Thursday, August 21, 2014

Oregon Okay with Licensed Brothel

You broke the law, but you seem
to have paid in advance.
As with an earlier post, I don’t want to speculate to wildly over the identity of the brothel keeper in an article from the East Oregonian of Pendleton, Oregon of August 21, 1913. She’s described as “Belle Olcott,” but the only Olcott I can find living in Pendelton in 1913, is Ida Beale Olcott, the wife of a farmer. She and her husband later moved to San Diego California. But perhaps I would be maligning her in suggesting that she is the subject of our tale.

On the other hand, the article does note that Belle Olcotte (who may or may not be Ida Beale Olcott) previously ran the “Stock Exchange,” which (given the location) was either a saloon or a place where livestock were traded. Either of those might actually be the occupation of the wife of a farmer. The article suggests that she had another occupation, “conducting a bawdy house.”

There’s no further detail to be found:
Belle Olcott, former proprietor of the Stock Exchange and who was arrested on a warrant of conducting a bawdy house, drew a not true bill. Though the grand jury does not offer any explanation in support of its bills, it is understood the jurors took the stand that in conducting a bawdy house, the accused had done so with the consent of the city authorities and had paid a monthly sum into the city treasurer for the privilege.
That’s all that’s said.

The grand jury seems to have decided that it was clear that Olcott was running a bawdy house (typically a house of prostitution, though sometimes referring to a place which supplied alcohol and beds, where patrons had to bring their own women, sort of like a combination bar and hourly-rate motel), but she had permission, and she had paid for that. So, reason to take this case to court.

I don’t know what the Oregon statutes were in 1913, but it’s clear that if you were going to run a bawdy house at that time, you’d better check with the city authorities first, and always make certain that the city treasury gets its cut.
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