November 30, 2009

Writer Craig Medred true to his "threats."

(Click image to enlarge)
The End of Soapy Smith
by Andy Thomas


I see over at the Alaska Dispatch Craig Medred was true to his word about completely changing the wording in his article and taking my name off the article and removing the links to my website. If you have been following the correspondence between myself and Craig Medred then you will know that he was totally confused by my explanation that he had taken my research completely out-of-context, making it appear I believed that Frank Reid was the man who shot and killed Soapy Smith. Here is how the original read.

"Going Rogue," Page 13: "Soapy Smith: he was killed in a shoot-out with a vigilante gang."

BADLY WRONG, although vigilantes were involved. According to The Skagway News of the day and various histories since, Jefferson R. "Soapy" Smith was shot and killed by one Frank Reid during a scuffle. Here's the account from the author of "Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel": "Apparently Soapy made an attempt to strike Reid with the barrel of (a) rifle, but Reid raised his left arm and the rifle barrel cut Reid's arm. Reid was able to grab the barrel with his left hand and forced it away from his body. As the two men fought for control of the rifle, Reid pulled out a pistol and began to fire. At that same instant, Soapy jerked his rifle back towards Reid and returned fire. When the shooting had ceased, Soapy Smith was dead and Frank Reid lay badly wounded." There was no shootout with any gang, but the fight with Reid did start after Smith went to confront a group of vigilantes who were meeting to decide how to shut down his corrupt Skagway businesses.

Anyone can plainly see that Mr. Medred, by quoting me, made it appear that Frank Reid was the only shooter and no shoot-out with the vigilante gang. Those of you who have my book know that Mr. Medred clearly mis-quoted me. He and I had some correspondence and in the end he threatened to punish me by changing the write-up. Thankfully he held up his end of the bargain.

His article now reads as follows.

"Going Rogue," Page 13: "Soapy Smith: he was killed in a shoot-out with a vigilante gang."

BADLY WRONG. Jefferson Soapy Smith did not die "in a shoot out with a vigilante gang." He was shot in self defense by surveyor Frank Reid, according to a coroner's inquest at the time. "The Skaguay News" reported that Reid and some community leaders were meeting to discuss what should be done about Smith and other supposed outlaws in Skagway. Smith marched down to the Juneau dock to confront the men at that meeting. He was packing his rifle. He and Reid got into a struggle over the rifle. Shots were fired. Smith was killed. Reid was wounded and died later. Smith's great grandson has since argued that there is evidence to indicate that Smith was not shot in self-defense by Reid, but murdered by another man at the meeting. But the official record stands.

I responded over at the Alaska Dispatch with the following...

Mr. Craig Medred.

I see you completely rewrote the Soapy Smith portion regarding his mention on page 13 of Palin's book. It is factually incorrect, but you were kind enough to removed the section in which you used my research "out-of-context." Thank you.

Mr. Medred believes that by deleting the links and changing the wording that he has harmed me. Yes, I admit it would have been nice to have the links remain, but far more important is the fact that he removed the part in which he quoted me and took facts out-of-context just to prove Sarah Palin wrong on page 13 of her book. The new wording is incorrect, but so was the old one. I'm fine with him being wrong, as long as he doesn't make me appear "wrong" right along with him.

I'm satisfied...






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Craig Medred is not "done with me" after all.


Craig Medred, author of Palin: Hunting Devils in the Details, published in the Alaska Dispatch who used my website information out-of-context in order to "prove" Sarah Palin wrong about what she wrote in her book Going Rogue regarding Soapy Smith, is at it again. In my last post dated November 29, 2009 he said he was "done with me." I assumed he meant that he was finished with the correspondence. Since then I have received two more emails from him, of which I did not respond to.

I do not plan to respond to these two emails. As you can see he is either using tactics of confusion or is just totally confused himself as to what he originally wrote. However if there is something in the contents of these email that you, my readers, would like to hear a response from me about then I will be glad to oblige. Please feel free to ask me anything. Otherwise here are Mr. Medred's two emails.

From: Craig Medred, November 29, 2009

Dear Mr. Smith:

I have tried repeatedly to correct this, but I'm not going to say Soapy was murdered. Yes, I could have been more explicit in the attribution on the description taken from your website and added the statement that contrary to the historical record Soapy's great grandson believes he was murdered. I didn't think that would add much. Who cares what his great grandson believes? I linked to your site so people with an interest in the history might go beyond that simple statement to find some of the information you have collected. I now truly regret that decision. But if you believe "anyone reading" the Dispatch story came away with anything other than that Frank Reid shot Soapy Smith, you over estimate both the average reader and yourself. The only people who will come away with anything more than the simple fact stated above will be those who went to your website to read more, and I frankly don't know what they will come away with. Meanwhile, if you can figure out what my agenda is, please tell me. I don't know that I had one. I corrected a gross over-simplification that Soapy died in a shoot out with vigilantes. He died in a struggle over a gun that ended with shots being fired. That point everyone, including you, seems to agree on.

