April 11, 2022

New photograph of "Soapy" Smith?

Object ID 2017.6.350
Courtesy of Salvation Army Museum of the West

(Click image to enlarge)

New photograph of "Soapy" Smith?
     A B & W photograph, said to be of Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith, and two colleagues. Soapy is in the middle, marked with an "X." The photo was taken in Alaska, exact location unknown.
     Soapy grew his beard in 1889 after the shootout at the Pocatello, Idaho) train depot. He remained bearded for the remainder of his life. 
SOURCE: Salvation Army Museum of the West.
Link to the photograph.



"Cards are war, in disguise of a sport."
—Charles Lamb

March 31, 2022

New information on Soap Gang member Joe Simmons (Josiah Boren Simmons)

Samuel Silas Simmons
1858 - 1924
Brother of Joe Simmons
Courtesy of
Anne Simmons Wise
(Click image to enlarge)

he birth-name of Joe "Gambler Joe" Simmons was Josiah Boren Simmons.

     In researching Joe "Gambler Joe" Simmons for my book, Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, I utilized Beth Simmons Jackson, the granddaughter of Joe Simmons, who helped round out Simmons' early history.
     On August 12, 2019, I received a welcomed email from Linda Jackson Rankin, the daughter of Beth Simmons Jackson, and great-granddaughter of Joe Simmons. She writes,

     My name is Linda Jackson Rankin and my mother Beth Simmons Jackson contacted you a while ago regarding my great-Grandfather Joe Simmons. As you know, we have been trying for years to figure out where he came from. Thanks to Ancestry.com, I now believe I know! I searched for Joe Simmons and stumbled upon a person named “Josiah Boren Simmons” who was born in Smith, Texas, in 1860 and died in Creede, Colorado, in 1893. He was the youngest son of Caleb Woodson Simmons who was originally from Wilkes, GA. The Simmons family tree shows that they were early settlers in Surrey, VA, and Currituck County, NC. (1600s).
     Of course I was suspicious because this new information did not align with what we were told originally (German, father was a brewmaster from Wisconsin). The final confirmation was when I found out that I have DNA matches to people who are related to the Simmons family tree! So, now we know for certain where Joe Simmons came from. ...

If the information is correct, and it likely is, then Joe "Gambler Joe" Simmons was born Josiah Boren Simmons in 1860 or December 17, 1862, in Smith, Texas according to one Simmons family tree on Ancestry. Interesting to note that Joe was born in the same year as Soapy, when previously it was believed that Joe was older than Soapy. Smith, Texas, is about 250 miles from Round Rock, Texas, where the Smiths took up residence in 1876. In 1880 20-year-old Joe moved with his parents to Williams County, Texas, where in Round Rock, 20-year-old Jeff Smith may have still lived with his father and siblings, making it possible that the two young boys may have known one-another in Texas. Joe's father, Caleb Woodson Simmons II, died in Round Rock on November 26, 1881, so it is possible that they had lived there since 1880. The problem is that Soapy may have already moved on. He is believed to have operated in Ft. Worth by 1878-79 and to have visited Denver in 1879.

Linda continues,
     I would really like to know how Joe (and Soapy) ended up in Denver. After all, that appears to be where my Grandfather (William Edward Simmons) was born.
     If you have information on how Soapy (and possibly) Joe ended up in Denver, I would love to hear it.

All the best,
Linda (Jackson) Rankin
 I responded twelve days later.
August 24, 2019

Hi, Linda.
     First, allow me to apologize for my lateness in responding. It is certainly not because it isn't important to me.
     I remember your mother [Beth Simmons Jackson] very well. Mistakes in family research happen all the time. I have made numerous ones myself, and continue to do so.
     From what I am gathering from your email, Joe Simmons' birth name is Josiah Boren Simmons?
     Up until now, Josiah ("Joe") Simmons is not mentioned until he was manager of the Tivoli Club (Soapy's saloon) in Denver. I don't think Soapy and "Joe" came to Denver together, as his son, William Edward Simmons, was born in Denver in 1876 and Soapy was still living in Round Rock, Texas at the time. The earliest recording of "Joe" being with Jeff is November 1890, though they no doubt knew each other before then. Soapy arrived in Denver in 1879, but was still a nomad, moving around the West until making Denver his permanent home in about 1885.

     I also just received an email from "Anne Simmons Wise"
who states that "Joe" was born December 17, 1862, and being that son William was born February 1, 1876, that means "Joe" was only 13 years old at the time. One of the dates must be incorrect. The photo I attached is of "Joe's" brother Samuel Silas Simmons. She also states that the Simmons family lived in Round Rock, Texas, around the time the Smith family lived there. I also attached the old photo supposedly of Joe Palmer and Joe Simmons (on right, standing). If the other photo is Joe's brother, then I do see a resemblance.


Josiah Boren "Joe" and Samuel Silas Simmons
A comparison

(Click image to enlarge)

Anne Simmons Wise responded, agreeing with the family resemblance between Josiah "Joe" Simmons and his brother Samuel.

Aug 22, 2019
     I'm sure you can see the family resemblance as I did.
     DNA evidence has linked a descendant of Joe Simmons to my Simmons family from Round Rock and Tyler, Texas. I'm descended from Samuel Silas Simmons, a stonecutter. Josiah Boren "Joe" Simmons was born 17 December 1862 in Smith County, Texas, and family story said that he died in a gunfight in Creede, Colorado, 18 Mar 1893. We didn't have any more information on Joe until the DNA link showed up to "Gambler Joe." The year is wrong, but everything else seems to match up.
     I saw that someone else did a genealogy match up with a different Joe Simmons from Wisconsin. I would think that the DNA match would trump that claim. Also, when I read your blog, I saw that Soapy Smith moved to Round Rock, Texas, in the 1870s with his family. My Simmons family (including Joe) was living in Round Rock in the 1870s and 1880s.
     I'd love to learn more about "Gambler Joe" and his best friend.

