December 31, 2009


Jeff Smith radio interview

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The End of Soapy Smith
Vigilante guard, Jesse Murphy heads towards Soapy to finish the job

'll be giving an interview with Eddie Burke on KBYR radio in Anchorage, Alaska today around 4 p.m. (Alaska time). The link will get you to the streamline live show on-line. Once there the left side menu will have a link to "listen live."


You might recall the fun I had correcting Craig Medred for using my research out of context in his article about Sarah Palin's book, Going Rogue. He and I debated back and forth for days, all of which I posted 11/29, 11/30, 11/30, and 12/01. The man did not want to give up.

Mel Bryant over at Conservatives4Palin brought the discussion back up and Eddie Burke at KBYR happen to catch it and contacted me for the interview. It should be interesting!


December 30, 2009

Charles "Doc" Baggs - Deadwood, part II

(Click on image to enlarge)
courtesy of

Even with many hundreds of personal letters, documents and newspaper articles it still took me 24 years to feel comfortable enough to publish the true history of Soapy Smith. In regards to Charles “Doc” Baggs all I have are a few newspaper articles that can’t be confirmed. I won’t pretend that I can possibly give you a complete history of this very intelligent bunco steerer. He was on the move all the time, often leaving one location only to later return. All I can do for you is report what I have in my files. Know that these newspaper accounts may be completely inaccurate but considering they contemporary accounts, written and published at the time Baggs was alive, it is the nearest and truest account known until such a time that new provenance can be located.

The following comes from a Deadwood correspondent for the Deadwood Pioneer Press who relates a fantastic story of Baggs in Deadwood during the gold rush in 1877.

My first introduction to him brought me in contact with a veritable gentleman of the cloth, whose closely buttoned coat, glassy stovepipe (then a great curiosity here): his polished boots and polished manners; gentlemanly demeanor and pure conversation upon things celestial, more than things terrestrial, created a profound impression of great goodness, sincerity, and all that. I think he was engaged in establishing missions among the heathen of the far west and solicited my aid, which I being of a religious turn of mind, consented to give; but having an appointment for that hour, I agreed to see him later, received his benediction, and departed. A short time afterward I passed into a crowded saloon to observe the sinfulness of the place, when almost the first person I elbowed was my Christian friend (whose name I cannot now recall) arrayed in a dirty California suit, blue shirt and with the general make-up of the average miner. Although he avoided me, I was satisfied of his identity, and withdrew, pondering, pondering upon the eccentricities of philanthropy. Later, in conversation with sheriff Seth Bullock, I narrated my experience and described my quondam friend. Seth listened patiently, intently and smilingly, and when I concluded, said: “His chapel is just back of here; let’s go over and see him.” I consented. A step or two took us to a small cabin, over the door of which appeared the peculiar tablet: Employment Office. I thought it strange, but said nothing. Opening the door, Seth ushered me into a well appointed, furnished and decorated apartment, apparently a perfect bee-hive of industry, with clerks at work at high and low desks, pouring over ledgers, fingering greenbacks, rattling coins, weighing dust and variously engaged, but they no sooner rested their eyes upon my companion than all work ceased and silence reigned supreme, until Seth laughingly said: “Go on with your work boys; I am merely showing my friend around.” What could it mean? I was dumbfounded. Great stacks of coin loaded the shelves or were visible in the partially open monster safe. Bags of dust as large as the hugest bologna lay upon the counter and tables. The walls were covered with railroad hangers, lottery posters, maps and an array of articles too numerous to mention, while most surprising, upon the center table I discovered a pack of greasy cards and several dice boxes and dice. The scales began falling from my eyes, disclosing a genuine den, but of what exact kind I knew not—I was a tenderfoot. In the midst of my examination the door opened and my reverend friend entered followed by a chap young in years, and young apparently in experience; but no sooner did the guide perceive the sheriff than he remarked, “Is Mr. Bull in?” No?” And retired, quickly followed by Bullock, who said: “See here Baggs, this thing’s got to stop. Now, you mind what I tell you. You, young fellow,” continued the sheriff, addressing the lad “can thank your stars that I am here, or else you’d pay dear for the afternoon’s experience. You’d better git, and keep away from strangers.” The boy “got” and Seth and I returned to his store, when he said, “I’m ____ if I don’t pull the place, complaint or no complaint,” and summoning deputies Millard and Cochrane, we all returned to the “office” which in less than ten minutes was gutted and the contents placed in Seth’s store, where I examined them at leisure. That handsome safe proved to be a dry goods box, deftly painted and arranged. Those great stacks of coin were only brass spiel marks, while the heavy dust bags were filled with ordinary sand and provided with a small inner bag filled with brass fillings. Other arrangements were in keeping. Without doubt that bunko office was the most complete and best calculated to deceive of any of the many that the downed “operator ever established. Doc drove a prosperous business here, probably more so than he ever before or since, owing to the heterogeneous character of the population and the almost total absence of law and officials, but it is doubtful that he took $500 out of the country. He was an inveterate faro player, and would no sooner raise a stake at bunko than he would make a bee line for a faro table, at which he would sit until the last chip was gone if it took all night, which seldom occurred, as he invariably “played the limit” from “the top of the box down.” Many amusing and interesting stories are told of Doc and his adventures, but a lack of space will not permit a recital. A highly educated man, a man of extensive travel and experience; a fluent conversationalist on almost any subject, and a man without a conscientious scruple, Doc Baggs is indeed full of danger to society, and has well earned the title of “King of the Bunkos.”
Glendive Times (Montana) June 9, 1883

