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Martha A "Mattie" Nimon Silks Thompson Ready
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Birth: Apr. 26, 1845
Pennsylvania, USA
Death: Jan. 7, 1929
Denver County
Colorado, USA

Mattie Silks, "Queen of the Red Lights" in Denver. Born 1847, died Jan. 7, 1929, true name unknown. By the time she was famous, Mattie was a plump 50-year-old, and although she retained a delicate, genteel air, her short frame and smooth, round face emphasized her girth. She was brown-haired and blue-eyed, and her soft voice was always under control. A woman who kept her temper--and her secrets--well. Born in Indiana, she turned her first tricks in Springfield, Ill. She traveled to Colorado silver-and gold-mining camps to set up her first houses, opened an establishment in Denver about 1876, and operated several notable maisons de joie before buying in 1911 the famous "House of Mirrors" located at 1942 Market Street. Her trademark was a diamond-encrusted cross, which she wore dangling from the neck until her death at age 81.


Mattie Silks, or Martha Ready, was a leading madam and brothel keeper in the latter part of the 19th century.

Born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, raised in Indiana, Silks began her working career in Springfield, Illinois. She was one of the best known madams in the west, having brothels in Dodge City, Kansas and Denver, Colorado, where demand for women was high due to the Colorado gold rushes.

Silks is described as being a very good looking woman, with spirit and a competitive nature. She started her first brothel on Holladay Street (now Market Street) and suffered from stiff competition from other brothels. At one point, she and another madam, Kate Fulton, had the first recorded duel in Denver between two women. In addition to being in competition with one another due to their brothels, both were involved romantically with the same man, Cortez Thomson, a local businessman. Both missed their targets, but Silks' bullet did strike a bystander, none other than Thomson, injuring him slightly.

From 1877 to 1897 her brothel was the most successful in Denver. In 1898, Madam Jennie Rogers opened the House of Mirrors in Denver, and quickly became more successful than any of the competition. Jennie Rogers died in 1909, after which Silks purchased the House of Mirrors for $14,000. She continued to work as a madam, traveled, and invested in real estate, making her a very wealthy woman.

She died in 1929 from complications due to a fall. Very few people attended her funeral. She was buried, under the name Martha Ready, beside Cortez Thomson, her longtime lover, in block 12-lot 31, of Fairmount Cemetery in Denver.

Soon after, Mattie Silks began dating her accountant Jack Ready and married him in 1923 at the age of 77. Jack Ready and Mattie Silks were retired and happily married for 6 years until January of 1929 when Mattie Silks passed away at Denver General Hospital as the result of a hip fracture. She was 83.

Mattie Silks was buried at Fairmount Cemetery in Denver next to her first husband Cortez Thompson under the name Martha A. Ready. A few years before her death, Mattie Silks gave an interview and said:

"I went into the sporting life for business reasons and for no other. It was a way for a woman in those days to make money, and I made it. I considered myself then and I do now-as a businesswoman. I operated the best houses in town and I had as my clients the most important men in the West. I kept the names of my regular customers on a list. I never showed that list to anyone--nor will I tell you the names now. If a man did not conduct himself as a gentleman, he was not welcome nor ever permitted to come again. My customers knew I would not talk about them and they respected me for this. My houses were well kept and well furnished. They had better furnishings than any of my competitors. I never took a girl into my house who had no previous experience of life and men. That was a rule of mine. No innocent young girl was ever hired by me. And they came to me for the same reasons that I hired them. Because there was money in it for all of us."

Here's to Mattie Silks, Colorado's Queen of the Red Light District

Family links: 
  Henry Nimon (1807 - 1901)
  Sarah Ann West Nimon (1807 - 1880)
  Cortege D Thompson (1850 - 1900)*
  John Dillon Ready (1864 - 1931)*
  Theresa Louise Thomson Johnson (1890 - 1967)*
  Mary Elma Nimon Gibney (1842 - 1926)**
  Martha A Nimon Silks Thompson Ready (1845 - 1929)
  Henrietta C Nimon Kellers (1850 - 1873)*
*Calculated relationship
Note: no b date
Fairmount Cemetery
Denver County
Colorado, USA
Plot: Blk 12
Maintained by: M Johnson
Originally Created by: Joyce Escue Culver
Record added: Jun 09, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 53464381
Martha A Mattie <i>Nimon</i> Silks Thompson Ready
Added by: Joyce Escue Culver
Martha A Mattie <i>Nimon</i> Silks Thompson Ready
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Ron West
Photos may be scaled.
Click on image for full size.

- Lance
 Added: Nov. 25, 2012

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