Cody Photos

From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This page: the Irma Hotel, Etta Feeley

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About This Site

Cody, Jan. 1, 1901

Col. Cody heavily invested in the area. In addition to the Irma hotel which opened on November 18, 1902 and named after his daughter, pictured below, his enterprises included the Cody Trading Company, a livery stable and the Cody Enterprise. In addition, near Meeteetse he purchased the Carter Ranch on the South Fork of the Stinking Water (now the South Fork of the Shoshone) which he named the T E.

Irma Letterhead, undated.

As indicated by the letterhead, Cody's brother-in-law, Louis Decker, was general manager of the hotel which opened in in 1902.

Irma Hotel, approx. 1910.
Lower Left, Irma Hotel, 1908, photo by F. J. Hiscock

Although the Forks of the Shoshone were beautiful, the townsite failed to overawe visitors. In 1905, James M. Hook later owner of the Enterprise for a little over a year, arrived in town. He described his impression:

The town, of course, was interesting enough, but in the midst of the larger scene it seemed markedly artificial with its low wooden buildings, many just shacks, its unpaved streets, weed-infested irrigation ditches and rickety board walks where sidewalks existed at all, the whole in a setting of treeless and rock strewn terrain. Hook, James M.: "Seven Months in Cody. Wyomming, 1905-1906," 26 Annals of Wyoming p. 3, Jan. 1954.

At the time in addition to Col. Cody's enterprises, the town consisted of several stores, a competing livery stable, a competing newspaper, the "Cody Hotel," a lumber yard, and a half dozen or so saloons and gambling dens. Hook accidently got himself into hot water with the saloons when, without his knowledge, a friend inserted an editorial in the paper attacking the saloons and gambling. A fair amount of the advertising was from saloons. The competing livery, Hutsonpillen & Darrah, advertised, "The Automobile is expensive and very dangerous unless an expert guides it and handles the lever." The livery noted, however, "The Horse is the sure and reliable animal to convey one from place to place in this mountainous country."

In addition to the saloons there were several parlors in which lonely sheepherders, cowboys and boys workin on Col. Cody's irrigation project could take their ease. Foremost among them was one on Bleistein Avenue operated from 1902 to 1910 and owned by Etta Feeley (1871-1960). "Feeley" was not her real name of course. It was, however, her professional name which she used on occupational licenses and in court. Her real name changed several times as she went through several marriages. Miss Etta had previously operated a similar establishment in Montana. There, it was apparently a high class facility. In 1895 she was advertising in the Anaconda Standard that she needed a piano player. In 1902 in Cody, she applied for and paid for an occupational license as a "saloon." The cost of the occupational license was $300.00. Although licensed as a saloon the facility was, as described by the Dispatch, Feb. 7, 1902, a "house of ill shape [sic]." It may, however, been a typographical error, in that the next month the paper referred to it as being "occupied for purposes of ill fame." See Dispatch, March 14, 1902. Almost immediately Miss Etta ran into legal problems. She was sued by Maggie Jess for $200 for alleged unlawful detention of premises. Miss Maggie operated a similar type of establishment on Laurel Avenue in Buffalo. Miss Maggie purchased the property leased by Miss Etta, but the purchase did not eliminate Miss Etta's leasehold estate and ultimately Miss Maggie's lawsuit was dismissed. Jake Schwoob sued her on an account. Criminal proceedings were brought in the name of the State charging Miss Etta with criminal detainer, criminal tresspass, and selling liquor without a license in Cody, and selling liquor without a license in Garland. All of the charges and suits were dismissed. See Dispatch, March 14, 1902 and April 17, 1902.

Generally, houses of ill repute were illegal in Wyoming. See Compiled General Statutes, 1910, Section 5905. But violation of the statute was difficult to prove. See. Konepisos vs. State, 26 Wyo. 350, 185 Pac. 354, (1919). A disincentive to enforcement of the law was the revenue devrived by the local community. By 1910, the license fee to Park County was $1,000 equal with inflation as of June 2014 to some $24,075. Additionally, Miss Etta had to pay various fines levied by the local court. Allegedly in one month Miss Etta paid $300 in fines. Miss Etta apparently took the hint and opened a facility in Sheridan. The Sheridan Post, Nov. 6, 1911, reported that one of the girls in her facility, Veta O. "Rabbit" Blines, committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid. In 1915, Miss Etta was charged wtih selling liquor to an American Indian. See Sheridan Post, March 26, 1915. She defended on the basis that she did not know the individual was an Indian, she thought him to be Mexican. The noted that the individual spoke Englsih better than most whites. The trial court held that it was irrelevnt whether Miss Etta knew the indivdual was an indian. Serving the alcohol to an indian whether she knew the individual was an indian or not was illegal. Miss Etta appealed her conviction to the United State Court of Appeals in Denver. The appeal was denied. See Feeley vs. United States, 236 Fed. 903 (8th Cir. 1916).

