September 28, 2010

New photo of the Orleans Club, Creede, Colorado 1892

I recently found this earlier photograph of Soapy's Orleans Club (far right, under flag) in Creede, Colorado. The sign, shown in my book, at the top of the false front is not present and buildings around it shown various stages of construction. A greater find would be a photograph of the inside!

More about the Orleans Club that has been posted on this blog can be found at the following dated links.

Orleans Club:  pp. 89, 131, 198, 206, 208-214, 218, 225, 227, 229, 231-32, 241, 245-47, 594.


Soapy's son, Jefferson and children, Joe and Joan.

(Click image to enlarge)

Photograph sent in by family member Sarah Moriarty showing Soapy's son and two of his eleven children on the front porch of their St. Louis home.

According to writing on the back it was taken April 14, 1912 and according to the family tree only two children were born at that time, Joseph Jefferson Smith (November 16, 1909) and Joan Wanda Smith (May 21, 1911) which makes identifying the two children pretty easy. That's very good as Joseph, sitting next to his father on the far right looks like a little girl. Dressing boys in "dresses" was the normal fashion of the period which can play havoc when trying to identify eleven children.


September 26, 2010

Soapy's son, Jefferson and 2 unidentified men.

(Click image to enlarge)

A great photograph from the Sarah Moriarty Collection showing Soapy's son, Jefferson Randolph Smith III on the far left in September 1909 (age 22). The two other gentlemen are unidentified. I do recognize the man in the middle from other photographs.

WHO ARE THEY?  Do you know?


Soapy's son, Jefferson and Florence Sprague.

From the Sarah Moriarty Collection, this fine photograph of Soapy's son, Jefferson Randolph Smith III and Florence Sprague, his second wife. If this is a wedding picture then it is June 9, 1934 in St. Louis, Mo.


September 19, 2010

Baby photo of James Luther Smith (Soapy's son)

(Click image to enlarge)

OCT 23, 2022

Family member, Sarah Moriarty sent in two photographs yesterday, the above being of great importance.  Note that the cabinet card reads "J. Collier, 1643 Larimer Street Denver Colo" James was born November 27, 1889 but what is not known is where he was born, Denver or St. Louis. At the end of July 1889 just before attacking Col. John Arkins he placed his wife and children (Jefferson and Mary Eva II) aboard a train to be with her mother. It is very possible that Mary came home to Denver to have James, or at least visited Denver several months after James' birth, and had his photograph taken.

Sarah writes,

Hi Jeff,
I emailed you a while back about Soapy Smith. I've been getting really interested in heritage lately and my aunt just showed me tons of pictures. I picked out a couple that I thought you might want?? You probably have most or all of them since they look like copies to me. Hopefully they'll be new to you. This one is of Joe Smith. On the back it says Little Jim Smith and on the front it says Uncle Joe Smith. ...

... I can send you more if you want, they're mostly of Jefferson Smith and his family, that's why I thought you'd be interested.


Thank you Sarah. Now this is what I hoped for, sharing and family interaction. Sarah, thank you very much for the wonderful photographs. By all means please send what you have. Although based around Soapy Smith, this site covers the entire family history. The more the family can get together and share our individual knowledge the better we will fully understand our history, not to mention help others identify if they are related to us and share out history.

More pertaining to James Luther Smith can be seen at the following date links: May 8, 2010, May 15, 2010.


Do you recognize her?

(Click image to enlarge)

Sarah Moriarty sent me an email yesterday with a photo of M. Campion. I assume this is her married name. Does anyone have any idea who this is? Sarah writes

Hi Jeff,
I emailed you a while back about Soapy Smith. I've been getting really interested in heritage lately and my aunt just showed me tons of pictures. I picked out a couple that I thought you might want?? You probably have most or all of them since they look like copies to me. Hopefully they'll be new to you...

... The second Picture is of M. Campion in 1914. I'm not sure who that is, so maybe you know. My aunt said that she is cousins with my great grandfather (Mary Eva's husband) but then she found pictures of Campion with Mary Eva before that. So she wasn't sure if she was related to Mary Eva or not.

I can send you more if you want, they're mostly of Jefferson Smith and his family, that's why I thought you'd be interested.


Now this is what I hoped for, sharing and family interaction. Sarah, thank you very much for the wonderful photographs. By all means please send what you have. Although based around Soapy Smith, this site covers the entire family history. The more the family can get together and share our individual knowledge the better we will fully understand our history, not to mention help others identify if they are related to us and share out history.


September 16, 2010

The Creede fire: June 5, 1892.