Anne Simmons Wise
Four days later I responded.

Aug 26, 2019
     Hello, Annie.
     I apologize for the delay. "Joe" Simmons is very important to the history of Jeff "Soapy" Smith.
     I certainly do see the resemblance in the photographs.
     I have spoken numerous times to that Wisconsin family (Beth Simmons Jackson and her daughter Linda Jackson Rankin). Linda has gone through the DNA information and found Josiah Boren "Joe" Simmons to be accurate. This is pretty exciting news!
     There are still a few questions and issues, which is common (as you know) in history and genealogy.
• You mention that "Joe" was born December 17, 1862. His son William was born in Denver on February 1, 1876. That would put "Joe" at 13 years old when his son was born.
• "Joe" died of pneumonia in Creede, Colorado, on March 18, 1892. There are great newspaper articles, drawings, and a poem written about "Jeff and Joe." Great stuff!
• Very interesting that the father was born in Wilkes County, Georgia, two hours from Coweta County where "Soapy" was born. Then the Simmons family ended up in Round Rock, Texas. Do you have my book? It has all the information on "Joe" as a member of the Soap Gang in Denver and Creede.

That same day, Anne wrote back.
Aug 26, 2019
     That is awesome. I believe that it was Linda Rankin that I spoke to about the DNA results linking her family to Josiah Boren Simmons.
     Until this DNA breakthrough I knew nothing about Josiah "Joe" other than that he died in Creede, Colorado. I've been in contact with one of the other Simmons researchers who originally found that information. Hopefully, we'll turn up some sources for that. As far as I know it was family legend.
      You are correct about the birth date possibly being incorrect. Although I believe he must be younger than his brother Samuel Silas Simmons, who was born in 1858.
     I've been enjoying your website and blog.
     I just ordered your book, and am excited to read it.
Anne Simmons Wise
There are some minor issues with dates but overall it seems pretty clear that Josiah Boren Simmons is Joe "Gambler Joe" Simmons, or more correctly,  
Josiah Boren "Gambler Joe" Simmons

Joe Simmons (Josiah Boren Simmons is Joe "Gambler Joe" Simmons): pages 33, 89, 131, 210, 214, 225-29, 273, 594. 

"The story of Soapy's death is at best Murky,
Be it known the killer was really Jesse Murphy."
—Jeff Smith

February 27, 2022

George W. Lewis: Soap Gang member

Salt Lake Herald
February 28, 1893
(See text of article below)

(Click image to enlarge)

he life and Death of George W. Lewis

At the time Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel was published, the information on Soap Gang member George W. Lewis was pretty limited. I knew he was a member of the Soapy Smith gang, as well as the Charles “Doc” Baggs’ gang, and that he was shot and killed in Ogden, Utah, February 26, 1893. I found a newspaper article on his death which lent truth to earlier accounts, plus a lot more detail on his activities and death in Ogden where he was the "king pin of Ogden’s sure thing men." Lewis was 44 years of age at the time of death. He was reported as being wealthy, owning real estate and other property in Ogden, San Francisco and Leadville, Colorado.



Eugene Borel, a Victimized Sheep herder, Kills George Lewis.


Borel Had Been Fleeced of His Hard Earned Savings.

He Brooded Over His Loss and Sought a Terrible Revenge – Four Shots Fired at His Victim – The Murderer Attempts Suicide.

OGDEN, Feb. 27. – George Lewis, the well known gambler, was shot three times and almost instantly killed a few minutes before noon yesterday by Eugene Borel, a French sheep herder. The grand jury, which is now in session, took the matter up this afternoon, and although no official report was made, judging from the nature of the evidence which was undoubtedly adduced, an indictment for murder will be found and returned tomorrow morning.


In the latter part of November the Frenchman came to Ogden, fresh from the Wyoming hills, where he had been herding sheep for several years. By denying himself every luxury he had saved between $1,700 and $1,800 of his wages. Shortly after his arrival the herder who was not so unsophisticated as his general make-up would indicate, was lured into a sure thing dive, which then existed on lower Twenty-fifth street, and fleeced of $1,700 of his money. The gang then shipped their victim off to San Francisco, one of them accompanying him as far as Reno, as recounted in THE HERALD at the time.


Upon his arrival in San Francisco Borel hunted up a brother he has there and borrowing $100 returned to Ogden in search of his vanished fortune. Lewis, who was then and continued to be up to the time of his death, the king pin of Ogden’s sure thing men, was arrested, but the other members of the gang escaped. The preliminary examination was held before Judge Bishop, but the evidence was not deemed sufficient to convict on the charge of flim flaming or obtaining money under false pretenses. The court, however, cinched him on general principles and imposed a fine of $30 and costs for gambling. Lewis appealed to the district court.

As Borel had no money left with which to furnish bonds, he was sent to the city jail and held as a witness. On Friday Lewis withdrew his appeal and paid the fine and all costs in the case.


During his detention at the jail the Frenchman became very taciturn and evidently brooded greatly over his loss. He never was talkative, but as the time passed he withdrew even more within himself and seldom spoke. It became evident that the loss of the money had greatly affected his brain and the officers agreed that he was not exactly right under his hat.


