August 10, 2011

This is the gun that killed Soapy Smith and this is the gun that is going to kill the SOB who stole my whiskey!

Days of '98 cast
photo by Allison Graham

I received an email from Ray Demarchi, a neighbor of Bob Holden (see August 7, 2011), who has his own great Soapy story. Not only did Soapy reform addicted gamblers but it appears he helped in disciplining the young. Here's Ray to explain.

I learned about your website from my neighbor, Bob Holden and although I don't have a direct connection to your relative, Soapy Smith, I have a story that I though you might like to hear.

In the winter of 1929-30 at the start of the Great Depression, when my father, Bill Demarchi was 19, he and a buddy, Russ McEwan got a job in a sawmill at Knouff Lake, 28 miles north of their home town of Kamloops, British Columbia. The foreman went to town to purchase supplies for the crew and returned one night extremely drunk. He came into the bunkhouse and started looking through his gear for a bottle of whiskey that he had cached before leaving for town. When he couldn't find it he started cursing at the men who he had awakened in their bunks, accusing them of having stolen his bottle. My dad said that he woke up with a pistol in his face and the foreman shouting, "This is the gun that killed Soapy Smith and this is the gun that is going to kill the son-of-a-bitch who stole my whiskey!"

One of the men told the foreman to cool it and started looking for the bottle. He soon found it where the foreman had hidden it and things immediately went back to normal.

When I was 19, in 1959, on a fishing trip to Knouff Lake, my dad took me back to the site where the sawmill had stood and related the story to me.

Whether or not that was the actual gun that killed your great-grandfather, the infamous, Soapy Smith, I do not know. However, over the years as I raised my own two sons, whenever I misplaced an item I would mockingly threaten them by saying, "This is the gun that killed Soapy Smith and this is the gun that is going to kill the SOB who hid my (blank)." We always got a good laugh out the situation.

Ray Demarchi

What a great narration! In another correspondence Ray, living in Canada, had an important question.

I think it is great that you have pursued the biography of your great-grandfather, Soapy Smith. Do you know if he ever spent any time in British Columbia's Cariboo or Chilcotin regions? I seem to recall when I was a teenager growing up in BC that people related tales of your grandfather having spent some time there. Perhaps in Barkerville, which at the time was a major gold camp in the Cariboo. (The Cariboo is the territory east of the Fraser River and the Chilcotin is to the west. Both had gold rushes before the turn of the 19th Century). Perhaps, people back then simply wished to be associated with such a famous outlaw.

My own paternal grandfather was a bit of a rogue himself although not nearly as active or famous as Soapy.

My response.

I have researched Soapy's life and death for over 25-years. I am fortunate that he saved nearly all of his correspondences, which are split up between several family members. No where have I found that Soapy ever stepped foot on Canadian soil. He mentions having to go to Dawson in a letter to his wife but it is not believed he went. However, it would not surprise me to find proof that he indeed traveled inside the Klondike. New information is being dug up all the time. Thankfully, we live in an age of information sharing. A friend in the National Park Service in Skagway just returned from Whitehorse where he went through 1000 newly discovered photographs taken during the gold rush days. He said he found a couple of Soapy, one of which I will be posting on my blog real soon.

Thank you Ray!

Jeff Smith


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Thank you for leaving your comment and/or question on my blog. I always read, and will answer all questions left here. Please know that they are greatly appreciated. -Jeff Smith