To be continued...


Charles L, "Doc" Baggs - con man supreme, part I.

I am conducting a fair legitimate business. My mission is to trim suckers.
—Charles Baggs

Going through my files I wanted to begin writing about some of the other bunco men working in Denver, either with or in direct competition with Soapy. I kept running into “Doc” Baggs and realized I needed to explain him first.

His name is, Charles L. “Doc” Baggs, inventor of the gold brick scheme and Soapy’s predecessor to Denver’s underworld bunco throne. Not only is he important as a stepping stone for Soapy but once Baggs abandoned Denver several key members of the gang he left behind were absorbed into the Soap Gang. These names included “Troublesome Tom" Cady, George Millsap, George Wilder, J. B. Parmer, Con Sullivan and others.

Historical accounts identify Baggs as an early bunco gang leader in Denver and Soapy Smith as the rising leader of another gang. Baggs favored large profits from wealthy dupes. These targets required elaborate, “big-store” swindles that usually took place indoors and involved fake businesses. These operations were often on par with large theatrical productions requiring a set and cast of characters, and could last for days. Baggs left the short cons to Jeff. One of the major drawbacks to Baggs’ methods was that once a large haul had been received, he often times had to flee to avoid arrest and official inquiry. Jeff, on the other hand, was able to stay put and continue operating in the same location because he had many ways of keeping a lid on his businesses, including the rare complaint.

These two dominant gangs in Denver were said to be competitors, and they may have been in some respects as both were organized under different leaders and competed for overlapping portions of the same resource. But apparently plenty was to be had as no instances of warfare between rival gangs are known. Further, plentiful evidence shows that gangs were in the habit of joining forces during city elections to support officials who secretly promised not to interfere with bunco brotherhood businesses run by the gangs that supported them.

I am naturally drawn to the history of Baggs in Denver and what brought him there in the first place and how Soapy was able to assume the throne once Baggs abandoned Denver. Did he leave on his own free will? Was the law too close on his tail? Did Soapy force him out of the seat of power?

Baggs is credited with inventing the "gold brick" confidence scam. He fleeced many wealthy and prominent people by selling them counterfeit gold bars. According to well known historian and author, Robert K. DeArment in his book, Knights of the Green Cloth: The Saga of the Frontier Gamblers, Baggs fleeced a number of men, including

Tom Fitch and L. B. Howard, officers of the Cedros Island Mining Company of San Diego, and Leadville banker H. M. Smith. Fitch and Howard handed over $15,000 for one of Doc’s bogus bricks, and Smith contributed $20,000 to the Baggs “bag.” Miguel A. Otero, later governor of New Mexico, was taken for $2,400 by Baggs in April, 1882.”

