Our friends, Craig and Scott Johnson over at the Blonger Bros. website had a special visitor back in July. Oby Tolman, whose daughter-in-law is descended from Edwin Gaylord contacted the Johnson's. I obtained Mr. Tolman's email address and write him but never received a response, which is sad as Gaylord was connected to Soapy. I know at least one document has his name on it.
One of Jeff’s notebooks shows Ed Chase’s name with the amount of $125. Other names appear in the same column, such as that of Ed Gaylord with the amount of $150, but it is not clear whether the money was being paid out or taken in. —Alias Soapy Smith.
Craig Johnson posted the following on their site.
7/3/2010 Edwin Gaylord
Just had a most interesting exchange with Oby Tolman, whose daughter-in-law is descended from Edwin Gaylord.
Gaylord might be familiar to close readers of this site as the long-time partner, both in the gambling and bunco businesses, of Denver's gambling king, "Big Ed" Chase. According to Oby, Gaylord was a barkeep, then a cashier, then a proprietor of Chase's Palace Theatre. In 1889-1890, Edwin was manager of the Colorado Policy Association, a position also notably held by Chase. Lou was said to have numerous such shops at the time.
Chase and Gaylord were married to sisters, Frances Minerva Barbour and Adah S. "Addie" Barbour. Addie was an actress.
The relationship between Chase, Gaylord and the Blongers was a rocky one. It's safe to assume that as Tenderloin proprietors they had much in common — common goals, common friends and common enemies, with many opportunities to stand shoulder-to-shoulder — but in the end the Denver Underworld could only have one master. For this position, there were three competitors in the 1890s: Chase-Gaylord, the Soap gang, and the Blonger Bros.
Chase was the old man, a Denver pioneer and pillar of society, head of the City Hall gang, ruler of the gambling houses, saloons and precincts. Upstart Soapy Smith and his brother Bascomb came to prominence in the early '90s, sharing the stage with Chase through several political scandals on the strength of their gambling establishments, the work of their many short con minions, and their burgeoning political influence.
Coming from behind were Sam and Lou, who finally settled in Denver around 1889, but who immediately gave the others a run for their money, establishing a fairly long succession of saloons, gambling rooms and policy shops. Bunco men under the Blonger sway proliferated, and the brothers did what they could to elect friendly politicians. Finally, in 1895, the winds of change gained in strength.
In April of 1895 Soapy and Bascomb Smith made a commotion at 1644 Larimer Street after roughing up the chief of police down the street. Lou was reportedly behind the cigar counter with a double-barreled shotgun. Bascomb Smith was arrested for assaulting bartender Johnny Hughes, and ended up serving a year.
October 17, the Rocky Mountain News described the Chase and Blonger gangs, their influence over municipal officials, some of the current gang members, and their methods.
November 1, gambling is declared open again after the City Hall War and the Crackdown of 1894. On the 11th the RMN insinuates Lou's men may have been paying voters at the polls simply to help Lou win his bets on Webb for sheriff.
On November 15 Sam is arrested, along with May Bigelow of the notorious California Gang — female pickpockets and blackmailers. Lou is their ever-ready bail bondsman.
Sam stands accused of obtaining stolen goods. Smith's men Bowers and Jackson had fleeced S.W. Wolcott of a $600 check, which went to Bascomb, who took it to Sam, who directed him to a cooperative bank teller for cashing — and took twenty bucks for his trouble.
November 18, Bascomb Smith writes a letter to his brother, Soapy Smith, from the county jail, mentioning Sam's predicament and that the DA was pressuring him to testify against Sam.
December 9, Walter Farragher loses over $1000 to some Denver con men. The next day a number of Chase and Gaylord's men, including former Smith man Jackson, are arrested in connection with the incident, but they claim they are in custody to make the guilty party impossible to identify — because the Blonger gang was actually responsible, and the city detectives were assisting Lou. Farragher is in hiding.
