Survey number:      Owner:      Date of discovery:

Roach & Van — Elite Theater

In early November of 1896 James Roach of Redondo Beach purchased a lot in Randsburg for a saloon and restaurant, for which he reportedly already had the furnishings.  On the 24th of the month a troop of variety people arrived without their tent, it is thought that this may have been Mr. Van and company.  On December 11th of 1896 a liquor license was issued to Roach and Van.  The Elite Theater as they called their establishment did not wait for the niceties of such things as a license before starting into business and in fact a shooting took place on the second day of December.   That was nine days before a license was granted.

The shooting occurred as a result of an argument over a crap game.  Frank Stevens shot William Davis who later died.  Davis was a gambler and ex-railroad man from Sacramento.  Frank Stevens was a young man of about 25 years of age with an unsavory reputation.  He had come to camp with his father and brothers and they had located some good paying claims in the Fremont Peak area and established a mill at Cuddeback Lake.   Frank ran with a bad crowd and is reported to have been the leader of the “Dirty Dozen” a group of thugs who were the reason the people of the camp formed a vigilante committee, which they referred to as a “Citizens Committee”.  Joe Carroll who was later a bartender in the San Joaquin Valley Supply Co. bar and a correspondent to the Tulare Weekly Times reported to the Bakersfield Daily Californian, in his account of the shooting, that Nothing is to mean or contemptible for them to do.  Several days ago one of the gang named James was fined $17 for discharging a pistol inside camp limits.  The gang felt sore against the justice, and yesterday they moved a tent one-quarter of a mile to the vacant portion of Justice Maginnis’ lot. Procuring another tent, they jumped another half lot across the street.  They then started after more tents with the intention of jumping the Montgomery corral lots, but Mr. Montgomery borrowed several shotguns, and when the outfit came along with tents they took their hats off to Montgomery and passed around the corner to Rand street.  Before reaching the next corner they made up their mind to jump a lot belonging to Mrs. Casey, but that lady would not have it.  Instead of arguing, she ran out and, seizing the tent, and the poles, she threw them out in the street.  They then jumped two lots on the corner, one of them remarking “” as we have run out of tents we will take a rest””.

The events surrounding the shooting were described by Mr. Carroll as follows: “Early in the evening Davis, on entering the concert hall, walked over to the crap table, where a large crowd was watching one of the floor women who were playing against the game.  Davis had only been there a few minutes when the woman claimed that a man known as Compton had taken her bet.  At that time Davis jumped on a seat in the rear of the crowd and proceeded to josh Compton.

About twenty minutes later Compton accused the dealer of taking a fifty-cent bet of his.  While this wrangling was going on, Davis with bended body made a rush at Compton, butting him with his shoulder.  Whereupon Compton smashed Davis on the side of the head.  Davis then ran out of the theater, presumably to get a gun.  Returning soon after he renewed the quarrel, pulling out his gun he started for Compton.

The stories at this point are conflicting, whether Davis his man with his gun before or after Compton ran behind the large stove.

Hardly had G. W. Duncan rushed in, catching Davis by the arm, when Frank Stevens stepped up with a gun in his hand, pointing toward his head, Stevens called out; “”let loose of that gun.”” Immediately, (up) on Duncan dropping back, Davis and Stevens grappled, and in the clinch Stevens’ gun went off and Davis dropped to the floor.  Mr. Brooks sprang forward and disarmed both men.  In the confusion Stevens walked off. “

Stevens later gave himself up to Deputy Sheriff Crawford (owner of the St. Elmo Saloon), he claimed that the shooting was accidental and Brooks’ interference had caused the gun to discharge.  Sheriff Crawford escorted Mr. Stevens to jail in Bakersfield where he was held until February of 1897 and discharged.

It is not known how long Mr. Roach maintained his interest in the Elite Theater.  He also was in partnership with a Mr. Henderson and together they ran the Crawford Hotel.  By December of 1897 however the liquor license was being issued to Watkins & Van.

December 13, 1897: “J. Roach left here (Redondo) Thursday for Randsburg. Mrs. Roach will leave on Monday for the same place, where they intend to go into business. ” – San Francisco Call

Tivoli Theater

The Visalia Morning Daily Delta reported in February of 1897 that an intense competition was being conducted between the Elite Theater and Tivoli Theater.  When the Elite built an addition the Tivoli did the same and “…went one better by importing some little blond fairies from Los Angeles.” In order to keep up with the competition the Elite also imported some girls and engaged a full orchestra.  The Tivoli at last reporting was vowing to do likewise.

