|October 25, 2011|
In January 1897, six months before Skaguay was founded, Soapy was traveling around the northwest searching for a new home of empire. He had often visited Spokane, Washington where just across the Canadian border lay the Slocan silver mining district. Numerous alloys were being mined there but silver, discovered in the early 1890s, was king. It is doubtful Soapy considered becoming a Canadian citizen but that would not stop him from attempting to "mine" the residents. There is no current evidence he ever stepped foot in Canada but on January 24, 1897 he somehow obtained a mining claim.
The following comes from Alias Soapy Smith, p. 424-25.
For $1.00 Jeff bought from one Martin Murphy his 1/8 interest in a gold mine located about 150 miles north of Spokane. The bill of sale, appearing to be Martin Murphy’s hand, evidences having been written under duress or in something akin to distraction, hurriedness, or inebriation. Words are repeated. The word heirs is misspelled and rewritten, again incorrectly. Punctuation and capital letters appear (or do not appear) in odd places, and the description is not clear, requiring a closing reference to where the claim is recorded. Dictation of the contents could account for confusion and so many anomalies. The document is on stationary from the Grand Hotel, apparently Jeff’s principal residence in Spokane, and is presented as written. Martin began by filling in the date line this way:
Spokane, Wash., Jnury 24th 1897
To all Persons Concerned.
This agreement entered into between Martin Murphy party of the first part and Jeff R Smith party of the second part, For and in consideration of the sum of $1.00 One Dollar, I Martin Murphy do sell transfer assign and sell to Jeff R Smith his heirs heiress assigns and administrators forever. My One eighth interest also the One eighth interest of Phil ORourke’s in the Bunker and Sullivan Claims in the Slocan District more fully described in Dowion and B.B. Records Recorded in the town of Kaslo.
Principal Martin Murphy
Witness Jas. E Walker
Was this a legitimate purchase, extortion, settlement of a gambling debt, or the remnant of a swindle? One dollar in 1897 is worth about $31.24 today, but it still seems a small amount for the sale of an interest in a gold mine and suggests other considerations.
Below is a modern map of the Slocan district. The location of Soapy's claims is currently unknown. The town of Kaslo is east of this map as shown by the circled yellow arrow.