When made acquainted with the fact that Lewis had dismissed the appeal, Borel was seemingly indifferent, but he did not remain long in that state of mind. Hunting up Lewis he demanded his money and was put off by the gambler, as he had been several times before. He then waited upon Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Allison and requested that the case be taken up before the grand jury. That body being otherwise busily engaged, he was requested to wait.


On Sunday morning Lewis and another gambler named Kirby entered Morse’s book store, and after having made some purchases, turned to leave. At the door they encountered Borel. He again demanded his money. Lewis laughingly remarked, “Wait until tomorrow,” turned the corner of Grant avenue and proceeded south. The Frenchman followed and when the two reached the middle of the block, drew a 38-calibre revolver from his breast and commenced firing. The first shot took effect in the gambler’s hip, the second passed through Kirby’s coat sleeve, the third also missed its mark, but the fourth entered the small of Lewis’ back.

The wounded man started to run after the second shot had been fired and when the fourth struck him under the point of the left shoulder blade he fell in the entrance of a laundry, nearly at the corner of Twenty-fifth street. The last ball did the fatal work, and within twenty minutes Lewis was dead.


After doing the shooting, Borel deliberately walked to the police station, revolver in hand, and entering the jailor’s room, laid the gun on a table, muttered something about having “done it,” took a small vial from his pocket and swallowed part of its contents. The pump work of Dr. Joyce saved the would-be suicide’s life. On his person was found a diary, written in French, the contents of which, when interpreted, plainly showed that the killing was premeditated, and might have been more extensive had Borel met Mr. Allison.


Lewis was 44 years of age. He had real estate and other property on Ogden, San Francisco and Leadville valued at from $25,000 to $50,000, according to the encumbrances there are upon it. His entire estate was virtually willed to his mother, who lives in Phoenix, Ariz., and his half brother, Professor T. B. Lewis, of this city. The funeral will take place tomorrow afternoon.



A story on George Lewis published in the Rocky Mountain News, March 2, 1893 states that he had once belonged to the Charles “Doc” Baggs’ gang.

"Lewis was a great man for roping in ministers," said a well-known sport last night. "In '79 he and 'Doc' Baggs used to travel together and they were never so happy as when they struck a pious fish. I remember one time they ran across a minister from a small country town who had come to Denver to get some cash from a well-known local capitalist. He had about $600 with him when 'Doc' Baggs picked him up, and you know 'Doc' is a pious looking guy himself. 'Doc' got to talking with the dominic, and finally persuaded him that it would be a good scheme for him to take back to his church $1,200 instead of $600, and the only way to do it was to play three-card monte. Lewis, of course, dropped in at the right time, and it was not long before the dominic got on to the game, but his money was all gone. Lewis gave him $5 and bought him a ticket back home."

It has been written that in San Francisco in 1882 Lewis had shot and killed seventeen-year-old Ed Patterson, but as of now I have found no newspaper accounts.


The Rocky Mountain News cites Lewis as having left Denver for the last time in 1886, but this is not accurate. It is not known when George Lewis joined the Soap Gang, or how long he remained. It is known that he was in Creede, Colorado in 1892 where he was one of Soapy’s “witnesses" to the excavation of McGinty the petrified man. His name pops up again in Denver when Soapy put McGinty on display at The Exchange saloon and gaming house. Towards the end of March there was a legal hurdle regarding ownership of McGinty. The Rocky Mountain News and the Creede Candle carried the story in which “George W. Lewis has sued Jeff Smith and J. J. Dore for possession of McGinty, the petrified man.” J. J. Dore had "leased" Soapy Smith the petrified man, and now attempted to regain possession. Soapy wanted full ownership of McGinty, so he had George Lewis return to Denver and sue him and Dore, as if he was the real owner. It is likely that Dore was never made aware of the legal case. Soapy won full possession of McGinty. That afternoon McGinty was taken to another saloon Soapy owned, called the White Front. It resided across from Manhattan Beach, a private amusement park at Sloan’s Lake four miles from downtown Denver, where it was unlikely that J. J. Dore would ever find it.

June 10, 2015

George W. Lewis: page 82, 235, 238-39, 242.

"Your best chance to get a Royal Flush in a casino is in the bathroom."
—V. P. Pappy

January 21, 2022

Artifact #96: Soapy Smith political cartoon in the National Populist, March 24, 1894

Soapy Smith leading the pack
Artifact #96-Front Page, Part 1
National Populist
March 24, 1894
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