Reynolds — Thalia Variety Theater and Saloon

According to the Bakersfield paper (Daily Californian) the Los Angeles Times, reported in December of 1896 that “Deputy Sheriff Guy Woodward returned yesterday from the exciting mining camp of Randsburg, and he is now delighting the court house habitats with his adventure.  He says the camp is the liveliest in the West, and during his stay of two days he witnessed three of four funerals.  One of the victims was killed in the Thalia Variety Theater and Saloon, which is, ran by a man named Reynolds.  Reynolds is the man who conducted a place in this city and whose license was revoked by the Police Commission.”

As this article appeared within a week of the shooting of Davis in the Elite Theater and no other substantiating information has been found it seems plausible that the Thalia is in fact the Elite and Reynolds was most likely Roach.  The three or four funerals are most likely sensationalism meant to sell newspapers as almost daily reports of the events of interest in Randsburg were being printed in the Daily Californian, and no mention of these events are recorded.

Watkins & Van — Elite Theater

The Elite Theater under the management of Watkins & Van was short lived.  Watkins & Van were issued a liquor license in December of 1897 and were burnt out in the January 1898.  On the 20th of January a fire started in a vacant building between the Mojave Saloon and White Fawn Saloon.  Due to the lack of a water supply the fire quickly spread and all the buildings on Rand Street from Staley to the Elite Theater were wiped out. The Elite Theater is thought to have set about where the adobe building now sets at the end of Rand St. The fire also burnt a number of buildings on Broadway down to Wagner’s Saloon/Pool hall. The town was saved from total destruction due to the lack of wind and the citizens tearing down buildings and moving the lumber out of the way to create a fire break.  Among the other buildings burnt were the Harrington House, St. Elmo Hotel, Wilson & Company, J. H. Underhill & Co. S. J. Montgomery, Hammond’s Grocery, Southern Pacific Offices, Hooper’s Merchandise Store the Postal Telegraph Office and numerous real estate offices, assayer’s office, small stores, saloons, and bakeries.

Joe Petrich — Orpheus Theater

The Orpheus Theater appears to have been originally opened by Joe Petrich in 1897 and was under his management in 1898 when the two major fires swept Randsburg.  Marcia Rittenhouse Wynn reports in her book Desert Bonanza that John Woodward built the Orpheum Theater after the two fires.  However the Bakersfield Californian in reporting the fire of May 9, 1898 stated that ” … many thought that the fire would never get past the Orpheus Theater in an easterly direction, but it jumped over and was soon burning as fiercely on the east side of it as on the west side of it.”  In addition George McPherson shows on page 24 of his History of the Rand Mining District, published in 1899 that Joe Petrich was the proprietor of the Orpheum Theater. It is not known when Joe sold out to Louie Woodward.  The author now believes that this establishment was called the “Orpheus” when Joe Petrich ran it and the “Orpheum” when Louie Woodward ran it.    It is stated in the Desert Bonanza that an old-timer said that the Orpheum theatre was at its best in 1899, when each night a brass band was out front playing. Therefore it quite possible that Louie took over in late 1899 after publication of Mr. McPherson’s History.  5

John L. “Louie” Woodward — Orpheum Theater

The Orpheum Theater was located on Butte Ave. It was a large building with an elaborate stage.  In 1900 Louie and his wife Minnie had seven actresses (?) working for them. Some of These actresses had colorful names such as Stella Rae, Kitty Lola, Alio Lay, and Violet Toy.  Others used names, which were more likely their own such as Annie Parker, Laura Hirst, and Lulu Beckner.  In addition to the entertainment provided on stage and elsewhere by the actresses, there was a gymnasium in the basement of the building.  Marcia Wynn’s  Desert Bonanza states that “This was a busy place, there were booths upstairs, curtained off, so that the secluded visitor could look down upon the dancers and show, unobserved by those below.  The visitors to these upper private booths could ascend by a back stairway, and more than one wife of the town slipped up these stairs to see if her absent husband might be in the crowd below, watching the sprightly burlesque shows, drinking, or otherwise stepping over the line.”  This sounds like a good story, but it is more likely that these private booths were used for more private purposes by the patrons as their use by wives and other non-paying customers who could slip in from the back would not be conducive to business.

The Kern County District Attorney shut down the Orpheum sometime in early 1900 and it remained closed until April of 1900 when they won their suit to be fined rather than closed.  Shortly after reopening the Orpheum Theater put on a benefit performance for the Texas Flood Sufferers.  The Randsburg Miner’s report on the affair was as follows:  ““The entertainment last evening at the Orpheum was the best ever given in Randsburg.  There was a good house and everybody enjoyed a good laugh.

