Balladeer’s Blog presents another underappreciated Wild West gunslinger since the Frontierado holiday is fast approaching! Friday August 5th will mark the event, the yearly celebration of the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality. 

Eleanore DumontMADAME DUMONT – Decades before Poker Alice and Lottie Deno came along  Eleanore “Madame” Dumont made a name for herself as a blackjack-dealing gambler and gunslinger. Much of the Madame’s early life is unknown but she supposedly was born in France around 1830. In 1854, when the record of her activities becomes more concrete, she arrived in Nevada City, CA as the Gold Rush was still at its peak.

By this time the charming and aristocratic Madame Dumont had already acquired a small fortune in gambling winnings after playing cards and slinging lead in mining camps throughout northern California. Eleanore’s cash and her nascent reputation for being able to maintain order with her own guns if necessary made it easy for her to immediately open her casino named Vingt- et-Un (“21”) right on legendary Broad Street itself.

Madame Dumont’s casino was hugely successful, with the most popular table being the one where she herself dealt blackjack. No cursing or spitting were permitted and gamblers lined up to compete against “the Madame,” who would treat losers to champagne on the house.

Before the year was out Eleanore formed a business and romantic partnership with gambler/ gunfighter Dapper David Tobin. The Vingt-et- Un expanded into roulette, faro and other games of chance under the new team and was rechristened The Dumont Palace. A suite of rooms at the National Hotel provided the love nest where Madame Dumont and Dapper David could retreat to during non-business hours.

Two years later Tobin began making noises that Eleanore should retire and let him run the Dumont Palace alone. This resulted in a series of very public quarrels and very passionate reconciliations until, eventually, the love affair had run its course. Tobin demanded his half of the business be bought out and Eleanore obliged. Dapper David took his proceeds back east to run his own shady gambling network in a fashion more akin to 20th Century gangsters.

With the end of the great romance of her life Madame Dumont found herself much less fond of memory-filled Nevada City. She sold her “palace” and took to touring casinos throughout California, Oregon and Washington as a celebrity gambler. Eleanore’s charm and skill with a pistol protected her from sore losers and overly amorous admirers.  

In 1860 the Madame opened up a new Dumont Palace in Virginia City, NV during the Silver Rush. Eleanore spent $30,000 on the furnishings and even had a string orchestra providing the music as her usual “no cursing and no spitting” rules were in place once again. Missing her life as a wandering gambler/gunslinger Dumont sold out again in 1863 and began roaming the mining towns and casinos in Montana and Idaho, mixing card-playing in with brief flings with outlaws in Handsome Henry Plummer’s sprawling organization.

In Bannack, MT Madame Dumont bought into a partnership with an established casinoand brothel owner named McHarney (first name disputed). Legend has it Eleanore conspired to have her new lover John MacFarlane provoke McHarney into pulling his gun during a gambling dispute, during which MacFarlane blew McHarney away. MacFarlane was found not guilty by reason of self-defense and became Madame Dumont’s new partner. His ultimate fate is unknown but Eleanore eventually sold out yet again and returned to life on the road.

Other highlights of Madame Dumont’s checkered career included a brief stint in 1869 as an actual “madam” in San Francisco, using her guns to save Fort Benton, MT from a smallpox epidemic, tutoring a very young Calamity Jane plus using gunplay and persuasion to end a labor riot in Pioche, NV.

Throw in rumored marriages to ladykiller Jack McKnight aka “Jack of Hearts” and Colonel Kai Carruthers, one of whom ran off with all her money. By 1874 Dumont was a gambler in Panamint, CA and by 1876 was dealing blackjack in iconic Deadwood, SD. Like all professional gamblers Eleanore’s luck ebbed and flowed until in September of 1879 two gamblers in Bodie, CA cleaned her out of every penny she had left. The next morning she was found dead in her cabin after having swallowed a bottle of poison.  



© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.





  1. Hattie

    She is my new hero!

  2. Sadie

    I am so glad you changed her nickname to something less insulting.

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