"Squirrel Tooth Alice," Soiled Dove
Dodge City 1876
Mary Elizabeth "Libby" Haley Thompson, better known as “Squirrel Tooth Alice,” was a prostitute and dance hall girl who worked frontier cattle towns during the 1870s.
She gained fame as madam of a brothel in Sweetwater,Texas. She was born in 1855 in Belton, Texas to James and Mary Raybourne Haley.
From the beginning, fate seemed to have already written her life story and it wasn’t a happy one. Her family lost its fortune during the Civil War.
And in 1864, Comanche Indians raided their farm in Texas and took the 10 year old captive. Her parents paid a ransom for her release in 1867.
From that day on society looked down their noses and generally snubbed her. She was only thirteen, but people assumed she was no longer a virgin after being captured by the Comanche.
She got her nickname partly because of a prominent gap in her front teeth and an odd past time of caring for her pet prairie dogs. It is said she even kept them on a collar and leash.
Libby was not a happy child even after being returned to her home. It wasn’t often men would look upon her as someone to make a suitable wife.
In those days, women who suffered such atrocities as befell the young Alice were considered tarnished goods and cast shame upon themselves and their families.
Fortunately, she met an older man who showed a spark of interest in her. Unfortunately, her father didn’t care for the fellow, considering him something of a lecherous sort. Therefore, he shot and killed him.
At 14 Libby ran away from home hoping to escape her past and ended up in Abilene, Kansas. She became a dance hall girl and prostitute, having few options to support herself. This is where she picked up her strange moniker Squirrel Tooth Alice.
About this time she met a gambler and gunman named William Thompson, Better known as “Texas Billy.” Billy’s more famous brother was Ben Thompson.
The pair eventually became a couple with Billy working as a cowboy along the Chisholm Trail and Libby continuing her profession in dance halls along the trail.
The year 1872, found them in Ellsworth, Kansas where Billy was now working as a gambler. In 1873 the couple had their first child and Libby and Billy got married. However, storm clouds were forming on the horizon for the two.
In August of 1873, Billy shot and killed the town sheriff Chauncey Whitney. Billy was arrested and thrown in jail. But, Billy was soon bailed out by the cattle company he worked for. The couple fled back to Texas.
They managed to elude the law for several years. However, in October 1876 the Texas Rangers captured Billy and he was extradited back to Kansas to stand trial for killing Sheriff Whitney. Incredibly, by some twist of fate the shooting was ruled an accident and Billy was freed.
Libby and Billy moved on to Dodge City where Libby resumed working as a dancer and prostitute. While in Dodge the Thompson’s met Wyatt Earp and Mattie Blaylock, his common law wife.
But soon the Thompson’s became restless and drifted on to Colorado for a short time. Apparently, they didn’t find whatever it was they were searching for because they found themselves back in Texas. They finally settled down, in Sweetwater, buying a ranch on the outskirts of town. Libby set up a dancehall and brothel in town which became a booming success.
In 1897, Billy died of stomach complications. Libby continued running her brothel until retiring in 1921 at the age of sixty-six. Sometime later Libby moved to Palmdale, California.
Libby and Billy’s lifestyle had set a poor example for their children. Most of her sons had turned to a life of crime and her daughters became prostitutes.
Squirrel Tooth Alice died at the age of 98 on April 13,1953 at the Sunbeam Rest Home in Los Angeles, California.
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