September 7, 2008

“The police force being ‘sicked’ on Soapy’s trail.”
(A fearful officer is coaxed to go after Soapy)
Denver Republican, January 30, 1896.

The beating of John Hughes in 1895 by Soapy and his brother Bascomb was the last step downward from their reign of power in Denver, Colorado and the rise to power of the Blonger brothers, Lou and Sam. Bascomb ended up in prison and Soapy became a fugitive from the law.

While away from Denver Soapy was involved in several adventures in Mexico, and Cuba and Colorado where he became involved in the very first bullfight to take place on U.S. soil. His legal dilemmas across the U.S., included arrests in New Orleans, Dallas and being beat-up by police in St. Louis along with a gunfight/assassination attempt in Houston, Texas with gambling underworld boss John Dalton.

Soapy longed to return to Denver and regain his throne as well as obtain the release of his brother from prison, but doing so and getting caught would surely mean prison. He did make several “business” trips into Denver unmolested by the city police. This angered the residents and some of the newspapers of the city knowing that Soapy still held some power there even though he was a wanted man.

In a letter to Soapy his attorney told him to disconnect himself from Bascomb. This no doubt shocked Soapy into the realization that he had lost any chance of freeing his brother and of reclaiming Denver as his own. In a last ditch effort to free his brother, on January 30, 1896, accompanied by ten to twelve “fierce looking men, and a woman,” which is believed to have included the very dangerous, “Big Ed” Burns. Soapy secretly returned to Denver hoping no one would recognize him. They disembarked off the train and hopped into a waiting closed carriage that had been previously arranged to meet them. However, a special agent did see Soapy and telephoned to police headquarters. A widespread manhunt by Denver detectives combed the city looking for Soapy and his associates. They would not admit it but most of the officers feared being the one to run into Soapy as he was always armed and very dangerous.

Soapy stayed in the city all day and eventually ran into at least one policeman. Officer Kimmel came across him as he was entering the Brown Palace hotel. Kimmel later claimed that he was unaware that Soapy had returned and that his superiors were searching for him. “Won’t you come in and have a drink,” Jeff is said to have remarked to Kimmel. The officer declined the offer and Jeff went on his way. Under cover of darkness Jeff and his entourage, minus Bascomb, boarded a train headed for Cripple Creek, Colorado.

Within a couple of days the Denver police publicly stated that the whole affair was a hoax and denied Soapy had been in the city. When Soapy and his followers reached Cripple Creek they ran into more trouble…but that’s another story for another day.

[These adventures will be explained in great documented detail in the upcoming Soapy Smith biography by Jeff Smith.]

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