Fannie Porter

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Fannie Porter
Born (1873-02-12)February 12, 1873
Died January 1, 1940(1940-01-01) (aged 66)
El Paso, Texas?
Cause of death Car accident?
Resting place East of Mississippi River?
Residence San Antonio, Texas
Occupation Brothel and boarding house owner
Known for
  • Operating the most popular brothel in the Old West
  • Associated with Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid, and the Wild Bunch gang
  • Claimed to have married Wild Bunch member Will "News" Carver
  • Questioned in 1901 by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency concerning the whereabouts of the Wild Bunch gang

Fannie Porter (February 12, 1873 – c. 1940) was a well-known madam of the 19th century. She was best known for her association with famous outlaws of the day, and for her popular brothel.

Career as a madam[edit]

Porter was born in England, and traveled to America around the age of one with her family. By fifteen she was working as a prostitute in San Antonio, Texas. By the age of 20, she had started her own brothel, and became extremely popular for her cordial and sincere attitude, her choosing only the most attractive young women as her "girls", her requirement that her "girls" practice good hygiene, and for her always immaculate personal appearance. Her brothel was located at the corner of Durango and San Saba streets.

By 1895, her brothel in San Antonio was one of the most popular of the Old West. It had by that time become known as a frequent stop off for outlaws on the run from the law. Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Kid Curry, and other members of the Wild Bunch gang frequented her business. One of her "girls", Della Moore, became the girlfriend to Kid Curry, remaining with him until her arrest for passing money from one of his robberies. She was arrested, but acquitted, eventually returning to work for Porter once again. Another of her "girls", Lillie Davis, became involved with outlaw and Wild Bunch member Will "News" Carver. She later claimed she had married Carver in Fort Worth prior to his death in 1901, but there are no records to verify the alleged marriage. It is possible that the Sundance Kid and his girlfriend Etta Place, whose true identity and eventual disappearance from history has long been a mystery, first met while she worked for Porter, but that has never been confirmed. Wild Bunch gang member Laura Bullion is also believed to have at times worked for Porter between the years of 1898 and 1901.

Porter was well respected for her discretion, always refusing to turn in a wanted outlaw to the authorities. She also was known for being extremely defensive of her "girls", insisting that any who mistreated them never return to her brothel. She generally employed anywhere from five to eight girls, all ranging in age from 18 to 25, and all of whom lived and worked inside her brothel. Her business was not only popular with outlaws of the day, but also with lawmen, and she made sure that any lawmen who entered received the best treatment. William Pinkerton, of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, was said to have frequented her brothel.

By the early 20th century, the tide had begun to turn against active, openly operating brothels. Eventually, she retired, and faded from history. It is not known where she went following her retirement. Most agree that she retired semi-wealthy, but it is unknown where she might have gone. Some stories indicate that she married a man of wealth, some indicate she retired into seclusion, while others indicate she returned to England. None of those are confirmed. Later rumors indicated that she lived until 1940, when she was killed in a car accident in El Paso, Texas. However, that also is not certain.

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