Marples: Dell Burke did her part for Lusk

Marples: Dell Burke did her part for Lusk

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Editor:

I enjoyed reading The Casper Star-Tribune article: "Wyoming frontier brothel owner Dell Burke remembered for savvy, philanthropy" (Jan 11th issue). Although I am not glamorizing her maintaining a house of ill-repute across the street from the train depot in downtown Lusk, Ms. Burke did do her part to keep the town of Lusk on the Wyoming map, economically -- even decades after her death in 1981. I went to the Sturgis motorcycle rally at Sturgis and Deadwood, South Dakota, in 2005, 2006 and last in 2007. I loved the history more than anything else.

And I loved Deadwood; but I didn't love its hotel prices, with some being over $300 a night. I liked seeing the grave of James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood. That is the only cemetery -- nationwide -- where I actually "paid to see a gravesite." And I did it three different years. Considering it was modest, it was worth it.

And there were notorious prostitutes of that era buried not far from his grave. Visiting Deadwood was nice; but staying overnight at the "peak season" wasn't something I relished at those astronomical prices. Consequently, I ended up staying overnight in Lusk, Wyoming (and no, not at the "Yellow Hotel," but at a modern yet comparatively reasonably-priced motel. I was mighty relieved to learn that it was the only motel I could find which had just one room available. It was too far back to drive to my cousins in Casper or my other cousins in Cheyenne.

I was told of Dell Burke's whorehouse. It seemed hard to imagine. Yet, after I heard one of the old-timers sing her praises of how she shared brothel revenues with the town churches, and virtually anyone down on their luck during the Great Depression, I began to see how the woman had some virtue. I didn't frequent any prostitution-sites. Sturgis was wild enough. The lesson? Prostitution revenue can be directed toward honorable purposes. Lusk survives mainly due to the girls of long ago, (now great-grandmothers) at the Yellow Hotel.

JAMES MARPLES, Longview, TX

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