December 30, 2010

Soapy Smith Leases lots in Creede, Colorado 1892: Artifact #23.

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The following artifact from my personal collection is a lease document for lots in Creede, Colorado in 1892 at the very beginning of the silver rush there. It is very similar to artifact #22, also from my personal collection, posted on September 16, 2010.

Jeff and his men arrived in Creede sometime after October 4, 1891 and before February 2, 1892. On January 30, Jeff purchased a town lot from a W. J. Kurt for $100. Five days earlier, on January 25, 80 acres of state land in Creede, leased to a V. B. Wason as “school land,” was reported subleased illegally to squatters. Not known is where Jeff was when he purchased the lot, but 3 days later on February 2, 1892, Jeff was in Creede to file a non-payment action on a check for $750. J. M. Burkhart of Trinidad had written it to Jeff, perhaps had suffered buyer’s remorse, or, more likely, saw himself the victim of a swindle, and on February 5 had stopped payment of his check. Jeff’s document filing official protest of non-payment was written up and notarized by H. J. Alexander and given to the Miners Bank of Creede. Jeff had opened a checking account there. The outcome of the attempt to collect is unknown. The document shows Jeff still had an account at Denver’s First National Bank.

On Tuesday, February 9, 4 days later, Jeff acquired leases on lots 5 through 13 in block 24 on Cliff Street for a mere $22.50 a month (see lease above). On the same day he also acquired lots 14 and 15 of block 24 for only $5 a month (see September 16, 2010). Names on the leases include Soapy, John Kinneavy, Soap Gang members John Bowers and L. S. Palmer, the latter possibly being Joe Palmer. The leases covered three-quarters of the west side of Cliff Street between Wall and Second streets, some of the most prime real estate in Creede. Additionally, saloons and gaming halls to be operated by Jeff and his friends came to be located on the east side of Creede Avenue, the main street in the camp and one block west of Cliff Street. Jeff also leased a lot just above the one on which he was living “to be used for a dwelling house.” Presumably this location would be for a family home. Mary and son Jefferson did visit Creede but never resided there. Jeff’s lease of this dwelling one week before the commercial property indicates his confidence of success.

Jeff obtained enough lots in Creede’s business district for himself and some of his Denver friends. The problem was that some of these properties were on “school land.” The state contested these leases and canceled V. B. Wason’s lease, intending itself to auction lots from the land to the highest bidder. The 102 “squatters” who had leased “school land” from Wason and who had already made improvements were ordered to vacate without reimbursement. They chose to stay and fight if necessary. —Alias Soapy Smith.









Creede Lease: pages 201-203.





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