The Harlot of Hudson

 by Constance Mroczkowski for Porch Stories™ Summer Tour 2010, Hudson, Ohio

~

She was about as hard a character as ever disgraced a town, and it was hoped that Hudson was well rid of her.  That’s what our town newspaper, The Enterprise, said when Miss Amelia Zook was hauled off to jail in Akron in August 1880.

But I’m getting ahead of myself; let me tell the story from the beginning, so you can understand just how much of a…a Jezebel I think Miss Zook was. I know some people have used the H word to describe her, but I’m too much of a lady for that kind of talk.

In fact, it was my genteelness that enabled her to bamboozle me.  She had such an angelic face when she first came to Hudson from Chicago. The big city.  I should have suspected.

I rented her an upstairs room, with its very own parlor mind you, in my own home on Railroad Street (it’s now called Maple Drive).  It didn’t take long for the bloom to fade from the rose, if you know what I mean.  She paid her weekly rent of $2 on time, but since she had not yet found a job, I wondered where she got the money. The Enterprise reported that she used other names, like Amelia McGuire and Amelia Starr, to cover her outrageous behavior, I suspect.  It seemed that no one knew her true identity.

For an unemployed person, she certainly kept unusual hours, coming and going day and night disturbing the whole household.  More than one neighbor told me that they saw her (while on their way to the privy) sitting on my front porch rocker in the middle of the night smoking a cheroot with her bare feet dangling over the railing.

One neighbor never spoke of her though.  That was Mr. Charles Higgins at 78 Railroad Street.  He had been a widower for two years when Miss Zook came to Hudson. His beloved wife, Mary, had died suddenly in their home at 58 from heart disease.  Mr. Higgins was 11 years Mary’s junior and only 47 when she passed.

One sultry August night I decided to take matters into my own hands.  My other renters had complained, my neighbors had complained and my reputation for running a respectable boarding house was in jeopardy, not to mention my standing as a lady in this town.

The temperature was still hovering in the mid 80s at midnight when I heard Miss Zook sneaking up the stairs, giggling.  At first, I planned to wait until a more decent hour in the morning to confront her, but the stifling heat inflamed my anger.  I grabbed my robe and crept up the stairs, not wanting to add more noise to the ruckus she was creating.

I am sure I knocked on her door, although she claims I never did.  A woman of my manners would never enter without announcing herself.  Well, either way, she had left the door unlocked, and what I saw nearly stopped my heart.

There they were, lying in embrace on the parlor divan, Miss Amelia Zook and Mr. Charles Higgins, wearing nothing but sweat.  Oh, the shock and horror!

I lodged my complaint with Marshal Trowbridge and they were both arrested the very next day and charged with adultery and fornication.  Mayor Foster deemed the evidence of their guilt as sufficient and placed Miss Zook under a $300 bond.  She could not pay it, so he sent her to the Akron jail, never to darken the streets of Hudson again.  Mr. Higgins was fined $10 and costs after pleading guilty.  He went home.

That October, 1880, The Enterprise reported that one Annie Zook was indicted by the grand jury for fornication.  No one seems to know what became of her.

Charles Higgins had served in the 27th regiment of the United States Colored Infantry during the Civil War and had received an invalid’s pension.  He was a short man, just five foot five, with piercing gray eyes. He could neither read nor write but observed the Catholic faith.  He died in 1892 and is buried at the Soldiers’ Home near Dayton.

I have no doubt that the Hudson temptress took advantage of his broken heart.  Why else would he have been her paramour?

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About Kathleen Franks

Kathleen Franks is a writer, artist, storyteller, and community volunteer based in Berkeley, CA
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