June 23, 2020

THE SHOOTING OF HARRY "SHOTGUN" SMITH

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HE SHOOTING OF HARRY
"SHOTGUN" SMITH.
Denver's unsolved murder: Number #10

On June 23, 1893, Harry "Shotgun" Smith (no relation) went on a drinking binge and made the deadly mistake of visiting the Tivoli Club and provoking a fight with Bascomb Smith, the younger brother of bad man "Soapy" Smith. Bascomb walked away unscathed. Harry Smith was not so lucky.

On the afternoon of June 23, 1893 Harry Smith purchased a gun from the Solomon pawnshop for $10. About 8:30 that evening, he entered Goldsmith and Wacker’s saloon at 1718 Larimer, already drunk. He spotted Bascomb and Jimmy Blaine at a table in the rear, went up to Bascomb, and said, “I can whip you in any kind of fight.” He then pulled his gun, struck Bascomb on the head, and told him to “draw and shoot.” But Bascomb was not armed. Before Harry could shoot, the bartender and Blaine grabbed him and forcibly removed him to the street. Meanwhile, Bascomb went to his room, retrieved his “big 45-caliber,” and went to the Tivoli Club. A half hour later, Harry came in, asked Soapy the whereabouts of Bascomb, and was told that he was not there. Jeff proposed a drink but then noticed Harry had a pistol in his right trouser pocket. So rather than a drink, Jeff induced Harry to leave. He did, but twenty minutes later he returned to find Bascomb standing at the entrance. Harry was verbally abusive while Bascomb tried to reason with him. Frustrated, Harry yelled, “You —. I can meet you at your own game,” and again drew his revolver. But this time Bascomb was ready and had his gun out a moment in advance. Grasping one another, they wrestled into the entrance of the Tivoli. Bascomb fired a shot that entered Harry’s left wrist, forcing him to drop his revolver. Bascomb fired three more shots in rapid succession, two of which “lodged into the right breast just above Harry’s heart, piercing his lungs and exiting through the shoulder.” A bullet that missed hit Fritz Beck, a spectator, taking off a piece of his right ear. Harry fell on his back, his head striking hard on the flagging. Bascomb jumped over Harry and ran up Market Street and into a Chinese laundry. He was followed by Officer Barr, who upon reaching the laundry met Bascomb walking out to surrender, saying, “I shot the man to save my own life.”

Harry Smith and Bascomb went by patrol wagon to city hall, where the police surgeon dressed Harry’s wounds. Growing delirious, Harry started asking for Soapy, and at times he cried out, “If Bascomb was here now, I would fight him. Bring him in.” Soapy came, “spoke to him kindly and the dying man seemed relieved. At times imagining that he had killed Bascomb and then he would cry out, "I got him. I got him.” Harry was taken to St. Luke’s hospital where he died at 11:30 p.m.

According to witnesses, including the editor of The Mercury newspaper, Bascomb was working in the Tivoli Club on 17th and Market Streets, when a drunk Harry Smith walked in looking for trouble. According to to the editor, Bascomb did all he could to stay clear of Harry, but Harry wanted to fight. "When Bascomb could run no further he drew bead [aimed his gun] and that is why he is alive instead of dead." Bascomb was completely exonerated in court on grounds of self-defense but most of Denver's newspapers called it a murder that Bascomb escaped with.

Five years later, in 1898, the Denver Evening Post listed the Harry Smith shooting as "number #10 in Denver's unsolved murders."









Harry Smith: pages 89, 184, 273-76.
Bascomb Smith: pages 22, 41-42, 67, 75-76, 88-89, 92, 120-22, 139, 143, 162-63, 165, 167, 169, 176, 178, 182, 214, 247, 264, 273-75, 336, 340, 352, 355, 361, 363, 367, 370-77, 381-86, 391-99, 403-05, 408-09, 412, 420-23, 519, 554-55, 584, 588-89, 594. 





"It was quite warm in the compartment so 'Soapy' undid the buttons of his vest. I was interested to observe that instead of carrying his two guns on his hips, strapped around his waist, as we usually see them these days in the movies, 'Soapy' had a sort of harness around his shoulders. The holsters of his two large Colt revolvers hung under his arms and the butt of each revolver pointed forward, just concealed by the top of his vest. With this contrivance the bad man of the West never reached for his hip, in theatrical fashion, thus advertising to his adversary what was to be expected. Not at all! When 'Soapy' started in action all he had to do was to gently put his hand inside of the upper part of his vest and with one swing the other fellow was 'covered.'"
—Saunders Norvell, Forty Years of Hardware, 1924



JUNE 23


1683: William Penn signs a friendship treaty with the Lenni Lenape Indians in Pennsylvania.
1835: Cullen Montgomery Baker, notorious Texas and Arkansas desperado is born in Weakley County, Tennessee. It is alleged that he and his gang killed from fifty to several hundred people during the era following the Civil War.
1836: Congress approves the Deposit Act, which contains a provision for turning over surplus federal revenue to the states.
1860: The U.S. Secret Service is created to arrest counterfeiters.
1865: Confederate General and Cherokee Indian chief, Stand Watie, surrenders the last Confederate army at Fort Towson, Oklahoma Territory.
1868: Christopher Sholes receives the patent for the Typewriter.
1877: Jesse Evans, a member of the Murphy-Dolan gang during the Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory, is acquitted in the murder of Quirrono Fletcher.
1878: John Larn, a lawman-turned-outlaw is lynched in Fort Griffin, Texas by vigilantes. When the vigilantes take possession of Larn, they were not able to release him from his cell, so they shot there.
1880: The Windsor Hotel in Denver, Colorado opens. Leased to Colorado millionaire Horace Tabor, the Windsor is easily the most lavish hostelry in the west.
1883: Charles Earl “Black Bart” Bowles robs the Jackson-Ione stage four miles from Jackson, California. At the conclusion of the robbery he leaves behind an unusual calling card: a poem.
1884: Cherokee Indian outlaw Bluford “Blue Duck” Duck murders a farmer named Samuel Wyrick in the Flint District of the Cherokee Nation. Blue Duck emptied his revolver into Wyrick, reloaded, and then fired again at a boy who was working for Wyrick. Duck then rode over to a neighboring farm and shot at but missed the neighbor. Deputy Marshal Frank Cochran arrested Blue Duck for the murder.
1885: Denver City Council rescinds Soapy Smith’s peddler’s license to sell his prize soap packages.
1893: Bascomb Smith, brother of Soapy Smith, shoots and kills “Shotgun Harry” Smith (no relation) in the Tivoli Club, Denver, Colorado.
1898: The first battle of the Spanish-American War is fought at Las Guasimas. The Cavalry regiments are commanded by Major General Joseph Wheeler, the only Confederate general to be reinstated in the U.S. Army after the Civil War.




June 21, 2020

Soapy Smith meets Capt. of Detectives John Fitzgerald, Tacoma, Washington.

