June 30, 2010

Jeff Smith's Parlor ad

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Jeff Smith's Parlor ad 
Skaguay News 1898


The Skaguay Military Company volunteers, 1898

I received an email of nice comments and a question from Rich Hennessey. It gives me a good reason to try out the new comment avatar I found!

Rich writes,

Hello Jeff: I just want to tell you, your blog keeps getting better and better!

Also, the band 'Soapy Jefferson' sounds awesome.

P.S. I am up to page 523...and loving every paragraph.

Also, in the pictorial book "Great American Bars and Saloons" by Kathy Weiser...there is a similar photo to the one in your book of Jeff Smiths Parlor. However, in this photo there are 11 [possibly 12] men milling about out front. You 'probably' are aware of this photo...but just in case, I thought I would mention it.

The gang looks kind of dejected or bewildered. Could this possibly have been taken the day following Jeffs death?

Rich Hennessey

Hi, Rich.

I am so glad to hear that you are enjoying the book! I wonder if other authors get this much feedback? I'm loving it because I don't have to wonder.

I believe I know which photograph you speak of [see top photo].  Note how all the men are on the left hand side and right up to the door, as if waiting in a line. I believe this is the sign-up line for volunteers joining the Skaguay Military Company in May 1898 (probably May 1). I do not believe it was taken after Soapy's death as no one wanted, let alone dared to be associated with Soapy after his death for fear of being shot or hung by the vigilantes. I don't think Jeff Smith's Parlor opened again until after John Clancy took possession.

The above photograph is pictured in my book and is believed to have been taken on the same day, (May 1898) showing Soapy and gang member John L. "Reverend" Bowers standing outside the saloon. Note that Bowers appears to be laughing at something someone said. Did Soapy crack a joke?

Would I love to see a clear copy of the photograph above! It shows what appears to be a patriotic (lots of flags and signs) assembly. Could this be the infamous burning of Spain's Valeriano Weyler effigy (May 1, 1898)?


Patriotic assembly and the burning of Weyler: pp. 500-02.


June 29, 2010

The band: Soapy Jefferson

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Soapy Jefferson
The band

A new band hailing from Croydon, South London in the United Kingdom has opted for a very interesting name choice. The band Soapy Jefferson is indeed named after the original Soapy Smith. Members, Josh Mills, Joe Flynn, James Mallett, and Jim Hewins are excitedly looking forward to their forthcoming debut EP "Carnival" which will be available this summer.

You can see more of the band on YouTube - Soapy Jefferson TV. and the groups MySpace Music page. In the mean time below is a little taste of the bands talent.


How fun are the Soapy Smith wakes?

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The very first Soapy Smith Wake
July 8, 1977

There wasn't much to the very first Soapy Smith Wake. My father bought the champagne and continued to do so annually until his death in 1987. We went up to the cemetery and had a blast. My uncle Joe wasn't feeling well so he and Thelma did not make it. From left to right, Joanne (Joe and Thelma's daughter), Dorthy and Jim Richards (Days of '98 Show), me, Greg (my brother), Tad, Dorthy and Randy Smith (my mother and father), and Jeff Brady. This is the party that started it all.

Today that party has become a tradition in two states and the family is honored by both of them. However, we're not the only ones looking forward to this event.  Magician Keith Cobb who goes by the alias of "Grifter" hails from Chicago. The event is in Hollywood, California a 1700 mile trip for the gentleman, yet for several years he was an annual regular to the event. The last two years brought change that altered his plans and he could not make the Wakes. As luck would have it "Grifter" was able to make adjustments this year and once again will make the long trek to be among those at the Magic Castle paying their respect and homage to Soapy. Below is a quote from the Scoundrels Forum from John Tonsick, alias "Honest John T" who also is an annual regular of the Wakes.   

Grifter, glad to see you're gonna make it this year. God, I wish everybody on this board could come out. If you haven't been to a wake, you cannot imagine the fun we have. For "Lucky" (his wife Linda) and me, this is the highlight of our social calendar. It's like stepping back in time; surrounded by friends and fun.


June 27, 2010

The Jefferson R. Smith home: Ferguson, Missouri

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The Jefferson R. Smith III home
Ferguson, Missouri

In with the many photographs family member Mike Moriarty set me is this front view of the house owned by Soapy's son, Jefferson Randolph Smith III. It was not marked when I received it so I had to do some photo comparisons and that's when I found out whose house it was. Mike will be glad to have this little mystery solved.

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Front and rear of the home

I was able to locate the above photos taken of the front and back on May 6, 1934. It was the writing on these two that identified the house and year. It is located at 123 Adelle Avenue. Photographs indicate the Smith's lived here many years. Unfortunately I don't recall many of the conversations about the home my father grew up in but I do recall going back to Ferguson in the 1970s with my parents to visit his old hometown. Amazingly his home was still standing when my father and I took a walk around his old neighborhood. So was his old school. He used to tell me how far he had to walk to school as a kid. You know the old stories, "uphill in both directions." Standing in front of his old house I causally turned my head to the left and could see his school about one block away. I walked 10 times further to school than he did. What was his defense? "I was smaller back then." Lol.


