The Mysterious Death of Dutch May Prescott

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The Mysterious Death of Dutch May Prescott

Just over a century ago, in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon Hostel on South San Francisco St., there existed three “female boarding houses.” This was Flagstaff’s gentile name for brothels, and the town had plenty of them. The three mentioned above were (as I understand it) owned and operated by Dutch May Peters Prescott. According to her obituary, Dutch May was a successful businesswoman who was well-liked around town, notably because she didn’t tolerate any “rabblerousing.” An article in the Coconino Sun read in part “...(she) has lived here a good many years and has accumulated considerable property in the restricted district. She had the reputation of being peacefully inclined with no enemies.”

Hmmm. Well, Ms. Peters-Prescott certainly had at least one person who wished her ill. Sometime between Tuesday, August 29, and Wednesday afternoon, August 30th, 1916, someone broke into a small shack located in the red-light district. It was behind a house–presumably one of ill-repute–which belonged to Dutch May. A smouldering fire had been set off inside the structure, sending up puffs of smoke and causing an alarm in town. When an official raced over to investigate he found the bodies of Ms. Peters and her newly wedded husband, Mr. Prescott. Dutch had been shot through the head and Mr. P had his throat slashed, ear to ear. Both of their bodies were badly burned and, while it appeared someone tried to stage the scene as a murder-suicide, most of the town wasn’t buying it.

There’s a lot more to the story, much of it speculation, as the town didn’t have the stomach to delve into the deaths. There were whispers that a Flagstaff “official” was the actual murderer. When Dutch May and Mr. Prescott’s families were notified, both declined to retrieve their respective bodies for burial. The final resting place of Dutch May Peters Prescott and Mr. Prescott is Potter's Field in Citizens Cemetery. Some say you can catch a whiff of burning wood if you cut through that empty lot at night.

Book a tour or a pub crawl with Freaky Foot Tours to hear more about the tragic demise of the Prescotts. We’d love to share their story with you.