Deadwood, South Dakota
Deadwood started off illegally, as its location was, at the beginning of its history, part of Native American territory. The Treaty of Laramie of 1868 had guaranteed ownership of the Black Hills to the Lakota people. However, in 1874, Colonel George Armstrong Custer led an expedition into the Hills and announced the discovery of gold on French Creek near present-day Custer, South Dakota. Custer’s announcement triggered the Black Hills Gold Rush and gave rise to the lawless town of Deadwood, which quickly reached a population of around 5,000. In early 1876, frontiersman Charlie Utter and his brother Steve led a wagon train to Deadwood containing what were deemed to be needed commodities to bolster business, including gamblers and prostitutes, which proved to be a profitable venture. Demand for women was high, and the business of prostitution proved to be a good market. Madam Dora DuFran would eventually become the most profitable brothel owner in Deadwood, closely followed by Madam Mollie Johnson. Businessman Tom Miller opened the Bella Union Saloon in September of that year.