No madam combined beauty and tragedy more poignantly than Ada Lamont, a dark-eyed beauty of nineteen, she first arrived in Denver in the late summer of 1858, coming from a solid Midwestern family. At seventeen, she had married a young minister, in a union which friends regarded as perfect. The young bride took great pride in her duties as a pastor’s wife, so when the young preacher felt “the call” to carry the gospel into the Rocky Mountain wilderness, Ada happily went with him. The couple left from St. Joseph, Missouri, on a wagon train; one dark night while en route, the youthful clergyman disappeared, and so did a young lady of relaxed reputation. The wagons halted for a full day while search parties fanned out, but no trace of the pair was found. The general assumption was that the pair were lovers who fled together.
As the wagon train pushed west, Ada maintained a stony silence until the train reached Cherry Creek. Here she said, “As a God-fearing woman, you see me for the last time. As of tomorrow, I start the first brothel in this settlement. Any of you men in need of a little fun will always find the flaps of my tent open.”
Ada’s debut in her new profession was delayed as a friendly band of Arapahos met up with the wagon train. The young chief was so taken by the dark-eyed charmer in calico that he offered to swap five ponies for her. Ada, thinking the whole affair was a joke, nodded her acceptance to the chief, who rode off. When the chief returned with his warriors and the five ponies, Ada took refuge in a wagon until the chief finally gave up and left. But Ada kept her word about her new profession, for within a week she opened Denver’s first house of prostitution. From that day on, every man who met Ada Lamont praised her charms as the most beautiful woman in the Colorado Territory. Her bagnio became known from St. Louis to San Francisco, and most of the new arrivals in town had at least one fling at her house.
Ada’s business increased so rapidly that within a year she left her shack on Indian Row and moved into a two-story house on Arapahoe Street, where she could attract a higher-class trade. For ten years, she served the best liquor in Denver, operated a clean and honest house, and amassed a fortune.
But as Ada’s career started in tragedy, so did it end. A decade after her husband disappeared, the silent prairie gave up his ghost. A friend of Ada’s was returning to Denver from a trip to Kansas when he stumbled upon a human skeleton with a hole in the back of its head, and bullet still lodged in its skull. In a clump of rotting rags was a small Bible with Ada’s handwriting still legible. Ada’s unthinking friend brought the Bible back to Denver and returned it to her. The shock was too much for Ada. Almost at once she began to drink. Her old charm rapidly deserted her, and she boarded up her house and moved on from the mining camp. Eventually she drifted to Georgetown, Colorado, where in the midst of one of the West’s biggest silver booms, she died of starvation.