November 6, 2010

Schuyler Hodgson: Possible member of the Soap Gang.

Family member Tina Marshall received an interesting email from Steven M. Haney who claims his great-uncle, Schuyler Hodgson, was a member of Soapy's gang. The name does not ring any bells as of yet. Tina forwarded his email to me and now we seek help from anyone who might have heard this name before and/or recognize his photograph? Steven has an interesting story to tell and we are looking for any help with identification. 

The initial email to Tina:

I was reading the part where you were related to Soapy Smith. How interesting. Here is something of interest to you.

We have a connection. Schuyler Hodgson was his sidekick and he was my 2 great uncle. Check out Colorado and Crested Butte cemetery. I had no idea the Schuyler was a Soapy Smith side kick but I read a book about Soapy Smith in about 1975 when I was in High School in Alaska and it talked about the mean guy with the eagle. I was told to remember the guy with the eagle. The people were told if they saw the guy with the eagle to get out of there because that guy would kill them and take their supplies. Just like two years ago I mentioned Soapy Smith to my father (Who lives in Alaska) and he said his mother knew all about soapy smith because her uncle Schuyler was his side kick. I asked my dad about the eagle he said oh how did I know about the EAGLE BELT Buckle? I didn’t I just remember the book saying an eagle. My dad said his mother and aunt told them about Schuyler killing people and stealing stuff from the miners especially my dad’s aunt. And I have learned what she told us is 100% true every word can be proven by paper work backup. My dad’s mother is about 99% reliable. Which I take for fact today. We don’t know how many names he went by. His son who was raised by the grandparents on the mother’s side said in 1995 when he was about 90 confirmed his father had many names and his father did go to the gold rush but we at that time never knew about the Soapy Smith connection. Schuyer’s son was 100% opposite of his father. He was a professional person and was very talented but had no traits of his father. Soapy Smith did live in Leadville, CO and so did my Hodgson family. It is also possible that Soapy and Schuyler went up and down the Cook Inlet near Kenai and Kasalof. ( I think I spelled it wrong) I think my dad said he read a book about Joshua Slocomb (Which that name is in Schuyler’s family) and they mentioned Soapy Smith and a side Kick not knowing that the side kick could be related to their Slocomb family.

Just thought you would find this interesting.

Of course Tina found Steven's email very interesting and immediately contacted me and thus began an interesting exchange. Steven wrote,

I would say that probably Schuyler Hodgson was a member of Soapy Smith Gang. My dad’s mother told him that she had talked to her uncle Schuyler Hodgson when he came to visit them in Gothic, CO on their ranch. He was her mother’s brother. She told my dad that her uncle was good friends with Soapy Smith and was part of his group however I did not ever hear her tell me that but she did mention her uncle Schuyler to me. My dad’s aunt did confirm her uncle Schuyler but she did not like him and so her version was he was not a very nice guy. She mentioned that her uncle killed men and took their mining supplies. I do not remember my dad’s aunt talking much about Schuyler except I did know she did not like him and my grandmother did. Schuyler died in about 1925 and my dad’s aunt was about 22 and my grandmother was about 17. Both of their parents died in 1922. I remember my grandmother talking about her uncle and he had for sure four names but it seems like there was five names and another aunt of my dad’s mom also agreed later. I can only remember three names. I didn’t write all the names down so now it is too late to remember. I only saw my grandmother a few times and I had to listen while I was at the breakfast or dinner table and I was on my way to work.

It is documented that Schuyler Hodgson lived in Leadville, CO in 1880 from the 1880 census. He was in Carbondale and Marble and in the late 1800’s he was also in Paonia, CO. My dad’s mother said that Uncle Schuyler was some kind of and she called him a side kick according to my dad. Maybe that was a name for a gang member. I have no idea. I thought there was an eagle involved and my dad said that Schuyler had some kind of huge eagle belt buckle according to his mother. My dad’s mother and her sister were totally opposite people. My dad’s mother thought there was no one better than her uncle Schuyler. Her sister did not like Schuyler and only listened to the stories and heard about them from their older sister but since she did not like Schuyler she was very upset when her uncle was buried next to their parents. My uncle even mentioned this to me when he decided to make up a memorial for the four people who were buried in that grave plot in about 1988. He said that his aunt Irene asked him to leave out Schuyler’s name because she didn’t like him out but my uncle said no. He wanted to document everything as it was since his grandfather was the only one to have a stone. (Oliver Thomas, Eliza Hodgson Thomas, daughter Estella Thomas age 19, and Eliza’s brother Schuyler Hodgson).

I talked to Schuyler’s son in 1995 before I really knew much about Schuyler and he said that he knew his dad went north during the gold rush days but he said I would never be able to trace his name. He said that his father had many different names but he never mentioned all the names my grandmother mentioned. This guy was about 90 at that time and before I was able to talk to him again he died a few months later. I talked to his son and wrote to his son for about 10 years or more and the son knew nothing about his grandfather and recently I talked to a great grandson of Schuyler and he had no idea who I was talking about and didn’t have any interest.

I know that anything that my dad’s aunt says has always come out correct according to documented records that I have found later. My dad’s mother’s stories were assumed to be kind of true but now I find that when I find documentation my dad says it matches the stories his mom tells but not 100% like her sister but about 90 – 99% correct.

I don’t know how I would find out the names that Schuyler would have used. Cofax was one name Schuyler had as a middle name given to him by his mother at birth. Schuyler’s son said that his father would be gone for a while then come back into their lives then be gone again. Schuyler’s first wife Jennie died very young during child birth and the baby died also and they were buried together. The son also said that Schuyler did remarry but that wife did not put up with Schuyler being gone all the time and she just left with no one knowing where she went and she took their daughter. The son asked me to try to find the daughter but I never did. He gave the birth year.