The performance began with a one-act comedy entitled “Fun in a Chinese Laundry.”  The principal characters were Joe Arthur, as a sure-enough Chinaman, and Ed Dale, an Irishman personating (sic) a Chinaman.  Charles Stanley was the tough man who first compelled the tow to stand on their heads and afterwards inducing them to fight with gloves, was set upon by both and driven from the house.  Vifanta and Mollie Mason also appeared in the play.

After the comedy came Miss Thelia Primrose, who rendered two songs, responding to an encore.  Miss Primrose was a very sweet voice and pleased the audience.

Miss Elsie Stevens, contortion dancer, also appeared twice.  This lady is a very clever contortionist dancer and a good high kicker.

Next came Miss Vera Laurence. Serio comic and cake walk.

Joe Walker made up to perfection in a little Irish comedy, song and dance and funny sayings, kept the audience in a roar of laughter.  We must admit that credit must be accorded Joe for being able to produce stuff that will amuse and entertain a Randsburg audience after being constantly before them for more than a year.  Without doubt he is the cleverest as well as the most popular comedian that has ever been here.

Miss Mollie Mason, nattily attired in a lawn tennis suit, as a boy, gave a song and dance.  Mollie makes a handsome boy and dances beautifully.

Miss Vifanta, in the whirlwind dance, was next on the program.  This talented woman danced for twenty-two minutes, turning 760 times, and during that time divested herself of all her outer garments—hat, coat, outer dress, gloves down, to a dancing suit – without missing a turn, or stopping for a second.  The last part of it she handled two long, sharp knives, with their points toward her body, her nose, her throat, her eyes, one false step would have been fatal.  Miss Vifanta is the only white woman in America who does this dance.

Next came Stanley and Woodward, Charles and Minnie, in “Mrs. O’Grady’s wash day.”  This is truly a laughable comedy in which Stanley does some very fine slack wife performance and Miss Woodward shows very superior skill in toe dancing and deserves great praise.  She was dressed beautifully in ballad costume of scarlet and showed by her skill that she had gone through a long and severe course of training, as toe dancing is the difficult of anything in the vaudeville stage.  Stanley is a very superior actor and slack wire performer and captured the audience entirely.

The next and last act was illustrated pictures by Stanley and Woodward, the house being darkened for the occasion.  The pictures are worked by Stanley, while Miss Woodward does the singing.  The first was “The Baggage Car Ahead,” and the next “She Was Bred in Old Kentucky.”

The entire proceeds of the entertainment, all the money taken in at the door, amounted to just $50, and this amount will be forwarded to the governor of Texas Monday.  This is doing pretty well for Randsburg.  The Degree of Honor from their ball sent $52, and now Louie Woodward sends $50.  The people of Randsburg who attended are thanked for doing so, but at the same time they got value received in the entertainment, while Mr. Woodward contributes all that was made.””

Fire and the Orpheum Theater were to become more acquainted than any one wished.  In June of 1900 fire again visited the theater which was quickly put out by Louie and his wife, however it left the girls scared and the town concerned about the possibility of another catastrophe.  In any event Louie decided that he would close the theater part of the business for the hot months starting on July 8th, putting the girls out of work. The bar stayed open and the gymnasium was moved up from the basement.  On October 1, 1900 the theater was reopened.

Fire put an end to the Orpheum Theater and most of Randsburg’s business district on the 6th of June 1903.  The fire, which started in the Orpheum Theater, was thought to have been caused by one of the girls smoking in bed.  The fire started about noon so it assumed that the smoking the girl was doing was from a cigarette and not some other type. The wind was blowing and within two hours most of the business district of the town was totally destroyed.  The only fire equipment available to fight the fire at that time was two hose carts and forty water buckets.  The fire was variously estimated by the reports of the time to have consumed the town in as little as twenty minutes and not more than two hours.  Insufficient water pressure contributed to the fire and it was not stopped until it reached empty lots in all directions.

The Orpheum Theater was flanked on both sides by frame buildings.  Among the buildings on the west was Louie Stoll’s Saloon. Next was Asher’s Mercantile which was a stone and adobe building with iron shutters, which supposedly made it fire proof, another small saloon and then the Houser Livery Stable all of which were lost.  On the East of the Orpheum were the, the Palace Saloon and the French Restaurant.  The fire then jumped across Butte Ave. and burnt James Pearson’s Jewelry Store, the White Fawn Saloon, W. C. Wilson’s telephone office which also housed the Western Union Office, The Steam Club. Thomas McCarthy’s, George Turners Randsburg Drug Store, Rinaldi”s Butcher Shop and a furniture store.  It was reported that numerous small restaurants, rooming houses and a few residences were lost.  Approximately 100 people were left temporarily homeless and were put up in the remaining hotels and rooming houses.