Game police officer
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he Captain advised Soapy that it would be in the best interest of his health if he were to vacate Tacoma no sooner than yesterday.







D. H. M. Meyers writes
     My Great-Grandfather, John Fitzgerald, was Captain of Detectives in Tacoma, WA. during the 1890's and early1900's. According to my grandmother, Catherine McGeough (nee Fitzgerald), who was a girl at the time, Soapy Smith made a stop in Tacoma while on his was to Skagway [Alaska]. At some point during his visit there he was confronted by Capt. Fitzgerald, who was known to one and all in Tacoma simply as "The Captain." The Captain advised Soapy that it would be in the best interest of his health if he were to vacate Tacoma no sooner than yesterday. Soapy, apparently being no one's fool, took The Captain's advice to heart and immediately left Tacoma for better climes (probably to Seattle where the steamships left for Alaska). In a nutshell, my great grandfather, according to my grandmother, ran Soapy Smith out of town. As stated, this is all anecdotal - stories my grandmother told me many, many years ago in the 1950's when I was just a dumb kid and didn't have sense enough to press for details. I wish I had! I had no idea, at the time, that Soapy Smith was, or would become, a historically significant character. I do recall that grandma McGeough did make mention of the "soap bar scam" and have always assumed that this was the reason for his confrontation with "The Captain." Who knows? Grandma also acknowledged the fact that Soapy had a "gang," but not while he was in Tacoma. As an aside; I have a solid gold, six point badge that was, according to the engraving on the backside, presented to "The Captain" by his fellow detectives on December 25th, 1901.
Mr. Meyers wrote to me,
     Jeff, I would assume, by your name and photo, that you are "related." I have no way of verifying any of the stories that my Grandmother told me. Unfortunately I was quite young when they were told to me and didn't have the sense, or curiosity, to press for details. Damn my youth! I have, however, done a bit of research into the history of my Great-Grandfather, Capt. John Fitzgerald. Apparently he was one tough little Irishman who didn't back down from anyone. He was quite well respected in Tacoma because he was, in his day, "relatively honest." My only other "Soapy" story comes again, from my Grandmother. She told me that sometime in the very early 1900's a man came to call, socially, on "The Captain." Grandma was somewhat taken aback by the man's appearance because, according to her, he looked like some one had "hit him in the face with an axe." After his departure she asked her father who the man was and he told her that he was once part of "Soapy Smith's gang." Wish that there was more that I could tell you but that is pretty much the extent of Grandmother's "Soapy Smith" tales.

Was it THE Soapy Smith that Captain John Fitzgerald warned to leave Tacoma?

     History records that Soapy operated in Spokane and Seattle, Washington, but it is not known if he went to Tacoma. As Tacoma was an important port, and just 34 miles from Seattle, it seems likely that he did, but perhaps never got caught or arrested. However, another "Soapy" Smith did get arrested in Tacoma.
     A Skagway, Alaska member of the Soap Gang, named Harry Green was aboard a steamer heading for Seattle with a number of fellow confidence crooks. They found out that a newspapers reporter was onboard too, so they concocted a joke on the newsman. Each member of the gang pretended to be someone else, and Harry Green made the mistake of choosing to be "Soapy Smith." When the real Soapy discovered the deception he did not find it very humorous. Soapy wrote and sent a threatening letter to the Green, of which Green replied on April 12, 1898, the day he checked into the Hotel Northern, signing the register “Jeff Smith."

Mr. Smith:
     Your letter of the 28th just received by chance. I happened to drop in to Seattle today.
     When I left Skaguay on the 21st Mar, I left on the boat Ning-Chaw, and there was no one on that boat but a lot of your friends, such fellows as Luther Woods, Johnnie Miller, Bill Toregdy, and Big Down, a lot of Arizona and Texas friends of yours and mine. This talk that was made to the reporter was made all through a josh, they named on the boat to the reporter. Luther Woods’ name was supposed to be Jerry Daily, my name was supposed to be Jeff Smith’s brother. Big Down [was] supposed to be Harry Green, Roberts’ partner. They asked for Harry Green on the boat running from Victoria to Seattle. They referred the reporter to Big Down that was supposed to be Harry Green, the man that come back from fish creek, with a lot of gold nuggets, a wealthy man. Now you can see the crowd on that boat was doing it more for a josh on the reporter than anything else. You have never known me to be a knocker on no body living. I don’t like to have the name of being a knocker. I am not making any apology to anybody if I would of done it. You know I don’t like a reporter or policeman any how. The reporter in Victoria had it that Soapy Smith’s gang got run out of Skaguay and we were supposed to be the gang…. In regards to making it pretty warm for me when I return [to Skaguay], I never intended to go back when I left…, and if I ever happen to get back, I’ll not hide from nobody. I have not done it yet, and I never will. There is as good a blood in me as there is in anybody there. You will find me at Seattle or Spokane any time. I am sorry I have to write this kind of a letter because I have a lot of friends amongst you fellows, such as Agerman Daily and all others that I know. I don’t want them to think for one moment that I was to fault for any josh like that. No more news.

Remain yours, Harry Green.

Harry Green used Jeff’s name again in Tacoma, on May 1, 1898, when the newspaper there mistakenly reported “Soapy” Smith arrested there.

TACOMA, May 2.— Eight tough gamblers from Seattle came over to the campground of the First regiment of Washington volunteers yesterday, and attempted to open up a nutshell and other flimflam games. The commanding officer was advised of their presence, and at once sent a detail to drive them off the premises. Two of the gamblers drew revolvers, but they were overpowered before they had time to use them and placed in the guard house … until civil officers could be summoned.
     The prisoners were taken to the county jail, where four of them gave bail in the sum of $500. The other four are still in jail. It is understood that “Soapy” Smith, of Skagway, was at the head of the gang.

The real Soapy in Skagway was furious. Not known is if he ever made it “warm” for Green for stealing his name and damaging it. With opportunity, doubtless he would have.
     So, did Captain John Fitzgerald warn Soapy Smith out of Tacoma, or did he warn Harry Green, believing it was Soapy Smith? Perhaps both, but with a span of time in between? 












Harry Green: pages 497-98.





"I do not know just how many men “Soapy” had killed, but I understood there were a good many notches on the butt of his revolver."
—Saunders Norvell, Forty Years of Hardware, 1924



JUNE 21


1788: The Constitution goes into effect when New Hampshire becomes the ninth state to ratify it.
1834: Cyrus McCormick patents a practical mechanical reaper for farming, which allows farmers to double their crop size.
1859: Andrew Lanergan receives the first rocket patent.
1867: Two soldiers are killed in a fight with Indians near Fort Wallace, Kansas.
1876: Aboard the steamship Far West Lieutenant Colonel George Custer meets with General Alfred Terry to discuss strategy against the Indians in Montana Territory.
1878: Charles Earl “Black Bart” Bowles robs the LaPorte-Oroville stage three miles from Forbestown, California. At the conclusion of the robbery he leaves behind an unusual calling card: a poem.
1887: Leavenworth, Kansas burns, causing $200,000 worth of damage.




