July 4, 2008

Billy the Kid and Soapy Smith

While editing my book this afternoon I ran into some spelling differences in one of Soapy Smith's long time attorney's, Edgar Caypless. I googled the name and found a connection to Billy the Kid of all things.

Caypless had defended bunco men in Denver as early as 1883. He defended Soapy in July of 1889 in an assault to murder case in which Soapy nearly killed the Rocky Mountain News editor, John Arkins. Caypless defended Soapy and the Soap Gang all the way up to the very end..literally. It was Caypless who defended the "Big Four" Soap Gang members for the robbery of miner John Stewart which directly caused the shootout that resulted in Soapy's demise in Skagway, Alaska on July 8, 1898.

So what does this have to do with Billy the Kid? It was Caypless who Billy was trying to hire in 1880-81 to defend him just weeks before he murdered officers Olinger and Bell. Caypless had been outlaw Cave Rudabaugh's attorney and suggested him to Billy. The attorney would have defended Billy had he been successful in gaining possession of Billy's horse to sell off for expenses but the woman caring for the horse would not give it up.

Jeff Smith
Source:
1.)Billy The Kid: A Short and Violent Life, by Robert Utley, University of Nebraska Press, 1989.
2.)Skaguay News, December 9, 1898.

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