Maud Wilson's Roadhouse
Maud Wilson's Roadhouse
1874 - Maud Wilson's roadhouse was located on the east side of the Cicero Plank Road where it is intersected by the Liverpool Road (now West Taft Road). In 1874 a person named Manley owned the property. Maud's husband, Henry King purchased the property from Frank M. Chrysler in November 1890.
Revised: May 20, 2015
Maud and Henry King bought the land in late 1890 and quickly got a liquor license before the local citizens found out about it. The Grand Opening of their North Syracuse Hotel was in January 1891. Maud Wilson and Henry King ran the place until about 1900. It was located on the Cicero Plank Road at Liverpool Rd (W. Taft Road today). It was destroyed by fire on August 24, 1904.
This was a Maude Wilson show from beginning to end. Despite the outcry from the "respectable citizens" of Centerville, this was a ten year period in Maud's life where she was on her best behavior. Now two of her daughters were raising holy hell in Syracuse during the decade, but their Mom was behaving very nicely. Therefore we need to take a look back at Maud's career.
Who Was Maud Wilson?
Maud Wilson was a name that frequently appeared in the Syracuse newspapers of the 1880s and 1890s. Starting in the late 1870s she ran a hotel and saloon in the 100 block of West Fayette Street, just over Onondaga Creek. Maud was considered to be the leader, if not the most out spoken member, of the Syracuse ladies of the town who were practitioners of the world’s oldest profession. Around 1883 she moved to Lock Street (now N. State Street). After about seven years of operating out of the Lock Street residence, she opened a roadhouse on the Cicero Plank Road, just south of North Syracuse, with her third husband, Henry H. King.
Finding the real Maud Wilson and connecting her together with her many activities proved a difficult task, due to her many name changes. Three of her four daughters followed her into the same profession and like their mother they used whatever name suited the situation at the time.
Maud was born to Harvey E. and Ann E. Wood in 1846, probably in the town of Hastings in Oswego Co., NY. In the 1850 census she was listed as Janet Wood. Only eight farms away was the John and Polly Ostrander family, whose 9 year old son, Liberty B. Ostrander, would later be Janet’s first husband and the father of her four daughters. At the time of the 1860 census a 14 year old Susan J. Wood was living with her family in Hastings. Further south, a 21 year old Liberty Ostrander was working on the Seymour Skiff farm in the town of Cicero.
Liberty and Janett Marry
Liberty Ostrander and Janett Wood were married around 1863 and were living in the 1st Enumeration (Election?) District of the town of Hastings at the time of the 1865 census. The family lived in a frame house worth $261. This was the first marriage for both Liberty and Janett and at that time they had only one child. Liberty was a citizen, owned his land and was a soldier in the Army. Liberty was in the 149th Regiment and had signed up for the 3rd time in February, 1865. He was a Private and his unexpired term, as of June 1, 1865 was 1-1/2 years.
By the time of the 1870 census the family was back in Hastings once more and Maud was going by the name Jenette Ostrander. Since the previous census the family had moved around as evidenced by the states where their next two daughters had been born. Adda, four years old, had been born in Illinois. Cora, one year old, had been born in Missouri. In 1875, the family was in the city of Syracuse and living in the 4th Ward. The final member of the family, Emma, had been born in Oswego County in 1871. Maud was now Jennett Ostrander, which was only a minor variation in her choice of names.
The Mid-Life Crisis
Around this time something happened to disrupt the apparent domestic bliss that prevailed in the Ostrander family. An article in the local paper, from late December 1879, showed that Maud was operating a saloon. During a fight at that saloon, a young Jennie Wilson was struck in the mouth with a beer glass [1879-12-21]. This was at the house her mother, Maud Wilson, kept on West Fayette St., near Onondaga Creek. This showed that Maud had a daughter that went by the name Jennie. This was probably Ella, her oldest daughter. The 1880 census cast some additional light on the situation. Jeanette Wilson was living with her new husband James Wilson at 126 W. Fayette St. with two female boarders whose occupations were listed as: “Whore”. Her daughters were not living with her. The 1880 census entry for Liberty Ostrander showed that he had moved back to Oswego County and was living in the town of West Monroe. Also living in the Ostrander household were the following: a new 28 year old wife and his three youngest daughters by his first marriage: Addie (14), Cora (12) and Emma (10). The eldest daughter Ella (Jennie) would have been 16 at the time and might have moved out on her own.