June 19, 2020

Forty Years of Hardware, Saunders Norvell meets Soapy Smith


Soapy's shoulder holster
Jeff Smith collection
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ORTY YEARS OF HARDWARE
Saunders Norvell meets Soapy Smith






In 1924 Saunders Norvell published the book, Forty Years of Hardware, his adventures as a hardware salesman. The year is probably in the mid-1890s when he takes a train on a business trip to Leadville, Colorado. Saunders knew Soapy well enough that the two men recognized one another on the train, but Saunders did not know Soapy as intimately as he was about get to. In writing his book, Saunders could have easily made up a harrowing story of terror at meeting face-to-face with the "very dangerous ambler and gunman," but he doesn't. Instead, we read about two humans from two entirely different paths, that understand and trust one-another. Instead, we read about an encounter perhaps 30 years in the past, and 26 years after Soapy's demise. Twenty-six years, and Saunders still refers to Soapy Smith as "friend."
But let us return to Colorado, pick up our catalog case, catch the D. and R. G. narrow-gauged train and start out on one of our adventures in selling goods. One snowy night on the D. and R. G., bound for Leadville, there were only two passengers in the smoking room of the little Pullman. One was “Soapy” Smith and the other was a young hardware salesman. “Soapy” was a gambler and a gunman and had the reputation of being a very dangerous man. There were many stories about his accuracy and quickness with his gun. “Soapy” was one of that class of men living in the West at that time who always took a seat with their back to the wall and who never cared to sit in a room in a lonely place with the windows open and the lamps lighted. I do not know just how many men “Soapy” had killed, but I understood there were a good many notches on the butt of his revolver. I had met “Soapy” several times before in hardware stores and in gambling palaces, so our greeting was friendly.
     It was quite warm in the compartment so “Soapy” undid the buttons of his vest. I was interested to observe that instead of carrying his two guns on his hips, strapped around his waist, as we usually see them these days in the movies, “Soapy” had a sort of harness around his shoulders. The holsters of his two large Colt revolvers (this was long before the days of automatics) hung under his arms and the butt of each revolver pointed forward, just concealed by the top of his vest. With this contrivance the bad man of the West never reached for his hip, in theatrical fashion, thus advertising to his adversary what was to be expected. Not at all! When “Soapy” started in action all he had to do was to gently put his hand inside of the upper part of his vest and with one swing the other fellow was “covered.” As I sat in the smoker and observed this display of artillery, I thought that every man must attend carefully to the details of his trade.
     Now in my coat I had two large pockets, one on either side, and in each of these pockets I had a specially prepared leather case that held six of the old-fashioned type of razors. In those days a razor that cost about $7 per dozen sold for $12—a net profit of $5 per dozen. The extra fancy razors, full hollow ground, gold etched with pearl and ivory handles, sold all the way from $24 to $36 per dozen, and the profit on them was the Dutchman's 1 per cent (100 per cent). As my arrangement was based not on volume of sales but on profits, I was very partial to the sale of razors. I paid my traveling expenses by my razor sales alone. Therefore I had these two leather cases made and every dealer, before he started buying such staple items as machine bolts, had to listen to my tale on razors first!
     On this evening my friend “Soapy” seemed very depressed. He gave me a very interesting account of his life. He had never intended to be regarded as a bad man. He killed his first man in self defense. He just could not help it. It had to be done. He was terribly sorry and the next man also made it necessary for him to Snuff out his candle. “Then,” said “Soapy,” “I got the reputation of being a gunman, and of course after that whenever there was any little difficulty it was simply a question of the man who could draw the quickest and shoot the straightest. So here I am now, marked as a bad man when as a matter of fact I have a very gentle disposition and an affectionate nature. No one hates trouble more than I do. I would walk a block at any time to keep out of trouble. Sometimes when I see trouble starting I am sorry, but just because I am labeled and pigeon-holed as a bad man other men seem to think on me.” Of course, I expressed my understanding and sympathy. I told him that every man suffered more or less from undeserved reputations. All of us suffered that way, but all we could do was to try to live it down.
     Then, with tears in his eyes, “Soapy” said that he knew very well that he could not always be on his guard—that someday somebody would get him. He referred to the James boys of Missouri, also to the Younger brothers. “You see,” said “Soapy,” “somebody always gets them in the end. Now,” said he, “some day, notwithstanding my gentle and affectionate nature, you will pick up a newspaper and you will read of my being killed with my boots on, because you know a feller can't always get his finger on the trigger first. It's sure to come.” of course, I was awfully sorry for “Soapy” and tried to cheer him up.
     I asked him to let me see his guns, and I noticed that they were Colt 38-calibre with the heavy stock of the 45. He said he liked the heavy stock because it was steadier in the hand. Then I took out my razor cases and showed him my razors. He admired them very much and I was sorry I could not sell him a line. I made him a present of one.
     One day, a few years later, just as “Soapy” had predicted, I took up a newspaper and there was an account of his death in Alaska. He died just as he prophesied—with his boots on. The other fellow drew first. I remember all that day I was pensive and sorrowful on account of the premature and untimely end of my friend “Soapy.” In an Alaskan town on the board sidewalk there is a cross of brass nails marking the spot where “Soapy” fell.











Soapy's shoulder holster: May 6, 2014






"A hero is a hero but everybody loves a good villain."
—Ferb (Phineas and Ferb)



JUNE 19


1586: English colonists sail away from Roanoke Island, North Carolina, after failing to establish England's first permanent settlement in America.
1778: General George Washington's troops leave Valley Forge after a winter of training.
1846: The New York Knickerbocker Club plays the New York Club in the first organized baseball game at the Elysian Field, Hoboken, New Jersey.
1862: President Abraham Lincoln outlines his Emancipation Proclamation, which bans slavery in U.S. territories.
1864: The USS Kearsarge sinks the CSS Alabama off of Cherbourg, France during the Civil War.
1865: Galveston, Texas is retaken by Union forces during the Civil War.
1865: The emancipation of slaves is proclaimed in Texas.
1867: The Kansas Pacific Railroad reaches Fort Ellsworth, Kansas from Kansas City, Missouri.
1867: The Belmont Stakes is run for the first time in New York.
1876: Washakie and 200 Eastern Shoshone Indian warriors arrive too late to aid General Crook at Rosebud Creek, Montana Territory.
1876: Fire erupts in Virginia City, Nevada destroying twenty-five buildings.
1877: Horse thieves, A. J. Allen, Louis Curry, and James Hall are captured and jailed at Rapid City, Dakota Territory. A mob breaks into the jail and lynches the men.
1880: George Flatt, a former lawman is shot to death in Caldwell, Kansas. It is believed to have been the deed of Deputy Marshal J. Frank Hunt.
1898: Soapy Smith is reported to have been killed. The report turns out to be false.




