June 22, 2010

Jeff R. Smith: Auctioneer, 1892 (Artifact #17).

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Clearly Jeff believed his line of work had become hazardous enough that when offered a life and accident insurance policy with his subscription to the Denver Times, he bought it. The policy came from the Travelers Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut. Naturally, Jeff wanted to be sure his family could care for itself financially in the event he suffered an accident. On the policy, Jeff listed his occupation as auctioneer. Given his true profession and its hazards, however, should Jeff’s heirs have tried to collect on the policy, benefits might have been denied. Among the events that would void the policy were accidents or death that involved intoxication, dueling or fighting, violating the law, and exposure to unnecessary danger. Two months later, Jeff almost involuntarily tested the bounds of his policy. It was the evening of October 11, 1892, when Jeff used his gun and a gambler named Cliff Sparks died on a barroom floor.

Alias Soapy Smith, p. 250

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The Cliff Sparks shooting inside Murphy's Exchange showed the worst side of Denver's underworld. It is too an example of the power Soapy welded to get himself and his friends out of a murder charge. No one was punished in the murder of Cliff Sparks, but that's a story for another time.


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