April 30, 2012

Soapy Smith colorized

colorized by Gary Sheaf
(photo: courtesy of Kyle Rosene)

nother superb example of Gary Sheaf's coloring talent. The Denver carte de visite, circa 1889-1893, that graces the cover of my book. Something my father said to me many years ago; "If you look like a crook, you can't be one." Look at those eyes and tell me this is a photograph of the old west's most infamous confidence man...

Thank you Gary Sheaf!

Gary Sheaf
April 27, 2012
April 22, 2012 

1789: George Washington takes office as first elected U.S. president. 
1803: The U.S. purchases the Louisiana Territory from France for $15 million. 
1812: Louisiana admitted as the 18th U.S. state. 
1860: Navajo Indians attack Fort Defiance, New Mexico Territory, killing one and wounding two. 
1861: President Lincoln orders Union troops to leave Indian Territory. 
1864: Work begins on the Dams along the Red River. The work will allow Union General Nathaniel Banks' troops to sail over the rapids above Alexandria, Louisiana. 
1869: Union Pacific tracks reach Promitory Point, Utah. 
1871: Apache Indians are massacred at Camp Grant, Arizona Territory. 
1878: In Lincoln County, New Mexico Territory members of the "Seven Rivers Crowd" encounter Frank McNab, Ab Sanders, and Frank Coe, watering their horses in a stream. McNab and Sanders are shot immediately, while Coe attempts to escape but his horse is killed and he is captured. When the men returned to the stream they saw that McNab was still alive and they shot him again, killing him. Sanders eventually recovers from his wounds. 
1883: Luke Short, co-owner of the Long Branch Saloon, Dodge City, Kansas is angered when three female entertainers are arrested. Luke fires at L. C. Hartman who falls to the ground unhurt. Luke believing he has killed Hartman flees the scene. 
1884: Henry Newton Brown and two others attempt to rob a bank at Medicine Lodge, Kansas. The robbery is halted in a gun battle that costs the lives of numerous towns’ people. The robbers are captured and placed in the town jail. That night vigilantes stormed the jail and drug the men from their cells. Brown was killed while trying to escape. The other two were hung. At the time of the robbery Brown was Marshal of Caldwell, Kansas. 
1889: George Washington's inauguration becomes the first U.S. national holiday. 
1889: Outlaw George Tobler and Irvin Richmond were vying for the affection of the same female at a dance. Tobler, apparently distressed over his prospects, produced a pistol and shot Richmond dead. He was arrested immediately and sent to Fort Smith, Cache Bottom, Choctaw Nation (Arkansas) where he was hanged on January 30, 1890.

Thank you Howard! -Jeff Smith

April 28, 2012

Soapy Smith by artist Bill Cummings

Soapy Smith
Artwork by Bill Cummings

ame across the very nice work by artist Bill Cummings. It is entitled Soapy Smith and for sale at $500. I would love to have it but there is one minor problem with it.

Can you guess what it is?

1635: Virginia Governor John Harvey is accused of treason and removed from office. 
1788: Maryland becomes the seventh state to ratify the U.S. constitution. 
1818: U.S. President James Monroe proclaims naval disarmament on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. 1868: Negotiations to end the war with Red Cloud at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Red Cloud says he would talk peace with the departure of troops from the Powder River region. General Sherman arrives at the conference with orders to abandon the posts in the region, in return for cessation of Indian raids. 
1876: The gold camp of Deadwood, Dakota Territory is founded. 
1878: As a continuation of the Lincoln County War, New Mexico Territory, Marion Turner and John Jones organize the Seven Rivers gang to fight John Chisum. On a ride into Lincoln they shoot Frank McNab and Ab Sanders, and capture Frank Coe. 
1880: Cooney, New Mexico Territory is raided by Apache chief Victorio. Apache raids in the territory have claimed the lives of twelve settlers since April 20. 
1881: Robert Ollinger and James Bell are shot dead in New Mexico Territory by Billy the Kid during a successful jailbreak. 1896: The Addressograph was patented by J. S. Duncan.