Maud’s City Business
Maud Wilson paid her "fine" at police headquarters for operating a disorderly house in October 1880. The Sunday Times took issue with this "fine," that had become more of a license fee. As the Times described the event: "Miss Wilson and two of her attachees, Misses Ida Carver and Ella Cook, paid into the city coffers on Tuesday last, the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars, as fine for keeping and being inmates of a certain disorderly house. These women were not arrested, in the ordinary sense of the term; they were 'notified' to appear at police headquarters at a certain time, and they did so; they came in their elegant carriage..."
After a city wide effort, about a year earlier, to clear out all such places they had started to re-appear with a new found tolerance on the part of the authorities. Again, according to the same Times article, "...the course at present pursued is nothing more or less than a license system; it is well understood by the proprietors of these disreputable houses, that by payment about once each year, of a so-called fine of $100, they will not be molested in their business, as long as the peace of their neighborhoods is not disturbed."
The editor at the Times also pointed out that the first class establishments, like those that were run by Wilson, Skidmore and Cole, were not bothered by the police and were seldom the focus of complains by the "reputable citizens."[1880-10-31]
A little over a year later the police raided Maud's place on West Fayette Street, arrested everyone in the place and took them to police headquarters. At the time this arrest the event was described as the start of something big. "It is understood that last night's crusade marks the commencement of one which will not be discontinued until every house of ill-fame in Syracuse shall have been wiped out of existence." [1881-12-14]
The next day Maud, her girls and their clients all pleaded guilty, paid their fines and were back on their way. The crusade never played out and it was business as usual back on West Fayette Street.
For whatever reason, Maud moved her business to the east side of Salina Street to a location at 66 Lock Street (now North State Street). [1883-09-04]
Maud and the Other "Sporting Women" Bid Farewell to One of Their Own
While the sporting women of Syracuse were showing their last respects for one of their companions, an unwanted relative of the deceased arrived. This was a sister, that the recently departed, Nell Guerber, had confided to Maud, she did not want to attend her funeral. This was one Mrs. H. W. Patten, from Batavia, NY. Mrs. Patten made inquiries about the division of Guerber's property immediately upon arrival and expressed her dislike of the "sporting women" who were present. After a short service at the home a procession of thirteen hacks made their way to the cemetery. Mrs. Pattern was quick to express her dissatisfaction with this aspect of the ceremony. Upon returning to the home Maud and Mrs. Patten almost came to blows when Patten retreated and sought the assistance of the police. The police informed her that they could be of no help to her in this private matter. Upon her returned she was greeted by an empty house. "While she was away, those who were in the house vacated it. When she came back it was locked, nailed and boarded up. Maude Wilson looked on from a neighboring house." [1884-03-11]
Maude Moves Into the Roadhouse Business
Frank M. Chrysler sold his property on Clay Lot 91 to Henry King, for $1,100.00 The property was purchased in the name of Henry King because his wife's name, the notorious Syracuse madam, Maud Wilson, would have set off the morality alarms of the respectable citizens of Centerville. [1890-11-06] Henry and Maud needed to acquire a liquor license before the locals figured out their plan and they were successful in that effort. The citizens of Centerville were then left with the more difficult task of seeking the revocation of Henry and Maud's licenses but they couldn't make it happen. [1890-11-27a], [1890-11-27b], [1890-12-10], [1890-12-12] While all those meetings were taking place, Henry King set about converting Frank Chrysler's house into a hotel. [1890-11-30] The Grand Opening of Henry King and Maud Wilson's North Syracuse Hotel took place on Thursday, January 22, 1891. [1891-01-20]
The operation of the business apparently wasn't smooth at the beginning. There were mortgages and the Kings were foreclosed twice. [1893-03-19], [1894-01-05] Despite these set backs the Kings stayed on as proprietors of their North Syracuse Hotel or Maud Wilson's Roadhouse as it was better known. Unlike some of the other establishments that operated on the Cicero Plank Road, Maud's place seldom made the papers and when it did the occasion wasn't involved with any criminal activity. For instance, in 1896 a tornado passed through the area and "the hotel shed of Henry King was blown fully fifty feet into an adjoining lot." [1896-09-30]
In early February 1899 the local papers carried stories about a wind fall inheritance that might be coming Maud Wilson's way, in the near future. The story is complicated by the existence of a real inheritance and a second non existent inheritance. I will try to give an organized overview of the situation so that the newspaper reports make more sense. The best organized articles are the two from the Oswego Daily Palladium [1898-08-08], [1898-08-11] and one from the Syracuse Evening Herald [1899-02-10].
