What we know
1862 - ?
Prostitute. Unmarried. Worked at the White Owl for seven years, from 1880-1887, the longest she'd been in any one place her entire life. A friend of Billie Rose and Emmy. One child, Catriona, who died of overdose of laudanum at two years. Pastor Horner refused to bury the child, so Bridget dug her own grave for Catriona outside of the churchyard. She left with the child’s body1 in the Pastor’s shay and carried on with the only trade she knew.
From Bridget’s small log crib1
with her one window, two quilts,
and hard pine bed2,
it is 64 steps up to the old well,
the one that dried out
eight days after Catriona's birth.
89 over to the White Owl—
987 from there to the churchyard.
From the outskirts of that wood fence
to Catriona’s grave—thirty steps.
The headstone reads only:
"Two years, five months, four days."
She had carved it herself
when Pastor Horner refused.
Two years, five months, four days
with so little sleep.
The men leaving
Bridget with nothing
but Shut that damn kid up.
Nineteen cents to Glenwood Springs.
137 steps to the chemist’s
from the train station.
Eighteen cents for the laudanum.
Four doses too many for the child.
And too many to the top
of Crow’s Mountain
where the twisted stumps
fight each grain of wind.
And too many to God.
Lone Rock Canyon Road
by Ray Kerr
Bridget buried God
on Lone Rock Canyon Road.
Hacked a shallow trench
out of a barren crust of red earth.
Laid Him down beside
her darling Catriona; poor dear,
conceived in despair
and born to neglect.
The broken wheel of Pastor Horner's shay
marked the stone-heaped mound.
Bridget slumped to mourn
the passing of her last hope.
The earth is hard and
the heavens are indifferent.
And that is that.
Her baby is laid to rest,
cold beneath the uncomfortable stars.
Life no longer grows around her,
"I am the silent earth," she cries
by the makeshift grave.
And those bristling
bearded miners from the Devil's Bowl
who come to thrash
in fits and moans on Bridget's bed:
They are all buried in her.
Barnhart, Jaqueline Baker.The Fair but Frail: Prostitution in San Franciso 1849 - 1900. Reno, Nevada: University of Nevada Press, 1986.
Butler, Anne M.Daughters of Joy, Sisters of Misery: Prostitutes in the American West, 1865-1890. Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1984.
Goldman, Marion S.Gold Diggers & Silver Miners: Prostitution and Social Life on
the Comstock Lode. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press, 1981.
Ladies of the Night. Compiled by Gladden, Stanford Charles. Boulder, Colorado: Early Boulder Series no. 5., 1979. Clippings from early Boulder newspapers.
Available at the Western History Department, Denver Public Library.
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