November 30, 2011

Frank Reid's monument: Then and now.

"Erected to the memory of Skagway hero
Frank H. Reid"
(photo taken in 1902)

2009 (107-years)
The memorial has survived vandals, floods and Soapy Smith wakes.
(Note the rocks wedged under the surrounding wall to level it out.)

The Frank Reid is showing its age. I wonder how long it will last without proper shoring of the surrounding wall.

September 16, 2009

1897: The Rocky Mountain News reports that Soapy is “in New York organizing a Klondyke expedition to start from the East in February (1898).”


Soapy's Denver attorney Judge Belford published a book in 1897, entitled The Writings and Speeches of Hon. James B. Belford. According to my research Soapy first utilized Belford's services in August of 1889 for the assault on Rocky Mountain News editor John Arkins. He used him numerous times for the next 7 years, his services ending with Soapy's assault on saloon keeper John Hughes in 1895 and the court proceedings lasting into 1896 before Soapy was officially designated a fugitive of Denver's court.

The following comes from my book:

Judge Belford, a popular Republican Denverite, in 1870 had been appointed an associate justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. Upon admission of Colorado as a State, he was elected as a Republican to Congress and re-elected to several terms. He moved to Denver in 1883 and opened a law firm. Judge Belford was known as the “Red Rooster of the Rockies” because of his flaming red hair and “magnificently roseate beard.” In August 1891 he began writing for the News a series of controversial articles on modern spiritualism, evolution, materialism, miracles, ghosts, and the after-life.

Belford's book can be viewed and read at here:

Jeff Smith


November 27, 2011

Think Christmas: Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel

The perfect economical Christmas gift for those on your list who like the following...
  • The 19th century old west
  • famous saloons
  • famous silver and gold rush towns
  • famous bunco men and gangs
  • infamous swindles
  • gambling
  • political corruption
  • social corruption
  • vigilantes
  • lawmen, the good and the bad
  • police, the good and the bad
  • Colorado history
  • Klondike gold rush
  • Alaska history
  • gunfights and other violent altercations
  • and so much more!
Over 650 pages of authentic, well sourced history of one of the most famous American confidence men of the nineteenth century west. 54 photographs, many never before published. Many never before published personal and business letters and documents from to to Soapy Smith. Many new stories and facts

all for the fantastic price of


1894: A gambler’s petition signed by Denver businessmen starts losing signers when it is learned that Soapy is behind the petition. His response To the Rocky Mountain News is to state that “I beg to state that I am no gambler. A gambler takes chances with his money, I don’t. I had nothing to do with the businessmen’s petition, and under no circumstances would I sign such a document. Hoping that the clergy will kindly leave me out of that 'class'…”

Jeff Smith


November 26, 2011

A little inspiration... Soapy wise

Inspiration: Soapy wise


1853: Good friend of Soapy’s, William Barclay “Bat” Masterson is born. 1898: In a series of editorials titled “Unpunished Denver Murders,” The Denver Evening Post places Bascomb Smith’s shooting of Harry Smith on the list at number 10. To this day it remains on the list.

Jeff Smith


November 25, 2011

Pictures of Skaguay Bay: 1897-98

Following are some of the early photographs I have found of Skaguay Bay in 1897-98 at the time Soapy ruled the underworld. Click the photos you would like to enlarge for a better view.

Small craft owners made small fortunes

rowing out to meet larger steamships and
transferring passengers and cargo to the beach head

August 27, 1897

Dyea River heading towards Skaguay Bay

A floating wharf for unloading ships


The wharves start appearing making unloading a whole lot easier

Four massive wharves and the city of Skagway

Previous to May and the building of the railroad


January 1898

After the gold rush
The wharves slowly die

Better times

Photographs from the beach





Colorized photograph

Unloading stampeders onto the rocking east side

One of the many transportation boats in Skaguay Bay.
This one heading to Haines 33 miles away

August 1897

Jeff Smith


November 24, 2011

I spy your little game: a poem

A friend of mine, Sanders, sent me the above piece of poetry. It was obviously published long ago, but is as relevant today as Thanksgiving (happy one by-the-way). My favorite lines are below.


