Killed By a Woman
Back in 2003, one of the very first items we found when we began searching the Internet was an article about a prostitute by the name of Kitty Blonger. On February 22, 1888, in the mining town of Peach Springs, AT, Kitty was arrested for the murder of blacksmith Charles Hill.
It became clear early on that the name Blonger was (and remains) nearly unique to the five male sons of Simon Belonger who went west, and their families. None of them have known living descendants. So who was Kitty? A wife? Marriage records beg to differ. A daughter? The evidence suggests otherwise. So who was she?
That morning in 1888 Charles Hill, a family man, became enraged when he found his favorite prostitute in bed with another man – a tinhorn gambler, no less, who they called “Kid” Fay. Hill thus proceeded to bash in the door of Kitty’s room in the rear of Somerset’s saloon, and to give the Kid a sound thrashing.
According to court testimony, Kitty then produced a pistol, and shot old Charlie Hill in the head. Reeling backward, Hill fell through the doorway and into the hall, his brains spilling across the floor. Within moments, other patrons of the saloon rushed to the scene to find Kitty, gun in hand, saying “He broke my door open and I killed him, and I don’t allow no son of a bitch to break my door.”
Kitty and Fay were both arrested, and she was nearly lynched. A few days later they were both in Kingman awaiting trial.
Lou Steps Up
Which brings us to our next clue, discovered some months later. Shortly after Kitty’s arrival in Kingman, the local paper reports that one L. Blonger, of San Bernardino, California, had arrived in town. Until this moment, we had toyed with the idea that Kitty, sometimes called Kate, might be Joe’s common-law wife; Joe was a bachelor for most of his life. We couldn’t rule it out. But suddenly Lou seemed the more likely candidate for some kind of romantic link to Kitty.
Dayton M. “Kid” Fay was the son of prominent Prescott publisher Artemis Fay, and the young gambler’s legal counsel, E. M. Sanford, esq., was suitably top notch. In fact, in short order the court moved to “ignore” Fay’s case, and he went free.
Though Kitty had a rougher time, she did, somehow, manage to retain Fay’s attorneys. After three days of testimony the judge instructed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty, and they complied.
Kitty, only the second woman in Arizona to be tried for murder, was remarkably composed throughout the trial, but on hearing the verdict she broke down and began to weep uncontrollably. Before leaving the courthouse, she told a reporter that she was going back east to the bosom of her family. This was not to be.
But who paid for Kitty’s hot shot lawyer? Fay’s father? Did Sanford take the case Pro Bono? Or had Lou come to Kitty’s rescue? And if he did, what was his motivation?
About a year later, a research trip to New Mexico turned up more clues. An article in the Albuquerque Evening Citizen, dated to the time of Kitty’s trial, mentioned in passing that Kitty was a “sporting woman formerly of this city.” Sam and Lou, of course, were in Albuquerque in 1882 — that was the subject of our trip to that city.
Then we found an article from September of 1882 describing an altercation between Lou and a companion, a bartender and gas balloonist who went by the name of “Professor” Park Van Tassel. On a visit to a local house of ill repute, the well-lubricated “aeronaut” happened to say something to the madam of the house that Lou deemed inappropriate. Lou showed his displeasure by pistol-whipping his friend, twice, knocking him to the floor, and then tossing his cocked gun to Van Tassel’s chest, muttering “You son of a bitch, you can’t talk to my woman that way.” The house, the news reiterated, was run by “Blonger’s woman” — thus all but declaring Lou a pimp.
For his part, Marshal Sam Blonger was never mentioned in connection with this whorehouse on Fourth Street, though he probably didn’t need to be. In fact, though the Blongers are often described as having a long history of offering sex for sale as well as liquor and gambling, hard evidence to that effect is scant. The Albuquerque episode is the only connection we have ever found between the Blongers and a particular brothel.
About this same time, we learned from historian Chuck Hornung that hookers often took (and take, I suppose) the surname of their pimp – and maybe a new first name to boot, for good measure. That would explain a lot. Kitty had been part of Lou’s “stable” in Albuquerque, and had taken his name has her own. By 1888 she had drifted to Peach Springs, no doubt under the wing of some other pandering barkeep.
In fact, another article found on the same outing, coincidentally dated just two days after the conclusion of Kitty’s trial, indicated that one Mollie Blonger had just been detained in Albuquerque for “maintaining a nuisance” — legalese for running a brothel. Now we were wondering just how many soiled doves named Blonger were going to turn up. By 1888 both Sam and Lou had long been married (Sam since 1866, Lou since 1882), and yet there were still these women, popping up here and there, still going by the Blonger name years later as they continued to ply their trade across the Mountain West. I would point out that this could strain a marriage, but if being a pimp doesn’t strain a marriage, I don’t know what would.