Maud's connection to all of this was through her being the sole surviving heir of her father, Harvey Wood of Oswego County (some of the papers referred to him as Henry). Harvey's connection was through two of his sisters, Tracy Wood Williams and Sarah (Cassie or Sallie) Metcalf, and again there is a variation in the given names. In both cases the husbands had died (Joshua Williams and Daniel Metcalf) and the surviving wives carried on. In the Williams case there were three children Ellen, Joshua and a second unknown daughter. Ellen Williams was the person that left one of the inheritances that were described in these newspaper stories. Sarah Wood (sometimes Ward) Metcalf was the widow of Daniel who left the second inheritance. The difference between the two inheritances, from this point forward, was that the Williams money was real and the Metcalf money was never proved to have ever existed.
Ellen Williams, of Chicago, died in a sanitarium and that establishment had produced a will signed by Ellen that left her entire estate to the sanitarium. Ellen's brother's hired a lawyer to show that the will was a forgery and the lawyer had made an investigation through Oswego and on into Canada. Papers were filed and that case proceeded on through the courts. Maud never had a claim to this inheritance.
It was thought that activities involved with the Williams estate might have given rise to the second fortune. A John J. Risdon, supposedly from Chicago, arrived in Oswego, NY, in August 1898. He was the source of the information about the Metcalf fortune, supposedly with $500,000 in a bank in Newburgh, NY and another $130,000 in a bank in Oswego, NY. The Oswego money was supposedly the share of the Metcalf estate that was meant for Harvey Wood. Risdon's task was to search for Harvey Wood or any of his heirs, since Harvey had died in 1868.
About this time Maud received word that someone was looking for her to give her some money. Maud was interested in the money but was also considering selling her right to the money for a lesser amount to speed up the process. She let it be known where she could be found and that she was interested in dealing. As word spread about Maud's fortune, many old friends from around the city made their way up the Cicero Plank Road to Maud's roadhouse and renewed their acquaintance with her. Maud made no secret of the fact that once she got the money she was going to spend it on her friends and she was going to spend it fast. Business picked up at the roadhouse but no fortune ever materialized.
Maud's lawyer and the local papers were interested in getting to the bottom of the inheritance story. In the end, after questioning lawyers and bankers in both cities, it was found that there never was any inheritance in either Oswego or Newburgh. Lawyer Risdon never left an address behind after his visit to Oswego and Maud's lawyer had sent him letters at General Delivery at Chicago, but never received any replies. [1899-02-08], [1899-02-11a], [1899-02-11b]
The End of An Era
At the time of the 1900 census (June 1) Henry King and his wife Susan King (Maud Wilson) were out of the roadhouse business. They were living at 106 Gannett Alley, a half block east of Wolf Street near 7th North St., and Henry listed his occupation as a Barber.
This is the house that is presently situated at 106 Gannett Alley. It has obviously been remodeled and it cannot be said with any certainty that this was the house where Henry and Susan King were living in the early 1900s.