The inquest ruled the shooting was done by Frank Reid in self-defense, which legally absolves him of the label "vigilante." As to the rest, who knows, which is why I linked to your site, although I am now sad that I described the members of the committee as "vigilantes" at all. I'm surprised I'm not getting bombarded by e-mails from Frank Reid's great grandson for insinuating his hero great grandfather was hanging out with vigilantes. Now, with all of this said, I will add yet again that despite your insults as to my professionalism, character and God know's what else, your research still interests me enough that I would love to see you get some recognized body to do a mock retrial of Soapy. It would make a good story. And maybe it would result in the conclusion you are right and Soapy was murdered. Until then, though, it is what it is.
Meanwhile, if you truly believe this reference to your book in a lengthy story about errors in "Going Rogue" was part of some scheme concocted to "punish" you, all I can say is come to your senses man. If I wished to "punish" you, I'd find some more effective way than in a passing reference to your work in a story so long most people will, at best, skim it. More than that, though, why would I want to punish you? I don't even know you. I referenced your work as a source solely because of a desire to support Alaska authors and know, from the experience of friends of mine, how hard it is to sell books. I thought, at best, a reference in the story might help you sell a few, or at least one. I guess, now that I think about that act, it does make me guilty of having an "agenda," because that was indeed my agenda. Maybe what has followed is the effort of the God's to punish me for having an agenda, because Lord know's this had deteriorated into a nightmare of name-calling and accusations of a secret agenda to misrepresent your work. As I said before, if that were the case, why in heaven's name would I link to it? It's obvious you think I'm a rogue and a scoundrel, but for the second time, do you really think I am that big of a moron?

Craig





From: Craig Medred, November

Dear Mr. Smith:

You send me an e-mail accusing me of unprofessional conduct, and then someone else sends me a link to where you have been posting our private exchanges on a blog. Not that I mind.

In this day and age, I figure anything anyone does electronically is likely to pop up on the internet somewhere. But the professional protocol when you solicit information from people is to tell them they are, in effect, being interviewed. Or to go back and ask them if you can use their
e-mails. I've done this many times as a reporter. It's pretty easy to do. Most people have quickly agreed. So I'm going to presume the best-case scenario here and simply assume you didn't understand this nicety.

And if any of our exchanges help promote the book, good for ya! I'm always happy to see Alaskans sell books whether I agree with them or disagree with them, like them or dislike them. Frankly, the world needs more books and less of this instantaneous communication wherein people go off in a blink and start accusing others of all sorts of dastardly things in the heat of the moment.

As we should all know from the Soapy-Smith saga, the heat of the moment is a dangerous time. Bad decisions made in the heat of the moment are clearly the main things that got Soapy killed.

If you ever do get around to talking an impartial panel into considering your idea Soapy was murdered, call or e-mail. As I said before, I'd love to come cover it as a reporter, despite my believe the evidence just isn't there.

But then I could be wrong. It has happened before. I'm more than open to that idea. It's the nature of life.

Craig

P.S. Please feel free to post this wherever you post things.







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November 29, 2009

Round-in-circles with staff writer Craig Medred.


For the last couple of days I have been corresponding with Mr. Craig Medred, staff writer for the Alaska Dispatch. This is the gentleman who used my research out-of-context in an article he wrote and published about Sarah Palin's book, Going Rogue. I wrote a response to his article on November 26, 2009. I published that same response here on this blog the following day, November 27, 2009. Mr. Medred apparently does not see that what he did was wrong. He refuses to write a "correction" or apologize to me. The following is the text starting with his first response to me and proceeds from there.

(Note: I went ahead and corrected capitalization's in his emails for better ease in reading -Jeff)

From: Craig Medred, November 27, 2009.
I read the entire account on your website, along with the old newspaper a week ago. and the quote we used was pulled from that website, which I linked to in hopes you could sell a few books.

Now....what's there doesn't appear to be the same. Did it change recently? Is there another website pirating clicks looking for your book, which might account for the link in the dispatch story not working?

Whichever, though, doesn't really matter. water under the bridge. the real question I have is this: how exactly would you suggest we reword the dispatch story for future editions to suit your belief?

"Soapy Smith died in a struggle over a gun with either Frank Reid or Jesse Murphy?" "Soapy Smith is now thought to have died in a struggle over a gun with Jesse Murphy after a confrontation with Frank Reid, who was later blamed for Smith's death?"

Some other variation? We're just trying to get the story right instead of presenting it as a Skagway version of the "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral."


From: Jeff Smith, November 27, 2009.
Dear, Mr. Medred.
Although I do very much appreciate the fact that you linked your story to my website, so that it might help sales, the misrepresentation of my content is what I am more interested in. The facts about how my great-grandfather actually died has been an on-going mystery that had its start in 1898. In my 24-year research endeavor I have successfully uncovered enough first-hand evidence to clearly show Frank Reid was not the man who actually killed Soapy Smith, although it has been passed down that way for over one-hundred years.

You mention changes in my website. The only changes I have made in the last six months have been to the page advertising the book. The pages showing the history of the gunfight have not been changed that I can recall. The mystery and evidence about the gunfight have been known in my family for several decades so this is nothing new that would require changes in the website.

You ask,
"The real question i have is this: how exactly would you suggest we reword the dispatch story for future editions to suit your belief?"
You were kind enough to send some examples but to be honest I am far too busy to write that portion of the story for you. The only thing I can suggest is to carefully read the website. It is vague so even better would be to find a copy of the book, which is well footnoted in regards to "my beliefs."

