April 23, 1880
Sweet Springs, Missouri
|Died||January 26, 1962
Fort Worth, Texas
|Cause of death||Smoke asphyxiation|
|Resting place||Platte City Cemetery
|Occupation||Brothel and hotel owner|
|Known for||Speculative belief of Eunice Gray assuming the identity of Sundance Kid's girlfriend Etta Place|
Eunice Gray (born Ermine McEntire, April 23, 1880 – January 26, 1962) was a brothel and hotel owner and operator in Fort Worth, Texas, from 1909 to 1962. She is best known for the belief that she was Etta Place, the former girlfriend of the famous outlaw Harry Alonzo Longabaugh aka the Sundance Kid, who was allegedly killed in a shootout in South America in November 1908. For many years, there were no known photographs of Eunice Gray; but two photographs were recently found which appear to demonstrate that she could not have been Etta Place.
Arrival in Fort Worth
Gray was described as a beautiful woman, and according to Pinkerton reports she arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, and began running a brothel in 1909 after Etta Place had been seen for the last time, in San Francisco, where she may have requested assistance in obtaining a death certificate for Longabaugh, in an effort to settle his estate.
Speculation about Eunice Gray being Etta Place
Gray was semi-wealthy, and many speculated that she was in fact Etta Place. She never made any indication that she was, nor did she make any attempt to fuel the rumors, as many might have if for no other reason than to achieve fame, but instead she avoided the topic altogether. She ran her brothel until at least 1925, at which time she took over the "Waco Hotel", located at 110 E. 15th street, in Fort Worth. Contrary to common belief, the connections between Place and Gray did not establish themselves to any great extent at the time she arrived in Fort Worth, but rather many years afterwards.
During her entire time in Fort Worth she gave but one interview, in which she told Delbert Willis, of the Fort Worth Press, "I've lived in Fort Worth since 1901. That is except for the time I had to high-tail it out of town. Went to South America for a few years . . . until things settled down". This has traditionally been thought to be something to do with the anti-vice crusader the Reverend J. Frank Norris. He didn't actually arrive in Fort Worth until 1909, and his infamous siege of Hell's Half Acre, the city's red-light district, didn't occur until 1912. Etta Place, by contrast, was in South America between February 1901 and June 1906. Willis also conceded that Gray never admitted or even claimed to be Etta Place; he merely made that connection on his own, given the similarities of their age, the fact that both had classic good looks, and that the period in which Gray said she went to South America coincided, albeit roughly, with when Place was in South America.
For many years there were no known photographs of Gray in that period to compare with the one known high-quality photograph of Place. Willis believed that the similarities were striking, but in the absence of a photograph of Gray there was no way of verifying or refuting his observation.
More recently, amateur genealogist Donna Donnell found Eunice Gray on a 1911 passenger list from Panama. It was reported in 2007 that following that lead she had tracked down Eunice Gray's niece, who had two photographs of her: one wearing her high-school graduation dress circa 1896 and another taken in the 1920s. Comparing the photos with one of Place, both agreed that Eunice Gray was definitely not Etta Place.
Death and identity
In January 1962, Eunice Gray died in the fire which destroyed the "Waco Hotel" which she still owned and operated at 110 1/2 East 15th street in Fort Worth, Texas. Documents salvaged from the fire indicated that she had been born in 1884.
The documents found after the fire further showed that Gray's estate was valued at more than $90,000. There were no letters or communications to verify her family, her origin, or where she had lived between 1901 and 1909.
Donna Donnell's research many years later found that Eunice Gray's real name had been Ermine McEntire. She had actually been born in 1880. She is buried in Platte City Cemetery, Platte City, Platte County, Missouri.
- Morris, C. Gwin. "Norris, John Franklyn". Handbook of Texas Online - Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved May 12, 2013.
- Selcer, Richard F. "Hell's Half Acre, Fort Worth". Handbook of Texas Online - Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved May 12, 2013.
- "Hell's Half Acre - Fort Worth - Marker Number: 2431". Texas Historic Sites Atlas. Texas Historical Commission. 1993.
- Woman's Face Proves She's No Place. The Genealogue. 24 March 2007. Accessed 18 December 2010.