When the fire occurred most of the men were away at the mines working.  However the local Fire Company responded quickly and was soon joined by volunteers from both Randsburg and Johannesburg.  The Firemen at the risk of their lives removed a large quantity of Giant Powder from the store of C. Asher this is thought to have prevented loss of lives that would have occurred from the explosion.  There were no lives lost but several firemen were injured by a falling wall and narrowly escaped death.

The building, which housed the Orpheum Theater, was owned by a Mrs. Williams of Los Angeles.  It is not known if she was insured or if she had the building rebuilt.  Louie Woodward left town and was next heard from in July of 1904 when a few of the old time Randsburg residents visited Tonopah and the new camp of Goldfield.  It was reported that Louie was in charge of a restaurant in Goldfield and was doing well.

The Orpheum Theater issued two different tokens.  These tokens are of the dance hall type in that they just state a number on the back. It is not known whether these tokens were good for cents, dollars, or minutes.    In the case of the Orpheum Tokens the denominations are 5 and 10.  They are both round in shape and 24 mm in diameter.  The token with the 5 denomination is brass and the 10 is aluminum.  These tokens are very rare and the few specimens that have been found were found around the cribs in back of the location where the Orpheum

February 26, 1898: “RANDSBURG REBELS –The Miners Do Not Want to Lose Their Only Place of Amusement RANDSBURG. Feb. 24.-Under a new ordinance recently passed by the board of supervisors of Kern County, the sale of liquor has been prohibited in dance halls, and no bars can be maintained in a house where dancing is allowed. By reason of this the Orpheus theater, which is the only place of amusement in Randsburg, is, threatening to close its doors, as its; proprietor says he cannot keep the house open except at a loss, unless he be allowed to pursue the course he has always followed, of permitting dancing after the close of each evening’s performance, and that, without the sale of liquors, would be an-, expense he could not bear. The citizens’ committee, realizing the necessity of such adjuncts to an up-to-date mining camp, will petition the board of supervisors to revoke the ordinance, and at a meeting held Wednesday evening passed the following preamble and resolutions: Whereas. It has come to our knowledge that an effort is being made to close the Orpheus theater: and, Whereas: Since the fire it is the only place of amusement in the town, and it brings every stranger visiting the camp to Randsburg as well as the miners from the outlying districts, all of whom leave more or less money in town for the benefit: of all; and, further, recognizing the fact that some license is permissible in any new mining camp: therefore, be It Resolved, That this committee is in favor of the continuance of the Orpheus theater as a place of amusement, and we further recognize in the person of the manager and owner, Joseph Petrich, a public-spirited gentleman, alive to the interests of the camp, ready and willing to throw open the doors of the building free of charge for church socials, for the benefit of the fire department, or public meetings, and also contributes liberally to the support of every laudable enterprise of a public or private character to advance the interests of the town and camp.” – Los Angeles Herald

October 16, 1899: “A RANDSBURG RUNAWAYCAUSED BY BREAKING OF A WAGON BRAKE –Miss Sadie Smith of Los Angeles among the People Injured—No Lives Lost –Randsburg, Oct. 15. —A four horse team with eleven men and women from the Orpheum upset on the steep grade between Randsburg and Johannesburg this evening and several of the parties were severely injured. Miss Sadie Smith, Los Angeles, had her right arm broken above the elbow, Miss Ethel Barnes, San Francisco, jumped but was caught under the hack; her limbs were badly bruised and she was hurt internally. She is a large woman and fell heavily. Miss Smith was taken to the Russ house and her arm was set. Miss Barnes was taken to her room in the Orpheum. Ralph Higgins, the driver, was badly bruised and has a sprained ankle. Joe Arthur, it is feared, is hurt internally. The cause of the accident was the giving away of the brake to the wagon. The holdback straps next gave way and all control of the wagon was lost, as the hill is very steep. The team got clear away. The four other girls escaped with bruises.” – The Herald (Los Angeles)

June 29, 1899:  “RANDSBURG ORPHEUM MAY BE CLOSED UP — The Proprietor and Seven Female Artists Are Under Arrest.  – Randsburg, June 28 – Louis Woodward, proprietor of the local Orpheum, will be arrested to-night on a complaint drawn under section 303, Penal Code.  Seven female artists were arrested under section 306 of the same code.  Heretofore many attempts have been made to close up this theatre.  Nearly two years ago the camp was well divided on the subject.  The matter was brought up before the Board of Supervisors, but owing to a resolution passed by the Citizen’s Committee that the theatre was a drawing card to the camp, the matter was dropped.