I did rather enjoy your last comment. "We're just trying to get the story right instead of presenting it as a Skagway version of the "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral."

In truth, it was better than the "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral." I don't pretend Soapy was one of the "good guys." But reality is that he died a very brave death. While in his saloon he was handed a note basically telling him that the vigilantes were having a meeting at the end of the Juneau Company Wharf. He draped a rifle over his shoulder and walked six blocks with about seven of his men in tow. At the entrance to the wharf four vigilante guards could be seen 60 feet into the wharf making sure Soapy did not interrupt the meeting that was deciding his fate. He told his men to stay put and approached the four men alone. Whether you like him or hate him you have to agree that facing those four men alone was one-hell-of-a-brave act. It cost him his life.


From: Craig Medred, November 27, 2009.
Don't take this harshly, but I'd have to save brave or crazy. Every account I've ever read of what happened has Soapy going to confront a group of people plotting against him.

As a factual matter, that's a bold act. As to motive, well, it was either brave or crazy or both. But it certainly doesn't appear Soapy went down the wharf planning to get in a gunfight. If you're planning on going to a gunfight, you don't leave your backup behind and walk in alone. That wouldn't be brave or crazy; that would be stupid. Nothing I've ever read painted Soapy as stupid. And yet every account of his death seems to have him going into this confrontation alone. In reading your accounts, I have to wonder if anyone really wanted to get into a gunfight at all. The Public Safety committee [the Citizens Committee -J.S.] might have been plotting against Soapy, but they weren't exactly headed down the street to get him. And Soapy, as you note, left his posse behind.

The whole things seems a lot like what, unfortunately, happens here in Anchorage on an all too regular basis these days. Some armed people get in a pushing match. Somebody loses their temper and pulls a gun, and somebody gets shot. It may be that the more Alaska changes the more it stays the same.

I'm sorry that you feel your content was misrepresented. I linked to your sight hoping people interested in Soapy might go there and find out more about an interesting guy in an interesting place. I am sorry if in trying to quickly summarize the shooting in Skagway I relied too much on what has sort of come to be the official version of events. How about we just agree to blame the "Skaguay News" for all of this. Damn media couldn't get it right then either!

Craig


From: Jeff Smith, November 28, 2009.
Dear, Mr. Medred.
My book illustrates numerous instances throughout my great-grandfather's life in which he exhibited great amounts of bravery. Whether he was in the right or wrong when applying that wondrous human trait is irrelevant.

It is apparent by Soapy's actions on the night of the shootout on Juneau Wharf that he was not interested in shooting it out with the vigilantes. What the intentions of the four guards were is unknown and can't really be assumed by their actions, or lack thereof.

You write that you are sorry that "I feel the content was misrepresented." There is absolutely no question that you misrepresented my content, by taking content out-of-context thus changing how readers view my conclusions. By leaving out key portions from my website and book contents regarding the gunfight you in essence, have people believing that I conclude that Frank Reid shot and killed my great-grandfather. This is simply not true. Had you included my information correctly your argument that Sarah Palin was wrong about Soapy Smith and the shootout with vigilantes would be incorrect.

The solution? I ask that you write up an official correction of error which would include an apology to me for not taking the time to read my website. It would have taken very little effort on your part to do so. In fact, if you go to my website home page you will see a link in large letters that reads "MURDERED: Click for more information" which takes you directly to the information you needed. You were willing to read the 1898 Skaguay News for information and that is commendable, however you did not quote the newspaper, you quoted me, not taking a few minutes to read what my content actually said.


From: Craig Medred, November 28, 2009.
Dear Mr. Smith:
Are you familiar with the history of the explorer Frederick Cook? In 1903 he undertook what might have been the most extraordinary expedition ever launched in this state, an overland circumnavigation of the McKinley massif. It was an incredible feat that nearly killed him. Later, he made an attempt to become the first to climb McKinley and failed, but claimed he had made the summit. As evidence, he provided a photo of himself there. It turned out to be bogus. It has only become more bogus over time, but a group of his heir's hold to the claim he made the summit. This is sad because instead of Cook being celebrated for what he did do in Alaska, he is now -- because of all the focus placed on the McKinley fiasco -- dismissed by almost everyone as a crackpot and a phony. This despite the fact that in my years in Alaska I doubt I've met a but a more or two who could do what Cook said. Which brings me back to this exchange on which we have now spent too much time. I asked you for some draft language you might find acceptable to summarize fairly the difference between the historical record and what you believe really happened. Instead you've decided we should have this fruitless argument about whether I misrepresented "your content." In fact, I quoted word for word from "your content" because I thought you did a nice job of summarizing the accepted historical account as to what happened between Soapy Smith and Frank Reid. You believe that historical account is wrong. You have a different version of what happened. I found it interesting, which is the reason I linked to your site so that people interested in more than just the accepted historical account could go there and read your take on this thing.

I think you make an interesting argument that Soapy was, as you put it, "murdered." I will also so say, flat out, I don't buy it. When you take a gun and go looking for trouble and you get it, well, that ain't murder, and no Alaska prosecutor, even today, would try to prosecute it as such.

