William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Douglas (Wyo.) Police Court Records, 1887-1910
James V. Medler Crime CollectionFinding aid created by
C. A. G., March 1998
Douglas (Wyo.) Police court records
Douglas (Wyo.) Police
The Douglas, Wyoming Police court records consist of an alphabetical list of defendants and a chronological record of criminal trials. The trial entries include the defendant(s) name, a description of the charges, and associated fees.
The material is in English
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
Donated by Larry Myers, 1998. M-3455.2.
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown.
Douglas (Wyo.) Police Court Records, James V. Medler Crime Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
The small town of Douglas is situated on the Platte River in east central Wyoming, nestled in a mixture of grassy plains and forests of douglas fir. The region was settled by ranchers and adventurers in the mid-19th century, including a large number of Irish immigrants and many others who had followed the railroad west to Washington. The state was admitted into the Union in 1890, at a time when men still outnumbered women by more than three to one. Under such rough hewn frontier conditions, prostitution and drunkenness flourished, and the infamous violence that characterized western frontier culture was never far away.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The Police Court Docket from Douglas, Wyo., is divided into two parts, a scantily maintained alphabetical register of defendants and chronological records of each trial, including defendant's name, crime, fees, and a description of the charge. The progression of crime in the Territory of Wyoming's early years is apparent.
From 1887 to 1890, the majority of the cases recorded in the docket involved repeat offenders charged with prostitution and the operation of bawdy houses, intoxication, public disturbance, and the brandishing of pistols in public places. By 1890, prostitution had become so routine, that it was penalized by a mere monthly fee of $4.00, and a court fee of $1.00. Angie La Fontaine operated a particularly successful house of ill repute from 1887 to 1899, where May Arms and Jennie Smith, two of the town's most frequent repeat offenders, worked.
The crimes increased with the population, generally resulting in more drunk and disorderly arrests, and other crimes such as procuring whiskey for minors, selling merchandise without a license, assault, street fighting, and indecent exposure; the fines typically remained at a level between $5.00 and 10.00. Among the most unusual cases recorded is one involving a defendant tried for "willfully and unlawfully lead(ing) a worthless and immoral life in the town of Douglas." On June 8, 1908, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail, unless he left town. He left town. These later entries contain occasional postscripts, listing defendants' inability to pay, desire to work off fine, or flight from the town.