From , "Tales of Hell's Half Acre", Marilyn A. Hudson:


It was little wonder the story remained a major headline event for over a decade.  The tale had it all: a murder mystery with titillating intrigue, illicit lust, yellow journalism, city officials on criminal payrolls, a guilty till proven innocent public sentiment, clairvoyant mediums, shady peripheral characters,  lying witnesses, plots and shenanigans, a grand standing defense attorney, a lovely and frail widow, a virile young villain, and lingering rumors of a man thought dead still being alive.   


James R. Meadows, the Victim.
In 1907, Oklahoma was looking forward to its soon-to-be state status but was already a growing and increasingly sophisticated land.  One example was the Pioneer Telephone Company.   Originally opening in 1905 as the Pioneer Telephone and Telegraph Company it was a sure sign of the technological leanings of the people of Oklahoma.  

One of the men overseeing a work crew for them was a James R. Meadows who had been living in a boarding house he and his wife ran on Broadway in Oklahoma City, but had recently removed to the small community to the south of town called Capitol Hill.  The Pioneer Company was already running telephone lines to Capitol Hill indicating the stability of the community.  He had begun as a line man. For some reason, things had begun to turn sour in the marriage and he had hopes that in a new location he might mend his marriage and get a much-needed fresh start in the relationship with his younger wife.

He may be the man listed on the 1900 U.S. Federal Census living at 201 Reno Street as a boarder.  That individual was listed as being 31 years of age, born in Tennessee, and so would be within the age range of Meadows, but there is a similar man also listed on the 1910 census only he is 44 years old but also born in Tennessee.  Wherever Meadows was, reports were he lived as a married adult on Grand Avenue, North Broadway, and in the vicinity of Kentucky and “B” (print is fuzzy and could be 10 or 11th street, which would better match the numbering system of Oklahoma City). 

Lila Meadows, the Widow
Maiden name un-known, but that that is only part of the mystery of this woman.  She was said to have been living in Wichita, Kansas when she first met James Meadows. Another version says they met in Kansas City. One version was he and she had lived together unmarried until she had shamed him into marrying her, while another was she had followed him from Kansas to El Reno, Oklahoma, were he lived, and married there in about 1901. Mrs. Lila Meadows, wife of James R. Meadows, remains something of an enigma, although subsequent events lend themselves to several observations of her life and character.  

She was frequently ill, court testimony identified it is a morphine addiction, and then later she has dramatic  appendicitis surgery in 1910.  Good woman cruelly used, grieving widow, seducer of the young killer, it is hard to classify the woman but some clues lead to ideas about underlying truths. She is  known to have been living in 1908 with Annie Wynne Bailey aka “Big Annie”, and one of Annie’s former courtesans Fannie Ritchie, at the notorious  Arlington on West 2nd Street. About this time, Annie left for California after her first unsuccessful run-in with local law.  Did Annie cut a deal? Was Lila a charity cause or one of Annie's own girls?

Significantly, a few days before June 4, J.O. Green of the Sun Accident Insurance company calls to remind Mrs. Meadows of the due date of the life insurance premium on James was due June 1.

Mother Myers aka Rose Myers aka Ronie Myers, the Psychic
The boarding house had provided some income but it had also brought Meadows' wife into contact with some questionable people.  The so-called “Mother Myers”, who convinced people she was a clairvoyant with powers to see things, had also swindled people so that she had to flee to avoid arrest or worse. There were others, women mostly, who may have had been giving his wife ideas that were not to her betterment and were detrimental to a happy home. Dorothy Keith was one such friend and confident. He urged them to leave the boarding house and he set out to find somewhere in Capitol Hill for them to live.

Labeled a fortuneteller, medium, clairvoyant, and physic, Myers had been operating in Oklahoma City, in the boarding house, prior to the death of Meadows. It was suggested at one point she was the real mother of Lila and after some searching was finally located in Doxie near Elk City.  One of Annie's connections?

Dorothy or Dora Keith - woman of mystery
Mysteriously labeled the nurse and ‘boon companion’ of Mrs. Meadows. She is dramatically devastated when she is indicted with Mrs. Meadows early in the affair, strangely jovial while in jail, and then strangely missing after testifying in court.  It was even suggested she and Lila may have dressed as men to murder James and Dorothy laughed as she held up a petite hand that she was sure would convince no one of any other gender.  So far, no woman of that name has been located on the 1900 or 1910 census. Another of  "Annie's girls"?  

Rudolph Tegeler or Tegler, the Killer?
Over at the Oklahoma City Waterworks, a young, handsome man with a slight German accent worked hard and to get ahead in this new place. Rudolph Tegeler or Tegler (it is spelled both ways in many documents), was born in Germany in 1884 (U.S. Census, 1910, Oklahoma, Pittsburg Co., Ok State Penitentiary). He was a machinist for the new waterworks (http://boards.ancestry.com/surnames.tegeler/15/mb.ashx).  His co-workers included C.M. Roberts, M.E. Hollingshead.  His own wife had died tragically after a buggy ride just a year before. 