April 27, 2012

Soapy and Mary: colorized by Gary Sheaf

Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson. R. Smith
Circa 1886
(photo: Gary Sheaf)

he above photograph has been believed in my family to be the wedding photograph of Jefferson Randolph Smith II and Mary Eva Noonan which took place on February 1, 1886. The wonderful colorization work was performed by my friend Gary Sheaf, a very talented artist and historian. With his artistic skills and imagination he has mastered this medium and is able to bring an astute perception of how these two love-birds looked on that special day. He did a superb job and I thank him very much. His endeavors are greatly appreciated. I consider myself very fortunate in catching him at the right time as his gift is very popular on the True West forum right now.

Gary Sheaf
April 22, 2012 

Samuel H. Blonger's grave found.

Samuel H. Blonger
1839 -1914
(photo: Scotti McCarthy)

 have always believed that if the Blonger brothers, the successors to Soapy Smith's throne in Denver, learned anything from Soapy, it was to keep a low profile. It is perhaps the number one reason why Soapy did not retire in Denver a very rich man. Still, he lasted a good 10-ten year run as an underworld leader.

The Blonger brothers, Lou and Sam, were able to stay out of violent trouble, thus out of the newspapers and held on to the reins of power in Denver for some 25-years. They were so successful that historians had little luck in finding a lot of information on them. To the point of not knowing what Sam Blonger looked like!

The lack of information on the Blonger's is changing, thanks to their descendants, Scott and Craig Johnson, who have worked diligently to uncover the history. The boys also happen to be our good neighbors over on the Blongerbros.com blog and Blongerbros.com website. I have had the pleasure numerous times of working with them on mysteries involving their interactions with Soapy previous to 1896.

Recently Scott uncovered Sam's grave site. He did so by going back to a place he had checked years prior; Find-A-Grave. It's a damn good policy and it's one I adhere to as well. Following is what Scott had to say on their blog after finding the grave site (see photo at top).

We’d been looking for Sam for nine years — he was the only Blonger whose final resting place had not been determined. But apparently we weren’t looking nearly hard enough. Turns out this photo has been on the Find-a-Grave web site for the last three years, thanks to researcher Scotti McCarthy. For some reason (that I needn’t bother to figure out at this point), I thought Sam was buried in Fairmount Cemetery in an unmarked grave. Instead, he’s in historic Riverside Cemetery, north of downtown. I will visit him this summer. In addition to answering the lingering mystery of Sam’s location, it also prompted me to set up a “virtual cemetery” of Blongers on the Find-a-Grave web site. Neat idea, and one that I hope to build out some more in the future.

Now if we could just find a picture, or even a drawing, of this guy.

The Blonger's
April 15, 2012
April 1, 2012
March 15, 2012
September 3, 2010
January 2, 2009

Blonger's: pp. 10, 63, 80-81, 90, 171, 176-77, 207, 257.
Lou Blonger: pp. 273, 324, 357-58, 370-71, 373-74, 384, 398-99, 588.
Sam Blonger: pp. 260, 269-70, 573.

1805: A force led by U.S. Marines captures the city of Derna, on the shores of Tripoli.
1813: Americans under Gen. Pike capture York (present day Toronto) the seat of government in Ontario. 1861: U.S. President Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus.
1861: West Virginia secedes from Virginia after Virginia secedes from the Union at the start of the American Civil War.
1863: The Army of the Potomac begins the march on Chancellorsville.
1865: The worst steamship disaster in U.S. history occurs when the Sultana, carrying approximately 2,300 passengers, the majority being freed Union POWs, explodes on the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tennessee. Neither the cause of the explosion nor the final count of the dead (estimated at between 1,450 and 2,000) is ever fully determined. The Sultana disaster remains the worst of its kind.
1870: J. L. Compton and Joseph Wilson, found guilty of robbery and murder in Helena, Montana Territory, are the last to be hanged on the “Hangman's Tree.”
1872: The James-Younger Gang robs the Deposit Bank in Columbia, Kentucky.
1880: Francis Clarke and M.G. Foster patent the electric hearing aid.
1887: The Southern Pacific's westbound No. 20 train is robbed of $5,000 in Arizona Territory. The messenger, Charles Smith, manages to stash another $5,000 in the potbellied stove of the Wells Fargo car.
1897: Deceased ex-President Grant's Tomb is dedicated.

April 25, 2012

More on Peter Francisco Smith

Peter Francisco Smith
August 19, 1840  -  March 9, 1913
(Photo: Coweta County Chronicles)

ack on April 18, 2012 I published a post about Peter Francisco Smith, the Civil War veteran. With the aid of my genealogist friend, Gay Mathis, I found some more information about him that family members might find useful.