The history of Baggs before competing with Soapy in Denver is one of constant movement due to his methods. DeArment writes that Baggs began his crime career as protégé of the famous three-card monte king, “Canada Bill” Jones, shilling for him on trains out of Omaha. DeArment also found that the book, Vigilante Days and Ways by Nathaniel Langford, 1890 shows that Baggs was arrested in July 1873 along with John Bull, Ben Marks and a couple of shills named Cuming and Connor for robbing a James Wilkinson in a crooked poker game aboard a train outside of Omaha, Nebraska.

I found Baggs next in the gold camp of Deadwood, South Dakota, where newspaper accounts show he operated from spring 1877 through the first months of winter 1879. It is estimated that he had amassed $100,000 while there (Omaha Daily Bee, 1882). The blog Deadwoodpoker lists those newspaper accounts in which Baggs’ name was mentioned.

To be continued…


December 29, 2009

Judith Ries, descendant of Ed O'Kelley

I received a nice email from Judi Ries, author of Ed O'Kelley: The Man Who Murdered Jesse James' Murderer, 1994. I've known her for about 20 years now.

She writes,
I have barely scratched the surface of your book, but in browsing through it last evening, I was surprised to see a St. Louis connection via Mary Smith, Soapy’s…uh…er…hmmm…ah…Jeff’s wife, and that she lived at 915 Locust Street . That address is in the heart of downtown St. Louis, about nine blocks west of the Mississippi River …hardly a residential area any longer, by any stretch of the imagination!! For many, many years the building housed a rather elegant several-story tall department store known as Scruggs, Vandervroot & Barney, but I don’t know what is there now. We seldom go downtown because there is so much riff-raff down there, making it not safe at all to just stroll around. We do occasionally go down to some of the riverfront events near the Arch, but seldom go into the downtown shopping area.

Okay, now, set me straight on this: Jefferson Randolph (“Soapy”) Smith I was your great-grandfather, and he was the father of John Randolph Smith (your grandfather) who, in turn, was the father of your own father, Jefferson Randolph Smith II. This, of course, makes you JRS III, the father of JRS IV…right?? In our own family, we have five John Vernon Knowles members – my grandfather, father, brother, nephew, and great nephew, so I understand very well how confusing all these people with the same name can be!!

I can tell that it is going to take quite a while to read the entire book but I’m looking forward to it!!

Judi Ries

I wrote back,

Hi, Judi.
Happy New Year Judi

I figured you might take an interest that Soapy (Jeff) was in St. Louis. I always call him "Soapy" because it confuses people on my website and blog as my name is Jeff. Genealogy can get the best of one when names are passed down. Here is the proper line.

* Jefferson Randolph ("Soapy") Smith II (his father was also name J.R.S.) is my great-grandfather.
* Jefferson Randolph Smith III (Soapy's son) is my grandfather.
* John Randolph Smith is my father
* Jeffrey Owen Smith is me
* Jefferson Randolph Smith is my son

In genealogy if a generation skips passing down a name to their children then the name starts all over again. My grandfather (Jefferson R. Smith III) did not name any of his nine children "Jefferson Randolph Smith," therefore when I named my son Jefferson Randolph Smith he starts out as "I" again. That's the rules. There are members in my family who insist on being the IV, VI and so on but this only confuses the genealogy as people assume that if you are the "IV" then your father has to be "III."

I am glad you are enjoying the book. Keep me posted as I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have.

Jeff Smith

p. 246.


December 28, 2009

Quick quotes...

Soapy had recently returned from his first trip to the new camp of Skaguay, Alaska. While there it was estimated he and several of his men made approximately $30,000 in just 22 days.

One "Soapy" Smith is said to have won $10,000 along the Klondike trail by steady application to the shell-and-pea industry, to which he has devoted years of study, acquiring means by which to keep put of jail most of the time. When Smith is at home he is a citizen of Denver, eminent in politics and equipped with a pull quite sufficient for any emergency. But there being no politics on the Klondike his pull there is something of a mystery, and the neglect to hang him must be viewed as inexcusable. —San Francisco Call, September 12, 1897.

pp. 442-43.


December 26, 2009

Soapy Smith in San Francisco, 1884 part II.

