Mattie Moore Wilson was one of the most notable entrepreneurs of Chaves County, New Mexico, during the early 20th century.
She followed two quite different careers in the Chaves County. She was known as “Mittie Moore” in Roswell as the owner of a brothel. In the homesteader community of Blackdom, she was known as “Mattie Moore” or “Mattie Moore Wilson.”
Mittie Moore ran the best-known and most successful brothel in Roswell, 15 miles north of Blackdom. Indeed, she was said to control the whole market in Roswell’s “Bawdy District.”
Moore cared little for social acceptability. She focused instead on ensuring that her business remained profitable and open. In 1914, Roswell adopted an ordinance making prostitution a misdemeanor. Local authorities arrested her many times, but Moore had influential friends and knew well the letter of the law. She typically was able to escape prosecution.
Mattie Moore also sought to become a landowner in Blackdom. She joined forces with Frank Boyer to file a soldier’s homestead claim. Her claim was denied and even after appealing several times, the General Land Office rejected her entry.
Moore persisted, a trait she had learned well in her first business, and again she refused to be dissuaded by failure. She received a patent for an Enlarged Homestead claim for 320 acres in 1920. She then claimed another 320 acres under the Stock Raising Homestead Act of 1916, receiving her patent in 1922. Owning 640 acres under her name made Moore the largest female landowner in Chaves County.
Although her land proved poor for farming, it became valuable when oil was discovered in the region. For a time she likely received income from oil leases, but eventually drought and the stock market crash left her unable to pay her property taxes.
Moore was killed in a car crash in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1936.
Learn more about Black Homesteading in America.
Patent Details - GLO Record 320 acre Enlarged Homestead
Patent Details - GLO Record 320 acre Stock Raising Homestead