Soapy didn't walk into an ambush. He didn't even go down to the Juneau dock to meet some people who'd called him to a shoot out. He went down for a confrontation. He got it. It obviously went beyond what he expected, and he got shot. All that is known. The rest involves a fair part of conjecture from many angles, the chief ones being the reliability of the witnesses at the time and you now. I'm not even going to begin to try to sort that out, although you have convinced me of one thing that is wrong. That claim of "vigilantes," where did that come from? These guys might have been on the verge of becoming vigilantes -- "one who takes or advocates the taking of law enforcement into one's own hands" -- but there is no indication they were such when Soapy got shot. As "The Skaguay News" reported, they met to "devise ways and means of ridding the city of lawless elements." Those ways of means might easily include lawful means, which is exactly the opposite of the "taking of law enforcement into one hands." They might have decided to call in the military, or form a city government to hire police. So what I'm going to do is rewrite the Dispatch entry to say what follows, and ask Tony to remove from the website all links to you or any of your material:

"Jefferson Soapy Smith did not die" in a shoot out with a vigilante gang." He was shot in self defense by surveyor Frank Reid, according to a coroner's inquest at the time. "The Skaguay News" reported that Reid and some community leaders were meeting to discuss what should be done about Smith and other supposed outlaws in Skagway. Smith marched down to the Juneau dock to confront the men at that meeting. He was packing his rifle. He and Reid got into a struggle over the rifle. Shots were fired. Smith was killed. Reid was wounded and died later. Smith's great grandson has since argued that there is evidence to indicate that Smith was not shot in self-defense by Reid, but murdered by another man at the meeting. But the official record stands."

And now I'm done with this. I honest to God thought I was doing you a favor in trying to plug your website, let you get your version of the story out there, and maybe sell some books. Instead you want to go on about my misrepresenting your website and demand official apologies. Would I have linked to your website if it was my intention to misrepresent it? I've never made any claims to be the brightest guy in Alaska, but I'm not that big of a moron.

As I said, I quoted -- accurately I might add -- from "your content" a concise summary of what has come to be the accepted historical account. And then I linked, so people could see your somewhat different take on things. Obviously, that offended you. For that, I am truly and deeply sorry. But the rest of this is a crock, and the claim that I did not take "a few minutes to read my content" is just flat-out wrong. I read it. It is interesting. And unless one is a speed reader, which I am not, it takes more than a few minutes. Now, with all of that said, I'm also willing to say this: You might be right about someone other than Reid shooting Soapy. You might even be right about Soapy being tempted (lured would be to strong of a word given the evidence) to confront a meeting where someone was likely to shoot him. It is possible you could make a case for manslaughter. And if you were to get a some sort of legal entity to hold a hearing to consider overturning the findings of the original jury at the coroner's inquest, I would love to attend it as a reporter. In fact, if you were even to get a mock jury to look at this -- as was done with Cook at UAF back in 1996 -- I'd be happy to attend and report on that.

As I said, I find some of your information concerning the possibility someone other than Reid shot Smith interesting, but murder? I don't think so, even if that claim were being made by an impartial investigator. Maybe manslaughter, but not murder. But you're not an impartial observer. Be reasonable sir, you have a dog in the hunt.

Now, if I have misspelled anything or used any words wrong in this missive, please forgive me for that, too. It has been a long day, and I have reached the point where I don't have either the time or the energy to proof read another e-mail about this matter. I'd suggest we could agree on one thing -- that your great grandfather was an interesting fellow -- but your behavior has led me to believe you'd probably chose to disagree with me on that, too.

Good luck with the book,

Craig


I did not bother responding to everything he said. It would obviously fall on deaf ears. Oh how I wanted to write more...but here is what I sent.

From: Jeff Smith, November 29, 2009.
Dear, Mr. Medred.
Yes, you linked to my website. I thanked you in the beginning and I thank you again now. However, that does not wipe the slate clean from taking my research "out-of-context" for your personal agenda, and then not correct it. By doing so every person who reads what you wrote, regarding my research, will come away thinking I believe what you wrongly wrote. I do not understand how you cannot see what you did wrong?

Your exact words:

"Here's the account from the author of 'Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel': "Apparently Soapy made an attempt to strike Reid with the barrel of (a) rifle, but Reid raised his left arm and the rifle barrel cut Reid's arm. Reid was able to grab the barrel with his left hand and forced it away from his body. As the two men fought for control of the rifle, Reid pulled out a pistol and began to fire. At that same instant, Soapy jerked his rifle back towards Reid and returned fire. When the shooting had ceased, Soapy Smith was dead and Frank Reid lay badly wounded." There was no shootout with any gang, but the fight with Reid did start after Smith went to confront a group of vigilantes who were meeting to decide how to shut down his corrupt Skagway businesses."

ANYONE reading that will come away with the mistaken impression that my beliefs, my book, and my website state that Frank Reid was the only shooter and that no other members of the vigilante guards were involved. This may be ok with you but it is certainly not ok with me. Most any professional newspapers in the nation would opt to print a correction and an apology. You on the other hand wish to punish me. You sir are not a professional and you give the newspaper you work for a bad name.






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November 27, 2009

Anti-Palin forces uses my book facts out of context!


I reported on November 17, 2009 that Sarah Palin had mentioned Soapy Smith in her new book, Going Rogue. It's not much but here again is what she wrote.