(Click image to enlarge)

While Jeff was in Denver, on June 5, 1892, a disaster of the worst kind struck Creede: fire. It had previously broken out on April 14 in John Kinneavy’s triangle-shaped saloon before it had opened for business. Quickly discovered, it was easily extinguished. Fifty-two days later, a new blaze began in Kinneavy’s, but this time it broke free, roared into the business district, and grew into an inferno well beyond the camp’s ability to contain. It consumed the entire business district, right down to the ground, including Jeff’s Orleans Club. Amazingly no lives were lost, but the loss of property was enormous. The Denver Republican reported the ensuring trouble:

Following the fire, a wild debauch was entered into by the sots and fast women of the camp. Free liquors were had for the stealing, and many cases of wines, bottles of whiskey, boxes of cigars, and such goods were seized and hundreds were drunk before the flames had half burned down. Prompt work by the respectable element of the camp prevented this lawlessness from getting too far. Dozens of men were commissioned special officers by the mayor and these … arrested robbers, and took away the liquors…. Good order was soon restored and maintained for the rest of the day.
Jeff told the News that he lost two buildings in the fire, totaling $8,000 in value, neither being insured. He was reported to have already bought a tent one hundred feet in length and that he would return to Creede to erect it where his buildings had stood. Jeff estimated the total loss at $300,000 but was optimistic about Creede’s future:
"The business portion of the town will be moved to a safer place further down the stream. I have been in every important mining camp of the world, but have seen none equal to Creede. I verily believe that within twelve months there will be 10,000 miners at work in the district. Every man that has a prospect hole stands a fair chance of making a fortune.”

Beyond this optimistic view and Jeff’s stated intention to return to Creede, no records show that he did, although he might have. — Alias Soapy Smith.


Soapy Smith Leases lots in Creede, Colorado 1892: Artifact #22.

(Click image to enlarge)
Front view

(Click image to enlarge)
Rear view

Jeff and his men arrived in Creede sometime after October 4, 1891 and before February 2, 1892. On January 30, Jeff purchased a 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. Not known is where Jeff was when he purchased the lot, but 3 days later on February 2, 1892, Jeff was in Creede to file a non-payment action on a check for $750. J. M. Burkhart of Trinidad had written it to Jeff, perhaps had suffered buyer’s remorse, or, more likely, saw himself the victim of a swindle, and on February 5 had stopped payment of his check. Jeff’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. Jeff had opened a checking account there. The outcome of the attempt to collect is unknown. The document shows Jeff still had an account at Denver’s First National Bank.
On Tuesday, February 9, 4 days later, Jeff 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 Jeff, 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. Additionally, saloons and gaming halls to be operated by Jeff and his friends came to be located on the east side of Creede Avenue, the main street in the camp and one block west of Cliff Street. Jeff 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. Mary and son Jefferson did visit Creede but never resided there. Jeff’s lease of this dwelling one week before the commercial property indicates his confidence of success.
Jeff obtained enough lots in Creede’s business district for himself and some of his Denver friends. The problem was that some of these properties were on “school land.” The state contested these leases and cancelled V. B. Wason’s lease, intending itself to auction lots from the land to the highest bidder. The 102 “squatters” who had leased “school land” from Wason and who had already made improvements were ordered to vacate without reimbursement. They chose to stay and fight if necessary.   —Alias Soapy Smith.

Creede Lease: pages 201-202.


Photograph: Creede, Colorado business district 1892

(Click image to enlarge)

One of my long time collector friends, Jerry H., sent in the above cabinet card of lower Creede showing the main business district. I never get tired of looking at this photo and others like it. The business district was a 24-hour carnival for some four months before fire ended the day-and-night festivities. Because of its short existence there is limited knowledge of the businesses there. The verbal and written accounts of the goings-on in the camp show the wild and woolly side of the saloons and gambling halls. If there were three towns I could go back in time and visit, Creede would be one of them!


September 15, 2010

Almost a new photo of Soapy Smith

(Click image to enlarge)

Every once in a while I run across photographs of Soapy Smith that I have never seen before. I thought I had found one recently on eBay in an auction by Steve Rush. Steve did not advertise it as a photo of Soapy, that was strictly my first response. It is a beautiful cabinet card of Upper Creede, Colorado and although there is handwriting on the back dating it 1895, this is clearly a photograph from early winter/spring 1892, right at the start of the town. A truly worthy piece of Colorado history worth having.

Steve was kind enough to send me an enlarged scan of the people on the sidewalk.