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left: A profitable golf course my father built in the backyard.
right: My father, John Randolph Smith in the same backyard.

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The Smith kids

This is a hard one to identify all the kids correctly as there are only seven of the nine kids here. I'm going to do my best and hope someone in the family will correct me if I'm wrong. The photo was taken in the backyard around 1920-22. I am basing that on the age of my father who looks to be about two (born 1918). (Back row, standing left to right) Joseph Jefferson Smith, (cut out) probably the mother or father, (baby in arms) Justine McGlynn Smith, June Catherine Smith, Joan Wanda Smith. (Front row, seated left to right) John Randolph Smith, Judith Smith, Jane Smith. Joy Roberta Smith (1927) and Jacqueline Alice Smith (1928) were not born yet. The missing face is probably their mother who passed away in 1931 when all the children were still very young. I am guessing the picture was cut out to place in a picture charm.   

I was taken by surprise to learn that the old house is still standing. Check out the Google map below.

View Larger Map


Soapy Smith protests non-payment: Artifact #19.

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On January 30, 1892 Soapy purchased a Creede, Colorado town lot from a W. J. Kurt for $100. Five days earlier, on January 25, 80 acres of state land in Creede, leased to a V. B. Wason as “school land,” was reported subleased illegally to squatters. Soapy may have purchased some of these lots for resale or perhaps never had any to sell but it is believed he was selling lots just the same.

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The check

On February 2, 1892, Soapy was in Creede filing a non-payment action on a check for $750. J. M. Burkhart of Trinidad, Colorado had written to Soapy. Perhaps Burkhart suffered buyer’s remorse, or, more likely, saw himself the victim of a swindle, and on February 5 he successfully stopped payment of his check. Soapy's document filing official protest of non-payment was written up and notarized by H. J. Alexander and given to the Miners Bank of Creede where he had opened a checking account. The outcome of the attempt to collect is unknown. The document shows Jeff still had an account at Denver’s First National Bank.

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Back of check

On Tuesday, February 9, 4 days later, Soapy acquired leases on lots 5 through 13 in block 24 on Cliff Street for a mere $22.50 a month. On the same day he also acquired lots 14 and 15 of block 24 for only $5 a month. Names on the leases include Soapy, John Kinneavy, and L.S. Palmer, the latter possibly being Joe Palmer. The leases covered three-quarters of the west side of Cliff Street between Wall and Second streets, some of the most prime real estate in Creede. Soapy also leased a lot just above the one on which he was living “to be used for a dwelling house.” Presumably this location would be for a family home. Soapy’s lease of this dwelling one week before the commercial property indicates his confidence of success in the camp.

Soon after leasing the lots on Cliff Street Soapy obtained even better lots on the east side of Creede Avenue, the main street in the camp and one block west of Cliff Street. Just how Soapy obtained the best lots in town was reported in Denver. He utilized the aid of the Market Street soiled doves of Denver to sooth the lots away from their owners, but that's another story for another day.

Economic note: The check for $750 in 1892 is the equivalent of a check for approximately $22,095.16.

Non-payment story: p. 201.


June 26, 2010



1820 Census: Ira Ellis Smith

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The 1820 Federal Census for Dinwidde county, Virginia shows Soapy's grandfather, Ira Ellis Smith and possible his older brothers John Fletcher Smith and George Edward Smith. I'll admit that I can't decipher this census writing and am in hopes someone else can and will get back to me on it.

I found it on Ancestry.com and I can also send a larger digital copy to anyone who wishes to try deciphering it.


June 25, 2010

Soapy Smith, the charitable man.


Quick quotes.

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Soapy Smith's tax bill 1898: Artifact #18

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Artifact #18 is a special tax bill for property in St. Louis owned by Soapy and his wife, Mary. Note that it is stamped JULY 8, 1898, the day Soapy was killed in Skagway, Alaska and delivered to Mary personally on July 13. The property is their home at 917 Locust Street. The bill is for additional funds ($95.84) owed to the St. Louis Quarry Construction Company for "Constructing Sidewalk with Artificial Stone Flagging" on "Oak Hill Avenue, between Humphrey and Arsenal Street."

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June 24, 2010

Skagway's John Clancy covers his a**

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John Clancy

This one newspaper clipping published after Soapy's death exonerating John Clancy, Soapy's partner in Jeff Smith's Parlor from any criminal involvement with Soapy led the family to believe that he must have struck some sort of deal with the vigilantes.

Clancy's betrayal: p.552-54.


Soapy Smith aids a fallen police officer, 1893.

The following is an excerpt from my book, Alias Soapy Smith.

