August 19, 2009

Soap Gangster John Bowers

(Click image to enlarge)
Foster and Bowers handcuffed together
(After Soapy Smith's death)
Skagway, Alaska, July 1898

The "Reverend" (and sometimes "Professor") John L. Bowers is perhaps the most infamous of Soapy Smith's Soap Gang. In the gang he was known as a "grip-man" or "glad-hander," who steered victims to one of Soapy's many prepared to swindle establishments by pretending to become a new found friend of his prey. His occupation in city directories in Denver was listed as an auctioneer and he worked as such in Soapy's famed auction houses on Seventeenth Street. He was loyal to Soapy to the very end.

Before Bowers met and joined the Soap Gang he already had his own past record of a criminal persuasion. The earliest known crime involved breaking and entering in 1875 of two businesses under the alias of "Henry Ballantyne."

My book goes into great detail about Bowers and his time with the gang. Below is a clipping from the Rocky Mountain News.

Selling Snide Watches.

On complaint of William Nicols, a gentleman from the rural district, John H. [sic] Bowers, as auctioneer, at the corner of Seventeenth and Market streets, was arrested on the charge of obtaining money under false pretenses. Nicols claims that he bought a watch for $25 which the auctioneer represented as solid gold. Nicols took the watch and walked away as proud as a king, only to find a few hours later that all the gold had worn off his watch and that instead of being solid gold it was common dingy brass. He returned to the auctioneer who politely informed him that he could not buy the watch back as he was selling and not buying such articles. Bowers was placed under $300 bonds for his appearance at Justice Simmonds’ court….

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for leaving your comment and/or question on my blog. I always read, and will answer all questions left here. Please know that they are greatly appreciated. -Jeff Smith