Now, there is no question that Bessie catered to some wild goings on at the Sage Brush Inn, but the thing that seems to titillate people is the rather persistent rumor that she was a madam and operated a brothel. This rumor is wide spread and taken as a given by many, maybe most, and it is certainly strengthened when Bill Bender is one of those who states it to be a fact.
Bill lived right across the street from Bessie, was well acquainted with her, and was in a position to be in the know. He put it this way:
During World War II that [living] room did overtime as a ‘junior brothel’ for any lonesome airman stationed at George. Annie could always get in touch with a shady lady or two when the demand was there. It never really became a steady part of her business, but she was for anything that turned a profit.
There are also wild stories about how youngsters were not allowed in the place, not even during the day, and about thatched cribs, little shed-like structures, that dotted the back yard. However, in the early days as a service station this would seem most unlikely. Nor does it seem reasonable to suppose that Sagebrush Annie’s roadhouse would have brazenly had cribs on the premises with her family and friends in close proximity. Of course, in later years, with her relatives and friends gone, the situation would have been different.
In April 1855, Brigham young, President of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, called 30 men to leave their families and possessions in the recently settled towns of Utah to serve a mission at the Las Vegas Springs. The verdant meadows watered by the springs had been seasonally inhabited by the Paiute Indians for centuries. The water and meadows made Las Vegas an important stop on the Spanish Trail (called the Mormon Road after 1848).
Map of the Old Spanish Trail (Mormon Road) from Mountain Meadows, UT. to Los Angeles, CA.
President Young directed this group of newly called missionaries to become self-sufficient, to provide a place of rest insecurity for travelers between California and Salt Lake City, and to teach the Indians the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the heat of the summer, in June 1855, the missionaries arrived at this site. The mission, intended to be permanent, was first Anglo-American settlement in Las Vegas Valley.
Mormon Fort – Las Vegas, Nv.
By summer’s end there irrigating gardens were producing fresh vegetables and grains. A new fort was under construction, and a spirit of cooperation and mutual learning was being established with the native inhabitants. They also discovered a deposit of lead or in the nearby mountains. More missionaries were sent to smelt the complex ore in large quantities, but the attempt was unsuccessful.
On 23 February 1857 church leaders sent word to the settlement that the mission was to be disbanded. These early pioneers returned to Utah the left a legacy of faith, devotion, and service shown by their willingness to settle in this hostile environment.
“One of Victor’s (Jacob Nash Victor) greatest contributions was supervision of a number of bridges constructed in San Bernardino County. The first and longest of these was the railroad crossing of the Mojave River in the lower narrows. It is not known just how directly involved he or Perris (Fred T. Perris) were with this project, since their correspondence includes a letter regarding recommendation from New England of another engineer-bridge builder anxious for employment just then. Whoever was directly responsible, huge granite blocks were shaped to fit snugly into cemented buttresses, which have not cracked or moved in over 100 years of continuous use and several devastating floods. The iron bridge, described as one of the finest structures of its kind on this coast, was brought in sections by railroad to Barstow and freighted from there to the site. This bridge was replaced early in the 20th century, including a second set of tracks, but the subsequent structures have all continued to utilize the same basic foundation buttresses. This would be the oldest structure in the region (the buttresses were built in 1885).”
~ History of the Victor Valley – Lyman
Published by Mohahve Historical Society