While Jeff was always occupied with making money, he seems never to have lost sight of the struggle of the masses. Frequently Jeff found time and capital to aid those in need. When on February 17, 1893, police clerk Sam T. Inman committed suicide over financial problems, Jeff took out his wallet to help the man’s family.

Jeff Smith performed yesterday another of those acts of generosity and charity for which he is noted. When he heard that Sam Inman had left his family in very poor circumstances he at once put his name down for a large amount on a piece of paper and got a number of his friends to do likewise. The fund has reached $362.00.

The amount does not seem like much today, but an inflation calculator for 1893 shows it to be about $10,850 today.

Jeff’s giving, however, had a practical side. The gift was surely also a contribution towards improved relations with the fire and police board. Inman, an ex-deputy sheriff and ex-lieutenant of police, was a clerk of the police court, but his position was to be eliminated. He was also a gambler going through a losing streak. The game of faro was his favorite, which is possibly how Jeff came to know him. He was survived by a wife, son, and daughter. In a note to his daughter he wrote that he had not a dollar to his name and on the previous day had lost $175 gambling at the Nickel Plate Club, the Chicken Coop, and the Jockey Club.

Sam T. Inman: p. 271.


A friendly poker game awaits you.

Care to play?

The friendly poker game, known as "big mit" in Soapy's notebook was my inspiration for this Paintshop art.


June 23, 2010

The Bloody Ballad of Notorious Bad Man Soapy Smith’s Wretched and Violent Demise II

My good friend Ed Parrish has improved his Soapy Smith ballad and I want to share it with you. The lyrics are below. This is a great ballad and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The Bloody Ballad of Notorious Bad Man
Soapy Smith’s Wretched and Violent Demise

by Ed Parrish © 2008

Alaska in the Gold Rush days, where life was cheap and thin,

Such desperate times were perfect times for brutal, desperate men.

In Skagway, Soapy’s grifter mob left many miners broke,

And if you weren’t a gambler, they’d just rob you of your poke.


With a pistol in his pocket and a rifle in his hands,

Soapy went alone to fight the vigilante band.

To shoot a few and chase the rest into the icy bay,

They’d wish they’d never messed with Soapy Smith of old Skagway.

Where your life ain’t worth a sawbuck, and your end is just ahead,

And the only law comes from your guns in a lightning hail of lead,

Soapy was the boss man. He ran old Skagway’s crime,

’Til the outlaws got together and said Soapy’s out of time.

With bad men cheating bad men, they’re going to spill bad blood.

They’re outlaws taking trips to hell down through Alaska’s mud.

The Skagway vigilantes couldn’t make him run away,

Soapy came straight at them to chase them into the bay.


With a pistol in his pocket and a rifle in his hands,

Soapy went alone to fight the vigilante band.

To shoot a few and chase the rest into the icy bay,

They’d wish they’d never messed with Soapy Smith of old Skagway.

The bullets started flying a’twixt Soapy Smith and Reid,

Until they both lay on the wharf, and there they both did bleed.

Then Jesse Murphy turned ol’ Soapy’s lever gun around,

And blew out Soapy’s heart as he lay helpless on the ground.

When the shooting stopped and cordite clouds thinned out enough to see,

Soapy went to boot hill, with the grifters’ guard, Frank Reid.

Nobody mourned old Soapy when they sent him off to hell.

Skagway wouldn’t miss him, not so’s anyone could tell.

(Final Refrain)

Bold as brass and full of fire, there in the midnight sun,

Soapy went straight at the mob, though he was only one.

He’s waiting in the pits of hell now with his guns in hand,

He’ll hunt them through eternity – that vigilante band.

Written in honor of the 110th anniversary of Soapy’s death, July 8, 2008.


General Thomas M. Anderson in Skagway, Alaska 1897.

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U.S. Army General Thomas McArthur Anderson

On February 25, 1897, 100 soldiers of the 14th Army Infantry under the command of then Colonel Thomas M. Anderson arrived in Skagway to establish a post. In addition to being available to supply stampeders with relief should it be needed and control in case of large-scale civil unrest, the US Army was there to keep peace with Canada as there was a border location dispute never resolved until the time of the gold rush. Canada claimed Skagway and Dyea were in Canada and the U.S. disagreed. For a time both nations had standing armies located in the camp. Canada eventually backed down and drew the line at the summits of the White and Chilkoot passes. The American Army headquarters was later moved to Dyea as a better strategic location. Federal law, then as now, stated that the military could not be called out to Skagway unless the need for martial law was imminent. As far as protecting the miners against Soapy and his grifters the Army was useless. There are diary accounts of trail travelers seeing the shell and pea men swindle their victims as U.S. soldiers watched and did nothing. They were legally prohibited from doing so.

With the blowing up of the battleship Maine in Cuban waters on February 15, 1898 Anderson requested and received a transfer back to the states. In three months time he was promoted to brigadier general and joined the forces against Spain in the Spanish-American War.

For a complete biography of Anderson see:

Thomas M. Anderson: p. 442