June 16, 2020

The Confessions of a Con Man: As Told to Will Irwin, 1909

The unnamed con man runs a three-shell and pea game
From The Confessions of a Con Man: As Told to Will Irwin
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N ALLIANCE WITH SOAPY SMITH






In 1909 Will Irwin published a book, The Confessions of a Con Man: As Told to Will Irwin, based on the memoirs of an unnamed confidence man in the 1880s-90s. My interest in this book is that the unnamed bunco artist apparently met up, and worked with "Soapy" Smith in Skagway, Alaska (The book uses the original spelling of Skaguay).
     Because of the information given it is wondered if the bunco man had actually worked with Soapy. He does give information that very few would have known at the time, but also gives false information, which may have been intentionally misleading, designed to keep accomplices in the Soap Gang safe from further prosecution. However, it is the con man's description of Soapy that is not accurate, giving the impression that he did not know Soapy. Then again, throughout the book, it is evident that this man had an ego, wanting to appear to his audience that he was more intelligent and in control, than his peers and associates that he worked with. As he is anonymous in the book he had the capacity and room to tell the history his way, without fear of peer reprisal. His pride and self-admiration gave him the room to make himself out to be the boss, making Soapy out to be under his employment rather than the other way around.
     Following is the full text regarding Soapy Smith.
     You remember, probably, how the rush to the Klondike started. On Saturday, no one had ever heard of Dawson City. On Sunday morning the papers were full of it, and the overland trains were jammed with mushers hurrying to Alaska. At the time, Jeff Steers and I were working about Chicago, playing mainly for the truck-farmers. We hadn’t been doing very well, and we decided that a mining country with a strike was just about the place for us.
     Steers was a friend of Soapy Smith. He figured that you couldn’t keep Soapy away with a twenty-mule team. We got him on the wire. He answered: "Meet me in Seattle."
     At the time we were just about broke, but we hooked a German truck-farmer, beat him out of six hundred dollars, left two hundred of it behind with our families, and started. Soapy met us at the train. He had just money enough to get himself to Skaguay. The police of Seattle were pretty strict, and we couldn’t find anything to do. However, Steers and I proceeded to a lumber town near-by, caught a sucker, and, by playing the card game which we call "giving him the best of it," we raised three hundred dollars enough, with what we had, to take us into Skaguay.
     A lot of foolishness has been written about Soapy Smith. As a grafter, he was nothing more than a poor fool. He couldn’t manipulate, he couldn’t steer, he couldn’t do anything. But he had a lot of nerve and fight, and he was just conceited enough to pose as a bad man.
The latter paragraphs makes me question whether the unnamed confidence man ever knew Soapy Smith. He places Soapy pretty far down the ladder of importance, likely to make himself out to be the more important person in the telling of his story
     That made him valuable wherever the grafters needed a head and protector. When we reached Skaguay we found a job for Soapy at once.
I love that last sentence. The "king of the frontier con men" needed to obtain a job from a likely unknown.
The town was only a transportation point, a stopping place for the mushers who were going on into Dawson. They all had money; and most of them were reckless with it. There was hardly any city government, and the permanent citizens, who were living off the mushers themselves, didn’t particularly object to our game.
     I played three-card monte myself, picking up my steerers from two or three excellent ones who had come up independently. Even as early as that I was acting the innocent Texan; and though I hadn’t worked my spiel up to perfection yet, it was pretty entertaining. Well, I’ve had a gang of twenty or thirty Skaguay business men stand around and watch me work, just for the fun of the thing!
     Still, there was always a Purity Brigade which wanted to stop us.
     Soapy's job was to act as protector for the whole gang, bribing officials who would take money, and intimidating those who wouldn’t. For that he charged a sixth of our profits, after the nut was taken out. Many kicked at the price. A gang of shell-workers struck out on the train toward Dawson and worked independently. I’ve heard that they made twenty thousand dollars while the graft lasted. I started once to try Dawson on my own hook. I was half-way up the pass when some Northwest Mounted Police told me that a man couldn’t get out of Dawson all winter. No town for me where I couldn’t make a quick getaway! I doubled back to Skaguay.
     I found trouble in the air. The official who was most troublesome to us was the surveyor-general. He warned Soapy to quit, and Soapy warned him to look out for bullets. Business men who had been my friends began to cut me on the streets. Every day you heard rumors of a vigilance committee.
     I stopped one morning for breakfast at the restaurant of a Jap who stood in with us. As he laid down my ham and eggs he made a circle around his neck with his finger and pointed heaven ward.
     "The deuce you say," said I. "When?"
     "Yesterday," said the Jap.
     "How many?" said I. He counted on four fingers.
     "What for?" said I.
     He imitated the motion of a man manipulating the shells. And the grin of the simple-minded Oriental showed that he thought I was in bad.
The part referring to "a Jap," is one of the hints that indicates that the unnamed con man just may have been in Skagway. The "Jap" may refer to Thomas Rauschman, alias "Jap Tommy" who owned the Comique Concert Hall. Later, Elmer J. “Stroller” White wrote that Rauschman had nothing to do with Jeff’s activities, but rather, he did own the Comique Concert Hall, and the Committee wanted possession of it because of its stage and large seating capacity for their meetings. However, I found nothing indicating that "Jap Tommy" owned a restaurant, though the Concert Hall may have had one. attached.
     I went out on the street. The people looked at me crosswise. Every one had heard that the four shell-workers who worked on the Dawson trail had been lynched. As a matter of fact, they had only been run off the trail; but Skaguay didn’t know any different as long as I lingered.
     I hunted up Soapy, and told him that we were overdue in Seattle.
     "You ain’t got no nerve," said Soapy.
     "No," said I, "maybe not. But neither do I want to secrete a parcel of bullets in my inside from somebody’s shooting-pistol." I took passage on a steamer which left that afternoon.
     Two days later Soapy got his. The vigilantes were meeting on a wharf. Soapy walked straight up to them with his gun he surely had nerve, that fellow. The surveyor-general was the man he wanted. They drew simultaneously. The surveyor-general dropped, but he shot Soapy from the ground. Both died that day.
This telling of the standard version of the shootout on Juneau Wharf may have actually come from our unnamed con man, for if he had fled Skagway and never ran into any of Soapy's friends, then the standard story of the gunfight would be the only version he would know, having come from the local newspapers.
     It is possible this con man never knew Soapy but if he indeed spoke the truth and had actually traveled to Skagway with Soapy then I believe he was not on the best of terms with Soapy to begin with and certainly not a friend or regular member of the Soap Gang. The first time Soapy went to Skagway he went with two other men. They stayed for one month and brought home around $30,000. If this con man had actually gone to Skagway with Soapy then it was most likely not on Soapy's first trip. The man's comments about Soapy's abilities teeter towards the ludicrous. If he knew Soapy he did not like him. I believe he may have been one of the many independent bunco men who flooded Alaska in the hopes of finding easy money and work in general. He may have worked for Soapy or he may not have, there is no way to know for certain. He admits at one point ("... and though I hadn't worked my spiel up to perfection yet, it was pretty entertaining.") that he is new in the field and because of this I believe he was rejected by Soapy, who was already over-loaded with men wanting to work for him, and this is where the loathsome comments stem from. Further into the story the con man mentions that Soapy "charged a sixth of our profits" leaving me leaning more towards the idea that this man was an independent operator. Another comment that got me to thinking was when he said that a "gang of shell-workers struck out on the train toward Dawson and worked independently." This is odd as the first passenger carrying train left Skagway on July 21, 1898, which is after Soapy was killed and the train only went four miles outside of the city. According to the con man he had left two days before Soapy had been killed.
     Alaska people have talked like a dime novel about the Soapy Smith gang in Skaguay. Only lately, a paper said that our "coffee and doughnut men" used to rob and kill people, and drop their bodies into the bay. That is rank foolishness. Grafters don't work that way. Soapy wouldn’t have protected any man who did.
     The straight money from three-card monte and the shells came so easy that we would have been crazy to take such risks, even if we had been thugs and murderers. A man who knows anything about graft realizes the rattle-headedness of such talk. And I know better than anyone else, because I was on the inside. 
This last section made the pages of my book, Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel. It's generally true of the average bunco gangs, but there are plenty of sourced instances where the Soap Gang and others outright robbed their victims. It was the robbery of John Stewart's gold poke that directly led to Soapy's demise. 










