#Lookback: An Act of Prostitution in Fremont County 1914

    The Mann Act (also known as the White Slavery Traffic Act of 1910) was a federal law that criminalized the transportation of “any woman or girl for prostitution or debauchery, or any other immoral purpose.”  Under the commerce clause of the constitution the Mann Act made it a felony to use interstate commerce to promote prostitution, immorality and human trafficking. The act also criminalized consensual acts.  For example, if a man took his mistress to San Francisco he could be charged with debauchery by his wife. 

    In 1914 the Mann Act was put to an early test in Fremont County Wyoming.  This resulted in a scandalous preliminary trial held in the recently built Federal Building on the corner of Third and Lincoln in Lander. The trial was reported in the town newspaper, The Lander Eagle and the courtroom was filled to capacity for the hearing.  Facts and the testimony of the pretrial hearing are as follows.

    In 1913 Mrs. D.D. Reynolds arrived in Lander and established a house of ill-repute known as the Log Cabin Spa (or Resort) in Lander.  Mrs. Reynolds, whose real name was Corine Des Jardins, was from Wichita and claimed to be the daughter of a judge.  On June 5, 1914 Mrs. Reynolds was arrested for running a house of ill-repute and taken before the U.S. Commissioner Sharp.  Bond was set at $1000 and the date for the arraignment was set for June 8th.

    Mrs. Reynold’s bond was immediately paid by a Mr.  P.F. Welch whose interest in her welfare would soon become clear.  P.F. Welch had a distributorship for Schlitz and Neff beers in the area and also ran the Branch Club Saloon in Lander.  Earlier, in 1910, he was charged with running gambling game in Douglas during the state fair.   He established similar business interests in Lander including the Green Light Club where he had partial interest since 1907.  Perhaps coincidentally, the Branch Club Saloon owned by Welch suffered a fire on the very night Mrs. Reynolds was arrested.

    On June 12, 1914 the Lander Eagle reported both Mrs. Reynolds and Mr. P.F. Welch were to be codefendants charged under the Mann Act, at issue was the money transferred by American Express wire and sent by Welch for the transportation of Margie Callahan and Alice Dewey from Denver to Lander to enter Mrs. Reynolds’ house of prostitution.  This transaction was carried out under the guise of an order by Mr. Welch to Miss Beatrice Bright (perhaps the proprietor of a Denver brothel?) for “two dresses.”

    All the elements of a melodrama unfolded at the arraignment of Mrs. Reynolds.  Miss Beatrice Bright was the first to give testimony. She testified about a conference between Mr. Landfair, attorney for Mrs. Reynolds, Mr. Welch, and Mrs. Reynolds where Mrs. Reynolds took $600 from the cash box and gave it to Mr.Landfair, to “fix” the court and witnesses to the case.

    Upon hearing this testimony Mrs. Reynolds became hysterical and following several outbursts of denial, she fainted.  She was helped to a couch in the courtroom and tended by a local physician, Dr. Godfrey. and his nurse.  There was sympathy expressed for Mrs. Reynolds.  Someone in the courtroom said, ‘Sassh, Mrs. Reynolds! Keep still! Hush! You have friends here” as Mrs. Reynolds recovered on the couch.

    Miss Bright testified further about the $600 taken to fix the problems Mrs. Reynolds recovered from her faintness and shouted, “Beatrice you lie! Oh, Beatrice you lie so! It is a lie. It is a lie” Losing self-control Miss Bright replied from the witness stand: “Dee Dee it is the truth! You know it is the truth!”  Mrs. Reynold had to be quieted by her nurse and physician, and was again placed on the couch.

    Another witness, “Miss Margie Callahan, one of the white slaves in the case testified as to how she received money in Denver.  She had been given $20 of the money sent by Mr. Welch, and the other $20 being given to Miss Alice Dewey.  They used the money to pay their fares to Lander, and Miss Callahan testified they were met at the depot by Mrs. Reynolds and taken to the Log Cabin House of ill-fame.” This corroborated Miss Brights testimony in every detail.

    District Attorney Rigdon briefly and concisely stated to the court the case of the government against Mrs. Reynolds asked that she be bound over for the federal grand jury.  Commissioner Sharp reviewed the evidence and remanded Mrs. Reynolds to the Federal Grand Jury and set bond at $1000.  That Sunday P.F. Welch was arrested on white slavery charges, and his bond was set at $1500.

    On July 3 1914 the Lander Eagle reported the owners of the building that housed the Log Cabin Spa had asked for an injunction to forbid the use of the premises for illegal immoral purposes.  The injunction was granted by Judge White effective immediately.  

    The Lander Eagle also reported “dire threats of bloodshed have been made in connection with the white slave case, some of the women witnesses being badly frightened.”  Thelma Metcalf, one of the women from the Log Cabin Resort, walked from Lander to Hudson on Sunday night in fear of her life.

    On September 11, 1914 it was reported that Marjorie Callahan died of alcohol poisoning in Casper.  She was a healthy 22-year old woman.  No Inquiry was made about her death and the body was returned to her family.  Miss Callahan had been the star witness in the Log Cabin Resort case.  She died just six-weeks before the start of the federal trial.  

    In October 1914 the case came to trial before a federal jury.  After the jury heard the evidence Judge Lewis instructed them on the Mann Act, saying, “I expect you to find her (the defendant) guilty of that offense.” 

    After two days of deliberation the jury failed to reach a verdict, being hung on a vote of 10 to 2; this despite the judge’s instructions to find the defendant guilty.  Today and throughout its colorful history, the Mann Act has not faded into irrelevance but is instead selectively applied to cases similar to the Lander affair, including money laundering, and child pornography across state lines.

    Next up for the Fremont County Museum

    September 23, 1-2:30pm at the Pioneer Museum, “The Historic Ed Young Apple Orchard and Ranch Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

    September 30, 9-2pm at the Riverton Museum, “J.B. Okie Manor Adventure Trek” Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series; This trek has been rescheduled for September 23rd.

    October 4, 6pmat the Riverton Museum, “Fremont Haunts” with Alma Law Wyoming Community Bank Discover Speakers Series

    December 2022-October 2023 at the Pioneer Museum, “Wind River Memories: Artists of the Lander Valley and Beyond” art exhibition

    Call the Dubois Museum 1-307-455-2284, the Pioneer Museum 1-307-332-3339 or the Riverton Museum 1-307-856-2665 for detail regarding their programs.

    The Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation has been created to specifically benefit The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum.  The WRCCF will help deliver the long term financial support our museums need to flourish.  In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years.  Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Wind River Cultural Centers Foundation at PO Box 1863 Lander, WY 82520 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

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