.”

This is not to say that Stillwater did not have adequate facilities for the lumberjack. Just across the river into Houlton, Wis., according to historian Carol Maki, there were “sporting houses” conducted by such people as “Perry the Pimp,” “Mike Fortune” and Larry Mandeville.

The best known madam in Stillwater was the wife of Larry Mandeville. …

To read more, see the print edition for Friday, Oct. 25, available at news stands through Oct. 22 or at the Gazette office, 1931 Curve Crest Blvd., Stillwater.