While it was tempting to suggest that Kitty was “Lou’s woman,” the existence of Mollie emphasized that this was still an open question. Adding to the confusion, Lou got married for the first time late that year, in San Francisco, to a girl named Emma Loring. Might Emma also be Kate or Mollie? Or another girl from the house? Nothing to support that. Likewise we couldn’t confirm Lou was the romantic link to Kitty, though his connection to the brothel, coupled with his presence at the trial in Kingman, did seem to suggest it. In fact, I was certain of it.
Our only other clues were two dead letters addressed to Kitty, one in Aspen in 1889, and one in Deadwood in 1893. It looked as though Killer Kate had gone underground, never to be seen again.
And then, just a few days ago, a break in the case.
Denver Post, October 21, 1893, front page, center column. Two US Deputy Marshals are in hot water; charged with transporting a prisoner from Denver to Philadelphia, the suspect’s wife had boarded in Chicago, and the couple had gone AWOL upon arriving in Pennsylvania. The assumption was that the wife had boarded with a satchel full of cash, and the cops had looked the other way at an opportune moment.
Of more interest to us was the assertion that one of the marshals, Davis by name, had taken along a companion, a woman by the name of Kate Blonger. Interesting. And she was known around town by other names as well. In fact, it was as Mrs. Hank Domedion that she reportedly ran a “rooming house” on Curtis.
Adding insult to injury, the Post asserted that by virtue of Marshal Davis’ address, Kate was the deputy’s landlady to boot, and that “by reason of his handsome face, manly form and official position,” he had become “the star boarder of the Chicago block.”
Naturally we found the story entertaining; we’re as curious about Kitty as we are about any of the Belonger boys, and it was good to get a bead on her once again. But there was something familiar about the name Domedion; Scott and I both thought we’d come across it before.
Sam In Love
Upon Sam’s return from the West after the Civil War, he married Ella Livingston of Mt. Carroll, Illinois, the sixteen-year-old sister of Lou’s army buddy William. As far as we can tell, Ella – and her extended family – then traveled along with Sam and Lou as they relocated, once a year, like clockwork, from Iowa to Salt Lake City, where they had their first saloon, to Stockton and Dry Canyon, Virginia City, Cornucopia, Tuscarora and Silver Reef, following the booms, prospecting some, and running their various saloons and gambling halls – and, I suppose, brothels. Did “the girls” follow from town to town as well?
Then finally the gang landed in Denver, in the year 1879. Though they seem to have spent a fair amount of time in Georgetown, where they had a theater, and Leadville, where they had mining claims, and Sam even ran (unsuccessfully) for mayor, at that point Denver was a home of sorts, and it appeared they might settle in for the long haul.
But for whatever reason, the boys soon got hungry again, for the road and adventure and opportunity, and they were gone by the end of 1881, to Albuquerque, a new brothel, and a sweet new gig as town marshal for Sam. Ella remained behind in Denver, with their two children, Mable and Frank. Lou’s wife Emma was apparently MIA.
After Albuquerque, Lou wandered south to Deming, and by 1885 he was running a saloon in San Bernardino, California. Sam was running horses here and there, and otherwise hanging around Aspen.
Then, in 1888, Sam and Lou finally reunited in Denver, anxious to see what they could make of themselves in this burgeoning western metropolis – and their wives weren’t invited to the party. Within a year they were both divorced, Lou claiming the elusive Emma Loring had abandoned him.
Curiously, both remarried within weeks. Lou married Cora (Nola) Lyons, an actress, so they say, and they would stay together – despite Lou’s twenty-year affair with mistress Iola Readon, aka Blanche Blonger.
Sam, on the other hand, married Mrs. Sadie Wilson, twenty days after his divorce. And just four years later she would divorce him, on grounds of extreme cruelty. Several savage beatings were recounted in the news. An Albuquerque paper decried the crude and dangerous man that Denver had made of Marshal Sam.
And yet, shortly thereafter, Sam married Virginia Pierrepont, widow of a local fireman – though by doing so he apparently reneged on yet another promise of matrimony to one Jesse Wheat, who sued Sam for $25,000. Sam and Virginia remained together until Sam’s death in 1914.
Alias Sadie Wilson
Sadie remarried too, as it turns out, to a saloon owner by the name of Henry J. Domedion — but folks just called him Hank.
Yes, Kate “Kitty” Blonger was Mrs. Hank Domedion. And Sam’s second wife Sadie Wilson would later marry Henry J. Domedion. The circle was complete; Sam was the link. In fact, their relationship may have been longstanding even at the time of Sam’s divorce from Ella in 1889, maybe even causing the split.
Our Story So Far
Mrs. Sadie Wilson, maiden name unknown, was a prostitute for Sam and Lou back in 1882, and she shot Charles Hill in 1888. She married Sam in 1889 after breaking up his marriage, and then divorced him four years later when she could no longer tolerate his cruelty. She then married another barkeep, and by 1903 she was involved with a crooked US Marshal.
That about sums it up. Kate/Kitty/Sadie has suddenly become a much more important figure in what has already turned out to be a sweeping drama.