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Wild Woman of The West
Wild Woman of The West

On a summer day in 1852, a dust-covered stagecoach from San Francisco came to a screeching halt in Nevada City, CA. There was only one passenger aboard -- an attractive well-dressed young woman wearing a stylish hat.

Single women were a scarcity in the early days of the wild west. Her arrival drew curious and even lustful glances from the cowboys, gold prospectors, gamblers and even clergymen who were lucky enough to see the arrival of Eleanore Dumont.

She was dressed a little flamboyantly with jewelry and a low-cut gown. But it was evident to those who saw her that she was not a lady of the evening as prostitutes were called. And the men were also pleased that she was not a school teacher or social worker who frowned on whiskey and gambling, both of which were prominent in Nevada City.

Miss Dumont had a delightful French accent as well as an attractive downy fuzz on her upper lip. One of the men removed his hat and escorted her from the stagecoach. He followed her like an obedient puppy dog to a hotel a block away from where she registered herself.

The eligible males and a few who were not eligible took great interest in Eleanore Dumont. They noted she smoked cigarettes that she rolled herself and drank fine wine. She carried herself like a lady and appeared to be chaste. She did not go out of her way to attract men, but neither did she drive them away.

She was a gambler -- one of the best -- and she opened a game that quickly grew into one of the most respected poker games in town.

California was still reeling from the economic effects of the gold strike. There were many prospectors in Nevada City whose pockets were heavy with gold. In her attractive, almost virginal style, Dumont managed to relieve them of much of the weight of the heavy precious metal.

At first, the men who played in her game did it out of curiosity. But the curiosity grew into admiration. In order to play at her poker table, she insisted that the men wear jackets, refrain from profanity, and not engage in fisticuffs or other violence. She also ordered them to remove their hats. The popularity of her gambling enterprise literally exploded, forcing her to move to a larger facility.

She hired dealers and other assistants and became wealthy. After several years, the economic prosperity of Virginia City began slowing down and Dumont bid a sad adieu to the town. She moved to other places to run gambling games -- Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and South Dakota. She was successful everywhere she traveled.

Then age caught up with her and she began to lose her beauty. By the time she was 40, she had put on pounds and the wispy downy hairs on her upper lip had turned into a mustache. She had switched her drinking from wine to whiskey. While she made some of her money gambling, she made even more of it by going to bed with her customers who had started calling her Madame Moustache.

She moved to Fort Benton, Montana and opened a gambling saloon and brothel in a two-story building. The place had no touch of elegance. It was rundown with a dozen small rooms on the second floor.

A steamboat man who had heard of Madame Moustache came to the place because he wanted to play against her. By then Dumont was considerably overweight and her moustache was quite pronounced. He told her he either wanted to lose his $200 to her or use it to win a considerable amount of money.

She smiled and they began playing. She cleaned him out.

As he rose to leave, she signaled to one of her employees and insisted the man have a special drink on the house. It was a glass of milk. He returned to his steamship with nothing but memories.

Elaine Dumont's life ended tragically. She moved to Bodie, CA., set up a gambling house, and in 1879 decided she had had enough of life..She wandered out of town and shot herself to death.

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