Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mammy, Spooks and the City Jail

There are so many stories that can come out of this one article from the June, 1911 Oregonian paper out of Portland, Oregon. It’s true that the words “Spooks” and “haunted” caught my attention but once I finished reading this there was so much more.  The fact that Mammy, Mrs. Louella Miller, would prefer to spend her nights in a haunted house with the spooks versus the police.  The statement that she was the first negro mother to be visited in the “City Jail” by the stork.


Negress, Mother of Babe at City Jail, Declares She Slept in Old Haunted
House as Patrolman Searched. 
Mrs. Louella Miller, a negress, not only has the distinction of being the first negro mother to be visited by the stork at the City Jail, but boasts that she is one of few women of her race not afraid of spooks.
Matron Isabel Simmons made the startling, announcement yesterday morning that she had a prisoner not yet booked. After inquiry, Mrs. Simmons was more explicit and revealed an eight-pound baby, “brought direct from South Africa by the stork,” remarked the Chief.
   Mrs. Miller will take chances on ghosts in preference to policemen and woodrats most any night. She said so at the police station Tuesday night while telling Captain Bailey where she had been since her arrival in the city two weeks ago.
   She slept Monday night in the “haunted” house, the big residence, almost palatial in proportions, that has stood unoccupied at Twenty-fourth and Cornell streets for 20 years because of superstition.
Haunted House Is Haven.
Mrs. Miller was found in a vacant house at East Couch street and Grand avenue Monday evening by persons living in the neighborhood and was sent to the station by Patrolman Parker. At the station she told many weird stories of her travels, but no incident was as interesting as her adventure in the haunted house Monday night. This adventure was of special significance because the police were called to the “haunted” house Monday night and they say they searched it and found no one, while Mrs. Miller emphatically declares she was inside all the time, heard about the police being called but did not see them. How the “haunted” house was searched and no one found is one of the mysteries at the station.  
   Mrs. Miller said she was at the house all day Monday and in the afternoon a woman, who saw her wandering about the place, told her the house was haunted.
    “I decided to stay out in the yard and sleep on the grass after she told me that,” said Mrs. Miller, “and then a woman told me the police was coming. I’m more afraid of a policeman than I am of ghosts, so went into the house and crawled away back into the attic. I didn't see any policeman around at all and I slept fairly well.”
 House Searched, Reported.
   When she told of the circumstance it recalled to policemen at the station that Monday night a report was received from Henry M. Montgomery, Deputy Collector of Customs, who lives at 86 Cornell street, opposite the “haunted” house that rowdies had been throwing rocks through the windows of the vacant building and two men were hanging around acting suspiciously. Patrolman Stram was sent to investigate, Mr. Montgomery and a companion met the patrolman and Captain Bailey was led to believe that the three had thoroughly searched the house and premises and found no one. That is how the record stands at the police station.
   Mrs. Miller has a vague recollection of hearing the stairs creak once, early in the night, followed by hastily retreating footsteps. After that, it was a silent, black night in the attic.
Ghosts Assure Safety.
   As to the woodrats, Mrs. Miller said she would have slept in the shed but she saw “woodrats as bit as a dog out there,” and preferred an encounter with a ghost, if any should appear.
   With a broad grin she said she considered herself safe from policemen and woodrats in a “haunted” house.
   The woman said she and her husband separated three years ago and since then, she has been roving about the country. She left Boise, Idaho, a few weeks ago and went to The Dalies. She said she came to Portland two weeks ago and had obtained only a few days employment. Out of her meager earnings she bought food and usually found shelter in a vacant house, boxcar or some obscure place where she would not be molested.  

First let me just say that choosing to sleep in the attic of a known haunted and abandon house is a horror movie in the making, you never go into the basement or the attic. I had to Google “woodrats” and see just how big they really are, the thought of one the size of a dog would send me to the next county, once again another horror movie in the making.  What made the patrolmen “hastily retreat” down the stairs and out of the house?

I’m also curious about this child and if I’m reading correctly was born in the city jail; she was the first woman to deliver in the city jail.  There are more questions I can come with as I’m sure many of you can, but I once again chose this particular article because of the approaching holiday.