Peter is a son of John Hardaway Smith (1809-1874) and Mary Martha Weaver (1820-?). In 1861 he was a member of the junior class at Emory College. In the spring of that year he joined the Confederate Army of the Seventh Georgia regiment. At the close of the war he entered the University of Virginia and studied law. He was one of the founders of the fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega. After the war the Emory College gave the class of 1862, of which Peter was a student, their degrees, by action of the school board.

Peter became a very successful attorney at law and died a wealthy man having invested in real estate in Atlanta where he moved to from Newnan, Georgia in 1890. His obituary said he was one of the most educated men in the state. He read the bible in English, Greek, Latin, and French. He was noted for his philanthropic work. During his life he taught 21 men and one woman to pass the law exams and become attorneys, including Frank Clark, the future Florida congressman. These were students who could not afford an education and he donated his time. The woman he taught was Mrs. C. L. Bovard. Georgia law prevented her from entering the practice so she remained in Peter’s office as a law clerk for many years.

Peter's obituary states that he ran for congress, in which he tied with his opponent. After several counts he dropped out of the race and later said he never regretted the decision as he would have not been able to help so many people as he did.

I am having some identity problems with his wives and children. When I was forced to switch to Family Tree Maker 2012 I lost a lot of information and notes so I no longer know my sources on the tree (Thanks Ancestry.com). With that said, my tree lists the following

Wife #1: Lizziemac Hill (no other information)
  • Daughter: Lizziemac Smith.
Wife #2: Nancy Ruth "Nannie" Hobbs (born 07/03/1855 - died 08/25/1938)
  • Lillian Smith (born 09/20/1882)
  • Marguerite Owen Smith (born 04/18/1912)
However, Peter's obituary names the daughters by the husbands names, and there are three. 
  • Daughter: Mrs. J. L. Williford
  • Daughter: Mrs. Lodlow Jordan
  • Daughter: Mrs. W. B. Snelling

Peter died March 9, 1913 of paralysis in Atlanta. He is interred in Palmetto, Georgia.

Gay Mathis - genealogical superhero.
Atlanta Constitution, March 10, 1013
Coweta County Chronicles, Jones and Reynolds, 1928. page 403-04.
Family Tree Maker

Peter Francisco Smith
April 18, 2012

1831: The New York and Harlem Railway is incorporated in New York City. 
1846: The Mexican-American War ignites as a result of disputes over claims to Texas boundaries. The outcome of the war fixed Texas' southern boundary at the Rio Grande River. 
1860: The first Japanese diplomats to visit a foreign power reach Washington, DC. They remain in the U.S. capital for several weeks while discussing expansion of trade with the United States. 
1862: Union Admiral Farragut occupies New Orleans, Louisiana. 
1864: After facing defeat in the Red River Campaign, Union General Nathaniel Bank returns to Alexandria, Louisiana. 
1889: Jim McCarthy robs the Collins and Sons Bank in Ventura, California. Jim leaves the bank with the money, only to discover that his horse, tied to a wagon wheel, has taken some steps and wedged its reins under the wheel. McCarthy is unable to free the reins as Sheriff John Snodgrass approached him. With a sign McCarthy writes, “I give up.” 
1890: Blackfoot Crossing Alberta - Indian leader Crowfoot dies on the Blackfoot reserve. He was the head Chief during signing of Treaty Seven. 
1898: The Wild Bunch: Butch Cassidy, Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan, William Ellsworth "Elza" Lay, George "Flat Nose" Curry, and Ben “The Tall Texan” Kilpatrick stopped and robbed the Union Pacific's Overland flyer. The gang blew up the express car with dynamite and made off with more than $30,000. 
1898: The U.S. declares war on Spain and then backdate it two days so that it appears that the U.S. declared war on Spain first.