"After his adventures in Tombstone, the legendary lawman Wyatt Earp came north and spent a few years in Nome during the gold rush. On the other side of the law was "Soapy" Smith, a Wild West crime boss whose tight-knit gang moved from Colorado to Skagway. They made a mint cheating gold miners out of their cash. It finally caught up with Soapy Smith: he was killed in a shoot-out with a vigilante gang."

In attempts to discredit her book the "anti-Palin" people are quoting and publishing everything that is wrong in her book. Craig Medrid, staff writer for the Alaska Dispatch wrote the following in his article Palin: Hunting Devils in the details.

"Going Rogue," Page 13: "Soapy Smith: he was killed in a shoot-out with a vigilante gang."

BADLY WRONG, although vigilantes were involved. According to The Skagway News of the day and various histories since, Jefferson R. "Soapy" Smith was shot and killed by one Frank Reid during a scuffle. Here's the account from the author of "Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel": "Apparently Soapy made an attempt to strike Reid with the barrel of (a) rifle, but Reid raised his left arm and the rifle barrel cut Reid's arm. Reid was able to grab the barrel with his left hand and forced it away from his body. As the two men fought for control of the rifle, Reid pulled out a pistol and began to fire. At that same instant, Soapy jerked his rifle back towards Reid and returned fire. When the shooting had ceased, Soapy Smith was dead and Frank Reid lay badly wounded." There was no shootout with any gang, but the fight with Reid did start after Smith went to confront a group of vigilantes who were meeting to decide how to shut down his corrupt Skagway businesses.

Although I am neither for nor against Sarah Palin I could not stand by as people used my research completely out of context for their own needs. I immediately emailed Craig Medrid as well as responded on the website. I hope to hear from the author of the article soon. The following was posted by me on the Alaska Dispatch.

My name is Jeff Smith, author of Alias Soapy Smith: The life and Death of a Scoundrel and the website Alias Soapy Smith. It is important to me that people know that you took the facts from my book and my website completely out of context and horribly and incorrectly stated my conclusions about the Shootout on Juneau Wharf in which my great-grandfather, Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith was killed. I can only surmise that you either did not read the book and/or website or that you intentionally left out major important portions of one or both in order to show that Sarah Palin was incorrect in her statements on page 13 regarding Soapy Smith's fight with vigilantes.

Had you read the book and/or my website you would have clearly noted in my book (pages 532-580) and on my website (HERE) that Frank Reid was NOT the man who killed my great grandfather, and that in fact, another member of the vigilante guards present joined in the fight and wrestled Soapy's rifle away from him and turned it on an unarmed Soapy and shot him in the chest killing him instantly. Whether you agreed or disagreed with Soapy's ways is irrelevant to the fact that Soapy was shot while wounded and unarmed, which in most civilized communities is murder. The vigilantes hid this fact from the courts in order to save their own new found power.

I am neither for or against Sarah Palin, but am rather a historian who has spent the last 24 years researching and writing the true history of my great-grandfather, the good and the bad. It bothered me to see someone come along and misquote my hard work. I invite you to reread my website and book.

Jeff Smith



I will post all news as it come in...








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November 26, 2009

Soapy Smith prize package soap racket (video)

(Click image to enlarge)
unknown Saloon in Denver, Colorado
Could it be the Tivoli Club?
Courtesy of the Denver Public Library

Back on April 11, 2009 I posted a short write-up on Emmett Miller a Chicago based magician who performs Soapy's prize package soap racket. Here is a You Tube video of Emmett performing the sale. Note how quickly he sells ten bars of soap. I particular enjoyment of his gambler's prayer at the end.










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Good book reviews #12 - 14



Here are some good reviews about the book I have delayed posting.

"I enjoyed hearing about the historical aspects and the endeavors that are involved in the research that you did to bring your book to publication. Not many people would have the patience for such an undertaking as you accomplished Jeff. If your not teaching History already you should consider it."
—"Carbine" Joe M.


"Hey, speaking of research, you my friend are the Climax. Your book about Soapy is the best documented book I have ever read. I hope sales are brisk and everyone enjoys it as much as I did."
—Bob Wood.


"I just wanted to let you know I'm moving through the book as quickly as I can in my free time. Have jumped ahead now and again to get to chapters where the Blongers and Smiths shared the same space. Right now I'm at your account of the City Hall War and it's just amazingly thorough. It will be a great starting point for our rundown of that period, if we ever start writing. I expected a lot from this book, knowing how many resources you had at your disposal, but it is even better than I expected. So, anyway, just wanted to say 'good job.'"
—Scott Johnson










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November 24, 2009

The A.J. Goddard, a bad "review," and John Morris



  1. Link. Historic Klondike barge found: Soapy fan "S" led me to an interesting story in the Globe and mail | National that states the A.J. Goddard, made famous by poet Robert Service, the first steamer ever to reach Dawson City, the hub of the famous gold rush, has been found in near perfect condition 108 years after it sank on Oct. 22, 1901.
  2. Link. Cathy Spude gives a bad review: On the True West forum Cathy Spude gives a bad review on Alias Soapy Smith after admitting to having only read 1/3 of the book. However some hints of the Sinclair papers, me not knowing they existed, was rather revealing. I am looking into ordering copies.
  3. Link. John H. "Fatty" Gray Morris photograph found. On the Soapy Smith Discussion Forum Tombstone historian Peter Brand has disclosed finding a photograph of Soap Gang member John Morris while researching another person.
  4. Link. Another post on the Soapy Smith Discussion Forum from Loni Bauer relates how great-grandfather, John Bauer wanted to join in the fight against Soapy up in Skagway but John's wife "literally sat" on him to keep him from going.









