Heritage Walks Series

Law and Order

Victoria’s Finest

Eversole, Linda J. (2005). Stella: Unrepentant Madam. Surrey: TouchWood Editions

The oldest police force in western Canada had its hands full as the population of the tiny outpost exploded during the Gold Rush. Those who came to the frontier coast were often not the most compliant or conventional!

After the gold rush began, brothels quickly appeared San Francisco, visited a friend who happened to be selling her brothel. When the buyer suddenly died, Stella decided to make the purchase herself. Her new landlord was Simeon Duck, a well-connected local politician with a liberal attitude to prostitution. She operated the brothel successfully for many years until Duck died in 1905, the same time as an era of moral reform was emerging. The new Mayor and Police Chief soon met with Stella and they agreed that if she moved to the red-light district the police would not trouble her.

Stella complied, but was forced to move several more times, partly because she was so difficult. She would sue non-paying customers in court, though good sense should have told her not to. When the police arrested her and hauled her into court, she would rage at the magistrate. Her private life also caused problems. She had violent lovers, one of whom “accidentally” shot her in the leg, resulting in it being amputated. Although her Rockwood Manor was the “finest” brothel in town for years, she eventually returned to San Francisco.

Abridged from Stephen Ruttan, “Stella: When Only the Best Will Do.” Victoria Times Colonist, October 28, 2012.

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Published by the City of Victoria and the Downtown Victoria Business Association. Also available for printing and other formats at www.victoria.ca/tours