The Man, The Myth, The Bohemian Count

By J. L. Starkey

Don’t get so busy making a living

that you forget to make a life.

– Dolly Parton

It is a little-known rule in genealogy that no family tree FAN club is complete without a Bohemian Count.

OK, I made that up rule up, but it’s still true…at least in my family. FAN club research is important, because if we don’t get to know the Friends, Associates, and Neighbors of our ancestors, we will never really know our ancestors!

My third-great-grandfather J. C. Muehleisen‘s FAN club, though, was something else. His Deadwood FANs would have made a great cast for a television show – or a movie. Come to think of it, someone should really make a show about those Deadwood pioneers…

…oh, wait. That’s already been done, hasn’t it?

HBO missed out on a lot of fun when they didn’t discover J. C.’s business partner John Glickauf. The man was one of a kind, and he’s a good reminder of why FAN club research is always worth the time and effort.

His adventures were the stuff of legend; during his short life, he played practical jokes on Seth Bullock, made headlines for a duel that never happened, testified in a notorious prostitution case, and confronted a violent criminal at Al Swearengen’s Gem Theater.

It’s pretty amazing that he actually found time to work, but he did. Work was what John and J. C. together, and over the years, they built a pretty successful barbershop or two.

Readers, allow me to introduce the character that HBO didn’t discover: John Glickauf, the Bohemian Count.


From Second City to Sinful Sidney

J. C.’s first FAN club member? [Black Hills Weekly Pioneer, 15 May 1880]

I didn’t pay much attention to his name the first time I saw it, but I should have. When J. C. moved to Deadwood, a man named John Glickauf stepped in to run his Sidney, Nebraska, barbershop [1]. But really, how important could that name be?

As it turned out, that name was the gateway to the leaders of the J. C. FAN club, and if that club had officers, John would have been elected “president of shenanigans” in a landslide.

Born in Plzeň, West Bohemia (now a part of the Czech Republic), around 1850, John Glickauf immigrated to the United States as a child and entered the barbering profession in the 1860’s [2].

John and J. C. probably first met in Chicago in the late 1860’s when they lived within a block of each other on Canal Street [3]. They were both working as barbers in downtown Chicago: John worked for Thomas Gilmore on State Street, while J. C. worked for Frederick Kappelman on Canal Street.

Directory listings, Chicago, 1869. John and J. C. lived within one block of each other.

The Great Chicago Fire changed everything for the city’s residents, and the men went their separate ways in the early 1870’s. John returned to Chicago soon after the fire, while J. C. opened a barbershop in his hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri. The men would not cross paths again until the late 1870’s in the tiny western Nebraska town of Sidney.

Before the lawlessness: Sidney, Nebraska, ca. 1868 [Public domain image]

Most people wouldn’t put Sidney on a list of “places to get the heck out of,” but it probably should be in the number one slot. The “Wicked Burgh” had a reputation that rivaled Tombstone, Dodge City, and Deadwood for its lawlessness [4]. In the 1870’s, Sidney issued an astounding 85 liquor licenses among its 1000 residents, and was home to 80 saloons, a variety of gaming establishments, and an abundance of brothels [5]. According to an editorial [6]:

“If there is any place that deserves the adjective ‘God-forsaken’ before it, that place is Sidney. Years ago…honesty and morality joined hands and left here.”

– The Nebraska State Journal, 11 August 1877

In a city once called “the lynching capital of Nebraska,” John and J. C. may have struggled to run a “classy” establishment, but they probably desired that type of shop based on their experience. Sure, their 1870’s definition of classy differed from our 2019 definition, but John and J. C. appeared to achieve their goal. They knew a thing or two about running a business, and they had obviously done their homework along the way.

Front Street, Sidney, Nebraska, ca. 1880 [City of Sidney]

Despite its lawless reputation, Sidney was a wealthy town. In 1880, the city’s cattle alone were valued at a staggering $12,000,000. There was money to be had in Sidney; John and J. C. were surely aware of that fact as they set up shop at the city’s famed Lockwood House. One of the largest hotels in the old west, the Lockwood House was also home to the offices of the Black Hills Stage Company [7].

Advertisement for the Count’s barbershop, 1878
[Sidney Telegraph]

To ensure their success, John and J. C. advertised in local newspapers and boasted that their shop offered “good bathrooms for ladies and gentlemen,” a rarity in frontier towns [8]!

John took an active role in Sidney life, and somewhere along the way, he became known as the Bohemian Count. He was a charter member of the town’s first chapter of the society of Masons, and he was also named to the board of the city’s first fire department [9]. The Count was popular and well liked, and he was a frequent topic of Sidney gossip.

J. C., on the other hand, lived a life almost completely opposite of his friend the Count. He went to work, maintained a low profile, and stayed out of trouble. In 1870’s Sidney, there was something to be said for that!

In May 1880, J. C. relocated to Deadwood to open a new barbershop, while the Count remained in Sidney until later that year. After all, there were duels to be fought, and there was more fun to be had.

There was also the matter of the Queen of the Wild Ladies, the subpoena, and the court date. Yes, the Count would have to stick around Sinful Sidney for just a while longer.

In hindsight, J. C. left town just in time.


Duels, Housekeeping, and Lawlessness

Rose Street in Sinful Sidney, ca. 1881 [City of Sidney]

While J. C. was preparing to start his new life in Deadwood, the Count was preparing to testify at the trial of Madam Lou Brashaw, the rumored “Queen of the Wild Ladies.” Today, she is a Sidney legend, but in the 1870’s Madam Lou was a working woman…in a way. The notorious head madam for Sidney’s thriving brothel business, Madam Lou was arrested numerous times for prostitution-related crimes in Sidney’s early days.

