Continued from "Ladies of Denver: Jenny Rogers and Mattie Silks - Part Seven"
Rumors and Myths
Of course, over the years, many rumors have surfaced surrounding these two women. During the time Cort was purportedly in jail for cattle theft, Mattie was supposedly keeping company with a railroad president from back east, who took her traveling. Claims that she also had a daughter she raised in secret in one of her houses, or that she was raising Cort’s granddaughter in one of the houses, also in secret, surfaced more than once. A September 4th, 1887 news clipping from the Rocky Mountain News talks of a Nettie Silks, an adopted daughter of Mattie Silks, who was taken from another house of ill repute and put in the home of the Good Sheperd until 1888, when she would then be an adult at age of 16. Was this an assumption on the part of the reporter, or did the girl assume that name for the notoriety? No way to know. Theresa Thomson, the reported granddaughter of Cort Thomson, was also reported in The Denver Republican in 1895 as living with Mattie. However, no record of this child has ever been found. In Jennie’s case, the real scandal came after her death, in which Fitzgerald contested her will, in which she left her property and holdings to her sister, niece and nephew. For a short time, her property was in his hands, but her sister’s lawyers prevailed, leaving what little of the estate there was left to Jennie’s family.
Rumors still abounded into the 1940s, when the former House of Mirrors was to be renovated into a warehouse - the ghost of one of the ladies was reportedly seen hovering around the intersection of 26th and Lawrence streets, almost as if in protest of taking this former glorious building and converting it to something so mundane and plain as a warehouse. Spectators came from all over the city, forming a crowd of almost 500 people in hopes of seeing this ghost. The police had other ideas; using bullhorns, they told the crowd to disperse and they did, the ghost fading away as well. The ghost was never seen on that spot again, and though there was speculation that it was the ghost of Mattie Silks, it could just as easily been the ghost of Jennie Rogers, come back from Chicago to protest the destruction of the home both ladies had loved.
No matter what the stories were, the scandals, the history, or where they had come from, Jennie and Mattie led nearly parallel lives. Both had come from eastern homes and entrepreneurs of their time, succeeded in every business venture they started. Both fell in love with men who were, at the least, unreliable, and at worst criminals, using them for their money, even though they truly loved these men. Both of them lived the high life in the heyday of Denver, and both saw an era end before their own lives ended well into an old age. Never mothers, instead they took into their care and training countless young women; Mattie at least kept track of her girls after they married and left her employ, claiming them all to be good and true wives to their husbands. Mattie Silks and Jennie Rogers- criminals or astute business women? It depends on which side of the fence you choose to look at them from. At the very least, you can say these women helped build Denver as it is today.