Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Staffelbach Bordello

There is a controversy of sorts that has been going on in Galena, Kansas, for the past several weeks over a business that was opened up not long ago and called the Murder Bordello by its owner. It consists of an old Victorian house at the corner of Front and Main streets in Galena that has been restored and opened for tours. In addition to claiming the the place was once a bordello where a murder took place, the owner also claims or at least strongly suggests that the place was not just any bordello but the one operated by the infamous Staffelbach (aka Staffleback) family and the one where they lived in 1897 at the time they killed Frank Galbreath, the man whose murder the family was convicted of later in '97. The owner has also suggested that the place is haunted.

There are certain people upset because it can be demonstrably shown that the Stafflebachs did not live at the corner of Front and Main streets in 1897 but rather a half mile or so away on the western edge of the town. Furthermore, there is no evidence to even to suggest that a murder ever took place on the grounds of the Main and Front streets property or its immediate environs. Also, the only people who think the place is haunted are those people who seem to believe all old houses are haunted, and it's not absolutely known that the place was ever even a bordello.

The people upset by the new business don't like someone perverting the town's history in order to try to make a profit from it. Meanwhile, some people on the other side argue that it makes little difference whether the restored house is actually THE Staffelbach house. As long as the businessman is bringing tourists and shoppers to Galena and helping to revitalize the downtown, he should be left to do his thing. The Staffelbach legend is, after all, part of Galena's colorful history, and the town should be allowed to cash in on it without interference from those insisting on a strict adherence to historical fact.

I tend to side with the purists who object to the location at Front and Main Street being identified, even by implication, as the house where the Staffelbachs lived at the time they murdered Galbreath. If there were any doubt whatsoever, it might be different, but there is ample proof in the form of contemporaneous newspaper articles and other documents to show beyond doubt that the family did not live there.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are correct that this was not the home in which my family resided. That place was described in newspaper accounts of the day. The 12x14-foot cabin sat on a hill and was said to be too small for even two people. About spring 1896 my grandfather, Ed, and his brothers, Mike and George, added to the cabin by building a two-story, four bedroom frame addition to the original log hut. About 11:00 P.M., on September 22, 1897, forty vigilantes quietly made their way to their home, doused it in kerosene, and simultaneously applied torches in several places. The old log and board structure immediately became a mass of flames. No alarm was turned in until the house was nearly burned to the ground, and then the fire department made no effort to extinguish the flames. They let it burn until every log and board was entirely consumed.

That should settle the matter. The house/bordello used by my ancestors was burned to the ground. Nothing exists. The problem my family has in all this is that there are so many venomous words being spewed and a lot of misinformation. Russ Keeler did not start this story, nor did he steal it, nor did he advocate deceit. Carolyn McLean is correct that the house being restored is not my ancestral home. What more does she want? Getting online and calling people liars and suggesting they are being fraudulent only diminishes her credibility. Stating the facts goes a lot further. She is not wrong, but the way she's saying it is uncalled for. I understand both sides and do not have any stake in this claim one way or the other. I do object, however, to Carolyn's countless e-mails telling me I am going to hell simply because I asked her to leave my father alone. He is very sick and wrote an extensive history of the family, keeping it as accurate as possible. He gave the story to Russ Keeler because he had no interest in publishing it himself and anticipated it being used to help set the story straight.

Hopefully, some of this nonsense can stop. Carolyn is right; Russ is not wrong for restoring the house and concedes it probably isn't the house owned by my family.

Again, what more do they want?


May 13, 2013 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Carolyn McLean said...

You know the story here and you know me a little..You know that I am a "Lady" and an "Historian" that checks out her facts and would not do the things that she says...So take her comments with a grain of salt if you would.. I wrote up a lot of things about what she said and at the end lost it.Probably just as well.

I liked very much what you wrote and appreciate so much that you keep the history correct and check out the facts in all of your writings.

But would beg to disagree with you on a couple of sentences..
I think it is very wrong for a town to let a person come in and change it's history for money.. Dishonest, Immoral, Unethical, Greedy...etc.

Truth being, sad to say, that Galena and business men made a fortune off the "Joplin Tornado" and do not need to proceed with this "deception" for more money.
Wrong...Wrong...Wrong.. What does that tell our children???? Oh it is Ok to go out there and tell lie's if you can make some money.. I think not.. Carolyn

May 18, 2013 at 1:44 AM  

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