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November 19, 2009

Good Review #11



I have received a copy of your book. It is a treasured resource! Thank you very much for writing it.
—Vada Larson











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November 18, 2009

A Soapy Smith in Tombstone poll

John Randolph Smith, Jeff Smith, and Bobby Sheldon, 1973
Bobby Sheldon claimed to have witnessed the
Gunfight on Juneau Wharf (July 8, 1898)


Cathy Spude, soon to be author of another book on Soapy Smith, has published a post on the Tombstone History Discussion Forum, which reads,

Cathy Spude
Jeff R. Smith in Tombstone

So this proves that "Soapy" Smith was in Tombstone for the infamous gunfight? Do you know how many Jeff Smith's there were in the country in 1882? The 1880 census lists 184 Jeff Smiths, with 25 of them being born in Georgia. None of them lived in Colorado at the time.

Come on, Jeff. Give us a break...rest on your laurels and don't push it.

Believe it or not there are actually people who do not want to learn new information, perhaps in fear that it will change their previous beliefs. In Cathy Spude's case it is clearly a personal issue as her book's agenda is to downplay Soapy's roll in history in hopes of raising interest in J. M. Tanner who became .Skagway's deputy U.S. marshal after Soapy was shot dead. To add the heated history of Tombstone into Soapy's already exciting life will not help her downplay cause that Soapy was nothing but a tin-horn con man, to say the least.

As I have several detractors on that Tombstone forum, right along with some new found friends and some hard-earned respect, I am giving the members of that forum the opportunity to cast their thoughts as to whether they want to hear about my Soapy/Tombstone information. Lord knows that if none are interested then I certainly don't want to waste my valuable time giving them something they don't want, lol.

Below is a poll for those who enjoy the Tombstone History Discussion Forum. It is here as it won't appear over at the other forum.

Do you want to keep abreast on Soapy in Tombstone?
YES! Any new Tombstone information is welcome.
Yes, but only if it makes Wyatt Earp look good.
Yes, but only if it comes from anyone other than Jeff Smith
No
No, I already know everything I want to know about Tombstone.
No, I already know everything there is to know about Tombstone.
No, there is no new information to be had about Tombstone.
pollcode.com free polls








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November 17, 2009

Sarah Palin and Soapy Smith, part II

(Click image to enlarge)
"Rounding up Soapy Smith gang at city hall, Skagway '98"


I found the paragraph on page 13 of Sarah Palin's new book, Going Rogue.


After his adventures in Tombstone, the legendary lawman Wyatt Earp came north and spent a few years in Nome during the gold rush. On the other side of the law was "Soapy" Smith, a Wild West crime boss whose tight-knit gang moved from Colorado to Skagway. They made a mint cheating gold miners out of their cash. It finally caught up with Soapy Smith: he was killed in a shoot-out with a vigilante gang.





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Sarah Palin mentions Soapy Smith

(Click image to enlarge)
Clark Gable as Soapy in the 1941 MGM film
HONKY TONK

Sarah Palin mentions Soapy Smith on page 13 of her new book, Going Rogue. I wonder what she has to say about him? ...well besides being a pillar of honest society up in Alaska.










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November 16, 2009

More from Averyl Veliz

(Click image to enlarge)
Soapy sells gold soap
art by Averyl Veliz
(copyrighted and protected)

Our good friend, Averyl Veliz is continuing her Klondike Story project that includes Soapy Smith as the main human villian. On her blog she writes,

"Soapy" Jefferson Smith got his nick-name from his soap scam-a name the public called him, but probably never used to his face. He would gather a large audience and pretend to wrap bills around some of the bars. Then he would auction off the bars, claiming that there could be anywhere from $1-$100 in the a bars. He would have members of his gang mixed into the audience and they would "win" big. The audience would get very excited and the bidding would go higher.


Gold was also an excepted currency back then because many of the miners would come straight from the creeks to the saloons and that's all they had. For my story, gold is the only accepted currency to put more value and greed to it. This is Swiftwater's (Beaver) first human experience and he realizes that their greed for gold can work in his favor.








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November 13, 2009

Was Soapy Smith in Tombstone for the Gunfight behind the OK Corral



In recent weeks I have received some potential information that leads one to believe my great grandfather, Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith was in Tombstone, Arizona on October 25-26, 1881, the latter day being the date of the infamous gunfight behind the OK Corral between the Earp and cow-boy factions.

Why is this possibly so important? Because it can, and has, opened an interesting can of worms for Tombstone historians, setting up the simple "good vs. bad" into more of a Dodge City (gambler's) War.