Liberty Ostrander, Maud Wilson's first husband and the father of her four daughters, died sometime during the previous year at Delton, Wisconsin. [1902-08-29] One evening two of the Wilson girls were riding the Wolf Street trolley, probably going to see their Mom, who was living at 106 Gannett Alley at the time. They were a bit loud and out of control and were arrested. Frank Matty came to the rescue and bailed the girls out. [1903-04-08]
The Old Roadhouse Burns
After Henry and Maud left their roadhouse the name appears to have been changed to the Forester's Hotel. Four years after they left, the hotel was being run by George Gridley, but was owned by the Bartels' Brewing company. On August 24, 1904 the hotel was open for business when a fire was noticed in the rear of the structure. "The family got out what little personal effects they could and, with neighbors, turned their attention to the saving of adjoining barns and horse sheds. The fire spread so rapidly in the hotel that there was no possible chance of saving it and the volunteers from Centerville who do bucket brigade work at village fires were not even called upon for assistance. The building was razed within half an hour. The barn and sheds were saved." [1904-08-25]
The article that provided the above quote that described the destruction of Maud's old roadhouse was one very strange bit of reporting. It began by saying that the Forester's Hotel was one of the oldest in that section of town. In fact, it was only 14 years since Henry King had made Frank Chrysler's house into a hotel. It was also claimed in the same article that structure "was known as the Foresters' home for many long years." An extensive search has failed to turn up any evidence that anyone named Forester had ever lived in the area. The rest of the strange items found in that story are handled in a separate document. [1904-08-25]
And Then They Faded Away
In 1910 Henry and Maud moved to North Salina Street where Henry owned a barbershop and offered his services as a barber. Henry H. King died at Crouse-Irving Hospital after a short illness on March 10, 1919. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Syracuse, NY. By 1920 a 73 year old Maud was going by the name Jeannette King and lived at 959 South State Street. Although, no obituary was found for Mrs. Susan Jeannette Wood Ostrander King or for Maud Wilson, it was determined from Woodlawn Cemetery records that Susan Jeanette Ostrander died on November 28, 1922 at her residence at 619 Montgomery Street. On December 1, 1922 she was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
At the time of her death all four of her daughters were back in Syracuse and were married or had been married at one time and were living nearby. From oldest to youngest, they were: Ella Ostrander Michel (1864-1943), Ada Ostrander Gaby (1866-1936), Cora Ostrander Roberts (1868-1950) and Emma Ostrander Hall (1871-1960). There was only one grandchild, Jeanette Hall, born 1908.
A 78 year old Susan King was living in the 6th Ward at the time of the 1925 census. She was living at 212 Townsend Street at The Syracuse Home Association - the Old Woman's Home. This woman was a virtual duplicate for Susan Ostrander being born in the US at around 1847. Until the Woodlawn Cemetery records showed up I was mistakenly on this lady's trail.
Related Events - The Wilson Girls Pulled His Leg
Jesse Thompson, of Utica, had recently come into some money and had been hell bent on spending it. In early December 1894 he came to Syracuse and instantly picked up some "friends" who would help him spend his money. Thompson and his friends went to 343 East Genesee Street where Jennie and Hattie Wilson ran a disorderly house. The group, including Hattie Wilson, then headed out the Cicero Plank Road visiting various roadhouses along the way. When the evening was over Thompson was missing his money. [1894-12-06]
Frank Matty's Connections to Maud Wilson's Family
Frank married a couple, on Christmas Eve, at Maud's place of business, at 503 Lock St - Dec 25, 1892. This got him some unwelcome publicity when the couple "forgot" to record the marriage at the county clerk's office and the young bride's guardian discovered she was living at Maud's place.
Cora Ostrander, Maud's 3rd oldest daughter, was listed as one of Frank's five girlfriends in the divorce papers filed by his second wife Jennie - 1894.
Frank performed the marriage ceremony for Liberty Ostrander, Maud's first husband, and a very young girl, at his Alderman's Cafe. Liberty was about 56 and his young bride to be was only 28. This age difference caused Frank to demand that a family member be present before he would perform the ceremony. Liberty's youngest daughter, Emma, who was only 25, was found and the ceremony went forth. [1896-09-27]
Frank Matty came to the rescue and bailed Maud's daughters out of jail after they had been arrested for their bad behavior on the Wolf Street trolley. The girls were probably going to see their Mom, who was living at the time with her husband, Henry King, at 106 Gannett Alley, one-half block east of Wolf Street, near 7th North St. [1903-04-08]
2014 View of the intersection of Taft Road and Brewerton Road looking east along E. Taft Road. At the time of Maud’s roadhouse, Taft Road didn’t continue through the intersection – it was a tee, with the Liverpool road coming in from the west and stopping at what was then the Cicero plank road. Maud’s place was along the east side of the plank road where E. Taft Road is now.
