Mustache Maude
--Winona's Notorious Saloon-Owner--
by Mary E. Corcoran
23 July 2016

Clara Belle Rose Black (1873-1932)

Clara Rose came to Emmons County in the early 1890s. Her brothers, John and William Rose both homesteaded in the county in 1880, becoming some of the earliest pioneeers. She helped her brother, John, with his hotel in Aberdeen, SD, until he died in a freak coal slide accident.
Clara had been a seamstress, waitress, hack driver, cattle wrangler and various other jobs. She was comfortable bossing a crew of men. At age twenty-three, she had saved her money and around 1895, drifted into Winona with her savings. She constructed a shiplap building on the main street and bought gambling equipment, like faro and monte tables. Some say she imported dance hall girls from Chicago. Her establishment was very popular, and Mustashe Maude, as she was beginning to be known, raked in the cash. She kept order in her place with a hip holster of a Colt six-shooter, along with her short, mid-calf skirts, and men’s shirts. Her nickname came from getting her face trimmed at Old Buck’s barber shop on the main street, at one point, she had her long hair lopped off into a men’s haircut. She was known to be a great poker player, and had a razor sharp sense of humor.
“Ott” (Arthur Pierce) Black, (1868-1946) a cowboy off the Texas trails, came into Winona in 1896 to spend the winter at Jack Waldron’s Merchant’s Hotel. Mustache Maude’s place became his favorite hangout. He gambled there all night, and slept all day. Soon, he was courting Maude, and they later married in Mound City, Campbell, SD on 08 July 1898. The couple later moved to Siam, SD, then called “Rabbit City,” where they ranched.
Maude was the only woman ever convicted for cattle rustling in North Dakota, and perhaps, the entire United States. When she showed up for her court date, she donned a typical feminine dress, and the judge did not give her a sentence. However, it was always said that herds in the vicinity of Ott and Clara Black’s claims always had suspicious decreases in numbers.
Maude was known for her kindness, and her skill in doctoring sick people.
She and Ott Black separated around 1921, and she continued to ranch in the Dakotas, and engaged in horse buying.
She died in Flasher, Morton, North Dakota on 12 September, 1932. Frank Fiske, the North Dakota photographer, newspaperman, and historian wrote her obituary, and said: ”Mustache Maude Black, (was) a contemporary of Poker Alice, and Calamity Jane." Fiske called her “fearless as the wildest gunmen and was able to hold her own in any company.”

Clara Belle Rose Black at about age 23.
(Photo/Drawing from Mary Corcoran's collection)
Click on Photo for Larger View


Winona History