The guy on the left seated I believe is Schuyler Hodgson. The woman behind I would say is his wife but I don’t know which wife. Maybe the first wife. She died in 1906. He was married to the first wife in December 15, 1899. This picture could have been taken around 1899 it was a tintype.

The guy with the one leg is my great grandfather Oliver Thomas and the woman behind is his wife Eliza Thomas brother to Schuyler. This picture and the 2nd picture look like the same couple that I think are Schuyler Hodgson and maybe wife #1.

The reason I think the 2nd picture is Schuyler is because of the printed card behind the picture in the album. The picture was hard to get out of the album and the card was kind of stuck on the back of the picture.

I have one picture [see above] that had a card under it that said Schuyler Hodgson. This came from the original picture album from Leadville in the 1880’s. I believe the picture could possibly be a wedding picture since the card was white printed card with Schuyler’s name on it. And the placement of the picture in the album appeared to be in the Hodgson family section. The picture had four people in it my dad’s grandmother (Sister of Schuyler) and my dad’s grandfather these I can identify because my dad’s grandfather had only one leg. Then the other guy who was probably Schuyler and a woman that was possibly a wife. I would guess maybe the first wife because the picture was a tintype. I think they stopped making tintype pictures after 1900’s. Maybe the picture could be matched with some kind of picture you may have.

I know that there is a documented story called the price of Hay from Paonia where Schuyler was involved in killing men over who owned a hay field. So we know that he traveled a bit. Schuyler was also associated with Marble Colorado I think the town marshal and one lady told me that she had heard that Schuyler was noted for shooting first and asking questions later. I know my dad didn’t invent soapy Smith because he told me that he never heard of him except from his mom and was shocked that I knew about Soapy Smith and asked me where in the world did I hear about him? He even asked “When did my mom tell you about that guy”? Once I mentioned soapy smith he immediately said his mom talked about that guy and explained that the guy was some kind of gangster and a friend of her uncle Schuyler. He said they met in Leadville when Schuyler lived there. My father did not say Schuyler went to the gold rush and he did not know that Soapy Smith was famous in Skagway. I don’t know how my dad didn’t know because he has lived in Alaska for over 40 years. I read in an Alaskan mining book that I no longer have about Soapy Smith being up and down the Cook Inlet but it didn’t mention any one with him that I can remember. My dad mentioned that he had heard about soapy Smith being up and down the cook inlet and he thought his mom said Schuyler went with him but he was not 100% sure on that one.

I just thought it was interesting and wanted to see if the story is true and if someone else might have heard about this story or could document any of this information. I feel if it is true then it should be preserved for future generations. I don’t care to be famous or anything like that I am just researching my family history and want to preserve records for others who are researching their families. I have shared my pictures and information with anyone who is interested so that future generations can read about the stories. These stories are probably added to each time they are told so they may not be exactly as they happened but they are interesting. Many of these stories are about ordinary people who lived ordinary lives and their names and stories will never be told or documented and be lost if someone does not document them.

Schuyler’s obituary does not indicate any of this information and I do not know who wrote the obituary since Schuyler’s sister (my dad’s grandmother) died three years before. I would actually doubt that anyone would put this information in an obituary even if they knew. I can give you the dates of Schuyler but I just don’t have any documentation except what my dad said. I do have the price of hay copied from a book and from the actual Paonia paper. I think I have another booklet that mentions Schuyler being in Marble.

If you are interested in a copy of the picture that I believe is Schuyler I would happy to send it to you. Who knows maybe you can match it with a picture you may have. It would be fun to see if this story really was true which I believe it to probably be.

Thank you for all your help.

I responded,

Hi, Steven.

It is a pleasure to meet you. Don't give up! However I have found nothing yet. I also checked the database of names with the Skagway Historical Society which contains nearly 9,000 names of people who came to Skagway during the Klondike gold rush, with no luck in finding a Hodgson. Soapy had many men working for him at different times so your story is not falling on deaf ears as I love meeting descendants of people who were associated with my great-grandfather.

By "the eagle" I presume you mean "Fitzhugh Lee" the bald eagle caught and given to my great-grandfather?

I would love to receive a scan of your photograph and I will publish it on my blog, along with your story and what other information you might have about him. I will then ask my followers and family if they might recognize the name and photograph.
Thank you.

 (Click image to enlarge)

Steven writes,

The only person who knows anything about Schuyler would be my dad. His mother died in 1995 and his aunt died in 1991. The other aunt died in 1964. I wish I was able to talk to those people more but I can’t feel bad because I started genealogy when I was only 5 and I lived most of my life in Alaska. I started with nothing. I found most of my records with the help of others but I had to find them to get the information that I have. I also spent three years in Germany so that put me out of commission for those years and most of the people who would have known died during these three years. I am thinking of questions to grill my father to see if he might know a possible name. Cofax might be a clue. I think it is spelled right. I called the great grandson to see if he might know something but he didn’t even know who is great grandfather was. I have one other lady a Margaret but I haven’t been able to find her either. But some day I am sure it will be figured out. I will send the obituary and picture.

I also found a picture of Schuyler’s 2nd son Frank Hodgson. He is the one seated 2nd from the left. The picture came from a book and is labeled Frank Hodgson. Maybe you can compare the pictures. He died about Nov. 1981.

Ok family members and Soapy Smith fans 
and historians, let's see if anyone has some 
information on this possible member of the Soap Gang!


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