Mary Ann Conklin (nee Boyer), was known to Seattle residents in the mid-1800s as Mother Damnable. She managed the Felker House, some reports say as a brothel, kept rocks in her apron to throw at people and cursed in five languages. Is it no wonder that when her corpse was disinterred to move to another cemetery, it was discovered that it had turned completely to stone.
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Mary Ann Boyer was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1821. She met and married Captain David "Bull" Conklin who was in command of a whaling ship in Alaskan waters which was known as Russian America at that time. The honeymoon period was soon over when in 1853 the Captain abandoned his wife in Port Townsend and sailed away. Mary Ann Conklin moved to the then tiny village of Seattle and began managing the Felker House.
Another sea captain, Leonard Felker, transported the parts of a pre-fabricated building in the hold of his ship, the brig Franklin Adams, to Seattle and after purchasing land at the corner of 1st Avenue South and Jackson Street, Capt. Felker erected his two story frame house on the site. It is reported to have milled clapboard sides, imported southern pine flooring and lath-and-plaster walls and ceilings and it served as the city's first hotel.
Conklin rented out meeting rooms from the hotel and in 1854 the territorial government held a lynching trial there and ran up a bill for $25 for the use of a "court room" and another $10 for lodging for the jurors. When paying the bill the prosecuting attorney requested a receipt which was a big mistake on his part. Mary Ann flew into a rage, armed herself with fire wood for the stove and began throwing pieces at the attorney. It's reported she screeched, "You want a receipt, do you? Well, here it is!".
A second recorded incident involving Mother Damnable was when the U.S. Navy ship, Decatur was anchored in Elliott Bay providing protection to the settlers. The crew needed to clear the way for a new road through town and each time they passed by Felker House to chop shrubs the ship's lieutenant, Thomas S. Phelps described what this "demon in petticoats" would do:
"The moment our men appeared upon the scene, with three dogs at her heels, and an apron filled with rocks, this termagant would come tearing from the house, and the way stones, oaths, and curses flew was something fearful to contemplate, and, charging like a fury, with the dogs wild to flesh their teeth in the detested invaders, the division invariably gave way before the storm, fleeing, officers and all, as if old Satan himself was after them."Phelps said after several occurrences like this, the ship's quartermaster, a man named Sam Silk and "a veritable old-time salt," according to Phelps, confronted Boyer attempting to explain the necessity of the road. His speech was cut short by verbal abuse and fire wood flung at his head, so he changed his strategy:
"What do you mean, you damned old harridan, raising hell this way? I know you, you old curmudgeon," he said. "Many's the time I've seen you howling thunder around Fell's Point, Baltimore. You're a damned pretty one, ain't you?"Lt Phelps' report says:
"The effect was magical. With one glance of concentrated hatred at Silk, she turned and flew like the wind, scattering sticks and rocks on all sides, and, with her yelping dogs, disappeared within the house, never again to be seen by one of the Decatur's crew."Mary Ann died in 1873 and was buried in the city's first municipal cemetery, the Seattle Cemetery. In 1884 the graves were removed to other cemeteries and the site was made into what is now Denny Park.
Oliver C. Shorey, an undertaker who founded what is now the Bonney-Watson funeral home, received the contract to remove the graves and relocated them. In a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article from August 22, 1884, Shorey describes what happened when he dug up Mother Damnable:
We discovered that the coffin was very heavy, weighing at least 400 pounds and it took six men to lift it out of the grave. On removing the lid to the coffin we found that she had turned to stone. Her form was full sized and perfect, the ears, finger nails and hair being all intact. Her features were, however, somewhat disfigured. Covering the body was a dark dust, but after that was removed the form was as white as marble and as hard as stone.The article does not describe what some claimed to be a beaming smile on Mother Damnable's face which made her look like a saint. The question remains to this day, could she really have turned to stone?
Mary Ann Conklin's hotel burned to the ground in the Great Seattle fire of 1889.