Lillian Miner Shipley

Shipley, Lillian

Time Period

1860-1910

Subject Categories

Business

Notable Facts

Known locally as "Queen Lill," Shipley founded and ran a successful bar, hotel, and brothel on the Vermont/Canadian border. An entreprener in the prostitution and liquor business, she capitalized on illegal trade to amass considerable wealth.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

1866

Date of Death

1941

Primary Residence

Richford

Historical Significance

Lillian Minor Shipley operated a successful hotel, bar, and brothel on the Vermont/Canadian border in the early twentieth century. The daughter of William and Mary Minor, she was born in Stevens Mills, Richford in 1866. As a young woman, she left her family and married A. G. Shipley, a peddler of patent medicines and entertainer with a reputation for horse thieving and grave robbing. The couple traveled widely, staging a medicine show.

By the turn of the century, Lillian had become involved in prostitution and managed a brothel in Boston until 1910, when local authorities shut down much of the illegal business in the city. Returning to Vermont, she purchased and restored a three-story hotel straddling the Canadian border in Richford. From 1911 until the end of prohibition in 1933, she operated "Lill's Palace," a bar, hotel, and bordello which benefited from its stategic location on the Canadian-Pacific railroad line between Montreal and the cities of the Northeast. Known as "Queen Lil," she served clients from the local area as well as urban business travelers. To take advantage of the demand for illegal liquor, she piped supplies from Canada under the Missisquoi River and operated her own bottling plant, selling to New England bootleggers. Shipley was known for carrying a pistol and flaunting her hard-earned wealth in a fancy automobile. She largely evaded the law by bribing federal officials, but after an international raid in 1925 she was forced to plead guilty and was fined for violating the Mann Act against trafficking in prostitutes.

Shipley retired after the end of prohibition diminished her business. She bought several farms with her earnings, married farmer Levi Fleury, and lived with him and his two children until her death.

Occupations

  • Business woman
  • entrepreneur

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Richford Historical Society Link

  • Palmer, Joe. "Queen Lill." June 2002. Link

  • Richford, Franklin County Driving Tour Link