The Madam Who Turned to Stone

Did Mother Damnable—aka Mary Ann Boyer, Seattle's original hard-ass—really turn to stone after her death in 1873?


I love stories like this.
Utterly wonderful story. Thank you, Ms. Lovejoy!
Fantastic job!
Love the story, but the "There's a sucker born every minute" quote is actually from Michael Cassius McDonald, a 19th Century Chicago gambler, who gave that line in reply when told the casino he'd built was too large and that there would not be enough customers to fill it. . .…

A wonderful story and analysis. Thank you for this bit of frontier lore.
Great stuff! I love reading about early Seattle from the perspective of South of Yesler -- the north was those obnoxious teetotaling stuffed shirts the Dennys, and their ilk, who have conspired to make Seattle the dullest city on earth for more than 150 years. Arthur Denny's chaotic counterpart, Doc Maynard, from Madame Damnable's side of the street, was a much more entertaining fellow. Banks vs. saloons; which one would you rather hang out in?

I wonder if Oliver Shorey, undertaker, is related to Shorey's Bookstore, much-missed musty old bookshop downtown (and later for a few years in Wallingford).
The rage of being asked for a receipt.... I suppose she must have been illiterate.
Oh man, Seattle's hellraisers are my favorites. I'd heard of Madam Damnable but never the expanded stories. I love a tough broad.
Loved this story.
Yay! I love stories like this and am reminded of good times in Seattle in the early 90s. The old curmudgeonly harridan and a troll living under the Aurora bridge--and the gorgeousness of the land and sea--make Seattle one of the best places I've ever been. And despite my name, I'm totally serious.
I read that back in the era when she died, people would preserve bodies with arsenic, which could make a body hard as rock. It would be appropriate for this woman to become deadly poison. I hope that the men who moved her washed their hands.
This is wonderful, thanks so much for your extensive research into the stone corpse craze. It's entertaining but also provides a real glimpse into life in early Seattle.
I think Ms. Lovejoy did not do enough research on Madame Damnable, and instead relied on word of mouth. Madame Damnable was a much more colorful (and tough), character, according to the Bill Spidel book: Doc Maynard: The Man who Invented Seattle.

She and the Denny's were always at odds, since she definately ran a house of ill repute. Doc Maynard was more practical, and far less devout. It was also mentioned the second floor of the first city municipal building was used for visiting business people to uh, relax, and uh, seal the deal. Lot's of city business was done this way in the early days.

The story in Spidel's book on her run in with the Marines is different: The Dennys wanted to put her out of business, and probabably burn her house down, and they convinced the Marines to do their dirty work. They tried to sneak up on her house in the middle of the night. Her three dogs alerted her, and she came out with them, carrying a shotgun. Between her dogs, the shotgun, and her cursing them, they backed off, and did not return.

This had nothing to do with a road. In fact, she would have welcomed a good road as making it easier for her customers to visit.
I've met a few barristas in Ballard that conjure her spirit.

what came and went of the black lady that dressed in plastic garbage bags and wrote on rolls of tp? circa mid 80's.