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While researching the names of several bunco men for another post I came across some more clues to Soapy in San Francisco in 1883-1884. There is always the real possibility that the names listed are not that of Soapy's. None the less they are reportable. Two are newspaper listings for registered hotel guests and the third is a passenger list.

  • The first hotel registration is for a "Jeff Smith" at the American Exchange hotel of San Francisco (Daily Alta California, October 31, 1883). This "Jeff" did not list his resident city.
  • The second hotel registration is for "Jeff. R. Smith, Denver" at the Brooklyn Hotel, San Francisco (Daily Alta California, February 23, 1884). Note the period after Jeff"." That is short for Jefferson. That he stated his residence as Denver makes a good case that this "Jeff" is most likely Soapy.
  • The third item is a passenger list "from Point Arena." A "Jeff Smith" from Texas has arrived in San Francisco by an unknown means. (Daily Alta California, December 30, 1883.)


Soapy Smith in San Francisco, 1884.

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The above photograph comes courtesy of the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum which means San Francisco is the topic in today's post.

We know that Soapy was in Phoenix, Arizona on December 26, 1883 where he paid $4.00 for a vendor's license and that six days later, January 1, 1884 (New Year's Day) he was arrested in San Francisco for running the prize package soap racket. The newspapers stated he had been there for weeks. It is possible that he went to Phoenix and other assorted towns for a period of time and then returned to San Francisco. 1883 is a year of uncertainty in regards to where Soapy had traveled. There are only bits and pieces here and there spread out over the year.

In February 1884 we know that Bascomb, Soapy's younger brother sent a letter addressed to his older brother in San Francisco.

The latest clue of Soapy's time in San Francisco in 1884 comes in the way of a very small (2-1/4" x 3/4") newspaper clipping. We know that Soapy saved thousands of newspaper clippings of which a huge majority were saved because he was involved in the content of the article. This latest clue has writing on it which reads, "Call" Feb 21 '84. This is the San Francisco Call, February 21, 1884 and the article reads as follows.

"Stud-Horse" Poker.
In Police Court No 1 yesterday's charge of gambling against a number of young men, who were arrested for playing "stud-horse" poker was dismissed on motion of the Prosecuting Attorney who stated that the game was one of skill and not of chance.

It is a small clue that Soapy may have been in San Francisco for a longer period than previously thought.

pp. 40-42.


December 24, 2009



Aaron Rosenberg's mom

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Aaron's mom and Jeff Smith smile for the camera

Yesterday I received a nice email and picture from Aaron Rosenberg. I had my picture taken with her just before the July 4 parade in Skagway, Alaska. I have to admit I don't remember meeting her that day but years later I do remember meeting her again at the Magic Castle at the annual Soapy Smith Wake in Hollywood, California.

Aaron writes,
My name is Aaron Rosenberg and my mom is the President of your g-g-pa's fame! She was born in Skagway and we recently met you at the Magic Castle a few years ago. Here is the picture I found of you two in Skagway 4th parade in the 80's.

We recently discovered that we are related to the Ice Man mummy, Kwaday [Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi], that they found near my g-ma's Indian village in Alaska. We are Tlingit Indian.

Happy Holidays.
Aaron Rosenberg

Aaron, thank you so much for sending in the picture. I love keeping in touch with people I've met. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you and your mother!


Gay Mathis, genealogist supreme

Dr. Columbus Darwin "Lum" Smith's obituary
Atlanta Constitution Jan. 13, 1911

ay Mathis is doing it again! She is helping my family find its roots and I am happy and lucky as can be. She writes,
I figure the more you have on the Smith side, you may run across someone new in the family tree that has something to help you later on..

I have been doing genealogy for a long long time and sure do love a good mystery..For a very long time, I really got into researching the side characters involved with Jesse James & Gang, besides my main JWJ [Jesse Woddson James] research, that I liked..I have enjoyed it, tremendously..Found some interesting things that were not known before, and posted on the JWJ Delphi [a Jesse James forum].

Here are some of the interesting finds Gay sent me for the family to enjoy and save.

Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929
Name: Columbus D. Smith
Birth Date: 1828
Death Date: 12 Jan 1911
Death Place: Atlanta, GA
Type Practice: Allopath Medical
School: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, 1851, (G) JAMA Citation: 56:363

U.S. Veterans Gravesites
Name: Columbus Darwin Smith
Birth Date: 14 Feb 1891
Death Date: 18 Nov 1966
Service Start Date: 26 May 1941
Interment Date: 23 Nov 1966
Cemetery: Golden Gate National Cemetery Cemetery Address: 1300 Sneath Lane San Bruno, CA 94066
Buried At: Section 2c Site 631

Gay also found some nice information on Luther Martin Smith, another uncle of Soapy's.

SMITH, LUTHER MARTIN, Methodist minister, teacher, was born September 20, 1826, at Oglethorpe, Ga., and died July 4, 1879; son of Ira Ellis and Ellen (Peniston) Smith, the former who was a native of Virginia, and afterwards removed near Newnan, Coweta County, Ga., where he practiced medicine for many years. He removed with his parents to Coweta County, at an early age, and received his education at the country school near his home. He taught at the same school and made enough money to pay his expenses through college. He entered Emory College, Oxford County, Ga., and was graduated with honor, 1848, A. B. He studied law, and was admitted to the bar, and after practicing in Newnan, Ga., for two years, entered the ministry. He was ordained, and throughout his life was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In 1851, he accepted the Greek professorship at Emory College, held this position for sixteen years, was elected president of the college, on the resignation of President James R. Thomas. He filled that office until his resignation in 1871. He went to Greensboro, in 1875, as chancellor of the 'Southern university and his death occurred there July 4, 1879. Married: (1) in January, 1849, to Mary Eliza Greenwood, who died in 1859, step-daughter of Bishop James O. Andrew; (2) in May, 1865, to Caroline Lane. Children, by first marriage: 1. Leonora, d. in childhood; 2. Caroline, m. Dr. W. H. LaPrade, Hazelhurst, Miss.; 3. Ira Ellis, deceased, m. Bessie Scarlet, Brunswick, Ga.; 4. Augusta, Greensboro; 5. Flossie, m. C. A. Grote (q. v.); by second marriage; 6. Lucia, m. Dr. H. C. Howard (q. v.); 7. Luther Lane, deceased; 8. Charles Elmore, Greensboro; 9. Marvin Andrew, d. when twelve years of age. Last residence: Greensboro.

Source: HISTORY OF ALABAMA AND DICTIONARY OF ALABAMA BIOGRAPHY BY THOMAS McADORY OWEN, LL.D. Lawyer, Founder and Director Alabama State Department of Archives and History, and author of numerous historical and bibliographical publications. IN FOUR VOLUMES VOLUME IV CHICAGO, THE S. J. CLARKE PUBLI8HING COMPANY 1921--HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY DEXTER FUND.


December 23, 2009

More on Henry Marshall Smith...

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1900 DeKalb Co., GA. Census record
Showing Henry M. Smith family

On December 20, 2009 I published the post, A Postcard to Soapy Smith, 1883-84. It was about a postcard to Soapy from a cousin, Henry Marshall Smith. In the post I asked for more information on Henry Smith and received several emails from Gay Mathis over at the True West magazine forum. She is a genealogist and historian and here is some of what I learned from Gay about Henry.

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1910 DeKalb Co., GA. Census
showing Henry M. Smith family

Henry Marshall Smith (07/31/1856 - 02/24/1930), physician, son Columbus Darwin "Lum" Smith. He married Emily D. "Mittie" Barnes (03/1855 - 12/18/1928) in Jones county, Georgia, sometime in 1880.

They had four children surviving with two not surviving for a total of six. They are

  • Henry Marshall Smith II (1885 - 06/25/1912)
  • Suzie M. Smith (01/26/1887 - 12/12/1925)
  • Linton S. Smith (05/1881 - unknown)
  • Columbus D. Smith (02/14/1891 - 11/18/1966)

(Click on image to enlarge)
1920 DeKalb Co., GA. Census
showing Henry M. Smith, Linton Smith and Henry Longino family

Some of the questions I wondered about in the original post have been answered now. For instance, now we know Emily Barnes' nickname was "Mittie" and the correct city name spelling of the one city is Tranquilla of Jones county. I went back to the original post and corrected the mistakes.