In the meantime in Buffalo, Miss Maggie had her own difficulties. In 1895, she faced a foreclosure sale. In 1911, the School Board requested that the Town close her down. Apparently no action was taken. She was still open as late as 1918. Ultimately Miss Maggie moved to Pensylvania.

Grand Opening, Irma Hotel, Photo by F. J. Hiscock.

The Irma was constructed by Cody in 1902 and was designed by famed Nebraska architect Alfred Wilderman Woods. Although intended as a luxury hotel, some guests were less than impressed. In 1916, Horace M. Albright (1890-1987) escorted National Park System Director Stephen Tyng Mather (1867-1930) on a tour to Yellowstone. On the first night of the tour, the Mather party stayed at the Irma. In his Creating the National Park Service: the Missing Years, Horace M. Albright and Marian Albright Schenck, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1999, Albright gave an account of the stay. The dinner was a disaster, with bad food and terrible service. Albright at the request of Director Mather checked the kitchen. According to Albright, "It was about the dirtiest, most unsanitary place I had ever seen."

The rest of the evening turned out to be equally bad. First of all, Mrs. Mather insisted on sitting up all night in the lobby after she discovered "things crawling in the bed." Mather ordered a pillow and blankets for her, saw to her comfort, and then disappeared back to the lice, bedbugs, or whatever.
He didn't last long there because when he opened the door to his room he found two men asleep in his bed. Downstairs at the desk he demanded another room. "there is no other room," said the clerk. "You'll just have to make your bedfellows move over."

Albright had a similar experience being awakened by a strang man crawling into his bed. As he lay awake listening to the snores of his bedmate, he became aware of the "various bugs that had missed Mrs. Mather," and thus moved to the floor.

Others complained about conditions in the hotel. When the hotel was sold to H. T. Newell in 1925, the Enterprise reported:

We are glad to learn that the hotel is to be remodeled with hot and cold running water in each room and installation of baths. Party headed by the astude editor of the [Inland Oil} Index stopped at the Irma two years ago and they put us in the annex which at one time was used by Buffalo Bill as a stable. There were no assets in the rooms save the old fashioned water bowl and pitcher, a lop bucket and some decrepit furniture. Posted in conspicuous places were signs warning the guests notto use the loop buckets for any other purpose than waste water under penalty of having $2 added to the bill of each occupant. We are stong for the new management, hot and cold water and bath rooms.Cody Enterprise, April 1, 1925, p. 2

Stage at entrance to Irma Hotel, 1906. Note shadow of upper porch railing on the sidewalk. porch

The Cody Meeteetse Thermopolis Stage Line offered stage service south out of Cody. Additionally, there was weekly stage service to Painter in the Sunlight Basin to the northeast of Cody. By 1908 it was proposed to use autostages for the trip to Meeteetse. In 1908, also, the Big Horn Development company purchased six seven-passenger Rambler automobiles to provide transportation to Basin. In 1916, autostages were instituted to Yellowstone.

Much of the Town of Cody was constructed by a friend of Cody from Buffalo, N. Y, Henry Montgomery Gerrans (1853-1939). Gerrans was a director of the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo at which the Wild West Show performed. The Buffalo, N. Y., influence on the Town of Cody is perhaps also reflected in the name of three streets, Gerrans Ave., Bleistein Ave. and Rumsey Ave. George Bleistein was also a director of the Exposition. At one time Miss Etta's establishment was located on Bleinstein Avenue near where the Eastside School is now located. The Rumsey family farm in Buffalo was used as a site for the Exposition. Beck, Alger, George Bleistein, H. M. Gerrans, Bronson Rumsey, II, are all regarded as the co-founders of the Town. Also moving to Cody from Buffalo, New York was Jacob M. "Jake" Schwoob (1874-1932) who became a partner and manager of the Cody Trading Company on the corner of 13th and Sheridan Ave.

Cody Trading Company, approx. 1911. Photo by A. G. Lucier

The building depicted burned in 1913 and was replaced by a new building on the same site. Schwoob became the first treasuer of the Town of Cody. Two years later he was elected mayor. In 1905 he was elected to the State Senate and became president of the Senate in 1911. When Wyoming introduced license plates in 1913, he was given license plate No. 1.

Jake Schwoob with hand on headlamp, license plate No. 1, approx. 1913

Next Page: Cody continued.