amblers, Thugs, Murders and Rogues.
"The alliance of the gamblers and bunco men with the old Fire and Police Board is not a pleasant thing to contemplate. It has come to a pretty pass if the interests of the city and the lives and property of citizens can't be protected without the assistance of such men."
Soapy Smith obtained a copy of the National Populist and saved it with all the newspapers, letters and documents he saved, much like a personal scrapbook. 
The March 24, 1894 issue of the National Populist had a political cartoon right on the front cover. Soapy is at the front of the throng, "Soapy" scrawled across his coat. He is carrying two kegs that read, Dynamite." He leads the Committee of Safety, made up of Gambler's, Thugs, Murderers and Rogues. Others following Soapy are figures emblazoned with "Money," "Banker," "Politician," "Hobo," and "Gambler." Three signs are being carried by the followers; "Committee of Safety," "Governors have no power which gamblers need respect," and "We are a committee of Safety too."  
Soapy Smith leading the pack
Artifact #96-Front Page, Part 2
National Populist
March 24, 1894
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)
I cannot find another surviving copy of this newspaper, and this issue is falling apart, so it's impossible at this time to report on missing sections. 
     The left-hand column one is titled, MULLINS BARNES [the new city commissioners appointed by Governor Davis Waite]. Subtitles include, "The Supreme Court has Rendered a Decision," and,  "AWFUL COMMISSIONERS." The article speaks of the Governors orders to send in the National Guard. 
     The second column is titled, THE COXEY ARMY. The "On to Washington" Movement Growing Daily. This is not related to the Denver City Hall War, but is directly related to Soapy, as he wrote a well-circulated, published piece on August 26, 1893, called, "MARCH ON! Let The Workingmen Go Straight To The National Capitol" that has plenty of circumstantial evidence that it gave Jacob Coxey (Coxey's Army) the idea to march to Washington D.C., seven months later, in March 1894.
     The right-hand column six is titled, A WORD OF CENSURE - Thugs Aid a So-Called Committee of Safety. It speaks of men concerned with the safety of Denver, while also supporting those barricading inside city hall. The remaining pages of the newspaper regard other issues.
Soapy Smith leading the pack
Artifact #96-Page 2, Part 1
National Populist
March 24, 1894
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)
Soapy Smith leading the pack
Artifact #96-Page 2, Part 2
National Populist
March 24, 1894
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)
     Denver was well known, though no more than Chicago, for its saloons with their risqué tableaus and saloon girls, houses of prostitution, “sure thing” cons, other frauds, and, though illegal, plentiful games of chance. Also well known was that “corruption, disorganization, and poor leadership” persisted in the police department. Governor Davis H. Waite, known as "Blood to the bridles," chose evil Denver to begin his reform of Colorado.
     On Wednesday, March 7, 1894 the governor fired police and fire commissioners, Martin and Orr for malfeasance and neglect, and on the next day, he named their replacements: Dennis Mullins as fire commissioner and Samuel D. Barnes as police commissioner. The reaction was broad and immediate. Martin and Orr refused to vacate their offices. The issue went before the court and a settlement could not be reached that favored Governor Wait, so on March 14 he ordered out the Colorado National Guard.
     News on the evening of March 14 that the militia was marching on Denver triggered a call to arms. Policemen, firemen, politicians, and sheriff’s deputies were ordered to report for duty, and for the rest of the night, they came to the castle-like city hall at the northwest corner of Larimer and Fourteenth streets. The call was also heard beyond the rank-in-file of city employees. Generally accepted was that Waite’s appointees were ready to ban, permanently, all gambling in the city. This and that the new commissioners would be installed by force provoked the ire of the wagering community. Upwards of two hundred gamblers, bunco men, and “hard cases” came forward to be commissioned as deputy sheriffs and special police. To all of the assembling combatants, the governor threatened their world order, their loyalties, and, in such dire economic times, their livelihoods. They were prepared to fight, and Denver City Hall was the fort they chose to defend.
     The Denver Republican reported that “Jeff Smith arrived at the head of the guerrilla contingent, and men wearing red badges bearing the words, ‘Special Police,’ began to grow numerous in the corridor.”
     By 11 a.m., the streets were “blockaded with a seething mass” of spectators. Police Chief Stone appeared at one point to make a public statement:
We will hold the city hall against all attacks from the outside, if it takes dynamite to do it…. We have 110 men on duty, and they will be here as long as they are needed. They are all loyal men, and have been too long in the service to permit anyone to intimidate them. We are prepared for any emergency, and we will risk everything to protect the property which the citizens and tax-payers have entrusted to our care. No interference with the fire department will be permitted. The city hall will not be surrendered while the courts are dealing with the city. If the governor wants blood to the bridles we will give it to him; but he can’t have the city hall. (1)
The Denver Republican described the defensive force:
The solid stone building was now an arsenal and manned from the basement to the tower above the roof by armed men. 
     In the basement were about 150 policemen, deputy sheriffs and special policemen. Every entrance was barricaded … by armed men. On the floor above 42 uniformed policemen faced the front door in close array, the front rank men to the number of 30 having rifles or shotguns. Flanking these were about 50 deputy sheriffs and specials [special police] carrying clubs and revolvers. 
     On the second floor the Fire and Police board rooms, corridors and stairways were guarded by armed men. …
     In the room to the east of the building on the third floor was the bomb brigade with their store of giant powder, dynamite, fuses and caps. The explosives were all ready to be hurled through the windows, and men accustomed to the handling of such missiles stood ready to use them. [This is Soapy and his men]
     A floor higher [were] knots of sharpshooters—men who have made records with the rifle and revolver—waited silently to pick off the gunners and militia officers at the first overt act. … But this was not all. Even the tower above the roof had its quota of riflemen ready to open fire at the first hostile movement of the state troops. (2)
After a tense period of waiting,
     A delegation arrived with a message from the governor, stating that if the city hall was not vacated within thirty minutes orders would be sent to the troops to bombard the building with cannon balls. This created much excitement among the mob and much activity among the besieged garrison. 
     Jeff Smith and five others climbed upstairs into the third story and took up places at two windows. They took ready-to-fling stacks of giant powder and dynamite torpedoes [to throw] into the street as soon as the militia menaced the civic citadel. (3)
Various other sources report that Jeff, wearing two .45 caliber revolvers, stood with a contingent of his men, at the ready with a
large quantity of dynamite. The men had all been sworn to defend the building against the attack of the militia and the most desperate and disreputable characters in the city had been employed to explode the dynamite without regard to the consequences…. The explosives were fitted with fuses and detonating caps, and were to be hurled into the midst of the state troops if they approached the hall too closely. (4)
The Denver Times reported how at one point Jeff leaned out, apparently with dynamite in hand, and called down to soldiers near the city hall perimeter.
Say, you guys had better make a sneak. I've got enough of the stuff to send us all to hell, and as I am nearer to heaven than any of you, I'll not be the first to die. (5)
The standoff between the heavily armed, determined forces was intense, but cooler heads prevailed and no shots were ever fired. The city powers, the police and the Denver underworld saw great bravery in Soapy Smith, the Denver Mercury calling his a brave hero, adding,
Col. Jeff Smith is called the king gambler, “Soapy,” a “sure thing” and God only knows what, by a gang of parasites who are no good on earth; but gambler as he is, he exhibited more manhood in standing by the courts and peace officers than nineteenth twentieth’s of those moral pulpit-pounding ministers who are always howling against the saloons and club rooms. 
     People who believe in giving justice to whom justice is due, will now please admit that Col. Jefferson R. Smith has established the undisputed right to be called one of Denver’s most reliable citizens. And that’s what he is. (6)
     The City Hall War received national attention, and people wanted to know more. On March 19 when the Colorado Washington delegation was asked about it, Jeff’s old neighbor and former lawyer Congressman Lafe Pence was willing to speak up: 
Who the Leader of the Denver Opponents to Governor Waite Is. 
Washington, March 20.—Governor Waite of Colorado and his recent actions form a common topic of current gossip. No one is better able to talk of Colorado matters than that brilliant young representative, Lafe Pence. He told a good story of "Soapy” Smith, whose recent exploits in Denver at the head of the mob is much talked of. “He is one of the greatest characters in the west,” said Mr. Pence. “He is probably not over 30 years of age, and by no means impressive in his build. He is, however, the king of the lawless element in Denver. If Smith and four men were in the city hall tower and five dynamite bombs were thrown into the militia, the world would naturally say that Smith and the other four men each threw one. But I am willing to bet that if the bombs had been thrown and Smith had been indicted, each of his four companions would have sworn that Smith begged them not to throw a single bomb, and that in the scuffle one of the men threw two, which would account for the five. You never knew anyone to have such power. He never lets one of his followers go hungry if he has a dollar in his pocket, and they know it. (7)
Soapy was seen as a man who would risk his life for his allies in political office. He was a man they could trust. But the rest of Colorado saw that Denver was run by corruption and criminals. Though Soapy's reign prospered for another 1-1/2 years, there are some historians that mark the City Hall Wall as the turning point of Soapy's empire in Denver.
Soapy Smith leading the pack
Artifact #96-Page 3, Bottom
National Populist
March 24, 1894
(The top portion of this page is missing)
Jeff Smith collection
 (Click image to enlarge)
Soapy Smith leading the pack
Artifact #96-Page 4, Bottom
National Populist
March 24, 1894
(The top portion of this page is missing)
Jeff Smith collection
 (Click image to enlarge)
(1) Decatur Daily Republican 03/16/1894.
(2) Denver Republican 03/16/1894.
(3) IBID.
(4) IBID.
(5) Denver Times 08/01/1898.
(6) Newspaper clipping of unknown origin regarding story in The Denver Mercury, March (unknown date) 1894.
(7) Register 03/23/1894