Gay also sent some page images from the book Coweta County Chronicles for One Hundred Years (Jones, Mary G. Date of Publication: 1928) which has quite a bit on the Smith family of Coweta where Soapy was born. This includes Dr. Linton Smith, Henry Marshall Smith II, Susan Smith Longino, and C. D. Smith as grandchildren of Dr. Columbus Darwin "Lum" Smith (1828-1911).

(Click on image to enlarge)
Columbus Darwin "Lum" Smith
Soapy's uncle

Gay even found that Find a Grave has members of the Smith (Susan [Smith] Longino) family.

There are even more family ongoing details I was able to add to my Family Tree Maker program thanks to Gay but too many to list. Family members can contact me for more information.


December 22, 2009

Soapy Smith's fight in the Horse Shoe Saloon, 1897

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A token and ad for THE HORSE SHOE SALOON

New details of the fight, March 21, 2019

The above token good for one drink or cigar was recently listed on eBay as an item from Seattle, Washington circa 1905. I was interested because it might have come from the same Horse Shoe Saloon known to Soapy while visiting Seattle in the latter part of the 1890s.

The above ad for the Horse Shoe Grill Room located at 614 Front Street in what is now known as Pioneer Square next to the Pioneer Building. It is copied from the 1895-1896 Seattle City Directory. Interesting to note that they had telephone service ("TEL MAIN 115").

(Click on image to enlarge)
The building as it looks today

Soapy continuously visited Seattle and other cities in Washington. During the Klondike gold rush of 1896-1898 Seattle bustled with activities associated with outfitting and transportation. By night, according to one newspaper headline, it became "a hot town" that catered to the needs of a largely transient population. One of the amusement houses in which Soapy spent his nights was the Horse Shoe Grill Room. This place was to Seattle what the Arcade Saloon was to Denver. In fact a letter to Soapy from John Murphy, possibly the same former owner of Murphy's Exchange in Denver, came "care Horse Shoe Saloon." At this time it is not known if the two men are the same, or if he was perhaps connected to the Horse Shoe in a proprietary way.

On October 1, 1897 during one of Soapy's visits he became involved in a sizable affray when two groups of men began fighting inside the saloon. The Rocky Mountain News of Denver covered the affair.


Jeff Smith and Jimmy Dugan Badly Beaten Up in a Saloon Row.

Special to The News. SEATTLE, Wash., Oct. 1. —Jeff Smith, Jimmy Dugan and Elmer Maybury, formerly a Denver sport, engaged in a fight to-night in the Horse's Shoe saloon, during which Maybury was stabbed once in the arm and his clothes cut several times. Ed. Gaffney, a local athlete, who took Maybury's part, narrowly escaped a deadly thrust from Dugan's knife. Smith and Duggan were badly beaten up. An old grudge on the part of Smith toward Maybury was the cause of the row. The saloon floor was covered with blood. A plate glass mirror was broken and guns were in sight all around.

No record of arrests or other details have been found...yet. Man, would I liked to have been a fly on the wall for that one as surely this fight was more than what was printed in the newspapers.

pp. 443, 502.


December 21, 2009

"I had to put your book down for a few days, but I got back into it yesterday. I have to say that the chapter on the Denver City Hall standoff could be turned into a movie screenplay all by itself. Not sure where it would end, though. Kinda hard to figure out who the good guys were! Great stuff, Jeff." —Bungalo Bill.


Soapy Smith's bloody ascot

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Soapy Smith's blood stained ascot

(Click on image to enlarge)
Ashley and Jeff Smith at the ascot display
in the Skagway City Museum 1998.

t the Skagway, Alaska City Museum rests an ascot on display. It is said to have belonged to Soapy Smith, given to him by a female admirer in the summer of 1898. The story is that Soapy wore this tie the night he confronted the vigilantes and was killed. Blood stains seem to confirm this yet in the city museum the ascot is folded to hide the blood stains. There is another story that goes along with the neck-piece, that the blood is not human blood but rather the blood of a chicken, intentionally splattered upon the ascot for the benefit of tourists.

Is the ascot Soapy's? Is the blood his?

(Click on image to enlarge)
Soapy's blood stains

The latter question can most likely be easily solved. First test to see if it is human, then if it passes that mark a DNA profile can be obtained from the Smith family. Personally I can only guess but I do sincerely believe the ascot is the same one given to Soapy in June 1898.

