July 31, 2008

Sad News...

Jay Smith Hartzell
11/21/1944 - 07/24/2008

Jay Smith Hartzell, son of Judith Smith and great-grandson of Jefferson “Soapy” Smith passed away on July 24th 2008 from complications of lung and brain cancer. He was 63. He will be missed.

July 23, 2008

Descendant of Deputy Marshal James Rowan, killed in Skagway

Hi, Gang.

I never ceased to be amazed at who finds our website and writes in. Today was no exception. The great-grand-daughter of U.S. Deputy Marshal James Mark Rowan wrote me looking for information on him. Rowan is the lawman shot dead along with McGrath by bartender John Fay on February 1, 1898 in Skagway, Alaska. The vigilante "Committee of 101" gathered up a mob to hang Fay but Soapy hid Fay while he and his men held off the unruly mob at gunpoint. Fay was eventually promised safe passage and handed over to the U.S. Commissioner to be taken to Sitka to await trial. Soapy was in favor of law and order. As it turns out the court system actually worked to his advantage because it was so slow. Most miners were not willing to wait around for a trial and thus the Soap Gang got off more times than not.

Please welcome Renee Rowan,

Hello Mr. Smith,

     My name is Renee Rowan and I am the great granddaughter of Marshal James Mark Rowan. I have reviewed your website and was wondering if you had any information about my grandfather, James Mark Rowan and his mother, Bernie Rowan.
t is my understanding that after the killing of my great grandfather, Soapy Smith saved John Fay from being lynched by the townspeople. It is also my understanding that due to the circumstances and his desire to maintain whatever control he had in Skagway, Soapy Smith established some kind of financial aide for Bernie Rowan and my grandfather.
have been tracing my family tree and have not been able to access information re: Bernie Rowan. It is my understanding that she may have given her son to the Catholic Church. I would imagine that it was very difficult for a woman, with a small child, to make a life in Alaska, during that time.
am currently in touch with many individuals in Skagway, as well as with the US Marshals, to gain information re: James Mark Rowan, the great grandfather and the grandfather.
     I hope that you can assist me in my search, as you may hold information in primary source documents that will provide my family with information.

Renee Rowan

July 21, 2008

Soapy Smith: July 21, 1878 outlaw Sam Bass killed

On July 21, 1878 famed Texas outlaw, Sam Bass is shot and killed during a foiled bank robbery attempt in Round Rock, Texas.

17-year-old Jefferson Randolph ("Soapy") Smith and his younger cousin Edwin Smith witness the shoot-out. At that moment Edwin decided not to follow his older cousin into a life of crime.

July 16, 2008

Young Jefferson Smith on Haunted Saloon, 2008











Hi Gang,
ere is a photo of my son Jefferson Randolph Smith (gg-grandson of Soapy) and myself on the stage of the Haunted Saloon internet show in which Jefferson was interviewed. He had a great time and so did I. My on-going goal is to get my two children interested in the history of Soapy...so they'll buy my book!
     The reason for going to the show was to support friend, Keith "Grifter" Cobb who had been invited to the show by producer Terry Clanton. Keith had come all the way from Chicago out to California to attend the Soapy Smith Wake. Now that is a fan! Below is Keith, beautiful friend Holly, Jefferson and the stunning Christy, aka "Sadie."

July 6, 2008

More family members found

Through the website we have found family members...or more properly, they have found us! Today, Elizabeth Moriarty wrote Jeff. They may be meeting for the first time at the Wake on July 12.

She writes,
I've been meaning to write to you for some time, but with July 8th coming up, now seemed like a good time. I'm Soapy's daughter's (Mary Eva) son's (Michael Moriarty) son's (Jim Moriarty) daughter, which I believe makes us second cousins once removed. My fiance and I moved to Los Angeles a couple of years ago after I finished law school (I grew up in Milwaukee). We made a trip up to Skagway a few years ago but, unfortunately, couldn't be there for the wake, so I was pretty excited when I noticed that you have been holding a wake at the Magic Castle for the last few years. We would love to meet you there if possible next weekend. Anyway, I hope you and your family are doing well, and even if the Magic Castle thing doesn't work out, perhaps we can meet up at some other event some time soon.

Elizabeth Moriarty
We hope to see her and her fiance at the Magic Castle. Jeff sent her membership in Friends of Bad Man Soapy Smith.

July 4, 2008

Engine #41: from Creede, Colo., to Knott's Berry Farm

I came across this old postcard on-line of Denver and Rio Grande engine #41. This engine shipped supplies and passengers to Creede, Colorado during the silver rush of 1892. It is probable that Soapy and the Soap Gang were passengers in cars pulled by this very engine. This postcard dates from the 1950s when the engine was purchased and put into use at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. That old engine is still pulling park visitors around the park but it is only a matter of time before it is mothballed. Both my children have rode the train and I am trying to get special permission to get a private tour of the engine.

Billy the Kid and Soapy Smith

     While editing my book this afternoon I ran into some spelling differences in one of Soapy Smith's long time attorney's, Edgar Caypless. I googled the name and found a connection to Billy the Kid of all things.
     Caypless had defended bunco men in Denver as early as 1883. He defended Soapy in July of 1889 in an assault to murder case in which Soapy nearly killed the Rocky Mountain News editor, John Arkins. Caypless defended Soapy and the Soap Gang all the way up to the very end..literally. It was Caypless who defended the "Big Four" Soap Gang members for the robbery of miner John Stewart which directly caused the shootout that resulted in Soapy's demise in Skagway, Alaska on July 8, 1898. 
     So what does this have to do with Billy the Kid? It was Caypless who Billy was trying to hire in 1880-81 to defend him just weeks before he murdered officers Olinger and Bell. Caypless had been outlaw Dave Rudabaugh's attorney and suggested him to Billy. The attorney would have defended Billy had he been successful in gaining possession of Billy's horse to sell off for expenses but the woman caring for the horse would not give it up.


  • Billy The Kid: A Short and Violent Life, by Robert Utley, University of Nebraska Press, 1989. 
  • Skaguay News, December 9, 1898.