City Hall War
Oct 20, 2013 

City Hall War: pages 3, 59, 292, 294, 298, 310, 312, 321, 328-29, 334, 359, 379, 390, 594.

"If, after the first twenty minutes, you don't know who the sucker at the table is, it's you."
—author unknown

January 15, 2022

Another Soapy Smith gun?

Soapy Smith's Gun
The Vancouver Sun
Post January 1, 1922

almer afterwards took the gun and up to the time of his death kept it as a souvenir of his thrilling Alaskan experience."
NOTE: The Joseph Palmer in this post is not the Colorado Soap Gangster of the same name.
Below is the contents of the above newspaper clipping.
SOUTH VANCOUVER, Feb, 1. – The revolver once belonged to Soapy Smith, the notorious bad man of the Yukon, is now in the possession of Chief of Police Baker of South Vancouver.
     It came into his keeping upon the death of the late Joseph Palmer, a well-known resident of the municipality, who died last week.
     Palmer was acting upon a vigilance committee at Skagway at the time when Soapy Smith was shot and killed. Palmer afterwards took the gun and up to the time of his death kept it as a souvenir of his thrilling Alaskan experience. It was presented to the chief after Mr. Palmer’s death by his daughter, Mrs. J. A. Urquhart.
     The gun is an old-fashioned Colt .45.
Don Blair contacted me about a relative of his: Joseph Palmer. He sent along three newspaper clipping, of which I share here. Don writes
Hello Jeff, I was wondering if you have ever come across this information before as I came across it while doing some research on my own family tree. This Joseph Palmer came from England and was a trained shoemaker in England and he ended up in Skagway and ran Pioneer Shoemaker in Skagway at Main and Trail. Joseph from what I have read had the shoemaking business as well as other interests and some claims as well. Joseph later returned to Vancouver, British Columbia and lived until late January of 1922, and he is buried in the Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver. The article stated his daughter Margaret in early February of 1922 gave the pistol as a gift to Chief Baker of the South Vancouver detachment as a gift. Like I say I don’t know if this is known information, or not but thought I would pass it along in case its new. Don Blair. 
I wrote Don back, writing
Hello, Don.
      Thank you very much for sending this! I had not heard of this pistol. For a time, I thought maybe Skagway's Joseph Palmer was a Soap Gang member of the same name. This was resolved when gang member Palmer was recorded numerous times in Colorado newspapers. Gang member Palmer went insane and placed in a hospital where he hallucinated that people, including Soapy, were trying to kill him.
     There are numerous guns claimed to have been Soapy's. I have a page devoted to some of them (Soapy's Weapons). The rifle used in the shootout on Juneau Wharf (Soapy's death) was given to the widow. A "Colt pistol" was listed in the estate, and sold at auction. The widow would have received it but it took her over a week to get to Skagway, living in St. Louis. Is the pistol Palmer has actually Soapy's? So hard to say.
     Thank you again!