The Chase-Gaylord gang is dead sore on the Blonger crowd, and the soreness is intensified now that they have been arrested for an offense from the proceeds of which they have made nothing.
December 12, Ed Chase flexes his muscle and Sam is arrested again, this time to pressure him into ratting out the perpetrators of the Farragher swindle.
Come the 14th, and W. H. Carson is in jail over the Farragher incident, at $3000 bail. Also arrested is Owen Snider. Carson's attorney, fellow Forest Queen owner and assistant district attorney Neil Dennison successfully argues to Justice Cowell that the charge was in fact a misdeanor, not a felony, with a maximum fine of $100 or thirty days. Lou is ready with bail, but a new felony warrant is issued and Carson re-arrested. Lou posts the $2500 bail.
On the 16th the RMN finds Farragher sequestered in a hotel room by Chief Goulding. He expresses fear of the gang, and states he'd be happy with half his money back.
December 21, Farragher has skipped town, and the case against Sam falls apart.
January 27, Sam goes to court over the Wolcott swindle. Despite Bascomb's testimony, solicited by the DA in return for his freedom and a job on the force, the charges are easily overcome. Bascomb accuses the DA of welching.
It would seem that the whole affair gives Sam and pause, and he seems to retreat into the world of horse racing after this. He is rarely heard from again until his death in 1914.
Early in 1896, unable to resolve the legal cloud left by his assault on Johnny Hughes, Soapy Smith leaves Colorado for good. The Blongers' influence — even at the expense of heavy-hitters Chase, Gaylord and Smith — seems to be on the rise. A few years later, with gambling now outlawed for good, Ed Chase transitions into real estate. He finally dies in California about the same time as Lou, in 1924.
With the new century, Lou, now out of the legal gambling business, turns increasingly to the development of the big store con for which his gang would become so famous. What's more his influence over Denver's city hall, police and courts seems nearly complete, and for the next twenty-five years he will grow very wealthy posing as a kindly landowner, without losing a single soul to the penitentiary.
This exchange with Oby has also led me to make a connection we had previously overlooked. Gaylord, as it happens, took a lease on the Blonger's Forest Queen mine, working it from 1915 until his death in 1923, as is evidenced by Lou's letters to partner O.W. Jackson and his widow.In fact, Gaylord was in charge when a wealthy new vein was discovered just two days after Lou's arrest.
Looks like it's time for the first new inductee to the Grafters Club in quite a while! It does raise the question anew, however; Should Chase, Soapy Smith, and Bascomb, be full members — or on the blacklist? Sometimes it's a fine line...
For the record, curiously, it also appears Edwin rode a gelding named The Abbot to glory, as reported in the NY Times. On September 25, 1900, one Edwin Gaylord of Denver rode the pacer to a new world's record in the mile at 2:03¼ at Terre Haute, Indiana.
7/5/2010 Vaso Chucovitch
More from Oby. He sent along the text of an article on Mayor Speer and Ed Chase, which says of Chase, in part:
One of Chase's gambling and saloon business associates, Vaso Chucovitch, had replaced him as underworld czar before the gambler cashed in his chips. A hefty, red-mustachioed Slav, Chucovitch had courted Speer and taken Chase's place as the broker between the bars and the boss.
Serb Chucovitch has been noted in these pages just once before, in 2006, in reference to a Denver Post article on Denver's Smaldone crime family:
The Smaldones weren't the city's first crime syndicate, not by a long shot. At the end of the 19th century, Vaso Chucovich and his partner, "Big Ed" Chase, ran gambling, saloons and the rackets in the city's lower precincts.
They were succeeded by Lou Blonger, one of the most colorful characters in the city's history. Blonger's game was bunco and stock swindles. His gang lurked near Union Station, picking off "marks" as they stepped off trains and steering them to phony stock-market offices downtown.
Vaso, who on his death in the Thirties left a hefty sum to pay for a memorial to Speer, deserves a closer look...
Edwin Gaylord: page 102.