West of the Creek
Murder, Mayhem, and Vice in Old San Antonio
Hidden and long-forgotten stories of frontier San Antonio
Desperados made San Antonio a roaring Old West town just as they put their stamp on Tombstone, Deadwood, and Dodge City. But like Denver and San Francisco, San Antonio shed its raucous frontier image as it grew into a modern metropolis. Most books on this colorful phase of San Antonio’s history are long out of print.
West of the Creek fills this void, reminding readers that gamblers like Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson came to San Antonio, that Rowdy Joe Lowe ran a saloon on Main Plaza, and that Butch Cassidy got away in time to escape the fate of fellow trainrobber Deaf Charley, who found himself at the business end of a lawman’s six-shooter. A general sense of lawlessness contributed to a number of notorious lynchings and murders among the general populace, reported in later sections of the book.
San Antonio had its own Hell’s Half Acre, this one a twenty-two-block area west of San Pedro Creek where a redlight district flourished for decades. City boosters didn’t talk about it, but author David Bowser shatters the silence with a carefully researched map of more than a hundred houses of ill repute. He tells of madams like Fannie Porter, who entertained the gang of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid while they hid out from the Pinkerton men, and Mary Volino, who reformed and turned her house into a rescue home for “fallen women” and unwed mothers—still operated, in its third location, by the Methodist Church.
“This little book is a gem for those drawn to reading about the fast life of the frontier, and it has a remarkable bibliography with many primary sources.”
— Journal of South Texas
“David Bowser sees dead people. With an ability eerily reminiscent of the movie The Sixth Sense, he also sees long-gone prostitutes, lawmen, desperadoes, bawdyhouses, saloons, and gambling halls. This book is one of the few in print that brings the gritty side of San Antonio’s frontier past into focus. . . . You’d have to be barely breathing not to be intrigued by West of the Creek.”
— San Antonio Express-News