Gus Tower, the deputy constable who swore to the complaint, says the orders came from Constable John W. Kelly, his chief.  The Board of Supervisors have visited the theater on two different occasions and have expressed themselves well pleased with the management of the place.” – San Francisco Call

January 30, 1900:   “A variety theater woman received a bad fall Friday night, being cut in the temple, and was not expected to regain consciousness for several hours. It came near being a case of murder” – Los Angeles Herald

Carleton Theatre– The Location of the Carleton Theatre has not let been discovered. A photo of it did however appear in a copy of the New York Sun newspaper and an article in the Los Angeles Herald in September of 1898 stated: The Carleton Theater has changed hands and is being remodeled. It will soon be opened by Mr. Cheney of Garlock.

Marguerite Roberts — My Place Dance Hall

It is not known where Marguerite’s place of business was prior to 1903.  However it is known that she was in town in 1900 when it was reported that she had returned from Cape Nome, Alaska.  She also made a donation in that year to the Citizens Committee.  Nature abhors a vacuum, no pun intended, and Marguerite Roberts soon moved in to fill the space left by the burning of the Orpheum Theater in 1903.

Although Marguerite had a liquor license issued to her as early as 1902 no mention of her or her establishment is found until the local newspapers started a campaign to drive her and her girls out of town.  On January 2, 1904 the Randsburg Miner printed the following article:


Finding her former quarter too small to accommodate herself and her female companions Marguerite Roberts has moved a shack to the rear of her place of business on lower Butte Avenue.  Conditions are fast ripening in that section for a repetition of the big fire of last June.  The businessmen, who own the adjoining buildings, occasioned by the last fire, are not in a position to erect adobes.

A fire is liable to start during a drunken orgy any night, and once started, would quickly wipe out the whole lower of the town, business houses, dwellings, rooming houses, and hotel, and on these nights it is hard to tell where it would stop.

This article was followed up a month later with another, which attempted to stir the interest in re-organizing the Vigilantes.  Stating that “This house with its signal flashing each night, and these women flaunting vice in our faces, and standing in front of the house at night soliciting, are a source of grave danger to the young.” Marguerite was accused of standing in her yard and shouting that the people of town would never drive her from her present location, that she would continue to do as she pleased and if they continued to complain that she would just increase her business.  It was also stated that a man who was pimping for Marguerite threatened that he and his friends would perjure themselves and swear out false criminal complaints against those citizens that were trying to close them down.  The rest of the article berated the local authorities for not taking action stating the different penal codes that the editor thought could be used to take action against the house of ill repute, and implying that the officers had been bought off by Marguerite.

The above photo appears to have been taken from the porch of the Post Office sometime between 1904 and late 1907.  The second and third buildings on the left are thought to be Marguerite’s My Place Dance Hall.  Two buildings were required, as a liquor license could not be issued to a dance hall.  Therefore the saloon with and adjoining building were used to circumvent the law.

Why the citizens and the newspaper were so upset with the local authorities remains a mystery.  A report in the Randsburg Miner, dated two weeks prior on the 23 of January 1904 stated that Marguerite Roberts had been charged with keeping a house of ill fame and that the defendant had obtained a change of venue.  The trial was to be held in Mojave, as Marguerite did not think she could get a fair trial in Randsburg, due to prejudice of the local court.  No record of the outcome of this trial has been located, however it is fair to assume based on the February article that the outcome was not what certain citizens of Randsburg wanted.

Things remained quiet for over a year until March of 1905 when two “ladies”, Blanch Porter, better known as “Navaho” and Pearl Phillips, who had been exposing their selves, were arrested and charged with vagrancy.  The Randsburg Miner reported that they were arrested at Fay Leroy’s dance hall in one report and that Marguerite Roberts employed them in another.  Regardless of who employed them, they both received 100 days in the county jail.  According to the Randsburg Miner these arrests signaled the start of another crusade against the bad elements of the town.  Constable Arnold had made the arrests and Judge (Justice of the Peace) Manning had expeditiously sentenced them to jail.  The newspaper changed its tune about the authorities saying that this was a good beginning and that their local officer would continue to clean up the town.

The Randsburg Miner’s editor stated ““The conviction of these two is a victory for law, order, and decency, yet there are others who are equally as guilty – some who openly make the threat “”that they will remain as long as they choose”” and hide only behind the pretext of \”Chambermaid”” in a bawdy house; who when the shades of night cover the blushes of shame may be found in dimly lighted side rooms of dance hall in all manner of questionable positions with men whom they never met before.  They use every possible means to fleece these hard working miners of their money and valuables and the nest day appear at the lunch counters and brag of how “”they pulled his leg”“ the money obtained in this was often goes to support some worthless vagabond that is too lazy and trifling to work; who goes on the streets and solicits the sale of shame in order that on the morrow he may have money with which to drink and gamble–vampiral vagrants that are looked upon with utmost contempt by even the lowest of fallen humanity.””

