Tucked away in a back corner of the Pioneer and Military Memorial Park Cemeteries is the grand madam of early Phoenix. Her name was Rose R. Gregory, although she was better known as ‘Minnie Powers’ to the gentlemen of Phoenix, Arizona. Rose was English and born in 1850. She first settled in Utah with her husband and daughter, Mary. After her husband died, Rose sent three year old Mary to live with her family in the San Francisco, California area to get her a proper education. She arrived in Arizona Territory about 1878. Rose Gregory lived in Phoenix during its earliest pioneer days.
Rose became ‘Minnie Powers’ and was the Madam of a house of ill repute near East Jackson Street in Phoenix. She had many friends and was loved by all because of her many acts of kindness. She was always ready to donate to the needy, help with disasters, and she saved many misfortunate people from starvation. Minnie tried to keep a low profile and rarely gave officers occasion to interfere with her bawdy house.
But, like many women who lived the sporting life, Minnie faced a sorrowful ending. She owned a saloon on East Jackson Street in the area referred as the Reservation. It was called the Villa Road House and was located at 720 Railroad Avenue.
William Belcher, known as the “Cockney” was the bartender at the house and they had been living with each other on and off for a couple of years. Cockney was a heavy drinker and their relationship had not been running smoothly at the time. He was spending more and more time in jail than on the streets of Phoenix. And while he was locked up, other gentlemen stayed with Minnie at the house.
On September 7 1898, he was released from the city jail yet again. After downing a few drinks, he found a revolver and headed down to Minnie Powers’ house. He entered the house from the rear and proceeded straight to Minnie’s room.
A few people in the area heard some shooting about 10:00 in the morning. Since nobody saw a disturbance, little attention was paid to the gunfire. At 1:00, one of her “girls”—Flora—came by the house to rent a room. She banged on the door, but could get no answer. Puzzled, she came inside and began to look for Minnie.
Minnie was found lying in her bed with her hand under her head, as though she was sleeping—which she probably was when the fatal shots were fired. They say by the peaceful expression on her face, it was evident Minnie never knew what happened. A bullet hole was visible on the right side of the head above the ear and another penetrated the center of the body a little to the right of the heart. The side of her face and the pillow was blackened by gun powder. Minnie’s corpse was literally swimming in blood and it seemed the mattress could no longer absorb the crimson flow.
The lifeless corpse of Belcher lay across her ankles—with his own feet on the floor, and his right hand grasping a 44 caliber revolver. He must have stood opposite of her right side by the bed when he fired the shot into her head, then fired the second shot into her body. He then walked around to the foot of the bed. He placed the weapon into his mouth holding it with his left hand as he pulled the trigger with his right hand.
Minnie Powers’ funeral was handled by undertaker Davis and they provided her with a beautiful casket. It was copper lined with silver plated handles. It had a little silver plate on the lid with the words “At Rest” inscribed. Large crowds came to view her remains each day so all her good deeds and generosity to the poor were not in vain. Dozens of flowers and roses covered her coffin as she was laid to rest. Blecher was buried the old cemetery as well. Does Rose still walk the grounds searching for her murderer?
( Rose Gregory portrayed by Cindy Lee at the Historic Cemetery Walk)
These stories and more will be told at the March 28, 2010 Historical Walk in Early Phoenix Cemeteries located at the Pioneer & Military Memorial Park in downtown Phoenix. Join us for a day of history and mystery as costumed characters portray some of pioneers of early Arizona.
Pioneer & Military Memorial Park
1317 West Jefferson Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007
$10 for adults——$5 for students 12 and under——Children under 5 free
For more info: www.mvdghostchasers.com
Debe Branning email@example.com
Photos by Debe Branning