That Express Train to Hell

September 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

10169423_771074516259439_5426073765880906299_nProcurers looked for victims in railroad depots and watched trains for young women traveling alone. Country girls were in greater danger than city girls because they were less sophisticated, more trusting and more open to the allurements of predators.

The “white slavers” on the trains coming into the city tried to “cut out” attractive girls—making her acquaintance, gaining her confidence and inducing her to leave the train before reaching the main depot, where the police and the various protective organizations had watchers who could quickly detect a girl in the hands of one of these human beasts of prey.

On the night of March 3, 1879, an Alabama country girl, about sixteen, arrived in Austin on a train en route to her brother’s, near Giddings. She had no money or friends. At the depot, she fell in with men intent on her ruin.

ign depot copyIncredibly, while they were attempting to deceive the girl by professions of friendship, Ida Lake, one of Guy Town’s most toughened cyprians, whose house was just across the way, appeared on the scene, took charge of the girl and gave her shelter and protection until the next morning, when a Mr. Hutchins offered the girl a home with his family until her brother could be heard from. “The conduct of Ida Lake was noble and womanly,” the Statesman commented, which were by far its kindest words for her during her notorious career here.

Ida, like so many cyprians, eventually met with cruel fate. On Saturday night, February 20, 1892, Ida was up late and went to bed complaining of being sick. And then, all alone, she died. The next morning, some friends went to her room and found her body. She had been in bad health for some time. Heart disease was supposed to have been the immediate cause of death.

Officer Folwell, while at the depot on the morning of December 3, 1892, noticed twelve-year-old Zoe Clements in company with a white prostitute. He at once took her from the woman. Zoe lived in Elgin, just a short train ride away from Austin. Folwell took her to a reputable boardinghouse. Zoe was obviously a strong-willed girl with a rebellious streak. Was she bent on the horizontal life? Probably not…yet. But anything is possible.

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