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 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’ll 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 amazing that he actually found time to work, but he did. Work was what brought John and J.C. together, and over the years, they built a 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 J.C.’s FAN club, and if that club had officers, John Glickauf would have been President of Shenanigans.

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

John and J.C. probably first met in the late 1860s when they lived within one block of each other while they both worked as barbers in downtown Chicago [3]. 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 1870s. John returned to Chicago soon after the fire, while J. C. opened a barbershop in his adopted hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri. The men would not cross paths again until the late 1870s 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 the lawlessness of Tombstone, Dodge City, and Deadwood [4]. In the 1870s, Sidney (population 1000) issued an astounding 85 liquor licenses and was home to 80 saloons and an abundance of brothels and gaming establishments [5].

It’s not surprising that Sidney earned a reputation, and a bad one at that.

“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 [6]

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 1870s 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 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.

Yes, there was money to be made in the “Wicked Burgh;” John and J.C. were certainly aware of that fact as they set up shop at the town’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 papers, where they 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 was a charter member of the town’s first chapter of the society of Masons. He was also named to the board of the city’s first fire department, and he was a frequent topic of Sidney gossip [9].

He was popular and well liked, and somewhere along the way, he became known as the Bohemian Count.

J.C., on the other hand, lived a life almost completely opposite of the Count. He went to work, maintained a low profile, and stayed out of trouble. In 1870s 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. Indeed, 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 1870s, 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 [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 away from a widow named Lucy Brashaw who listed “keeping house” as her occupation [11]. Though the census 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. She was found guilty of the May 1880 charges but 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 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.

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

On 28 August, Old Joe asked that the duel be cancelled indefinitely, due to illness [12]. But 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 past 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 of 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: Schooled by the Bohemian Count


  1. Black Hills Weekly Pioneer, Deadwood, South Dakota, 15 May 1880, p. 3, col. 1. Retrieved from
  2. “Another Old-Timer Gone,” Lead Daily Call, Lead, South Dakota, 5 Jan 1904, p. 4, col. 4. Retrieved from
  3. Chicago, Illinois, City Directory, 1869. p. 636, col. 1 (digital image 326 of 608). Retrieved from U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. (See also: Chicago, Illinois, City Directory, 1869. p. 338, col. 1 [digital image 176 of 608]. Retrieved from U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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. Mines, Tina. “A Colorful Past Leading to a Prosperous Future.” Sidney Sun-Telegraph, Sidney, Nebraska, 31 Jan. 2013,
  6. “Our Sidney Letter,” The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska, 11 Aug 1877, p. 4, col. 4. Retrieved from
  7. “Sidney Scenes,” Omaha Daily Bee, Omaha, Nebraska, 5 Mar 1880, p. 1, col 7. Retrieved from
  8. “Barber Shop” advertisement, Sidney Telegraph, Sidney, Nebraska, 23 Feb 1878, p. p. 1, col. 1. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library online.
  9. “Fraternal Groups Organized Early,” Sidney Telegraph, 19 Jun 1951, p. 16, col. 6. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library online. (See also: “Sidney Had No Firemen For Decade,” Sidney Telegraph, 19 Jun 1951, p. 14, col. 1. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library online.)
  10. “Madam Brashaw,” Sidney Sun-Telegraph, 26 Apr 2007, p. 10, col. 1-6. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library online. (See also: “Prepare to Commemorate,” Sidney Sun-Telegraph, 17 Feb 2007, p. 1. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library online.)
  11. United States Census, 1880; Census Place: Sidney, Cheyenne, Nebraska; Roll: 744; Page: 330D; Enumeration District: 179. Retrieved from 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 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, 28 Aug 1880, p. 3, col. 1. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library online.
  13. Sidney Sun-Telegraph, 11 Sept 1880, p. 4, col. 3. Retrieved from Sidney Public Library online.

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

Add yours

  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.


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