From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Jones, Ida "Black Ida"

(born: 1871) Ida Jones was said to be "the most dangerous and vicious woman in Denver" [source: Wild Women of the Old West by G. Riley, p.82]. It was also said that she was from Kentucky, according to author Anne M. Butler. The story of Ida Jones has been hailed and retold in texts as that of a tough, trouble-making, black woman in the West. She had a long record of violence and arrests. Her nickname was "Black Ida," and she was also referred to as "Ida May" [source: "Is Stratton here?," The Denver Evening Post, 10/12/1899, p.2]. She was described as illiterate, tall, coarse, mean, and prone to have a bad temper with violent outbursts.

With all that has been written about Ida Jones, nothing is known for sure about her past beyond her arrests. No one can say for sure where exactly she came from, what her day to day life, her mental state were, what happened to her or her child after she was released from prison in Canon City, or if Ida Jones was her real name.

In 1889, Ida Jones lived in a rental house with several apartments, the building was located at 2043 Holladay Street in the red light district of Denver [source: Ballenger & Richard's Annual Denver City Directory, p.530]. She is not listed in the 1888 or earlier editions of Corbett & Ballenger's Denver City Directory. Ida Jones would have been in her late teens or early twenties in 1889. According to the city directory, she lived alone. As the reputation of Holladay Street became more identified as part of the vice community, the street was renamed Market Street [additional information].

According to author A. M. Butler, in her book Gendered Justice in the American West, pp.81-111, Ida Jones was a prostitute who had had countless run-ins with neighbors on Market and Blake Streets. There is no mention of her having parents, siblings, relatives, or close friends. In March of 1889, Ida Jones went to jail for making a violent scene in a dress shop; the dress she had had made did not fit properly [source: O'Hare and Dick, p.18]. In the fall of 1889 she was arrested for running a house of prostitution, and when she was released, Ida Jones went on a rampage and wrecked the home of the woman who had turned her in to the authorities. Two weeks after her release from jail, she was arrested again for running a house of prostitution.

There were many more arrests with different charges, all leading up to August 1, 1890, when Ida Jones stabbed Stephen Zimmer in the left thigh with a dirk that left a six inch cut from which Zimmer bled to death. Ida Jones claimed self defense, saying that Zimmer had thrown a brick at her and tried to cut her with his knife. Neighbors from the Market Street area testified against her. Ida Jones was sentenced to 15 years in prison for murder in the second degree [source: Freeman, 11/22/1890, p.7].

Subsequent pictures of Ida Jones show her with short cropped hair, there are several pictures on p.18 in the book Wicked Denver by S. O'Hare and A. Dick. There is little that is known about her time in prison. According to author A. M. Butler, Ida Jones did nine years of a 15 year sentence in the Colorado State Penitentiary and was released in August of 1899. The same release date is given by authors O'Hare and Dick, who noted that Ida Jones applied for a pardon in 1895. However, her name appears as early as 1896 in the city directory, she [or another Ida Jones or someone using her name] was living at 2034 Downing Avenue [source: Ballenger & Richard's Annual Denver City Directory, p.586]. Her name is listed in the annual directory up to the year 1900, when she was again living on Market Street. Not long after her return to the community, Ida Jones was arrested for fighting with a woman whom she struck with a baseball bat [O'Hare and Dick, p.20].

In 1901, Ida Jones was arrested for stealing $200 from Charles Peterson, who was said to be one of her customers. Ida Jones was convicted in March of 1902 and was listed as a fugitive in August of 1902, according to author A. M. Butler, p.84. According to O'Hare and Dick, p.20, Ida Jones was pregnant and about 35 years old when she was convicted in March of 1902, then sentenced to 5-10 years in prison, and she served a portion of that time before being released July 9, 1908. Her release date is given as 1905 by author L. Wommack in Our Ladies of the Tenderloin, p.105, "Ida Mae Jones was the first female inmate at Canon City to be pregnant. Prison records report the birth of her child, but nothing further."

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Jones, Ida "Black Ida",” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 21, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-09-11 19:05:08