Cherokee Connection Chapter 3 page 21
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[1893-1896] The complication of children out of wedlock

It is difficult to write about and may even be considered family heresy, but in view of some of the records and the life grandmother Annie led after Charles Pfieffer left her in California in 1914, we have to consider other not so pleasant possibilities. I always felt my mother disapproved of my grandmother's life style every time we visited in California. Also the 1900 census shows conflicting information.

1900 Census (Taken June 18, 1900) Shows:

Note the difference in the facts and the census record:

  1. Records show Anna married Charles 7-1896. Therefore they were only married 4 yrs at the time of census, not 6? (Maybe they lived together for 6 years)
  2. Census record said Anna had 5 children. If so, were 3 dead in 1900? When did she have them? Could she have had a still born baby in the period from March of 1893 and October of 1896, two more between October of 1896 and June of 1900?
  3. Anna must have been pregnant with Bessy, (Born Oct 1896) when she married Charles in July 1896.
  4. Anna said Dora was born MarCh 34, 1893, not 1895. If so, she would be 7yrs old in June of 1900, not 5 yrs. Dora born in 1893 checks with story Vernon Keith told about Alma's sister living with her and William Keith while Alma was pregnant.
  5. The census record shows Charles as the father of both El Dora and Bessy. We know that he is not Dora's father.
Why the facts are misstated is unknown. (However, it is not unusual for people to misstate facts to the census taker) In this case Charles' religious guilt feelings could have induced him to lie to the census taker. I can think of no reason why either of them would lie about how many children Anna had.

It was rumored, Belle ran a Brothel in Fort Smith. It could be true, Susie Stewart said she has one of Belle Starr's original cards from the house of ill repute. Susie's attorney gave it to her. The card has a Plum, an ostrich feather on it. The card says, "Let Us Tickle Your Fancy." On the other hand, maybe it was Pearl's card that said, "Let us tickle your fancy".

Pearl Starr (right) and unidentified girls
Pearl Starr
It is possible Annie was alone after her parents died. She may have been despondent after she found out how difficult it was to raise her daughter alone. Pearl Starr, who knew her in school, might have convinced her to move to Fort Smith and live in the girls boarding house. This would get her away from her relatives in Porum. Maybe she even became a prostitute for a while to take care of her child.

Sometime around 1893. Belle's daughter, Pearl, opened a girls boarding house in Fort Smith. It was decorated with a large red star draped with a string of pearls and outlined in electric lights. ("Electric lights" in Fort Smith in 1893, very modern, Edison's 1st incandescent bulb in 1879, electric arc lamps in Philadelphia 1878).

Pearl's boarders were pretty young girls willing to sell themselves at two to five dollars a night. It is even possible Anna met Charles Pfieffer in the brothel. Charles may have conceived Bessy May there, felt guilty because of his religion and married Anna. This might account for the animosity he had for her and Dora when he left them in California.


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