At some point, he met the young wife of Meadows, and he was so struck by her charms, that he bought the Palace Rooming House from her, resold it and then ultimately rented  the rooming house with her from W.W. Shipp.   They seemed to be very compatible and able to talk about anything.  Her husband did not understand her: he was a brute, an evil man who abused her terribly.  Before long, one of the rooms in the boarding house, The Palace, now owned by the young man, became of place of secret whispered love promises and finally the first act of a long scene of adultery.  The man came to know another boarder, the medium, Mother Myers, and was soon convinced of her abilities.

Co-workers noticed special tempting dishes and delicacies sent to the young man at the Works for lunch or an afternoon treat.   Special couriers sent letters and phone calls came from a soft-spoken female voice.  Things were over-heard by co-workers, and much more was suspected, about this secret love affair of the young German accented man.

Momen Pruiett - Lawyer
A colorful attorney who was energetically creative in fighting for his clients.  His legal approach was a ‘watch me pull a rabbit from my hat” style designed to keep the story on the front page, incite public debate, and insure a need for a change of venue plea.  A onetime jail occupant himself, he was committed to bringing the system down in his own unique way. Cited for frequently skirting the limits of the law, and a few possible excursions over the line, he was a lawyer for Rudolph Tegeler in his later court cases. http://www.10thcircuithistory.org/pdfs/Moman_Pruiett.pdf

Annie Wynn, aka Big Annie, Local "Business" woman.  
Annie, better known as “Big Annie” had been a fixture in the prostitution, gambling, and bootlegging world of OKC’s “Hell’s Half Acre” since the land run.  The 1900 census lists her as a 35 year old, born in Illinois, whose profession was “prostitute.”  This would mean that she would have been about 24 if she came to the city in, or just after,  the land run of 1889.   In 1903, she was prominent in a case of a woman alleging she had been raped in her resort.  Although she came to dominate the local vice landscape and achieve the veneer of acceptable society, by the time of the murder things were not going so well.  Ron Owens notes in his “Oklahoma Justice” that on August 27, 1907 (two months after Meadows’ murder), her “resort” burned to the ground and arson was suspected.  A disgruntled employee charged that  Annie and another courtesan had plotted to rob and kill a customer and dump his body in the North Canadian River.  Sometime in 1908 she was living in The Arlington, a notorious but elegant sporting house, with Lila Meadows.  Meadows had been acquitted of the murder of her husband.   In Annie’s trial, the jury did not accept the testimony and so in 1909 Annie sold her property, moved to California, and there died some time later (pg. 49). http://www.dougloudenback.com/maps/vintage_vice.htm.  Proof of her death has not yet been discovered and since she was in a profession where discarding and assuming new identities was an art form - who knows?

Broadway Palace or The Palace, 
This was the apparent name of the boarding house where Meadows lived in OKC and where Mrs. Meadows and Tegeler had had some assignations.  It was located at either 116 ½ or 316 and 316 ½ North Broadway. Both addresses can be found in the news articles and ads. Early stories cite the 100 block while later ones favor the 300 block between 2nd and 3rd streets.   There was an incidence at the Broadway Palace, 316 North Broadway, in 1904.  A “Prof. Mott”, a fortuneteller or clairvoyant, was accused of mesmerizing a young woman from Cushing and freeing her of some $700.   At that time, the proprietor was one Mrs. Massey.  Both locations were sites of frequent fly-by-night con artists  labeling themselves as ‘fortunetellers”, “physics”, and “clairvoyants”.   

The location of the rooming house in the 116-116 ½ address on North Broadway is also very interesting because it only within two blocks of the northwest edge of Oklahoma City’s “Hell’s Half Acre” with its brothels, gambling dens, saloons, and other resorts.  The colorful area from Main to Reno   included colorful streets and lanes established with the 1889 land run: Battle Row, Harlots Lane, Alabaster Row, and Hop Boulevard.  Some rooming houses, especially those closer to this section of town, were no doubt subsidiary income for the people, like Big Annie.   Later news articles would cite the procurers who traveled the countryside, ran boarding houses, and  lurked at the train depot to derail young ladies from real jobs and trap them into prostitution.


1 comment:

Doug Dawg said...

Marilyn, yesterday I learned of your book in a very curious and interesting way ... I've ordered a copy and can't wait to get it. I hope that we get a chance to talk sometime soon. Click on my icon to open my blogger profile where my email address is available.

Great and fascinating work! When I get my copy, I'll likely do a book review in my blog.

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