Shortly thereafter Marguerite again ran afoul of the law and was charged and convicted of allowing a 15 year old girl to do business in her house of ill fame. (See Fay Leroy) This prompted certain citizens of Randsburg to hire an outside agitator by the name of J. R. Bush to pursue running Marguerite out of business. On April 5th of 1905, Mr. Bush filed a complaint, supported by a petition, with the Kern County Board of Supervisors alleging that the provisions of the ordinance covering saloon licenses were being violated. Additionally it was alleged that Mrs. Roberts was an unfit person to be trusted with a retail liquor license.  The Petition read as follows:

“To the Honorable Board of Supervisors of the County of Kern; we the undersigned mothers, wives, and sisters of the residents and taxpayers of the town of Randsburg, would respectfully petition you honorable body as follows:

“Whereas, a charge is about to be made against one Marguerite Roberts for a violation of the county ordinance regulating the sale of malt, vineous and spirituous liquors, charging the said Marguerite Roberts with an open and flagrant violation of said ordinance, we demand that said license be revoked for the following reasons:

“First that the said Marguerite Roberts keeps and runs a dance hall in the very center of the business section of our town; that it is so situated that ourselves and our children are compelled to pass and repass this abominable brothel every time we go to the post office, the drug store, the meat market, and the Wells Fargo & Company office.

“Second– That we are continually being insulted by the inmates this brothel, who are common prostitutes.

‘Therefore we ask in the name of high heaven and common decency that your honorable body will revoke the saloon license of the said Marguerite Roberts and that no other such place be licensed to run on the principal streets of town.”

In May the Board of Supervisors held and investigation in the goings on at Marguerites dance hall and saloon.  Mr. Bush testified that Mrs. Roberts was running a dance hall in connection with a saloon, that there is music nightly and that he personally had been invited to dance with the “fairies” in the house, that women had tried to induce him to come to their rooms.  He stated that the women solicited men to dance and were taken by the men to the bar.  He also alleged that the dance hall was kept open after midnight.  Deputy Sheriff Price testified that business was conducted in the dance hall as it usually was in this type of establishment, with the girls soliciting the men for dances and drinks. He also testified that Mrs. Roberts tended bar herself.  Deputy Sheriff Baker testified that he had been in the saloon and had heard music and dancing in the adjoining room and had seen girls in the bar.  The prosecution read a deposition by Judge Manning.

Mrs. Roberts took the stand and testified that there was not a violation of the ordinance prohibiting the running of a dance hall in conjunction with a saloon as the two were in different houses.  The defense attorney having discredited the prosecution’s key witness Mr. Bush, by getting him to admit that he was not a taxpayer of Randsburg, that in fact his family lived in Los Angeles, and that Mr. Asher and others had paid him for presenting the petition, moved for dismissal.  This motion was denied but the hearing was adjourned for a month and Supervisor Peterson was appointed to conduct an onsite investigation.

In June according to the Randsburg Miner, Supervisor Peterson reported back to the board that Marguerite’s dance hall was no worse than the other one (Fay Leroy’s) yet owing to its greater publicity and prominence on the main street, it ought to be suppressed.” The supervisors therefore ordered that the license be revoked.  This revocation however did not seem to take effect as the Randsburg Miner reported on the 31 of August that a shooting had taken place in Marguerite’s place.  The shooting was a result or an argument over the price of a bottle of beer.  It seems that a J. E. Coggeshall who was the night man at the Coffee Saloon was sent to purchase a bottle of beer for a customer and got into an argument with Ed Kileen who was tending bar in Marguerite’s place.  Coggeshall left with the bottle of beer and came back later with a cue stick and attacked Kileen, who defended himself by trying to strike his opponent with a 45 Colt.  In the scuffle the gun went off striking Coggeshall in the fleshy part of the arm.  They were both arrested and tried.  Mr. Coggeshall was found not guilty of assault.  Mr. Kileen was charged with assault with intent to kill.  No record of his trial has been found in the newspapers of the time.

The Daily Californian reported in September however that Marguerite’s dance hall would continue to do business, as she had been able to obtain new bonds that were accepted by the Supervisors.  The bondsmen who were backing Mrs. Roberts were the Maier Zobelein Brewery of Los Angeles and local prominent businessmen, W. H. Hevran, L. B, “Jack” Harrison, and J. W. Rinaldi.

