QUEEN KITTY – The Frontierado holiday is coming up on Friday, August 6th. As always, the holiday is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality. Balladeer’s Blog’s looks at the legends surrounding neglected gunslingers of the time period are popular posts at this time of year.
Kitty LeRoy was also known as Kitty the Schemer, Dancing Kitty, the Female Arsenal and much later as Deadwood Kitty. Queen Kitty is the most appropriate nickname in part because of her last name but mostly because she was variously known as “the Queen of the Hoofers”, “the Dancing Queen”, “the Queen of the Barbary Coast” and “the Queen of the Faro Tables”.
Kitty was born in 1850 and by the age of 10 was earning money for her family as a professional dancer and novelty act in her home state of Michigan. By 14 she was performing exclusively at adult venues and had added trick shooting to her repertoire. Her most famous shooting trick at this time was shooting apples off the heads of volunteers. At age 15 Queen Kitty was performing in New Orleans and married her first husband – the only man in the city brave enough to let Kitty shoot apples off his head while she was riding around him at a full gallop.
LeRoy loved flirting and sleeping around, however, and this led to the breakup of her first marriage within a year. By 1870 Queen Kitty had married a second time, to a man named Donnaly, with whom she had a daughter. The Queen had gravitated more and more to the Faro tables, making a killing as a celebrity dealer.
With Dallas as a home base Kitty and her husband would travel throughout Texas with LeRoy earning money dancing and dealing Faro. Kitty also earned a name for being able to handle any violence that came her way from sore losers and was involved in multiple gunfights and knife fights in dangerous saloons.
The adventurous lady was often called “the Female Arsenal” because, dressed in either male or female garb she always had multiple pistols, derringers and knives stashed on her person for emergencies. Queen Kitty and her husband headed west in search of fresh gamblers to wipe out, with Kitty plying her trade in towns and cities throughout New Mexico and Arizona.
In California Kitty gained renown as the Queen of the Barbary Coast, charming the Golden State and wiping out new sets of gamblers in casinos and saloons up and down the coast. She also claimed (but it’s never been proven) that she had traveled across the Pacific Ocean, gambling onboard as well as at casinos in Hong Kong and other seaports. At some point Queen Kitty abandoned husband number two along the way as her life of gambling and gunplay continued in full force.
Sometime in the early to mid- 1870’s LeRoy’s third marriage took place. She and a pushy male admirer were having a fierce argument over his refusal to take no for an answer and when Kitty drew her guns the man refused to respond in kind since she was a woman. Queen Kitty supposedly stormed off and came back dressed in one of her suits of male clothing. In the ensuing gunfight Kitty mortally wounded the importunate man and as he lay dying our conscience-stricken heroine let him die happy by having a preacher marry them in her dying suitor’s final days.
1876 found the Queen cleaning out Faro players in saloons and casinos throughout Nevada and Colorado but she eventually headed for Deadwood, SD where she rubbed elbows with the likes of Sam Bass, Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Queen Kitty opened The Mint Gambling Saloon and may or may not have been a madam providing prostitutes in addition to gambling and drinking. Amid her usual rounds of Faro dealing and gunfighting the notorious lady also married her FOURTH husband – a German prospector who had struck it rich. The marriage only lasted until the hard-partying couple had exhausted all the man’s sudden fortune, at which point Kitty threw him out.
Queen Kitty married for the fifth and final time on June 11th, 1877 to gambler Samuel L Curley aka Curly Sam. This marriage was as raucous and troubled as the others, with Kitty continuing to sleep with whoever she pleased, including the ex-husband she had thrown out previously! Sam Curley was a very jealous man and on December 7th, 1877 the latest quarrel between him and Queen Kitty ended with him shooting her to death in Deadwood’s Lone Star Saloon. He then turned the gun on himself and ended his own life.
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