Mable Bell (Crosslin) Kaufman

Written By: nppladmin - Feb• 11•22
Originally published to on January 14, 2022.

Welcome back for another post about North Platte History. Sometimes, when researching for our North Platte history, the story takes us down the rabbit hole. And, today’s story is one such tale. Researchers had a heck of a time following all the breadcrumbs, but we hope you enjoy the tale of Mrs. Mable Bell Crosslin-Beberniss-Sat-Kaufman, Minner-Vosburg (aka Mable Kaufman); owner of a house of prostitution; seller of alcohol during prohibition; married five times; died a wealthy woman; and spent most of her adult life, right here in North Platte, Nebraska.

Why was this story a challenge? Well, researchers had to go through ALL the variations of names, so Mable vs Mable (Mabel); Crosslin vs Crosslen; Kaufman vs Kauffman vs Caufman vs Cauffmann! Not to mention, some not-so-honest people deliberately used different married or former married names to accomplish what they wanted, “under the radar” from police! Please, read on and enjoy!!

Mable Bell Crosslin was born on February 14, 1893 in Grand Island to McBride “Mack” and Adel “Della” (Knight) Crosslin. Mable’s mother dies in 1900 when Mable is 7 years old. According to the 1900 US Census, Mable stays in Grand Island and is raised by her grandparents, Andrew and Charity McKnight. She has a close connection with her grandmother and frequently returns to Grand Island to see her. Mable completed the 8th grade, and by 1910, her father has remarried and she is back living with them in Enid Oklahoma. On Sept 1, 1910, Mable makes headlines in the Enid, Oklahoma newspaper, charging her father with inappropriate advances. Her father denied all charges, paid his bond, the charges were dropped, and Mable left home.

In 1912, Mable, age 19, Mable marries Walter W. Beberniss and moves to Cheyenne Wyoming. In 1914, Mable makes her way back to Grand Island (to her grandparent’s home) and files for divorce. She alleges that the reason for the divorce was cruelty by her husband and that she was “compelled to work to support herself.” Mable is given back her maiden name of Crosslin.

In 1915, Mable married Bill Sat, a Greek railroad worker, in Sioux City Iowa. Researchers believe that the man’s name was actually something like Bill Tzat, given the Greek connection.

Somehow, Mable got back to North Platte, and by 1916, she began working as a waitress. At age 23, (March 28, 1916) Mable married William L Kaufman in Grand Island, Nebraska. William was working as a brakeman and they lived at 611 ½ Locust Street in North Platte.
Mable starts working and eventually owning a rooming house. Mable actually operated several rooming houses from 1916 to 1940.

A “rooming house” (also called a “multi-tenant house”) is a dwelling with multiple rooms rented out individually, in which the tenants share bathroom and kitchen facilities. During the 1920’s, houses of prostitution and rooming houses, crossed paths; and starting in 1920, Mable becomes the owner and operator of several rooming houses, including: Atlas Rooming House, the Lotus House, the Cody Hotel, etc. Newspaper accounts from 1919-1922, shows Mable charged and fined, for operating a house of ill-repute (prostitution) and selling alcohol. The making, selling, distribution, and consumption of alcohol was against the law from 1920 to 1933. Mable Kaufman eventually became the owner and operator of the Broadmoor Hotel.

Although Mable was a landlady, she didn’t really rent rooms or apartments; and she seldom rented a room for an entire night. Some “landladies” in North Platte used to rent rooms with an added feature—prostitutes. Mable was this type of landlady. Mable also brought in co-businesses to entertain her clientele, including illusionists, palm readers, tarot card readers, musicians, piano tuners, and more.
What was the cost to be entertained by a prostitute? Well, the madams and girls would charge anything they could get, but the usual charge was $5.00. The girls got $3.00 and the landlady received $2.00. The landlady usually made between $500 and $1500 per night.

Mable probably had between 8 and 20 girls working for her, depending on the time of year. Harvest season brought a lot of extra men into town, so more girls went to work for her. And the type of men who went to the Broadmoor Hotel varied greatly, from professional men, doctors, lawyers, and politicians, to railroaders, cowboys, and farmers.

In 1925, Mable and William Kaufman are running the Brunswick Billiard Hall on Front Street, but living at the Cody Hotel. William and Mable stay at the hotel until 1927k, when they get a divorce. About the same time, Mable marries Carl Minner in Council Bluffs. No mention is ever made of this in the newspapers, but there is an Iowa Marriage certificate, and William L. Kaufman disappears from North Platte around 1927. Also in 1927, Mable spends three months at St Elizabeth Hospital in Lincoln. No reason other than she is “very ill” was ever listed in the local newspapers. When she comes back to North Platte, she begins running the Atlas Roms, this time, running it by herself.

In 1929, Mable buys the building at 107 West 6th Street, where she opened the Broadmoor Hotel. In the Broadmoor, Mable became the most infamous madam of North Platte.

In 1930, Mable married a fifth time, this time to Jerome “Jack” H. Vosburg in Sidney, Nebraska. Jack was the manager of the Piggly-Wiggly Meat Department. During the 1930’s Mable expanded her estate by purchasing land in both North Platte and Grand Island; and she also owned show horses. The couple opens The Crest Café in 1935 and sells it in 1936. But the marriage was not a happy one and they divorced in 1957. On January 29, 1957, Mable filed for divorce from Vosburg, alleging that he “pursued conduct toward her that was extreme cruelty,” the divorce petition said. Mable also told the court that Vosburg was sullen, morose and uncooperative, causing her serious impaired mental and physical health; and it was no longer possible to stay married to him. On April 10, 1957, the court granted the divorce and everything that went with it, went to Mable. This included land she owned in North Platte and Grand Island, cars, the hotel with all its furniture. She left Jerome with nothing but the court costs in the amount of $17.35 according to the divorce decree. Jack died on June 23, 1964.

Mable Vosburg passed away at age 72 in July of 1969 and is buried in Grand Island. Both Vosburg and Mable are buried in unmarked graves in the McKnight family plat. Of note: some of the items listed on the sale bill for Mable’s estate auction were: Stradivarius violin from 1736; Mahogany furniture; diamond rings; platinum jewelry; full length mink coat; blue mink jacket; 1897 model 12 Winchester rifle; 1951 Cadillac Coupe; and many, many more luxury items. Mable was a person who lived life to the fullest and made each day count. Mable certainly contributed to North Platte’s nickname during the 1920’s-1930’s, “Little Chicago!”

We hope you have enjoyed this North Platte history! See you next week!

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