In May 1880, the state of Nebraska filed suit against Madame Lou. According to her neighbor Joseph Pabst, Madam Lou was “keeping a house of ill fame” in Sidney. Several witnesses were summoned to testify at her trial, including none other than the Bohemian Count himself [10].

That he was called to testify was really not a surprise. A check of the 1880 census reveals that the Count lived just one block down from a widow named Lucy Brashaw who listed “keeping house” as her occupation [11]. Though the census form did not include details about the type of house that Ms. Lucy kept, Sidney residents read between the lines. They knew her better as Madam Lou, after all.

The trial of Madam Lou was a formality, and the cycle of arrest-trial-release would repeat itself for the better part of a decade. Madam Lou was found guilty of the May 1880 charges, but she was sentenced to pay a fine of just one dollar for her crimes. One wonders if the Count’s testimony was for the prosecution or the defense, or if it really made any difference at all.

Old Joe challenges the Count to a duel
[Sidney Telegraph]

In the summer of 1880, the trial was behind him, but the Count’s troubles were not over yet. In August, he “got into a difficulty” with Sidney resident “Old Joe” Miller. Old Joe ordered the Count to name his seconds, choose his weapons, and select a location. They were going to settle their dispute the old-fashioned way.

Yes, the men were going to duel.

The Count responds to Old Joe’s Challenge
[Sidney Telegraph]

The Sidney community waited for bloodshed. The stage was set, and the men were ready to fight to the death!

But of course it didn’t happen that way.

On 28 August, Old Joe asked that the duel be cancelled “indefinitely” due to illness [12]. By 11 September, the duel was back on the schedule, and the Count showed up “armed with a double-barreled shotgun and six physicians.” Old Joe, however, arrived without weapons or medical assistance and “begged to be let off.” According to reports, the Count “was not panting for blood,” so he agreed to Old Joe’s request [13].

Really, it was for the best. Life was worth living, and dueling was a waste of time. It was the right time to move on to better things, wasn’t it? A good barber could always find work, and the Hills were calling him, just like they called his friend J. C.

His decision made, the Count sold the Sidney shop and set out for Dakota Territory in fall 1880. Life was meant to be lived, and lived well.

Yes, it was time to school them all on what it meant to make a life instead of just a living.

Next Up:

Surviving Deadwood: Schooled by the Bohemian Count


Citations

  1. Black Hills Weekly Pioneer, 15 May 1880, p. 3, col. 1. Retrieved from newspapers.com.
  2. “Another Old-Timer Gone,” Lead Daily Call, Lead, South Dakota, 5 Jan 1904, p. 4, col. 4. Retrieved from newspapers.com.
  3. Chicago, Illinois, City Directory, 1869. p. 636, col. 1 (digital image 326 of 608). Retrieved from Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. (See also: Chicago, Illinois, City Directory, 1869. p. 338, col. 1 [digital image 176 of 608]. Retrieved from 
    Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
    )
  4. Avey, Loren, and Gary Person. Lynchings, Legends, & Lawlessness: with Boot Hill Mysteries: the Story of Historical Sidney Nebraska: the Gateway to the Gold Rush in the Black Hills of Dakota. Hughes Design LLC, 2006.
  5. “A colorful past leading to a prosperous future,” Sidney Sun-Telegraph, 31 Jan 2013, Mines, Tina. “A Colorful Past Leading to a Prosperous Future.” Sidney Sun-Telegraph, 31 Jan. 2013, http://www.suntelegraph.com.
  6. “Our Sidney Letter,” The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska, 11 Aug 1877, p. 4, col. 4. Retrieved from newspapers.com.
  7. “Sidney Scenes,” Omaha Daily Bee, Omaha, Nebraska, 5 Mar 1880, 1, col 7. Retrieved from newspapers.com.
  8. “Barber Shop” advertisement, Sidney Telegraph, Sidney, Nebraska, 23 Feb 1878, p. p. 1, col. 1. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library.
  9. “Fraternal Groups Organized Early,” Sidney Telegraph, Sidney, Nebraska, 19 Jun 1951, p. 16, col. 6. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library. (See also: “Sidney Had No Firemen For Decade,” Sidney Telegraph, 19 Jun 1951, p. 14, col. 1. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library.)
  10. “Madam Brashaw,” Sidney Sun-Telegraph, 26 Apr 2007, p. 10, col. 1-6. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library. (See also: “Prepare to Commemorate,” Sidney Sun-Telegraph, 17 Feb 2007, p. 1. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library.)
  11. United States Census, 1880; Census Place: Sidney, Cheyenne, Nebraska; Roll: 744; Page: 330D; Enumeration District: 179. Retrieved from ancestry.com. Original data: Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. (See also: United States Federal Census, 1880; Census Place: Sidney, Cheyenne, Nebraska; Roll: 744; Page: 331A; Enumeration District: 179. Retrieved from ancestry.com. Original data: Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.)
  12. “Locals,” Sidney Sun-Telegraph, Sidney, Nebraska, 28 Aug 1880, p. 3, col. 1. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library.
  13. Sidney Sun-Telegraph,” Sidney, Nebraska, 11 Sept 1880, p. 4, col. 3. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library.

4 thoughts on “The Man, The Myth, The Bohemian Count

  1. You’re such an amazing storyteller!

    I have always found FAN club research worthwhile. For the biography, it’s absolutely essential.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much! I just posted part II – I wish I had known the Count. He needed to be on the show Deadwood!

      Liked by 1 person

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