The restoration of Mrs. Roberts’s license did not come without a fight however, as in December of 1905 Sheriff Kelley received a telegram from William Houser and C. A. Burcham which said “Please hold up petition of Marguerite Roberts.  Will forward petition of protest at once.”  The Californian reported that no petition had been received from the Roberts woman but that it was understood that she would ask the Supervisors for a License.  The Randsburg Miner editorialized that “The rumor that a petition of this character and for such a person has been signed by some of our citizens and property holders must be a mistake for we cannot believe that any man in his right mind would either desire or allow without protest, such a business to be carried on our principal streets in plain sight and hearing of our wives and childrenIt should not be much of a task getting names on a protesting petition.” However, there were citizens, including some of the leading citizens of Randsburg who did sign a petition requesting that Marguerite’s license be renewed.  Among those who signed that petition were W. H. Hevren, A. A. Nixon, Mrs. Lena Skilling, Pat Byrne, W. A. Ruffhead, John Tomicich, R. N. Osborne, H. Rott, D. J. McCormick, D. C. Kuffel, and D. A. Blue.  William A. Atkinson, Jack Harrison, Charles Koehn, and Pat Byrne provided bonds in the amount of $2,500 each.

The opposition did not rest however and sent the following telegram to the supervisors:

“We the undersigned residents of the city of town of Randsburg, County of Kern, hereby petition the Honorable Board of Supervisors in the matter of the liquor license of Marguerite Roberts or John Doe or John Doe, not to grant same on the grounds that the said Marguerite Roberts has heretofore kept and run a disorderly house.  We furthermore ask and petition the Honorable Board of Supervisors not to grant any one a liquor license with will be located in or about the business section of said city or town of Randsburg, which will be in any way connected with or adjacent to a dance hall or place of resort for women.” This petition was signed by more of the leading citizens of Randsburg, C. A. Burcham, Thomas McCarthy, Dr. R. McDonald, J. T. Curry, William M. Houser, George S. Young and E. B. Maginnis. On January 5, 1906 the Board of Supervisors rejected Marguerites license on the grounds that the sureties amounting to $10,000 were insufficient.  It is not known what legal wrangling took place but the denial of renewal was short lived and a license was again issued to Marguerite Roberts, of Block 3, New York addition, Randsburg on February 09, 1906.

Marguerite died in Randsburg on April 16, 1907 at the age of thirty-nine years, nine months, and 22 days.  The Randsburg Miner, nine days later, printed the following:

Death of Mrs. Roberts– On Tuesday of this week Mrs. Marguerite Roberts, an old time resident of Randsburg died of lung trouble and was buried this afternoon in our little burying ground here.  Mrs. Roberts was born in France, about forty or more years ago, was married there and had one child, a son, August, who is a young man and has been attending school at Bakersfield. He came up to attend his mother’s funeral.

Mrs. Roberts’ husband died in France and soon afterward she and her child came to America.  This was shortly before the discovery of gold in Randsburg.  She came here in the fall of 1896 and here she has lived since.  She had accumulated considerable money, owning the theater and some other buildings here, besides money in the bank.

A short time ago her father died in France, leaving a small fortune to Marguerite and one sister.  She had been ill for some time with no hope of recovery and we fervently say: “Requiescat in Pace.””

Mrs. Roberts however did not live in Randsburg all the time as it was reported in the Randsburg Miner in October of 1900 that she had just returned from Cape Nome, Alaska.  7

My Place Dance Hall issued three known tokens of the 5, 10, and 20 denominations. The 5 and 10 denominations are both round 21 mm, the 5 being brass and the 10 being aluminum.  The 20 denomination is a square (diamond) shape 25 mm.  All of these tokens that the author knows of were found in the vicinity of Block 3 of the New York Addition in Randsburg, except one.  The one that was not found in that location was found just below the Southern California Edison Plant in Randsburg.  This particular token is one of the author’s favorites as it had been made into a key tag and counter stamped with the room number of one of the girls.  These token are relatively rare with one each known of the 10 and 20 denomination and less than five known of the 5 denomination.  All of the tokens are marked L. A. Rubber Stamp Co.


Fay, Randsburg's Ministering Angel. This rendering of a Lady of The Evening named Fay is from the December 13, 1896 San Francisco Examiner. It was accompanied by an article about how she tended the sick and injured miners. This waa typical throughout the history of the West. The Ladies of the evening served as nurses when no one else would. Made sure the childern in town received some type of Christmas present, and performed many other charitable deeds. It is now known exactly when Fay Leroy came to the camp so we cannot say with any certainty that this is her.