Will Irwin, The Confessions of a Con Man: pages 531, 599.





"The earliest surviving account of a poker game, written in 1829, describes a rigged one."
—American Heritage.com



JUNE 15


1607: Colonists in North America complete James Fort in Jamestown.
1775: George Washington is appointed head of the Continental Army by the Second Continental Congress.
1836: Arkansas is admitted into the Union as the 25th state.
1844: Charles Goodyear is granted a patent for the process that strengthens rubber.
1846: Great Britain and the U.S. agree on joint occupation of the Oregon Territory.
1864: An order to establish a military burial ground becomes Arlington National Cemetery.
1867: Indians and the 3rd Infantry battle at Big Timbers, Kansas.
1877: Four civilians are killed by Nez Perce Indians at John Day's Creek, Idaho Territory.
1877: Henry O. Flipper becomes the first African American to graduate from the Military Academy at West Point.
1878: A military escort takes Jesse Evans from Lincoln to Mesilla, New Mexico Territory to stand trial for the murder of John Tunstall.
1881: The James-Younger gang robs the Chicago and Rock Island train of $1,000 in Winston, Missouri.
1883: The first eastbound Northern Pacific train arrives in Helena, Montana Territory.
1898: The House of Representatives approves annexation of Hawaii.
1898: The White Pass and Yukon Railway begins laying track rail in Skagway, Alaska.




June 11, 2020

FRANK REID STORIES




RECENTLY, SOMEONE WROTE ME WITH INFORMATION ON FRANK REID. THEY SENT ME AN EMAIL AND I ACCIDENTALLY LOST IT!

PLEASE CONTACT ME AGAIN!







June 4, 2020

Soapy as a Republican Party alternate delgate, June 1892

"The soap fakir"
Saint Paul Daily Globe
June 3, 1892
(Click image to enlarge)




oapy" Smith, the soap fakir, is in the city"

Just short of two months after leaving Creede, Colorado, Soapy Smith ended up in Saint Paul Minnesota. The Saint Paul Daily Globe of Saint Paul, Minnesota announces that bunco artist Soapy Smith is in the city.

"Soapy" Smith, the soap fakir, is in the city, though it is hard to tell what he will do, unless he falls foul of the gas pipe system.

Why did he go there? Was there a large fair or exposition? Was he working the streets swindling unwary citizens, or was he possibly there to attend the Republican National Convention? It wouldn't be the first time he was considered an important ally of the Republican Party, and it wouldn't be the last.

In April 1892 at the local Republican meeting in Denver, Soapy was elected alternate delegate from the fourth district, prescient five.It is very probable that Soapy was in Saint Paul as an official from Colorado. Soapy's wish to jump into high level politics clashed with his criminal history when on June 3, 1892 the Saint Paul Daily Globe published an article entitled, "The Swells are in," describing that "a batch of real high-toned have come to town." About two dozen, according to the newspaper. Some of those noted are as follows.

From Chicago
  • Minnie Daly, "the handsomest and best dressed confidence woman in the country."
  • Clabby Burns, husband of Minnie Daly.
  • Nora Keating
  • Minnie May
  • O'brien,  "the well-known 'shell' man," also known as "Single O."
From St. Louis
  • Harry Hanly
  • Chris Moore
  • Wallace Healy
And of course, "'Soapy' Smith, the soap fakir."
According to the newspaper, "Maj. Norton, the long, white-haired politician from Texas," barely escaped being a victim of one of the Cincinnati bunco men. The politician would have got stung had it not been for a local police detective recognizing the crook.   

"The convention was not scheduled to begin until June 7, 1892, but attendees began arriving in Minneapolis as early as June 1. The local papers buzzed about their presence." Soapy arrived on or before June 3rd and there is no information on what he did there. It is estimated that 10,000 people were in Saint Paul for the convention. Seems hard to fathom that Soapy would not make a little money while there, even if in an official capacity. "President Harrison did not attend, nor did his main Republican rival, James G. Blaine. However, many top politicians of the time were in Minneapolis, including Chauncey Depew, James S. Clarkson, Joseph Foraker, and future Republican president William McKinley. Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony were in town, too, not to attend the convention but to draw attention to their causes."

Interior of the Exposition Hall
Republican National Convention
Saint Paul, Minneapolis
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
(Click image to enlarge)

How long did Soapy stay in Saint Paul? Three days after the newspaper reported him as being in the city, he was interviewed by a reporter from the Denver Rocky Mountain News regarding the huge fire in Creede, Colorado of June 5, 1892. It is very possible that the reporter was in Saint Paul to report on the Republican Convention. It is also possible that Soapy left Saint Paul and was back in Denver for his interview. Did he leave Saint Paul because he the primary delegate was present at the convention, and as the alternate delegate Soapy was no longer needed, or did the town become too hot for him to work it?


SOURCES

Minnpost, June 10, 2014
Rocky Mountain News, April 24, 1892
Minnpost, June 10, 2014
Minnpost, June 10, 2014
Rocky Mountain News, April 24, 1892

Minnpost: When Minneapolis hosted the Republican National Convention.











Soapy as alternate delegate for the Republican National Convention: page 247.