Ad for Jos. Palmer
Daily Alaskan
July 2, 1898


Klondiker Dead
The Vancouver Sun
Post January 16, 1922

Below is the contents of the above newspaper clipping.
SOUTH VANCOUVER, Jan 16. – Joseph Palmer, shoemaker and veteran of the Klondike, was found dead in the rear of his boot repair shop at 5096 Inverness Street this morning. Mr. Palmer was a native of England coming to San Francisco in 1883 where he was in the shoe-repairing business later staking a claim in the Klondike which he worked for several years. He has no relatives living in this country.

I tried searching for Baker, the Chief of Police of South Vancouver, and found no information.



"You must lose a fly to catch a trout…now pick which shell hold the pea."
—Author Unknown

January 14, 2022

Artifact #92: The Girl Alaska and Soapy's son's legal suit correspondence.

First letter sent out
Part 1
From Jefferson Randolph Smith III
To Mr. Ricord Gradwell
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)
First letter sent out
Part 2
From Jefferson Randolph Smith III
Mr. Ricord Gradwell
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

n a sneering manner and loud enough to be overheard by others, repeated what he had seen on the screen.
Artifact #92

Title: The Girl Alaska
Release: August 18, 1919
Producer: World Pictures

     American black and white silent film. Believed to be the first motion picture that portrayed a mention of Soapy on film. The film caused the widow Mary Eva Noonan and Jefferson Randolph Smith III, Soapy's son, a newspaper man and political power in St. Louis, Missouri, personal anguish and supposed loss of respect when the film was viewed in his home town theater. In 1919 the son hired the legal firm of McCarthy, Morris and Sachritz to take up a legal battle of written letters meant to eliminate objectionable parts from the film. Jefferson felt the film had injured his personal and political standing in the community and wished to sue for malicious libel. At first the film company, George Kleine Motion Pictures was willing to cut offensive scenes out but later reneged on the offer. The one copy of the film that exists at the Library of Congress does not appear to be that offensive and may have had the objectionable scenes deleted.

Paul Quinzi saw the film during a visit to the Library of Congress and wrote;

      The film is the story of a girl called Molly McCrea, 'daughter of one of the lost gold seekers of Alaska.' After having been abandoned by her father at a young age, Molly decides to travel to Alaska herself after reading in the newspaper of 'great opportunities for young men in the north.' Disguised by a pair of overalls and a cap, Molly passes herself off as a boy, stows away on a ship and adopts the slightly more masculine name 'Alaska.' On the ship, Alaska meets Phil Hadley, who is also seeking his fortune, and the two 'boys' become best buds.
     The two arrive in Skagway and meet an 'old sourdough' who shows them around the town. They soon hook up with a native who offers to lead them to a good stake. On the way, a huge ice cliff falls on their canoe, killing their guide, leaving Phil and Alaska to their own devices. (No CGI of course; the prelude to the film alludes to the actors 'missing death by a narrow margin' in this scene). They eventually find the stake, but there's no gold to be found. They wander around some more and Phil becomes ill. Alaska saves him by discovering, luckily within a few hundred yards, an old prospector's cabin. Lo and behold, it's the old sourdough from Skagway! He takes them in and offers to let them stay and help work his claim.
     Alaska seems to be slowly falling for Phil, who constantly pines for Lorraine, his sweetie back home, a socialite who writes him occasionally. Of course, thinking Alaska is a dude, Phil is totally oblivious to her feelings. One day Alaska, Phil and the sourdough go into Fairbanks, the nearest town, for supplies. Alaska and Phil go into a saloon, where someone tries to rob Phil at the faro table. A great bar fight ensues, in which Phil is roundly beaten and falls out into the street. Alaska rushes to his side, whispers 'I love you' and kisses the unconscious Phil. Then the sourdough collects them and they make a swift exit from Fairbanks. They continue to work the stake, Phil missing Lorraine, Alaska lamenting her unrequited love for Phil. The old sourdough falls ill, and on his death bed asks Alaska to take his share of the claim back to the States and give it to his little girl, Molly! Alaska removes her cap, revealing her curls, and no sooner are father and daughter reunited than they are separated by death.
     Phil decides it's time to head back home to Lorraine, and leaves his buddy Alaska to work the claim. He is thrown from his sled and is left alone in the wintry wilderness. The next morning, Alaska wakes to the jingling bells of the returning pilotless dogsled, and goes out to save Phil, which she does, although admittedly still bitter about his having left her for Lorraine.
     Spring comes, and one day Phil spies Alaska secretly frolicking by the lake, naked as the day she was born, highlighting the fact that she's a she (no CGI here, either, but shot from far away). Later that day, some prospectors happen by the cabin and leave off some newspapers from the States. Phil picks up one only to read, 'Prominent socialite Lorraine Dower weds New York millionaire.' Next morning, Phil takes Alaska to Fairbanks, ostensibly to file a new claim. Instead, he takes her directly to the chapel (pastored by the Rev. U.R. Blest), whereupon he announces that they want to be married, to which Alaska coyly consents.
Soapy in the film?