(Click image to enlarge)
Soapy looks out a window at the conclusion of the Gunfight behind the OK Corral
Photo by James G. Howes (addition of Soapy by Jeff Smith)

The problem is I obtained my information from a Kenny Vail, who absolutely refuses to disclose his provenance, however, if Vail is being truthful about seeing "Jefferson Randolph Smith's" signature in two Tombstone hotel registers on one or both of those dates listed above then it could very well open a new chapter in the political/gambling battles going on within the city, including the addition of a new theory that involves a possible fight for control of Tombstone's criminal underworld and perhaps even one of the reasons why the gunfight took place! My father once told me, "good ideas are often created from bad ideas," so with that in mind please ponder these few thoughts:

Wyatt Earp testified that "Big Ed" Burns (spelled Byrnes in Tombstone) was one of the men who warned him that the "Cow-boys" were handing out threats against the Earp's. Burns was later known as a key member of the Soapy Smith gang in Denver, Colorado and Skagway, Alaska between 1887-1898. If Soapy had arrived the day before the gunfight could it possibly be that parties of the old Tombstone "gambler's war" which had supposedly ended, enlisted the aid of the bunco men in their cause? This would not be the first time by any means that the bunco gangs were utilized in exchange for the right to operate their games, a contract, being a good defining term. Could Soapy Smith have been called upon by Burns, Bat Masterson, or other friends of the Earp's and the Soap Gang? One big question to ask is for which side were the bunco men to aid? Could the fight have been a trap to assassinate one side or the other? All indications point to the bunco men siding with the Earp's


One step at a time.


More research is needed to find out if Kenny Vail's information is on the level. He has a vow of silence in releasing any provenance. Soapy supposedly signed two hotel registers on the dates indicated so that would be the first logical place to check.

The above information was posted on several Tombstone related forums with a lot of fan-fare that led to some new information (for me) regarding "Big Ed" Burns in Tombstone but little in the way of whether Soapy was there. I promise to report on any new information as it comes in.





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November 12, 2009

Washington, Iowa revisited



Back on October 2, 2009 I published a story about an 1883 city license Soapy purchased to operate his prize package soap racket in Washington, Iowa. Signing the license was the city mayor, D. C. Kyle. On November 8, 2009 Carolyn Ellerston, the great granddaughter, contacted me. Below is her response.

From: The Ellertsons
Subject: Mayor D.C. Kyle, Washington, Iowa
To: soapysmi@soapysmith.net
Date: Sunday, November 8, 2009, 7:18 PM

Dear Jeff,
Just FYI, the document would pretty much have to be legitimately associated with the location of Washington, Iowa. D. C. Kyle was my great grandfather (my maternal grandmother's father). He not only was the Mayor of Washington at more than one point, but his obituary states that as the Justice of the Peace, he united over two hundred couples. He was also a surveyor for the city or county as well as other places (obit says surveyed in 14 states or whatever). I can tell you that he was Scots/Irish, and proud of it, for he continued to go to his office until in his eighties, and died after a short illness when he caught a cold (probably turned into pneumonia). My mother used to tell that he was very proud of his heritage, and would quite often wear his kilt (Cameron Clan). There sits in my living room, at this very moment, an oval, marble topped table, which came from his home at 302 West Second Street in Washington. After the death of his daughter Jeannette (never married, and lived in the family home until her death in 1954), the family home was sold, and the heirlooms divided. His son, Joseph A. Kyle, and daughter Frances Kyle (my grandmother) were the only two children surviving. My feeling is that the document is legitimate. There are some very nice and helpful people at the Washington County Genealogical Society there, who would most likely be happy to confirm or try to clarify any questions you may have. Sounds like a colorful relative you have there. Would like to read the book.

Best Regards,
Carolyn Ellertson
Kalama, Washington





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Book review #9

(Click image to enlarge)
Jefferson R. Smith and a beautiful fan




I just couldn't put your book down so I managed to finish it before I thought I would.

Your book fits me very well as I am the type of person that wants the unadulterated truth and I want it backed with documentation. The fact that you included the actual letters was icing on the cake.

Everyone once in awhile a writer comes along that pours his heart and soul into a book and pays the price by actually doing the leg work necessary to create something truly exceptional. You, my friend, have done just that and are to be commended for your efforts.

For the many people who have not heard of soapy Smith, they no doubt cut their teeth on Hollywood's version of the Old West. It's time they sink their teeth into the true Old West and this book is a great place to start.
Bob Wood
Spring, TX.








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History Channel: Cowboys and Outlaws



T
here is a new program on the History Channel called Cowboys and Outlaws. I think most would agree that a program based on Soapy Smith would fit perfectly. Problem is the History Channel accepts no suggestions and there is no way I know of to get a hold of those in charge of this one program. I am hoping someone out there reading this right now has an "in."






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November 11, 2009

Book Review #8


"Having never heard of Soapy Smith before and I remembered reading some of your past postings on the Jesse James Delphi board about him, a good while ago, peaked my interest in learning more about this man. Your book on Soapy Smith makes one imagine they are there reliving Soapy's movements through his life. It is very detailed, well written and contains a comprehensive list of research footnotes.

If anyone wants to know more about the life and death of Soapy Smith, then this is the book to read and have in your research library."

—Gay Mathis






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Is this a photograph of Soapy Smith?

(Click image to enlarge)
Is this Soapy Smith?

According to an auction on eBay the above photograph may be that of Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith (see auction here). The description reads.

Real Photo Postcard - Signed at Bottom "Soapy Smith" - Found a Soapy Smith that was western Con man - Outlaw who was killed in Alaska in 1898 - This could be a photo of him, but could not be his signature - Unused - Made In Canada - AZO card 4 squares - Corners bumped - free shipping - payment due within 10 days end of auction. Thanks for looking.