"He had the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces."
— Mark Twain



JUNE 3


1539: Hernando De Soto claims Florida for Spain.
1621: The Dutch West India Company receives a charter for New Netherlands (now known as New York).
1784: Congress formally creates the U.S. Army to replace the disbanded Continental Army. On June 14, 1775, the Second Continental Congress had created the Continental Army for purposes of common defense and this event is considered to be the birth of the United States Army.
1800: John Adams moves to Washington D.C., being the first president to live in the capitol.
1805: A peace treaty between the U.S. and Tripoli is signed in the captain's cabin on board the USS Constitution.
1851: The New York Knickerbockers are the first baseball team to don uniforms.
1856: Cullen Whipple patents the screw machine.
1871: The Ocobock Bank in Corydon, Iowa is robbed of gold and bills by the James-Younger Gang. It is estimated that the robbers got away with $40,000.
1873: A drunken soldier in a Delano, Kansas dancehall shoots Emma Stanley, a dancer, in the leg. Edward “Red Beard” Beard, the proprietor, rushes a group of soldiers, firing a pistol hitting one soldier in the throat and another in the leg. Two nights’ later some 30 soldiers invade Beard's place shooting and wounding gambler Charles Leshhart and another dance hall maiden. The soldiers then burn the dance hall to the ground.
1874: Bessie and Sallie Earp are arrested for opening a house of ill repute in Wichita, Kansas.
1887: William Moore locates the White Pass Trail near the future town of Skagway Alaska. Soapy Smith makes it his home and final empire of conquest in 1897.
1888: The poem, Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer is published.
1892: The Saint Paul Daily Globe of Saint Paul Minnesota announces that bunco artist Soapy Smith is working the streets swindling unwary citizens.
1895: Sheriff James Musgrove, of the Cooweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation is shot and killed by "Frog" Davis, in Catoosa, Oklahoma. Musgrove and Deputy J. Flippin approach Davis’ house to arrest him, but Davis knows they are there, and is hiding in an outhouse. He shoots hitting Musgrove in the abdomen and escapes. Musgrove dies of his wound. The following week Davis is arrested near Tulsa, Oklahoma where he is tried and convicted for the murder.
1895: Two brothers, Bob and Bill Christian, and Jim Casey, escape from the Oklahoma County Jail in Oklahoma City. The brothers were being held for the murder of Pottawatomie County Deputy Sheriff Will Turner. Casey was being held for the murder of Canadian County Deputy sheriff Sam Farris. Chief of Police John Milton Jones and Officer G. Jackson confront the escapees at Grand and Broadway. A gunfight ensues during which Chief Jones and Jim Casey are killed. The Christian brothers escaped.
1898: James Parker is the last man hanged in the Courthouse Plaza in Prescott, Arizona. The train robber was in the in the Yavapai County jail when he shot and killed assistant District Attorney Erasmus Norris during an escape attempt.
1898: The San Francisco Call publishes a story in which volunteers of Soapy Smith’s private militia, the Skaguay Military Company, are robbed during a fake doctor exam.




April 19, 2020

Soapy Smith Has Cashed In: Died With His Boots On And A Cigar In His Mouth

"SOAPY” SMITH HAS CASHED IN
Rocky Mountain News
July 17, 1898
(article is transcribed below)
(Click image to enlarge)








OAPY SMITH HAS CASHED IN."
"Smith died with his boots on and a cigar in his mouth."



Below is the entire transcribed article from the Rocky Mountain News, July 17, 1898.

“SOAPY” SMITH HAS CASHED IN
_____

Survived His Big Fourth of July Celebration by Four Days.
_____

Tried to Break Up An Indignation Meeting With a Gun and Got Killed.
_____

Victoria Dispatch Confirms the story of the Passing of One of the Most Notorious and Picturesque Characters of the Western States.

_____

Special to The News.
SEATTLE, Wash., July 16.— “Smith died with his boots on and a cigar in his mouth,” is the way Mr. Laney of San Francisco, who came in on the City of Seattle, describes the taking off of “Soap” Smith at Skaguay in the forenoon of Friday, July 8. Mr. Million of Mt. Vernon, Wash., who came in on the Cottage City, told the story leading up to the killing as follows:
     “J. D. Stewart, a young man just out from Dawson City, had offered a sack of gold dust weighing from twelve to fifteen pounds for sale at one of the banks, when he was told by a party by the name of Bowers that he could get more for the gold than the bank offered him. Thereupon he followed Bower into a little building back of “Soapy’s” place, where two others were in waiting. The buyers then began to discuss the weight of the sack, and while one of them was ‘hefting’ it the other two caught Stewart and held him while the third man ran away with the gold. It was soon noised about that Soapy’s gang had again got in his work, and a committee of the leading citizens called on Smith and informed him that the dust must be returned. Concerning this interview there are some different stories on it being that “Soapy” agreed to have it returned by 4 o’clock in the afternoon if no “roar” was made in the papers.
     “Immediately afterwards Smith began to fill up and get troublesome, arming himself with a Winchester and declaring himself to be looking for trouble. He paraded the streets, declaring that he would not have to return the dust, and anyone who did assist was no friend of his.
     “During the evening a meeting of the citizens’ committee was called in Sylvester hall, but as it was not large enough an adjournment was taken to the Juneau wharf, which is a long, narrow wharf running nearly a mile out into the water.
     “The committee met about two-thirds down the wharf from the shore and four guards, one of whom was City Engineer Frank Reid, were stationed at the shore to see that no one went on the wharf to disturb the meeting. Smith heard of it and started for the wharf with his rifle. On finding himself followed by a number of citizens and some of his own friends, he faced about and drove the entire crowd off the street. He then marched straight up to Reid and attempted to force his way past him when a scuffle ensued, during which Smith struck Reid over the head with his rifle and shot him in the right leg.
     “At the same instant Reid shot Smith in the leg and then fired a second shot, striking him in the heart, killing him instantly.
     “There are two stories concerning the manner in which the dust was obtained, one being that the Klondyker lost it on the threadbare Monte game, but the weight of the evidence seems to be in favor of the hold-up. The people could scarcely believe the report of his death at first, but it is said that when it became a certainty the universal expression was one of gratification that Skaguay had at last been rid of the leader of as desperate a gang of toughs as ever infested a frontier city.
     “The United States Marshal and the mayor of the city were believed to belong to the gang, and as a result the former was arrested and thrown in jail and the latter run out of town. In all twenty-seven of Smith’s gang were arrested and a hanging bee would have resulted had not the United States soldiers interfered, the commanding officer only preventing it by threatening to declare martial law if mob violence was resorted to.”

_____

DIED PLAYING HIS OWN GAME
_____

Quick With a Gun, but Not as Quick as He Used to Be.

_____

Friends of “Soapy” Smith, the notorious bunco man, gambler and gun-fighter, are loath to believe that at last he has passed in his checks and gone the route eventually taken by all gun-fighters.
     The first report was to the effect that Smith was killed June 10, and gave no particulars concerning his death. It is now positively stated, however, that “Soapy” is no more and while the friends of Smith are anxious to learn the full particulars of the last bloody affray of the gambler’s life, they are inclined to believe that there is a good deal of truth in the reports.
     “Soapy” was known throughout the West and his sudden passing away will not be a great surprise to his friends and acquaintances. While he lived in this city he figured in innumerable fights and was ever ready with a revolver. In his palmy days he was surrounded by a gang of as clever bunco men as was ever organized in the West. Visitors by the score were fleeced of their money in Smith’s big gambling house, known as the Tivoli, at Seventeenth and Market streets.

