May 24, 2010

John Morris mistake.

(Click image to enlarge)
Soapy enjoys a Fort Worth theater?

While doing some research on the death of John H. Morris alias "Fatty Gray" I found a blunder in my book. That's a part of historical research. It's a given that there will be some mistakes. There is just no way around it when one deals with so many unknowns. Part of the job of this blog is to disclose new facts as well as mistakes. Here is what I discovered.

For many years my family thought the John Morris of Fort Worth, Texas was also the John Morris, alias "Fatty Gray" of the Soap Gang. It is a known fact that one of the early starting points for Soapy's criminal career was in Fort Worth. I personally do not recall the The Fort Worth Daily Democrat giving "Fatty's" middle initial and I might have thought it a mistake of the newspaper at the time. That simple middle initial was the clue. I noticed that the more I investigated the more I saw John C. Morris as apposed to John H. Morris. At first I thought perhaps the "H" might be a newspaper mistake in the Denver newspapers but once I came across Morris in Robert K. DeArments book, Jim Courtright of Fort Worth: His Life and Legend, Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 2004, I realized I had the wrong gentleman. Perhaps it was the fact that the John Morris in Fort Worth died December 21, 1881 killed by Deputy U.S. Marshal William Polk Rayner, many years before Morris of Soap Gang fame died in a Murray, Utah saloon brawl.

This mistake was not for lack of trying. I read the Fort Worth Daily Democrat page by page until January 1882 and never saw a death notice. Somehow I missed it. Soapy is known to have left Texas in July 1880 to the city of Leadville, Colorado. From July 1880 to January 1881 I did not see Morris' name in print and surmised that perhaps he had left Fort Worth, possible with Soapy. Actually the only mistakes regarding John "Fatty Gray" Morris are his Fort Worth citations on pages 33-35 and 85. The remaining information is correct with provenance.


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