April 23, 2012

The Feast: Soapy art by Jeff Smith

The Feast 
A fantasy piece by Jeff Smith

1789: U.S. President George Washington moved into Franklin House, New York. It was the first executive mansion. 
1856: Westport, Kansas -Free Stater J.N. Mace shoots pro-slavery sheriff Samuel Jones in the back. 
1861: Arkansas troops seized Fort Smith. 
1865: Kansas- a day of fasting and prayer for President Lincoln, assassinated on the 14th takes place on this date by order of the governor.
1872: Charlotte E. Ray became the first black woman lawyer.
1874: Kansas City- after being engaged for nine years, Jesse James & Miss Zee Mimms were married at the house of a friend. 
1875: Kansas- in northwestern Kansas Little Bull and his seventy-five Cheyennes, on their way back to home in the Black Hills, are nearly wiped out by buffalo hunters and a cavalry company out of Fort Wallace. 1885: Denver, Colorado- the town receives its greatest snowfall to date, 23 inches in 24 hours. Just to the west, Idaho Springs received 32 inches. 
1892: At the Republican convention Soapy is elected alternate delegate from the fourth division.
1896: The Vitascope system for projecting movies onto a screen was demonstrated in New York City. 

April 22, 2012

The Floor of Heaven film: Part 6

Obviously a misconception of the real thing
(Click image to enlarge)

oday in the Anchorage Daily News.

Hollywood heavyweight in Skagway

Screenwriter Scott Silver, whose work includes "The Fighter" and "8 Mile," will be the keynote speaker at the 2012 North Words Writers Symposium in Skagway. Silver's current projects include adapting Howard Blum's "Floor of Heaven" for Fox -- and he will be in the right place for researching that job. The Blum book is about famed cowboy detective Charlie Siringo and his interaction with George Carmack and Soapy Smith during the Klondike Gold Rush.

The Floor of Heaven: The film
March 26, 2011: Part 5
March 9, 2011: Part 4
March 8, 2011: Part 3
February 4, 2011: Part 2
October 3, 2009: Part 1


Sylvester Scovel: Friend of Soapy Smith, Part 1.

Sylvester Henry "Harry" Scovel

he name of Sylvester Scovel is listed prominently in my book on 3 pages. Soapy Smith utilized Scovel's wife Frances to send money from Skagway to his own wife Mary in August 1897. Artifact #59 (not posted yet) is that original letter in my collection. It is the first physical evidence of Soapy in Skagway. It was Scovel that probably introduced William Saportas to Soapy and the gang. For the book I did research on Scovel to round out his importance to history, and since publishing the book his name has not come up.   

I regained my interest in Scovel when our good neighbor, The Skagway Historical Society blog published a post about him. Being I had not written anything on him in some time I thought I'd touch on the subject. Below is the full content of the post from the SHS blog.

Of the many schemes to get rich, Sylvester Scovel's was unique. Scovel was a reporter for the New York World, but he also brought two tons of blasting powder to Skagway in Sept 1897 for White Pass Trail construction. He arrived in Skagway with his wife, Frances Cabanne and went over the Chilkoot Pass with his provisions. When he and Frances reached Lake Bennett, they had intended to float up to Dawson, but when he heard that only three mail deliveries would make it to Dawson that winter, Scovel came up with an idea. Why not organize a regular dog team mail delivery service from Skagway to Dawson and thus deliver the "New York World" to miners who would happily pay for news? He told Frances that they would certainly get rich.

Skeptics pointed out that the 600 miles of snow covered trails, frozen lakes and sub-zero conditions would take 25-30 days. Still, Scovel told his wife that it would be like an extended honeymoon withe nothing to do but "hunt, fish, prospect for gold and write correspondence..."

He left Frances in a tent at Lake Bennett while he took a boat down to Seattle to wire his employers for support in this venture. The World took three days to respond and then turned him down flatly and ordered him back to New York immediately. He wrote to Frances to return to Skagway and take the first boat down to Seattle as he was returning to New York. He also wrote to William Saportas, an acquaintance and fellow reporter in Skagway (also friend of Soapy) to please go find the "madame" in Lake Bennett and take her down south. Meanwhile poor Frances had not heard from her husband yet and so related in a letter to her mother that Bennett was "awful, awful without him and in this hole - it is death."

Sylvester's relatives were amazed and told him he should not have left Frances. His Aunt Belle even boxed his ears. To make matters worse, the World was not happy and accused him of "gross extravagance" having wasted too much money. Oddly, the only reason he was not fired was because Hearst was courting him to come work for the New York Journal. Scovel went on to be the World's man in Havana, but died there in 1905 following an operation to his liver. In the end the only one who came out ahead was William Saportas. He married Frances in 1917 and they presumably lived happily ever after.

