Is This Woman Wyoming’s Most Deadly Serial Killer?
Some have called her the Murderess of Slaughterhouse Gulch. If you believe the lore, Polly Bartlett lured wealthy men to her Inn near South Pass. She seduced them, gave them food, poisoned them with arsenic all for their money. The men she targeted worked for the railroad. They worked for the gold mine. All of them were rich loaners traveling across the wild west in the mid-1800s. If they never arrived at their destination, angry natives or armed bandits could easily take the blame.
If you believe the stories, Polly with the help of her father, Jim Bartlett, murdered 22 men. This would make her one of the only serial killers in Wyoming. There are some like Bill Sniffin who wrote an opinion story on SheridanMedia.com about murders believing it is just fiction. Truth or not, it is a story worthy of Hollywood.
The earliest account of the murders at the Barlett Inn was published in Real West magazine Volume 6, Number 30, published in July 1963. The story, "Polly Bartlett, Wyoming's Amazing Poisoner" written by Dean W. Ballinger, reads like a western novella. Buckrail wrote extensively about the story of the murders fueled by lust and greed.
During this time in Wyoming's history, Wyoming Territory was about to become a state. Telegraph lines replaced the Pony Express. South Pass was a critical hub for the railroad, and it was the safest place to cross the Rocky Mountains. This steady flow of people (some of which with gold-lined pockets) brought the Bartletts a stream of victims.
According to Ballinger's story, Polly and her father had a history of crime. In Ohio, they ran a saloon. Polly would take the men upstairs for a little hanky panky, while Jim would rob them blind. Then in desperate times in the Wyoming Territory, Polly poisoned her first lover for $4000. That awoke a monstrous idea. She with the help of her father would establish the Bartlett Inn just outside of South Pass. This would give Polly the perfect place to set her web.
More missing men whos last whereabouts were at the doors of the Bartlett Inn. A wealthy mine owner, Bernard Fountain, was looking for his son, and he knew the Bartletts had something to do with it. He hired a private investigator, and the cost was not an issue for Fountain. The PI arrived at the inn with the local lawmen. They questioned both Polly and Jim. Shortly after the interview, the two skipped town.
Their disappearance only raised more suspicions. When they investigated the corral the true macabre nature of the Bartlette Inn was unearthed. Mr. Fountain found the remains of his son with the bodies of 21 other men. Polly and Jim were now wanted dead or alive.
The two never made it out of the territory. Their ill-deeds caught up with Jim and Polly. Jim was shot while reaching for his gun. Polly was captured and brought back for a trial which she wouldn't get. Late one night, someone killed Polly with a 10-gauge shotgun while in her cell. It was a lawless end to a story of murder, lust, and greed in the Wyoming Territory.