      Soapy's son was so offended by the film that he threatened to sue the producer for libel if he did not remove the objectionable scenes. From watching the film it is not clear whether Soapy's son was successful or not.
     The only mention of Soapy is an approximately 15-second scene when Phil and Alaska arrive in Skagway. The entire part plays as follows:
     Slide: The old sourdough takes Alaska and Phil to the grave of the notorious gunman, Soapy Smith.
     Screen: [Shows Soapy's tombstone, circa 1919, tattooed with graffiti] Jefferson R. Smith, died July 8, 1898, aged 38 years.
     Slide: 'This fellow tried to shoot up Skagway. They buried him with his boots on.'
     Of course, it's possible that some original version had a somehow more sinister depiction of Soapy and after being threatened with a lawsuit, the director removed it, leaving only the cut I saw. It may be that not every copy of the film was edited and the Library of Congress has one of the uncorrected versions, or, none of the versions were corrected, and Jefferson Randolph Smith III was not successful in his legal attempt to have the offending portion removed. 

Soapy's son, Jeff sees the film.
The letter campaign and legal suit begins.

     The film is released to theaters on August 18, 1919. One month later, on September 19, 1919 Soapy's son, Jefferson Randolph Smith III, goes to a neighborhood theater in St. Louis, Missouri to watch The Girl Alaska. The following day Jefferson types a letter to Ricord Gradwell. Thankfully, Jefferson made copies of his correspondence so we have both sides of this episode in Jefferson's life. Ricord Gradwell was an employee, possibly some sort of secretary for World Film Corporation.
     Jefferson accuses the company of libeling his father, stating that there was no authority to brand his father "of such character as pictured in this photoplay." Jefferson demands that the libelous reference be cut from all print of the film. He also demands an "immediate explanation on what grounds you are using the sub-titles in which you libel him and what steps you took to investigate the truth of these assertions." Jefferson goes on to explain the damage done to him.
     My attention was drawn to this picture by a former rival in business who accosted me on a street car and in a sneering manner and loud enough to be overheard by others, repeated what he had seen on the screen.
     As you are a business man you immediately can see the harm this picture has already started to do. To thousands of persons in Saint Louis with whom I have had business dealings I am known as Jefferson Smith. To my close friends I am known as Jefferson R. Smith. How many of these people have seen this picture and thus formed an opinion that is injurous to me remains to be seen.

Second letter sent out
From Jefferson Randolph Smith III
To Mr. Ricord Gradwell
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

     Keep in mind that Jefferson's father had been deceased 21 years, and that this was perhaps the first time that he had ever heard someone speak ill of his father, to the world audience of movie goers. His pain is real. He is not seeking money, at first, but rather only seeks a removal of the hurtful words, even if true to modern readers. 
     Jefferson waits two weeks and writes again, on October 6, 1919.
     Two weeks ago I wrote you regarding your film "The Girl Alaska." You have ignored my letter, disregarded my plea and have continued to flaunt in the faces of people, I come in contact with, an untruth and libel.
     There is but one course left for me and that is to ask my attorney to act. I will place this matter in his hands immediately and you will hear from him.

1st reply letter
From William A. Brady
Jefferson Randolph Smith III
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

     Three days later, October 9, 1919, Jefferson received a letter from William A. Brady, general manager of the World Film Corporation, producers and distributors of motion pictures. Brady referred Jefferson to George Kleine, the producer of, "The Girl Alaska."
     Brady and World Film Corporation did not produce the film, but acted as the distributor. Brady wrote
     We presume that you will hear from Mr. Kleine in due course, and are prepared to carry out any instructions we may receive from him in regard to altering the picture.

2nd reply letter
From George Kleine
To Jefferson R. Smith III
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

     George Kleine of George Kleine Motion Pictures writes Jefferson on October 17, 1919 placing any alleged blame on others and places the burden of proof back on Jefferson. Jefferson realizes that it's time to procure an attorney. He selects the firm of McCarthy, Morris and Zachritz.
3rd letter sent out
From McCarthy, Morris and Zachritz
To George Kleine
Jeff Smith collection

 (Click image to enlarge)
     Jefferson's attorney's, McCarthy, Morris and Zachritz, sent George Kleine a letter introducing themselves and their intentions on behalf of Jefferson R. Smith III, on November 4, 1919. The first paragraph is a summary of the correspondence thus far. The second paragraph introduces "... damage repaired insofar as legally possible."

     However, this film is still being shown in this City in its original form and has undoubtedly done great damage to our client's status in this community. As a matter of course, it has caused Mr. Smith and his family considerable annoyance and irritation, and he is insisting on immediate action on our part to the end that the objectionable features of this film may be suppressed and the damage repaired insofar as legally possible.
3rd reply letter
Part 1
From George Kleine
To McCarthy, Morris and Zachritz
Jeff Smith collection

