June 27, 2010

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.


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