November 13, 2009

Was Soapy Smith in Tombstone for the Gunfight behind the OK Corral

In recent weeks I have received some potential information that leads one to believe my great grandfather, Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith was in Tombstone, Arizona on October 25-26, 1881, the latter day being the date of the infamous gunfight behind the OK Corral between the Earp and cow-boy factions.

Why is this possibly so important? Because it can, and has, opened an interesting can of worms for Tombstone historians, setting up the simple "good vs. bad" into more of a Dodge City (gambler's) War.

(Click image to enlarge)
Soapy looks out a window at the conclusion of the Gunfight behind the OK Corral
Photo by James G. Howes (addition of Soapy by Jeff Smith)

The problem is I obtained my information from a Kenny Vail, who absolutely refuses to disclose his provenance, however, if Vail is being truthful about seeing "Jefferson Randolph Smith's" signature in two Tombstone hotel registers on one or both of those dates listed above then it could very well open a new chapter in the political/gambling battles going on within the city, including the addition of a new theory that involves a possible fight for control of Tombstone's criminal underworld and perhaps even one of the reasons why the gunfight took place! My father once told me, "good ideas are often created from bad ideas," so with that in mind please ponder these few thoughts:

Wyatt Earp testified that "Big Ed" Burns (spelled Byrnes in Tombstone) was one of the men who warned him that the "Cow-boys" were handing out threats against the Earp's. Burns was later known as a key member of the Soapy Smith gang in Denver, Colorado and Skagway, Alaska between 1887-1898. If Soapy had arrived the day before the gunfight could it possibly be that parties of the old Tombstone "gambler's war" which had supposedly ended, enlisted the aid of the bunco men in their cause? This would not be the first time by any means that the bunco gangs were utilized in exchange for the right to operate their games, a contract, being a good defining term. Could Soapy Smith have been called upon by Burns, Bat Masterson, or other friends of the Earp's and the Soap Gang? One big question to ask is for which side were the bunco men to aid? Could the fight have been a trap to assassinate one side or the other? All indications point to the bunco men siding with the Earp's

One step at a time.

More research is needed to find out if Kenny Vail's information is on the level. He has a vow of silence in releasing any provenance. Soapy supposedly signed two hotel registers on the dates indicated so that would be the first logical place to check.

The above information was posted on several Tombstone related forums with a lot of fan-fare that led to some new information (for me) regarding "Big Ed" Burns in Tombstone but little in the way of whether Soapy was there. I promise to report on any new information as it comes in.


1 comment:

  1. This is all very exciting!! I hope you find prof that he was there!!


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