 (Click image to enlarge)
3rd reply letter
Part 2
From George Kleine
To McCarthy, Morris and Zachritz
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)
     George Kleine appears to want to resolve the issue in this letter dated November 5, 1919. As we proceed, I can't help wonder something. The film was released to theaters around the country on August 18, 1919. As of this letter it has been 79 days (11 weeks) since the films release. In 1919 how long did films stay in theaters? Could Mr. Kleine have been stalling? If his company could drag this suit out for the entire theater run he would not have to spend the money to edit the film and replace it in every theater showing the film, which no doubt would be at enormous cost. 
     We enclose with this copy of a letter to the St. Louis office of the World Film Corporation asking them to show the film to Mr. Smith or his representative, after which we would like him to write us definitely what section he would ask us to eliminate. If it can be done without seriously damaging the continuity of the story, we will meet his wishes entirely in the matter; if the proposed eliminations are too drastic as we will discuss the matter further with you and cut out as much as may be practical.
     We trust that Mr. Smith being a newspaper man is equally considerate of the feelings of the present generation when writing about their ancestors. Our own observation of the practice of the press in general shows no such refinements of feeling.
     As a possible stall tactic, or simply the ongoing investigation of justifying their film, George Kleine writes
     Since that day we have heard from Mr. Albert I. Smith, present address Beaux Art Features Inc./, #329 Citizen's National Bank Bldg. Los Angeles, Cal., and have written to the World Film Corporation which is distributing the film for us. They were authorized to cut out the title, which seems to be the cause of complaint, if it did not break the continuity of the film.
     Interesting to note that in my extensive family tree I have several Ira Albert Smith's but no Albert I. Smith's. Only one Ira Albert Smith fits the time frame, but he never lived in California, living the span of his life in Georgia. This does not mean that the company did not have a family member named "Albert I. Smith." Though not detailed as to why this family member is important, it could be that someone contacted him and he aided the companies film project. 
Addendum, 01/16/2022: "Photoplay by Albert I. Smith," meaning that he is not a family member like I assumed, but rather an employee of one of the companies. By "photoplay" they may mean that he is the one who created the photos with the text, the same text that upset Jefferson R. Smith III. "Photoplay" is also a play for theatre that has been filmed as a movie.
4th reply letter
From (not certain)
George Kleine, World Film Corp., and Jeff's attorneys.
Jeff Smith collection

 (Click image to enlarge)
     On November 5, 1919 Jefferson received a copy of a letter from an unknown source, sent out to George Kleine, World Film Corporation and Jeff's attorneys, basically repeating the offer to view the film with Mr. Smith, pin-pointing the offensive portion of the film and deciding if an edit is possible. The letter also adds that 
... while we do not believe that he has any legal right to force the elimination of the objectionable part of the film, we have no wish to hurt his feelings or his standing in his community, ...

4th letter sent out
Part 1
From McCarthy, Morris and Zachritz
To George Kleine
Jeff Smith collection

 (Click image to enlarge)
4th letter sent out
Part 2
From McCarthy, Morris and Zachritz
To George Kleine
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)
     On November 8, 1919 Jeff's attorneys (McCarthy, Morris and Zachritzx) wrote to George Kleine about their viewing of the film.
     In accordance with yours of the 5th inst., in reference to the above matter, in company with Mr. Smith, I called on Mr. W. G. Carter, local representative of the World Film Corporation, this morning and inspected the film in question. We find that the matter complained of commences with sub-title 40 and ends with last frame of sub-title 77, which has been cut-out of the local films by Mr. Carter, who informed us that he would write you immediately suggesting the elimination of this section from all prints in circulation as well as the negative in your possession.
     While the suggestion of Mr. Carter, if carried out, is satisfactory insofar as the future distribution of this film is concerned, the outstanding fact of this matter is that a very serious injury has been done to our client's reputation in this community, and this suggestion does not take into consideration, the matter of "retraction," published to the same extent as the original libel, to which our client is entitled as a matter of law.
The letter describes Missouri's Libel and Slander laws, and adds
     Mr. Smith suggests that your observation regarding the attitude of the press, must be the result of seeing it "through jaundiced eyes .." 
Final reply
George Kleine
McCarthy, Morris and Zachritz
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)
     On November 28, 1919 George Kleine writes his final letter regarding this case. He writes
     We did not in the remotest degree recognize any legal liability in this matter, and do not now.
     Although it is unwise for a layman to argue a legal question with an attorney, we cannot avoid pointing out in the case which you quote, the repeated use of the word "malicious." We did not and do not now know Mr. Smith, have no cause to like to dislike or injure him, we did not photograph the film, nor did we write the titles. It would stretch the imagination of any fairminded man to write a malicious element into the matter.
     If there are to be legal proceedings in the case, we beg to refer you to Mr. Henry Melville, #45 Cedar Street, New York City.
Mr. Melville is likely the attorney for George Kleine and George Kleine Motion Pictures. The use of "malicious" bothers Mr. Kleine greatly. The term is only used in quoting an excerpt from a legal case, "Orchard -vs- Globe-Democrat (240) MO 588 Lc).
Final reply
Possibly never sent
From McCarthy, Morris and Zachritz
To George Kleine
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)
     Jeff's attorneys draft a letter on December 18, 1919. Note that it is in need of editing and has been crossed out with pencil, indicating that it was never completed and sent out. It reads
     You will note from the following authorities that but scant comfort can be drawn from the position you have taken that your conduct has not been "malicious."
     However our client does not even concede that you have not been "malicious" even in the sense in which you use that word as to date you have never volunteered to drop the portions of the film complained of, much less to make the retraction to which he is entitled as a matter of law. We have closely investigated the history of this film and while the expense of marshalling our evidence in the form of depositions will be considerable our client is determined to fight this matter to a finish.
     We still feel that our client's rights in this matter are so clear that he would not be compelled to go into Court to enforce them, hence an amicable adjustment would be to the interest of all parties concerned, but if you feel otherwise we will have no alternative but to use force without stint regardless of where the chips may fall.

This is the final document in my collection of a letter writing campaign that lasted three month's (September 20, 1919 - December 18, 1919). Highly unlikely the film was still in theaters. Did Jeff decide to drop the case? Were the offending items Jeff complained about (commencing with sub-title 40 and ends with last frame of sub-title 77) ever removed? Does the existing film copy in the Library of Congress contain the items Jeff was trying to have removed, or is the copy an edited version? No evidence of a settlement is known to exist.


"The only sure thing about luck is that it will change."
—Wilson Mizner