Woman leads colorful life, falls for bandit
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
Lurline Monte Verdi, who recently told the Sun reporter about tending to wounded bandit Johnny Brown, is the lady who led her colorful caravan through here to the Black Hills on Aug. 4, 1876. On that trip she was moving her tented casino from Denver to Deadwood City, after a delay of several weeks in Cheyenne.
She was the once famous Confederate spy Belle Siddons, and had been married to an army surgeon from Kansas City, Newton Hallett. Lurline said that she had studied surgery and medicine with him, and that they had practiced anatomical studies at the dissecting table. She accompanied Hallett when he was ordered to Fort Brown, a remote sunbaked post at the mouth of the Rio Grande River. Here Hallett also taught her how to deal monte and black jack. For relaxation they would cross the Rio Grande to visit the Mexican town of Matamoros and try their luck at its gaming tables. Hallett died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1869.
Monte Verde had a popular restaurant and gambling house at Main near Wall in Deadwood. During her brief stay in Cheyenne early in 1876 she was billed at the Bella Union Theater as a serio-comic singer, "The favorite of the public." She was in her early 30s, beautiful, charming, and always carefully groomed. The New York Tribune on Jan. 3 of this year said," ...Then there is Monte Verde, with her dark eyes and tresses, who on her arrival in Deadwood stood upon a board and was borne through the town on the shoulders of four strapping miners and now deals '21' and dances a jig with a far-off look in her left eye."
One of the rules Lurine had established for herself was to never become involved romantically with one of her patrons, knowing that in her business she would face many men.
One night when handsome, young Archie McLaughlin sat across the table from her with his reckless smile and lost game after game until he went broke with a laugh, she realized that this inflexible rule was about to be broken. She offered to stake him, but he said no and assured her that he would be back.
The next week he was carefree and well supplied with money when he saw Lurline. He said he had made a little strike, answering the unasked question in her eyes.
He dropped in nearly every evening for the next few weeks, Lurline soon realized she was in love with him. When Art Donovan, her head bartender, heard that they had dined together in the intimacy of a private room at the Tivoli, he informed her that McLaughlin was the head of a gang of road agents, who posed as prospectors. She had surmised as much but it was too late to make any difference.
After McLaughlin and Billy Mansfield had been hung by vigilantes on Nov. 3, north of Fort Laramie, Lurline tired of Deadwood. She soon disposed of her establishment there and boarded the down coach to Cheyenne.
(Information source: "The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes," by Agnes Wright Spring.)