The earliest reference to Fay Leroy is the same as that for Marguerite Robert’s the occasion being their having donated $5.00 and $3.00 respectively to the Citizens Committee in December of 1900.  The next mention of Fay and her place is found in the 1905 Suits-Schuman Business Directory for the States of Nevada and California.  Although the directory is dated 1905 it is based on information obtained in 1904 i.e. to be in the 1905 directory you had to be in business in 1904.  In March of 1905 the two girls from Marguerite Roberts place, Navaho and Pearl, were reported by the Randsburg Miner, as having been arrested in Fay’s place, where they allegedly had been exposing themselves.    Whether they were actually arrested there or the newspaper was mistaken as to the location of their arrest is not known.

It is quite possible that the girls Navaho and Pearl has been trying to hustle trade away from Fay Leroy’s place and she had them arrested, as shortly thereafter two more girls of Marguerite’s were involved in the arrest and trial of Fay’s bartender for serving liquor to a minor.  The two girls Marguerite Widman and her sister Helen Fredericks whose actual names were Carrie and Margaret Buffington testified that had drank beer and Creme De Menthe at Fay’s place served by her bartender C. H. Byers.  They also testified  that the younger one was drunk when they left her place at two o’clock in the morning.  The two men who accompanied the girls to Fay’s place, Charley Brown and G. A. Moore corroborated the girls testimony, however Moore said that he was drunk himself and …that all looked alike to him.”

E. B Maginnis  defended Byer’s and succeeded in getting the prosecution’s witness Ed Kileen to admit that he had not been in Fay’s place in over a year and all that he knew about what had gone on their was learned in the previous days testimony.  He testified however, that he had closed Marguerite’s dance hall at 12 o’clock and her saloon at 2 a. m. at which time he seen the Widman woman and she was too drunk to get in the house.

Two girls, Flora Williams and Juanita Grant who stayed at Fay’s place, the musician, R. R. Roberts and a man named Haydon testified that the underage girl drank soda and that Byers who knew the girls as they are his cousins, had according to the Randsburg Miner,

“. …pointed his finger at Miss Widman and told her that she was underage and could not have anything to drink there.” Byers was found not guilty.  The case however, backfired on Marguerite as she was charged and found guilty of letting the underage girl do business in her establishment.

A little over a month later another article appeared in the Randsburg Miner reporting that one of Fay Leroy’s houses in back of the Adobe Saloon was burned and one the her girls who roomed in it lost all her clothing, trinkets and other possessions.  This would make it appear that the Adobe Saloon was Fay Leroy’s place; however Dickinson & Garrity were the proprietors of the Adobe Saloon until they purchased Louie Stoll’s Saloon from W. H. McGinnis in January 1906. In addition to running a dance hall and saloon Ms. Leroy also hosted prizefights in her establishment.

Marguerite was not the only one however to have problems with employing underage girls.  In February of 1906 a Los Angeles girl, who was the daughter of William Jones, of 511 1-2 East Fifth Street, tried to run away from home and was stopped by her father and a Los Angeles policeman Sergeant Craig as she tried to board the train.  Under questioning she stated that she was headed to Randsburg to work for a woman whose name she could not remember.

In March of 1906 Fay and a nineteen-year-old man by the name of Robert Witham were arrested for using the U. S. Mails for immoral purposes.  It was alleged that they enticing young girls to come to work for them in the dance hall.  Fay was released on $2,000 bail.  Robert however languished in jail until he was released and charges dismissed against him in late May of that year.  The U. S. District Attorney, Oscar Ladler, stated that he thought the real culprits in the case were Fay Leroy and another woman who she used as an agent.

In July of 1906 Judge Wellborn refused to dismiss the charges against Mrs. Leroy, who’s attorney had offered the defense according to a report in the Randsburg Miner that “…. the letter to be unlawful must contain matter to corrupt the morals and that as the letter in question went to a prostitute, no morals were likely to be corrupted.” and that “Judge Wellborn ignored this humorous, can’t spoil a bad egg defense, and Fay Leroy is still held.” Unfortunately this is the last information found on this case and the outcome is unknown.

A search of the records for liquor licenses during this period does not reveal a license issued to Fay Leroy, C. H. Byers, or Robert Witham.  The generally most unaccounted for license issued during this period that Fay Leroy was in business was one issued to a Caroline Leo from the period 1903 through October 1905.  The last license if issued for a period of 6 months would have taken it to April of 1906, covering the period when Fay was jailed for using the mail for immoral purposes.  Caroline Leo owned property on Rand St. just down from the Adobe Saloon, which could account for the report of the fire in one of Fay’s houses in back of the Adobe Saloon.

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