Of Local Notoriety.

During his stay in Denver Smith was almost continually in trouble. Although he was not strong physically, or of large stature, he managed in almost every case where trouble started to play his part of the game without flinching. The Smith gang of bunco men were partial to strangers and they seldom attempted to fleece anyone who was well known in this city. They kept constant watch at the Union depot and roped in hundreds of visitors. Few escaped the clutches of the crowd, for no swindling game in the country was run on smoother lines than Smith’s.
     The leader often claimed to be a public benefactor, saying that he and his gang often were the means of causing men to renounce gambling. “A man will be lured into a gambling g hell,” said Smith, “and fascinated so that he will go again and again. After a man comes once to my place he is cured of gambling absolutely. He doesn’t want any more of it.”
     The full name of the character was Jefferson Randolph Smith and he was dubbed “Soapy” by one of his fellow-craftsmen many years ago. He first appeared in Denver shortly after the Leadville excitement, and old-timers will remember him as the fakir who stood a couple of hours each day upon the street corners in the lower part of the city, selling soap to all who would buy. There were many buyers, as each was thoroughly convinced that by investing a few dollars for a bar of soap he would have a chance of drawing out a cake wrapped in a $50 or a $100 bill.
     Of course the game was a “sure thing” for Smith. He made an immense amount of money at it. Two or three hours’ talk a day would net him hundreds of dollars.
     By means of the soap game Smith first introduced himself to the Denver public. Other “sure thing” men saw a genius had come into their midst, for it is an acknowledged fact that the soap man “skinned” them all.

Particular About His Family.

His earnings ran up into the thousands the first year of his residence in this city. He traveled alone at that time and had little to do with gamblers and bunco men. While he was peddling prize soap upon the streets his wife and children lived respectably in a pretty house on Seventeenth Avenue. Their neighbors did not know that the head of the little family was a swindler. Smith always had the highest regard for his wife and children and he kept them away from the tough people among whom he spent much of his time.
     His soap business made him many enemies. Occasionally a swindled customer would attempt to get his money back, but “Soapy” seldom returned a cent to a “sucker.”
     For some years he lived quietly and though he became involved frequently in fights at his soap stand he managed to keep out of jail. In those days the police did not interfere with street fakirs of Smith’s stamp, and in fact they sometimes assisted “Soapy” in getting rid of an obstreperous victim who insisted upon the return of his cash. In 1889 he became weary of the monetary incident to the selling of soap, and left the city with a gang of shell game men for the West. At Pocatello, Idaho they found another … [last sentence is cut off] … presence. A fight aboard a train near the town resulted and Smith shot and seriously wounded John Belcher, a member of the opposing gang. The dispatches regarding this fight stated that three men from Pocatello drew their arms on the Denverites and put them all to flight except Smith, who stood his ground and blazed away with a six-shooter.

Gun Plays in Denver.

Smith was arrested but was quickly discharged. Later “Soapy” returned to this city and next came into prominence in connection with a shooting scrape at the Turf Saloon on Larimer street. In a fight at the bar Smith jerked out his revolver and shot Jack Devine in the shoulder. The occasion for the shooting arose from the fact that Smith, who was an important political figure at that time, had thrown his support to John Hagley who was running for alderman against Jack Noonan. The latter, it was reported, induced Devine to beat Smith, and as Devine was at that time under indictment for murder Noonan thought he had engaged the right man for the job.
     Three weeks later “Soapy” took several shots at one William Flynn, who had been trying to get some money which the “sure thing” gambler had secured from him. In the fall of 1891 “Soapy” dragged a detective out of bed at the Good block and beat him over the head with a revolver. The detective, “Mitch” Roberts, was connected with Gleason’s agency and had in some way hurt the feelings of Smith. The latter claimed that the agency had attempted to “shake him down” for $200 for the privilege of running the Tivoli gambling house at Seventeenth and Market. At any rate Roberts was terribly beaten and Smith, too, was in bad shape when taken to the police station. He handed over to Chief of Detectives Howe a revolver covered with blood.

Removal and Decline.

About this time the Tivoli began losing a thriving business. Joe Bowers and W. H. Jackson, both shrewd bunco men, were engaged by Smith and many a stranger was taken to the house under one pretext or another and bilked of every cent in his possession. Most of these unfortunates were shipped out of town very soon after their money fell into the hands of the Seventeenth street sharks. Some of them complained to the police. The gang was ordered to “let up” for awhile and they moved their headquarters to the White Front saloon at Edgewater and there carried on their nefarious work for several months without interruption. They were protected by officials and though hundreds of complaints were lodged against the White Front, nothing was done to close the place.
     In the summer of 1893 Jeff Smith was present at the killing of “Shotgun” Smith. A tin horn gambler, which occurred in front of the Tivoli saloon. Jeff was credited with the slaying by some of his acquittances. Bascom Smith, his half brother, was arrested for the crime and was sentenced to serve one year in the county jail. Shortly before the killing of “Shotgun” Smith Soapy had a fight with a “sucker” at the Tivoli, and stabbed him in the back with a knife. In the fall of 1893 the railroad companies complained of the Smith gang, and demanded that it be broken up. Some of their patrons lost hundreds of dollars before reaching up town. Being taken into custody by the gang eye they had proceeded a block from the Union depot.
     During the city hall war Soapy showed his readiness to fight for his party. He offered his services to the Republicans, and on the day of the memorable bloodless battle he was stationed in the tower of the city hall with a desperate gang of heelers. They had sticks of dynamite, which they proposed to throw among the attacking force.
     When the Populists came into power Soapy began losing his grip. A closer watch was kept upon his Seventeenth shop. One afternoon Policeman Griffith placed George Wilder, one of Smith’s men, under arrest for swindling and this made Smith angry. Later in the day Soapy caught Griffith in the Tivoli and beat him over the head with a revolver. The officer took his medicine and made no complaint against his assailant. Two weeks later Wilder was again taken into custody for working a bunco game, and Smith called at the police station to sign a bond for his release. Clerk Hickey pulled a revolver and made the bad man throw up his hands.
     At that time Smith had quite a reputation as a gun fighter, and many of the police officers were afraid to tackle him. One day, however, Chief Armstrong sent officer Boykin to Smith with a message to the effect that if he (Smith) didn’t behave himself he would run him out of town.

Ultimatum From Armstrong.