I did write to the owner of the postcard stating that I can say without any doubt that the man in his photograph is not the famous "Soapy" Smith. Soapy dressed in business attire, did not smoke a pipe and only once was known signing his name as "Soapy." More than likely the photograph is an actor playing the part of Soapy in one of the numerous plays in Alaska and Canada that used his character. To his credit the eBayer published my statement into his auction.







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November 10, 2009

Modern lot jumping swindle close to home.

(Click image to enlarge)
A billboard erected to protect a purchased lot from "jumping." Creede, Colorado 1892


A modern example of an age old swindle: Lot jumping


In October 2009 the mother of a friend (Travis) of my daughters was stung for $500. "Travis' mother" answered an ad for the rental of a home. The bunco man allowed her to move into the house a little early after putting down a $500 cash deposit. My daughter's finace' helped move the family into their new happy abode. A week or so later my daughter received a frantic phone call for help in moving the family back out of the house. The real owners came home from vacation and did not appreciate finding that their home was occupied. Fortunately "Tracis' mother" had the fake lease in hand and was not arrested, but did need to vacate the house immediately.

My book has some great information regarding lot jumping in Creede, Colorado and in Skagway, Alaska.

  • Page 222: Lot jumpers and real estate protection agreements made by Soapy, including the text from an original lot protection racket of Soapy's.
  • Page 438: Information on Skagway's battle between the bunco men and the real estate grifters.
  • Page 440-441: Selling single lots to numerous owners, all thinking they were the only owner.
  • Page 480: Soapy's Skaguay Real-Estate & Investment Company.




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November 9, 2009

Jeff Morey, Jefferson Smith and Dad

(Click image to enlarge)
Jefferson Randolph Smith & "Dad"

The above photograph was taken over the weekend at the Harvest Fair in San Bernardino, California. That's the great-great-grandson, Jefferson Randolph Smith on the left and "Dad" on the right. We were planning on being there maybe two hours, but that quickly flew by seven hours later.

Well known Tombstone, Arizona historian Jeff Morey purchased and received my book, of which he said.

Jeff,

You book arrived today and I am most impressed! It is wonderfully presented and a really significant contribution to the field. You have every right to feel proud my friend.

Many Thanks!
Jeff (Morey-that-is)







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November 7, 2009

Quick quotes...

(Click image to enlarge)
A shell & pea game in Alaska, circa 1897-1898

Of Soapy Smith—
He is genial and generous, enjoys a fight, pays his debts, gives his last dollar to whoever wants it and steals the first dollar the next man is rash enough to expose to view. ~ Henry James,
San Francisco Call, February 27, 1898.


Should have been "of Soapy Smith"—
He had the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces. ~ Mark Twain.





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November 6, 2009

Did Soapy Smith witness the Gunfight at the OK Corral?

(Click image to enlarge)
Did Soapy Smith witness the fight or possible even instigate it?
Photo by James G. Howes (addition of Soapy by Jeff Smith)


I am momentarily overwhelmed with some tasks, including the creation of a book "commercial" for YouTube, a history cruise to Alaska that will arrive in Skagway for the 112 anniversary of Soapy's death, and a very special write-up post regarding new information that states Soapy Smith arrived in Tombstone, Arizona on October 25, 1881 and signed two hotel registers the day prior to the infamous Gunfight at the OK Corral. Was it a coincidence that he was there or was he called in by friends? If so.... which side was he on?







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November 4, 2009

Book review #6



Robert K. DeArment, author of such great historical works as Knights of the Green Cloth: The Saga of the Frontier Gamblers, Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend, Deadly Dozen: Twelve Forgotten Gunfighters of the Old West, Alias Frank Canton, and more, is the gentleman who wrote one of my book back cover reviews. The delivery of his hard cover copy of the book was delayed due to shipping by media mail from Juneau which is taking longer than previously expected. To counter the delay I sent Mr. DeArment a signed soft cover of the book by Priority mail and will do the same when I recieve the hard bound. Upon receiving the book Mr. DeArment wrote me the following.

I have received the softcover copy of your book and am impressed by it. I thank you and look forward to receiving the signed hardbound copy. The wealth of pictures, which I had not seen in the manuscript copy I first read, add a great deal to the text. Your years of study and research have paid dividends. From this point on, any writer or researcher into the history of nineteenth century gamblers or con men must use your book as a primer.

Best wishes for your continued success,
Bob DeArment

Pinch me I must be dreaming...








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November 3, 2009

Book review #5


After my new book was published I was nervous as hell about how the public would evaluate it. You have no idea how relieving it is to receive and read every single one thus far. I am ecstatically proud.

Jeff Brady, personal friend and owner of the Skagway News, sent this in today.

Hi Jeff
Just cracked your book, can't put it down - skimmed to the ending of course to see how you diagnosed the shooting (very thorough) and now am into the intros and the Georgia years. I'm impressed much the way Art was with how detailed and backed up your research is, and how you contrast it with the many stories told over the years. Very impressive at first sitting and can't wait to finish it. Congratulations friend Soapy! —Jeff Brady

PS to Art - the check's in the mail!

I'm going to assume the latter comment is another order as he had sold out his copies before receiving them.










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