Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Legendary Female Gambler Kitty Leroy

The thrill of the wild west didn’t just belong to the men. There were plenty of women who were as skilled in cards and guns as Bat Masterson and Doc Holiday. One such female who thrived on the edge of danger, and died young, was Kitty Leroy.
Kitty was born in Michigan in 1850. She began dancing at the young age of ten and by 14 was a professional in the dance halls and saloons. During this time, dancing wasn’t her only passion. She learned to handle knives and guns, becoming more proficient than most men. Her first husband, whom she married at the age of 15, was the only man in their town willing to let her shoot an apple off his head. But Kitty grew restless with small town life and longed for bigger and better things. Her husband didn’t share her desires, so she left him and headed west in search of fortune.     
Game of Faro
Kitty landed in Dallas, Texas and continued with her dancing career, but soon gave it up for dealing Faro. She became an accomplished gambler and continued mastering her skills with guns and knives. It was during this time she took to dressing in men’s clothes and married her 2nd husband at the age of 20. They moved to California in the hopes of opening a saloon, but Kitty left him for husband number three. This marriage was extremely short. Legend dictates she challenged him to a fight but he refused to fight a woman. She donned her man’s clothes and challenged him a second time. Again, he refused so she shot him. When he didn’t die instantly, she sent for a preacher and married him while he lay on the ground. He died a few days after.
Kitty left California and made her way to Deadwood in 1876, traveling in a wagon party with Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane. Once in Deadwood, she found work as a prostitute in Mollie Johnson’s brothel. Shortly after gaining employment with Mollie, she opened the Mint Gambling Saloon and married her 4th husband, a German prospector who struck gold. His money dried up fast and so did her interest with him. Arguing became second nature for them until the night she hit him over the head with a bottle and tossed him out, effectively ending their marriage.  
Alone again, Kitty continued managing her saloon and her girls, earning a good profit. On June 11, 1877, she married for the last time to prospector and gambler Samuel R. Curley. Kitty’s marriage to Samuel was also steeped in violence. He was extremely jealous of her, and with reason. She continued with her promiscuous ways, including having an affair with her ex-husband and one with Wild Bill, or so rumor suggests. Samuel shot and killed Kitty on the night of December 6, 1877 then killed himself. They were laid to rest together the next day.
   Somewhere in Kitty’s colorful 28 years, she had a daughter. At the time of her death, Deadwood newspapers printed her estate was left to her daughter, Kitty Donally. 


Kristy McCaffrey said...

Wow, Kitty was a piece of work lol.

Elizabeth Clements said...

What an amazing life Kitty led...fodder for a novel, eh, Julie? I couldn't help wonder that she wasn't hauled up for shooting her husband. But then Deadwood was pretty wild during those gold rush days. Thanks for an interesting post, Julie.

Julie Lence said...

Hi Kristy and Elizabeth: Glad you both liked Kitty. She was a character. Will have to think about adding her in to a story one day, Elizabeth. Hugs!