The message was delivered in border style. “You may be a quick man with a gun,” said the policeman, “but I’m twice as quick. Now if you don’t behave yourself down here I’ll run you and your gang out of town.”
     The bunco man was taken by surprise, and as he didn’t know the officer he concluded that he was like many others and would weaken under a “bluff.” So he began abusing Boykin. “You say you’re quick with a gun,” retorted the officer. “Just let me see how quick you are.” Smith didn’t follow up his “bluff,” else there would have been a tragedy.
     Denver became too hot for Smith, and so he took his departure. He went to Creede and became town marshal. He was a strict officer and he preserved the peace after his own fashion. The town was filled with tough characters from all parts of the country, and they soon learned to respect the determined bunco man. The sporting fraternity paid tribute to the marshal, and he in turn gave them full protection. The new officer a general favorite among his friends and a terror to his enemies. Bob Ford, the slayer of Jesse James, was one of Smith’s understrappers, and between them they managed to run things in good style.
     One afternoon a one-armed minister of the gospel was enticed into a saloon by a fictitious call, and met a crowd of half-drunken miners and cowboys. They jeered at him, and one of them, a tall, husky miner, ordered him a drink of whisky. The gentleman of the cloth pleaded to be excused from swallowing the “mountain dew” which was set before him, saying that he cared for nothing stronger than soda water. There upon the miner who had ordered the drink became very abusive.
     At this stage of the game Marshal Smith appeared. It required but a moment’s time for him to take in the situation. He pushed his way to the crowd, pulling out his revolver in the meantime, and stepped up to the side of the crippled minister. He raised the weapon and brought it down with terrible force upon the head of a big miner, who sank upon the floor, blood spurting from a long wound in his head.

Started a Nomadic Career.

While he was marshal of Creede Smith wrote columns of matter for the New York Sun. He was an easy, graceful write, and being possessed of a good education he was able to put his many experiences together in good shape. But finally life at Creede seemed dull to Smith and he departed for the Sunny South. He started for Galveston, but went brke at Dallas, and was arrested for vagrancy. The accused made a splendid talk before the magistrate and was discharged from custody. In the spring of 1895 “Soapy” and Bascom Smith started out on a rampage and marched up Larimer street, their revolvers in their hands, intending to wipe out a few old scores. They attacked John Hughes, proprietor of the Arcade, and several other men. Then they met Chief of Police Goulding and “Soapy” attempted to use a revolver over his head.
     Chief Goulding decided that the Smiths were unsafe citizens and ordered his officers to keep a special watch on them. Smith went to Old Mexico and in the City of Mexico he obtained an introduction to President Diaz. It is reported that as long as he remain in the republic Smith was shown much courtesy by the officials. He proposed some new and startling reforms and schemes. One of his schemes would have netted him a large grant of land had he remained to carry it out. But the traveler was not a man with a single purpose, and instead of turning over a new leaf and remaining in Mexico he came back to Denver and mingled with the gang of cheap bunco men.

Autocrat of Skaguay.

So he came back to his old stamping grounds and on May 7, 1898 he departed for Alaska. He spent some time in Smith’s Inlet and at Juneau and finally reached Skaguay. At Skaguay, it is reported, Smith ruled with a high hand. He was elected president of the chamber of commerace and several other organizations of Skaguay, and he promoted various schemes for the advancement of the place. He ran things to suit himself and no one dared oppose him. His gang was the toughest that ever gathered together in the chilly North and many of the people who came to the place were bilked of their capital by the swindlers. Several months ago a negro woman was murdered at Skaguay. The editor of a paper published at the place stated in the columns of the sheet that Smith or his men probably knew something about the murder. “Soapy” instituted suit against the proprietor of the publication, demanding a large sum for libel.
     Tom Keady, a Denver gambler, was with Smith at Skaguay, and he recently returned. He reported that “Soapy” was not earning his salt. Smith was as handy as ever with his revolver, said Keady, and on one occasion the two men came near shooting at each other, trouble arising at a bar where both were drinking.
     Little is known concerning Smith’s early life. He came to Denver from Joplin, No., and for some years lived in Texas. He has a wife and three children living in St. Louis.
     Smith was loyal to his new love in the Northwest, and was instrumental in organizing a Fourth of July celebration, the first ever in the ragged town of Skaguay. Styling himself captain of the First regiment of the Alaska National Guard he had printed a hundred badges which were distributed broadcast. These were printed in red and blue ink on white paper in lieu of ribbon and bore the following inscription:
     “Alaska Militia, July 4, 1898, Skaguay. Compliments Skaguay Company, First Regiment, A. N. G., Jeff. R. Smith, Captain.”
     Mr. L. M. Burnirager of that city received one of the badges yesterday from his brother and will preserve it as a souvenir of one of the worst men known to the West. 





"One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards."
— Oscar Wilde



APRIL 19


1764: English Parliament bans the colonies from printing money.
1775: The American Revolution begins when shooting starts at Lexington, Massachusetts.
1782: The Netherlands recognize the United States.
1802: The Spanish reopen the New Orleans port to American merchants.
1852: The California Historical Society is founded.
1860: Texas Rangers, U.S. 2nd Cavalry troopers and citizen volunteers attack a small Comanche Indian camp near the confluence of Mule Creek and the Pease River in Texas. Twelve Indians are killed and three are captured, including white female Cynthia Ann Parker who had been abducted in 1836. Also captured were her two-year-old daughter and a ten-year-old Indian boy.
1861: Thaddeus S. C. Lowe sails 900 miles in nine hours in a hot air balloon from Cincinnati, Ohio to Unionville, South Carolina.
1861: The Baltimore riot results in four Union soldiers and nine civilians killed.
1861: President Lincoln orders a blockade of Confederate ports.
1881: Outlaw Dave Rudabaugh is tried and convicted for the April 2, 1880 murder of Las Vegas, New Mexico jailer Antonio Valdez, even though all the evidence shows John “Little Allen” Allen is the man who shot and killed Valdez. Rudabaugh will escape prison eight months later, on December 3, 1881.
1884: The Rocky Mountain News publishes a warning to Denver, Colorado citizens that there are two “bunko gangs working Denver under the protection of the police.” One of these gangs is believed to be the Soapy Smith Soap Gang.
1888: The Kansas Western Farmer notes the arrival of John O. “Texas Jack” Vermillion, still on the run from Arizona lawmen for his part in the Wyatt Earp vendetta ride killings. Vermillion shortly hereafter joined bad man Soapy Smith’s gang in Denver, Colorado.
1889: Bad man Malachi Allen is hung for July 15, 1888 murders of Shadrach Peters and Cy Love over ownership of a saddle in the Chickasaw Nation (Oklahoma). Allen escaped but was captured after a gun battle with a posse led by a Deputy Marshal named McAlester. Allen was wounded badly and brought to Fort Smith, Arkansas where his right arm is amputated.
1892: The Duryea gasoline buggy is introduced in the U.S. by Charles and Frank Duryea.
1892: Nate Champion and Nick Ray are shot and killed during the “Horse Thief War” in Wyoming.