[1879-12-21] – “A Row In A Saloon – Jennie Wilson Struck in the Mouth with a Beer Glass,“ The Sunday Courier, Syracuse, NY, Sunday, December 21, 1879.
[1880-10-31] – “Is It A Fine Or A License Fee?” The Sunday Times, Syracuse, NY, Sunday, October 31, 1880.
[1881-12-14] – “Closing The Brothels,” The Standard, Syracuse, NY, Wednesday, December 14, 1881.
[1883-09-04] – “A Novel Remonstrance,” The Syracuse Daily Courier, Syracuse, NY, Tuesday, September, 4, 1883.
[1884-03-11] – “Nell Guerber’s Funeral,” The Syracuse Standard, Syracuse, NY, Tuesday, March 11, 1884.
[1890-11-06] – “Sales of Real Estate,” The Syracuse Weekly Express, Syracuse, NY Thursday, November 6, 1890. “Frank M. Chester (Chrysler) to Henry King, part of lot 91, Clay …$1,100.00” It was part of the land formerly owned by George W. Palmer, Manning C. Palmer and Alva W. Palmer.
[1890-11-13] - "North Syracuse," The Syracuse Journal, Syracuse, NY, Thursday, November 13, 1890.
[1890-11-27a] – “Maud Wilson Must Go – Neither She Nor H. King Wanted at Centerville by the Responsible Citizens,” The Standard, Syracuse, NY, Thursday, September 27, 1890.
[1890-11-27b] – “Don’t Want the House Licensed,” The Syracuse Weekly Express, Syracuse, Thursday, November 27, 1890.
[1890-12-10] – “The Commissioners Censured – North Syracuse Citizens Who Object to H. King’s Road House,” The Evening Herald, Syracuse, NY, December 10, 1890.
[1890-12-12] – “North Syracuse, The Syracuse Standard, Syracuse, NY, Friday, December 12, 1890.
[1891-01-20] – Grand Opening of H. King’s North Syracuse Hotel. The Syracuse Standard, Syracuse, NY, Tuesday, January 20, 1891.
[1893-03-19] – “Sale of Road House,” The Syracuse Standard, Syracuse, NY, Sunday, March 19, 1893. First
[1894-01-05] – Maud’s Roadhouse Foreclosed Again. The Syracuse Courier, Syracuse, NY, Friday, January 5, 1894. Second
[1894-12-06] - "They Pulled His Leg," The Daily Standard, Syracuse, NY, Thursday, December 6, 1894.
[1896-09-27] – “United by Matty,” The Evening Herald, Syracuse, NY, Sunday, September, 27, 1896.
[1896-09-30] – “Fine Park Trees Uprooted,” The Evening Herald, Syracuse, NY, Wednesday, September 30, 1896.
Maud’s Fortune Related References
[1898-08-08] - "There's Half A Million In It," The Daily Palladium, Oswego, NY, Tuesday, August 8, 1898.
[1898-08-11] - "Running Down The Heirs," The Daily Palladium, Oswego, NY, Thursday, August 11, 1898.
[1899-02-08] - "Maud Gets A Fortune," The Evening Telegram, Syracuse, NY, Wednesday, February 8, 1899.
[1899-02-10] - "Maud's Fortune," The Evening Herald, Syracuse, NY, Friday, February 10, 1899.
[1899-02-11a] - "Much Money Somewhere," The Evening Telegram, Syracuse, NY, Saturday, February 11, 1899.
[1899-02-11b] - "He Isn't Retained," The Syracuse Evening Herald, Syracuse, NY, Saturday, February 11, 1899.
[1902-08-29] - Liberty Ostrander died sometime during the previous year at Delton, Wisconsin. The Evening Herald, Syracuse, NY, Friday, August 29, 1902.
[1903-04-08] - “(Wilson) Women Raise Ructions Aboard A Street Car,” The Post Standard, Syracuse, NY, Wednesday, April 8, 1903.
[1904-08-25] – “Historic Road House On Plank Road Burns,” The Telegram, Syracuse, NY, Thursday, August 25, 1904. PDF