Unfortunately for me what looked like a beard is shown not to be one in the above scan. However, in looking through the Denver Public Library digital collection I found some nice additions that I wanted to share with you.

I have some more very interesting photographs of Creede coming up in the next few days. Stay tuned!


What was it like to tackle the Chilcoot Trail

Ever wonder what it must have been like for the gold stampeders of 1897-98 to hike the trails. Jeff Brady, owner of The Skagway News, and his 10-year-old son Danny find out first hand io the Chilcoot Trail in this two-part story and photographs HERE.


September 14, 2010

En Route to the Klondike: F. La Roche, photographer

In 1897 F. La Roche, a Seattle photographer traveled to Alaska to shoot pictures for a booklet (see above). The following photos are from that work. Click the images to enlarge them.


September 12, 2010

Skagway, Alaska 1910 - 2010

The above photographs above are a nice 100 year comparison. On the left side of each photograph the Mascot Saloon, the Clipper building and the false front of the Skaguay News building can be seen.


Two Little Busted Shoes: The human side of the Soap Gang.

In my book I talk about the content of the William DeVere poem, Two Little Busted Shoes written in 1892 about the human side of the Soap Gang as they lounged in the Orleans Club in Creede, Colorado. Only portions of the poem are published due to space limitations. Below for your enjoyment is the entire poem.

A Touch of Nature.
By William DeVere.

The Orleans Club at Jimtown,* Colorado,
Was a joint where you could play all
     games from a split up to a blue.
And the gang that hung around the club
     I’ll say, ’twixt you and me,
Would hardly cut a figure at a Methodist
     Pink Tea.

There was “Big Ed Burns,” and “Crazy
     Horse,” “Jim Sanford,” “Windy
“Tom Kady,” the shell juggler, “Joe
     Palmer,” pretty slick,
“Joe Simmons, who could deal the bank
     and never lose a check,
“Pete Burns,” “Jim Bolen,” and “Soapy
     Smith,” all high cards in the deck.
It was in the gray of morning, and the
     heterogenious gang
Sat worrying the barkeeper with non-
     sense, guff, and slang;
All “kidding,” “chaffing,” “guying,” in
     a smooth, good-natured way
About the incidental bosh that happened

Sometimes (in east tilted chair) one of
     them’d try to snooze.
And then someone would “loosen up and
     order up the booze”
Some break-of-the-day-boy would come in
     and give the bar boy “guff,”
And learn without politeness that he’d
     “have to have the stuff.”

When one of them would tell the tramp
     to “go and soak his head,”
And say if he “drank water he’d be
     found some morning dead.”
They’d ask him why he didn’t send to
     papa for a check
So he could purchase barb-wire booze to
     lubricate his neck.

And after they had kidded him until
     he couldn’t talk
They’d fill him up with Red Eye and
     tell him to “take a walk.”
Not by any means bad fellows, but they
     loved a little lark,
And they’d give up to the needy quicker
     than a gospel shark.

I happened in one morning to investigate
     my trunk;
I’d left it in the barroom, for I slept
     up in a bunk,
For sleeping berths were limited, and I
     could name a few
Who have stood up in the corner
     in Jimtown in ’92.

Pete Burns remarked: “Get on to him;
     since he stopped getting drunk
He’s saved up all his money for a
     Saratoga trunk!”
And they gathered ‘round me each of
     them, with laughter, josh and kid,
To investigate my wardrobe, when I
     opened up the lid.

It happened now that “Jersey” (ye see
     “Jersey” is my wife),
And no man ever had a better partner
     in his life;
But “Jersey” when she packed the
     trunk, before she closed the lid,
Had just thrown in a souvenir, to mind
     me of the kid.

And as each fellow cranes his neck the
     first thing that he views
Is two tiny little stockings, and two
     little busted shoes;
Right there on top they rested and in
     fancy seemed to say,
“Now, pa, a, don’t forget us when you’re
wand’ring far away.”

Not a single word was uttered by the
     gang that stood around,
And I knew that In the secret to each
     great rough heart had found,
And I knew that each was thinking in
     the early morning gray
Of their wives and little darlings who
     were praying far away.

Praying for those great rough fellows
     who would give their very life
That those wives and little children
     could be spared all pain and strife,
Might never know adversity or what it
     was to lose
The father who would purchase them
     those little busted shoes.

I knew their thoughts in retrospect, flew
     o’er the western plain,
To their patient wives and little ones
     they might not see again,
And I knew the violet splendor of the
     hills whereon they roam,
Was mingling with the unshed tears for
     little ones at home.

