Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wyoming and Mother Featherlegs

Sarah J. McNeal, author
Wyoming Factoids
Mother Featherlegs

(RTW note: To find out more about Sarah, read her interview and an excerpt from her book, For the Love of Banjo, in the previous post.)
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Cool Factoids About Wyoming:

  • After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, people of Japanese descent living on the Pacific Coast were relocated to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming.
  • In 1925, Nellie Tayloe Ross was elected governor of Wyoming, becoming the nation's first woman governor.
  • The restored Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie is a popular attraction for visitors with an interest in the Old West.
  • Wyoming ranks second in wool production, and has over 810,000 sheep.
  • The flag of Wyoming is a bison (or buffalo) with a seal on it. If you look closely at the seal, you will see that it represents the custom of branding.
  • Wyoming was acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
  • Devils Tower was designated as the first National Monument (1906)
  • Wyoming is the 9th largest state, but has the fewest people (475,000).
  • Wyoming was the first state to give women the right to vote.
  • Yellowstone is the first official National Park (1872)
  • The JCPenney stores were started in Kemmerer.
  • Cody Wyoming is named after William "Buffalo Bill" Cody.
  • Statehood: July 10, 1890, the 44th state.
  • Capital: Cheyenne
Mother Featherlegs 
Wyoming’s Monument to a Prostitute
Out on the plains of eastern Wyoming is a lonesome monument dedicated to an American prostitute with the nickname, Featherlegs. Although the citizens must have felt a certain fondness for her, it wouldn’t seem that they would want to erect a monument in her honor. However, it seems that Featherlegs did have a part to play in the history of the old west.
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Mother Featherlegs Shepard established a bordello on the silver Springs Road near Muskrat Canyon in 1876 and lonesome men seeking the comfort of female companionship frequented the rather shabby establishment.
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Featherlegs gained her nickname because she wore lace trimmed red pantalettes that made her look like she had feathery chicken legs when she rode across the prairie with the lace fluttering in the wind. A customer commented that she looked like a feather-legged chicken and the nickname stuck. Her partner in running the saloon and brothel was an outlaw named Dangerous Dick Davis and many of his unsavory comrades frequented the establishment. They entrusted Featherlegs with their jewelry and large sums of money that she kept hidden for them until the miscreants could dispose of the goods.
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Unfortunately, the glory days ended for Featherlegs in 1879. Mrs. O. J. Demmon, the wife of a Silver Springs rancher, found the auburn haired, middle-aged madam’s murdered body lying on the prairie next to the spring. Even though she must have lain there for several days, moccasin tracks like those Dangerous Dick wore, were found around her body. They buried her where she died. Dangerous Dick left the country and took with him the jewelry and money and took off for the swamps of Louisiana where he enjoyed continuing his lawless way. The long arm of the law caught up with him two years later and charged him with robbery and murder. He confessed to the murder of Featherlegs and gave her real name of Charlotte Shepard before they hung him.

In 1964 a 3,500 pound pink granite monument was erected with a reenactment of the Cheyenne-Deadwood stage run. The inscription reads:
“Here lies Mother Featherlegs, so called as in her ruffled pantalettes she looked like a feather-legged chicken in a high wind. She was a roadhouse ma’am. An outlaw confederate, she was murdered by ‘Dangerous Dick Davis the Terrapin’ in 1879.”

Her famous pantalettes were displayed on the monument during the reenactment but were stolen on the first day. In 1990, years later, the pantalettes were discovered in a Deadwood saloon. A “posse” of Lusk residents raided the saloon and got them back but, to prevent further theft, they decided to display them at the Stagecoach Museum in Lusk, Wyoming.

Just in case you’re interested, the monument to the prostitute is located ten miles south of Lusk on the old Cheyenne trail. I hope you have an off-road ready vehicle because the unpaved road can often be pitted with muddy ruts.

