The life of one of Dodge City’s best know prostitutes is not what you would expect.
Squirrel Tooth Alice was born Mary Elizabeth "Libby" Haley in 1855 and lived with a well-to-do family in Texas. Things changed dramatically for her when Comanches kidnapped her at the age of 10. They held her captive for 3 years until father paid a ransom.
Unfortunately, Libby’s life was ruined. Her father was convinced her captors had defiled her and he shunned her. He isolated her and didn’t allow her to date. Despite this, she fell in love with a man twice her age who she hoped to marry. When she brought him home to meet her father, he shot the man dead at the front porch. Libby knew she had no life with her family so she ran away to Kansas.
In Abilene, she danced and engaged in prostitution. Eventually she moved in with William "Texas Billy" Thompson. Brother of Ben Thompson, Billy is most known for "accidentally" killing Sheriff Chauncey Whitney in Ellsworth, KS in 1873.
The two moved around from town to town, telling people they were married because in many cases it was a bigger taboo for a woman to live with a man she was not married to than to be a prostitute.
One of the places Libby settled in was Dodge City where she was popular with her patrons and made a decent living. She often split her profits 50/50 with Billy to support his gambling habits.
It was her fondness for prairie dogs that earned her the name "Squirrel Tooth." For her they were cute and were good pets. She fattened them up and, when not caged, they curled up in her lap or walked on a leash. She used the Alice in her profession, and one night a drunk man saw her with one of her prairie dogs. He mistook it for a squirrel, and given she had a gap in her front teeth, he gave her a name that stuck, "Squirrel Tooth Alice."
Libby and Billy were a couple for 24 years. Out of the nine children she had, six which were Billy’s. Libby continued as a prostitute until 1921, retiring at the age of 66.
She was never ashamed about what she did for a living. All of her daughters all followed her in her footsteps, and most of her sons ended up on the wrong side of the law. One of her daughters said about her, "She wasn’t average." Libby died the age of 98 in a rest home in California.
Big Nose Kate
One winter Wyatt Earp ventured to Texas only to return in the spring for the impending cattle trail. He didn’t return alone, following him was a new friend Doc Holliday and his lady Big Nose Kate. Kate had a slight German accent and was born in Hungary in 1850 where her father was a successful physician to the aristocracy. He uprooted the family to move to Mexico where he cared for Maximilian I. When the Mexican government fell, the family barely made it out of Mexico alive. They settled in Iowa where both parents abruptly died within a month of each other, leaving the children as wards of the state.
After spending time in a Catholic girl’s school, it became obvious that structure did not fit Kate well. As she grew older, she found by being a prostitute she could gain independence and support her love of gambling. When she came to Dodge in 1874, it’s believed she worked for Nellie Earp for a short time while living in the Dodge House with Doc Holliday. Doc and Kate had a lot in common, they loved the nightlife and hard fast living. Ham Bell recalled in his later years Wyatt Earp’s wife had told him that Kate often bragged about her relationship with Doc. She said, "I can out shoot him, I can drink more whiskey than he can, and I can beat him playing poker." The two loved hard and also fought hard. Their disagreements became notorious. In a conversation between Wyatt and Doc which took place after Kate drank too much and began to wreck their hotel room, Doc said, "You know, I had to quiet her Wyatt, I just hit her gently over the head with the butt end of my gun, had to quiet her."
Kathie Bell is the curator of collections and education at Boot Hill Museum.