Seen above are Scovel and his wife Frances in Skagway promoting his newspaper!

The Year that defined American Journalism: 1897 and the clash of paradigms by W. Joseph Campbell; Edmond Hazard Wells, Magnificence and Misery, page 32.

Marlene McCluskey, the author of the blog article above ignited my interest. I had forgotten many of the stories of Scovel's time in Skagway and the Klondike. And so once again I went searching online for what else I could find on this interesting character journalist. Immediately I noted that there was more about him online than the last time I looked, some 4 years previous. The most thorough information comes from a Dissertation paper by Darien Elizabeth Andreu. Below are some of the more interesting aspects of Scovel's life leading up to and including his trip to Alaska. 

“Harry” was born Sylvester Henry Scovel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 29, 1869. Scovel was the third of five children of Caroline Woodruff and Dr. Sylvester Fithian Scovel, a Presbyterian minister who served as President of the University of Wooster (now College of Wooster), in Wooster, Ohio, from 1883 to 1899...

His imagination and sympathies stirred by the revolution taking place in Cuba, he headed [1896] to New York, where he made arrangements to work as a foreign correspondent for the Herald, a paper well-regarded for its reporting of international news. An editor promised Scovel $24 per dispatch for the information he could smuggle out about the Spanish-Cuban conflict. At the time, Scovel was 26 and told friends he was going to Cuba “to see the fighting.” Scovel landed in Cienfuegos on the southern coast. After some initial difficulties in eluding Spanish authorities as he tried to slip out of town, he headed to the back-country in search of the army of General Maximo Gomez, the Cuban insurgent chief in the eastern provinces. Scovel arrived in November, “traveling with the commander’s personal staff,” as the insurgents began their invasion of the western provinces. He sent his dispatches to New York through sympathetic Junta agents who smuggled them by boat to the U.S. But after three months, he had no idea if any of his work had made its way to the Herald. In an effort to locate American newspapers, early January of 1896, while traveling with the rebel band of General Antonio Maceo, Scovel attempted to slip into Havana to check on his dispatches. In trying to pass through a sentry post as a 20-year-old Spanish speaking journalist, his bluff was called, and he was imprisoned in Havana’s dreaded Morro Castle. Several days away from execution, he was visited by Dr. William Shaw Bowen, a correspondent for The New York World, who made a strong case to the Spanish authorities that they should not execute this college presidents son.

Scovel was released and directed to leave the country. But the young man had impressed the veteran political writer with his sincerity “to make a reputation as a war correspondent” that he was employed by The World.

Despite a limited facility with Spanish, Scovel had acquired the confidence of General Gomez and rode again with his men through the year of 1896, sending back dispatches “from mountain and swamp, by whatever means he could command.” As later reported by The World, he “was of great service to them in drilling their green troops.” He traveled on horseback with a typewriter and refused to carry a weapon of any kind, for to do so, he believed, would compromise his noncombatant status.

As quickly as Scovel became an ally valued by the Cubans, he was reviled by the Spanish for his reporting. Senor Sylvester was “the best known and most bitterly hated American in Cuba.”

The World’s representative wrote numerous articles about the Spanish atrocities and had the information witnessed with signatures. He reported on Spanish and Cuban troop movements, their strengths and weaknesses, the devastating effects of the Spanish reconcentrado policy (relocating rural Cubans to the cities to prevent their aiding the insurgents)—and even on the Cuban insurgents’ unfortunate but unavoidable contributions to the natives’ poverty as they wrecked trains and burned the back-country food supplies and crops that the Spanish might appropriate. The World years later declared that Scovel “alert and fearless, with a marvelous capacity for work under unfavorable conditions found in The World a mouth piece for his messages, that the true situation in Cuba became known.

On February 23, 1896, Scovel published an exclusive interview with Gomez that enraged General Valeriano Weyler, Spanish governor of Cuba, who responded by posting a reward of $5,000 and then $10,000 for The World correspondent’s capture. Nursing a six-month-old gunshot wound that he incurred while witnessing an exchange of fire between the insurgents and the Spanish, Scovel left the country in disguise in August. On January 2, 1897, Scovel slipped back into Havana, risking arrest “at times when the execution of a little band of captured revolutionists by a firing squad was one of the regular early morning spectacles.” He met with American Consul-General Fitzhugh Lee, who wanted Scovel to locate Gomez and obtain the general’s response to an American proposal for home rule in Cuba. Scovel accomplished his mission expeditiously. On January 4, he wrote, “I have been fortunate enough to get into Havana, get out of it again, and to find an insurgent force, all within twelve hours.”  The Spanish authorities seethed.