♥ ♥ ♥

Contest: Winner's Choice!
Sarah will give away a copy of
or the revised edition of The Violin
(winner’s choice) to one lucky commenter.  Be sure to include your email address or we'll hae to choose another winner.  For print books, USA mailing only.  Winner will be drawn Saturday, March 31, 2012, at 9pm Pacific Time and announced on Sunday's Chicken Dinner.


  1. Great information. I did not know that Wyoming was a big producer of sheep... And Featherlegs story was so fascinating.

    Thanks for sharing all this great information on this state...
    I learn the greatest hisotorical information on blogs.. It help when you are reading a book and knowing a little bit more of where the book is located. Gives you nice background..

  2. Kathleen, thank you so much for dropping by. I agree, I love to read an historical rich in the landscape of the story. I feel like I'm there in a place I would otherwise not know.
    Thank you again for your kindness in visiting me here.

  3. Hi Sarah, This was a great story. Wouldn't Featherlegs make a wonderful character in a book of fiction? Perhaps she already is.
    I've never been to Wyoming but it sounds desolate. A good setting for a story, I'm sure. Thank you for this bit of history today.
    And good luck with your newest release.
    Linda Swift

  4. Linda, thank you so much for taking the time to drop by and comment on my article. If I were to write a story about a prostitute, I wouldn't give them the nickname "Featherlegs". Just makes me think of a chicken. The owner of this blog site, Jacquie Rogers, did write about about a prostitute in her new release, Much Ado About Madames.
    Thank you again for visiting my blog today, Linda.

  5. Ah HERE it is! I read the whole post on Banjo 3 times & couldn't figure out where the story of Featherlegs was. Fascinating, Sarah! This will be woven into one of your stories I hope. I love the posse ending! Meredith

    1. Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving a comment, Meredith. I thought that was a most interesting piece of Wyoming history, too.
      Thanks again for coming by.

  6. Sarah, I've always wanted to visit Wyoming. Thanks for sharing state facts and for the interesting anecdote on Featherlegs. I'd love to win your book HARMONICA JOE'S RELUCTANT BRIDE.

    1. There are some amazing things going on in Wyoming. I found their history pretty interesting--but never anything like a monument to a prostitute. LOL
      Thank you so much for coming by and leaving a comment, Caroline. Good luck on the contest.

  7. You don't have to enter me in the contest, but I wanted to comment and say what an interesting blog post. I also had no idea Wyoming had those first, as it relates to women. Good info.

    To your continued success!

    1. Thank you for dropping by and commenting on my post, Delaney. It's really good to see.

  8. Wow, what a great blog. It certainly sounds like an unusual monument, but when you think about it,quite fitting. Like it or not, these women provided a service for lonely men in a place where women were few.



    1. Well Margaret, I guess you have a point there. I never thought about prostition as a "service profession" but I guess you're right. So where's the help for lonely women--that's what I want to know.
      Thank you so much for dropping in and leaving a comment. I really appreciate it.

  9. Hi Sarah. Once again, a really interesting blog. I love the story of the monument to the prostitute (and I would LOVE to win Ihe Violin).

    1. Jenny, thank you so much for coming by and leaving a comment. Good luck in the contest.

  10. I was in Wyoming recently, driving from Lincoln, NE to Evanston. Wish I'd known about this bit of history. I'd have taken a long side trip to view it.

    1. The road to the monument is in the middle of no where (probably a big foot hands out near it). I believe it turns in to a dirt road before the monument appears. Hope you have an off road vehicle when you go. Nice thing about Nebraska is that it's in the middle so it's easy to make a road trip to a lot of states around it.
      Thank you for coming by, Toni. I am so happy to see you.

  11. Sarah,
    Great blog! I live in Wyoming and never knew about that monument, tho it doesn't surprise me. We do have in interesting history of characters here. We are also proud of the fact that we broke the 500,000 mark in population a few years ago, still WAY more antelope than people but we're gaining on them! :D



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