Not a single jest was ventured, not a
     word was spoken loud,
As a flood of golden sunshine poured its
     glory o’er the crowd.
Could an old and master painter touched
     his pal it’s varied hues,
He’d have gathered inspiration from
     those little busted shoes.

I said they were not bad men, and I
     mean just what I say,
And I hope that I may meet them all
     upon some future day;
May meet them where no memories
     may conjure up the blues,
With their little ones around them
     wearing little busted shoes.

I closed the lid and locked it, hardly
     knowing what I did.
But each seemed to breathe the freer
     when those little shoes were hid;
And someone said “let’s irrigate,” each
     to the bar drew near.
And seemingly each hand went up to
     dash away a tear.

The glasses clinked, adown the bar the
     bottle passed along,
And “Big Ed Burns” proposed that we
     should have a toast or song,
But after each had filled his glass with
     “Old Mcbrayer Booze,”
We drank to wives and children and
     those little busted shoes.


Identified are some of the Denver Soap Gang members who followed Jeff to Creede and new men who joined him there: "Big Ed" Burns, Crazy Horse, Jim Sanford, Windy Dick, Pete Burns, and Jim Bolen. The poem also tells a little about the way of things in Creede. For example, in terms of accommodation, because so many gang members are in the bar so early in the morning, apparently some of Jeff’s men slept in the Orleans Club. The poem also opens a window on the humanity of these men on the frontier, far from home and family. Devere had “tramped” with such men, worked with at least one member of the Soap Gang (James Thornton, the “Duke of Halstead”), and was apparently liked by them. They “kid and guy” with him. Perhaps one reason they liked him was because he empathized with their loneliness, wildness, loyalty to one another, and even the regret they sometimes knew. Further, Devere could give authentic voice to their experiences and feelings. If renderings of the poet were sentimental, even deep purple with sentimentality, that was no reason not to like the man or his work.


September 11, 2010

Peter Brand exposes "Texas Jack" - "Shoot-Your-Eye-Out Jack" Vermillion

(Click image to enlarge)

For many years it was believed that John Wilson Vermillion was "Texas Jack" later called "Shoot-Your-Eye-Out Jack" of Wyatt Earp and Soapy Smith fame. In the latest issue of the Journal (Wild West History Association), August 2010 Peter Brand exposes the fact that John Wilson Vermillion is the wrong man. That in fact the true person's name was John O. Vermillion. This changes Vermillion's life history.

In regards to my book, Alias Soapy Smith, in the event of a second edition I will only need to change the middle name from "Wilson" to "O." I did not delve too much into his past as I already did not trust it so I did not add much. None of the facts regarding his association with Soapy will need to be changed at this time. However, Mr. Brand is currently working on the second part of that article for the WWHA which includes a photograph and possibly new information. It is an exciting time for Soap Gang fans.

There has been considerable talk of the article over on the Tombstone History Discussion Forum so I posted my congratulations.

An invaluable article on Vermillion Peter. I am very much looking forward to the second part dealing with John O. Vermillion, the real "Texas Jack"/"Shoot-Your-Eye-Out Jack".

Also, thank you very much for listing my name and book in the acknowledgments and endnotes.

In your article for WWHA you wrote,

Over the years, several influential authors have published books regarding Wyatt Earp and Tombstone and all followed Pat Jahns' lead by repeating the story that John Wilson Vermillion was Tombstone's Texas Jack, yet none provided any primary proof. These authors included Frank Waters, Glenn Boyer, Ben Traywick, Casey Tefertiller, Tim Fattig and more recently Jeff Smith, in a biography of conman, "Soapy" Smith.”

My only wish is that you would have noted that my book (probably the only one) does positively take into account your (then) limited information from your website that John W. Vermillion was not his real name (p. 91 Alias Soapy Smith), listing you and your website in the Works Referenced (p. 597).

Naturally articles as such need to be edited for size but such information does show the gradual shift from previously thought-to-be-true information. So, who wants to change the Vermillion page on Wikipedia? Lol.

Peter replied.

Hi Jeff

You are correct, space was an issue with this article. There was a lot more that could have been added but, unfortunately, space did not allow for me to expand on several points.

Thanks for your kind words. I think you will really enjoy part 2, as it deals more with your area of research. Your book will feature as a source. Part 2 will also contain photos of Texas Jack and alot of new information concering his life after the Vendetta and the Soap Gang. Stay tuned.

I also still have "Fatty Gray" in the works. Watch for that too. This stuff always takes longer than expected.


Like I said, it's an exciting time for Soap Gang fans!