Scovel continued to elude capture until February 2, 1897, when he was arrested for a second time by Spanish officials, who claimed that the journalist had forfeited his American citizenship by assisting the insurgents. A great outcry ensued. Newspapers in 87 U.S. cities ran editorials calling for Scovel’s release. Congress, 14 state legislatures, as well as the Oklahoma territory and the city council of Columbus, Ohio, adopted resolutions calling for immediate governmental intervention. Journalist Richard Harding Davis and illustrator Frederic Remington published letters in The World protesting Scovel’s unjust imprisonment. Davis argued Scovel’s status as a non-combatant and concluded by threatening that if Scovel were to perish in Spanish hands, “HIS DEATH WILL FREE CUBA.” Three days later, Remington called for greater State Department involvement and observed that “it must make [Scovel] sour on his country when he is abandoned this way.” On March 9, he was released and traveled back to New York, now one of the most famous correspondents in the nation.

On April 5, 1897, Scovel married Frances Cabanne and four months later he was sent to Alaska. to cover the Klondike gold rush.

Soapy was a man of current events. He read at least one newspaper everyday so there is little doubt he knew who Sylvester Scovel was. I can imagine that Scovel received a hero's welcome at Jeff Smith's Parlor. I'm sure the two men talked political and military tactics for days. Scovel said of Soapy,

Smith may be a grafter, but he is one of the most generous, kind-hearted men I ever met in my life. He is always ready to help those in distress and he loves his family. To know Smith is to like him.

The "party" in Skagway did not last long.  Scovel stayed in Alaska for about 4 months long. In that time he made friends with William Saportas, whose association helped Saportas land a job at the Daily Alaskan, which developed into a friendship with Soapy if not already friends by this time.  

In Juneau Scovel no doubt felt his fame entitled him the freedom of covering his drafts he made out while there. The story was published in the  Spokane Daily Chronicle on November 16, 1897 but by then  Scovel was back in Cuba, about to become more famous then he already was.

To be continued... 

  • Andreu, Darien Elizabeth, "Sylvester H. Scovel, Journalist, and The Spanish-American War" (2003). Electronic Theses, Treatises and Dissertations. Paper 8.
  • Wikipedia: Sylvester H. Scovel
  • The Missouri History Museum

Future research project: The Missouri History Museum obtained Sylvester Scovel's material and correspondence from his life, including his Klondike expedition. In that collection are photographs of Scovel and his friend William Saportas.

Sylvester H. Scovel: pages 436, 473-74.


Soapy Smith autopsy photo: Colorized

Soapy Smith's autopsy: Colorized
Note the cigar in the doctor's mouth, the bloody hands
Coloring by Gary Sheaf
original photo by Rev. John Sinclair
(Click image to enlarge)

ary Sheaf, a friend of mine, likes to play around with old photographs. If I recall right, originally he started out by putting his own image inside historical photographs such as the below below

Here Gary used the original Billy the Kid photo in which there can be seen the fingers of a hand holding the light reflector. Gary added extra space to the photo and placed himself as the owner of that hand.

Recently Gary took up the hobby of colorizing old black and white photos. He posted a few on the True West forum and I was quite impressed with his work. I have always wanted to see the bloody autopsy photo of Soapy colorized so I ask him if he'd be interested. The answer sits proudly on view at the top of this post. 

Below are some more examples of Gary's work.


Excellent work Gary. Thank you!

1792: U.S. President George Washington proclaimed American neutrality in the war in Europe. 
1861: Robert E. Lee was named commander of Virginia forces. 
1876: The first official National League (NL) baseball game took place. Boston beat Philadelphia 6-5. 
1889: At exactly 12 noon, the Oklahoma land rush officially started as thousands of Americans raced for new, unclaimed land. 
1898: The first shot of the Spanish-American war is fired as the USS Nashville captures a Spanish merchant ship.