(Click on image to enlarge)
Patriotic pin-back, circa 1898

With the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine off the shores of Cuba Americans demanded and received revenge in a declaration of war starting the Spanish-American War of 1898. The crossed flags of the U.S. and Cuba became one of the many patriotic symbols that addressed everything from envelopes and letterhead to pin-back buttons.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Soapy dove into the opportunity to create a private army, The Skaguay Military Company, offering his services to President William McKinley for the war effort and then to Governor John Brady of the District of Alaska for any future services he may desire. It is certain Soapy created this mercenary army to include the legal crushing of any vigilante uprising against him and his growing empire. On May 1 and July 4, 1898 "Captain" Soapy paraded his army around Skagway for all to see and recognise his new authority.

The ascot was first reported in a Skaguay News Supplement page on June 17, 1898.

"Yesterday afternoon Jeff Smith received through the mail, a box containing a white, silk piquet ascotte cravat, with a hand-worked American and Cuban flaf above the scarf pin. On the back of the cravat was written the words: "From Miss A. A. Stevens, Seattle, to Capt. Jeff Smith." Jeff has no acquaintance with the young lady, and can not understand the matter."

At least one photograph contain a hint that he wore the new ascot during the July 4 parade. It appears to be the only known photograph and time that Soapy had a white tie (ascot) on. Unfortunately detail of that neck-ware is lacking.

Surely someday in the future tests will be made to confirm or deny whether the blood is Soapy's or not. You can bet the results will be posted here on this blog.

Details of Soapy's adventures as Captain of the Skaguay Military Company, along with the original letters, documents, and minutes sent in to the president and governor and all the other details can be found in Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of as Scoundrel.


December 20, 2009

A postcard to Soapy Smith, 1883-84.

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Postcard to Soapy Smith
circa 1883-1884

One of my favorite tasks is researching documents and letters in my collection and files. Some of these are Xerox copies made decades ago by other family members, my father and his siblings. The machines used to copy letters were not as nice as their modern counterparts and it can be a chore trying to decipher what some of these old copies read.

The following postcard was sent to Soapy (Jefferson Randolph Smith II) from his cousin, Henry Marshall Smith around 1883-1884. Here is the contents of the postcard. Note that I added the proper grammar marks for clearer reading.

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Front of postcard

The front of the postcard has written at the top, "Tranquilla, Jones Co. Ga, Aug 16" and is addressed to "Mr. Jeff R. Smith Jr. Portland, Oregon"

(Click on image to enlarge)
Back of postcard

The back of the postcard reads as follows. Note that I matched the sentences for better deciphering purposes.

Tranquilla Ga, Aug 16
Dear Jeff: Your first rec’d.
I wrote you a long letter and
directed it to San Francisco.
It seems impossible for my
letters to reach you. Write
me where you will be three
weeks ahead and I will write
you a long letter. Write me
all about the different
countries you have visited
and which you like best. Mittie
(my wife) says please send her
a small bunch of flowers
from each state that you visit

so she wants to press them
in her scrapbook. All the
Smiths in Coweta are well
when last heard from. You
just ought to see my fine
Linton. He can walk now.
Write me at least once a
month. Would give the
world to see you. Write soon.
Your aff
H. M. Smith

The author of the postcard, Henry Marshal Smith is a cousin of Soapy's. Henry's father (Soapy's uncle) is Dr. Columbus Darwin Smith. Henry, born in 1856 was four years older than Jeff and in 1883-1884 would have been about 28. He had 4 children, one of which was named Linton, named in the postcard.

(Click on image to enlarge)
Sample of 1884 postcard

Note that the 1884 postcard to the right is almost identical to the one used my Henry to Soapy.

Soapy was on the move during this period in his life’s career. He was in Portland, Oregon on August 2, 1882 where he filed a vendors license. 45 days later Soapy filed for a license in Salem, Oregon. New Years Day, January 1, 1884 Soapy was in San Francisco where he was arrested. He was arrested again in February 1884.

I am hopeful someone has more information regarding the contents of this postcard and Henry Marshall Smith.