I've something now to tell you, and you'll own that it is true, 
We meet so many kinds of men, we scarce know who is who, 
Then of a kind advice I give, I think I'm not to blame, 
Whoever you meet. be sure, at first to see their little game.

Fol de rol, &c.

The other day, I met a man, his name, he said, was Brown, 
Says he: as you're a stranger, I will show you round the town, 
Of course, you'll stand espenses, next week I'll do the same, 
Says I: excuse me Mr. B— I spy your little game.

While at the races, lately, around I chanced to stray, 
A man, at three card-monte was shuffling away, 
Says one to me: I bet you fifty the next card you cannot name, 
Says I: sir, I'm not quite green enough, I spy your little game.

The other day, going down Broadway, at a Faro-bank I stopped, 
Where on the red and black cards the men their dollars popped; 
Says one to me: I bet a V.— now, you do just the same, 
Says I: my friend, excuse me, but I spy your little game.


I received some nice comments from Facebook friends, Roger Smith and Christina Kelley Marshall today.

Roger writes,

"The more I read about Soapy the more it holds that 'truth is often stranger than fiction.' What a complex person he was. The King of the Frontier Con Artist, but at the same time the most generous man in Skagway." 
Christina writes,
"The book is awesome and you can tell a lot of work went into it. It's a great read!!"

Thank you very much Roger and Christina.

Jeff Smith


November 23, 2011

Bishop Rowe Hospital: Skagway, Alaska.

Early photo of the Skaguay Hospital
February 1898
Later renamed the (Bishop) Rowe Hospital
(W. L. Whitaker Collection, Alaska State Library)

The Rowe Hospital has been a footnote in the history of Soapy Smith, being the place where Frank H. Reid was taken and where he died after the shootout on Juneau Wharf where he was shot by Soapy. Besides what little information was published in The Skaguay News and The Daily Alaskan, my first education about the hospital came from Martin Itjen's book, The Story of the Tour On the Skagway, Alaska Street Car (1934) in which Martin wrote,

This was Bishop Rowe Hospital, which by the way, is the place where they took Reid when he was shot by "Soapy'' Smith. It was our hospital for a number of years, but after the people quit getting sick he had to close the place on March 31st, 1905.

The Bishop Rowe Hospital

The history of the once Bishop Rowe Hospital in Skagway is almost coincident with that of the town itself. The same was founded by a group of townspeople on Feb. 19th, 1898 to meet the emergency of the great epidemic of spinal meningitis which then swept the region. The largest log cabin in town — 16 by 24 was purchased with funds raised by subscription, a nurse secured. So great was the emergency that not even beds were provided, and patients were cared for lying side by side on the floor. Men died unknown and uncured for in their tents and cabins.

Primitive as the hospital arrangements were, it proved an incalculable good in that time of scourge. April 16th 1898 Bishop Rowe was asked to assume charge and ownership. They made over to him the cabin and lot on which it stood, stipulating that he should make an immediate outlay of $1000 in building. The old books show that he laid out $3000. The two story frame building on the south was added.

The ground that was once tilled by the patients, now yields gorgeous tulip poppies and luscious red raspberries, and is the home of Mrs. Stanton Yeomans.

Hospital patient Frank Reid
July 9 - July 22, 1898

From Glenda J. Choate's book, Skagway, Alaska Gold Rush Cemetery we read that the,

first hospital in Skagway opened in February 1898, when the spinal meningitis epidemic ravaged the local community. Money was raised to rent and furnish a hospital building on the corner of McBride Avenue and Ivy Street. On February 23, 1898 the Morning Alaskan reported that "the lot is 50'x100', house is 1.5 story log, 18'x24', with a cellar, stable and a large quantity of wood for $600.'' The paper also reported the following admissions to the hospital that week. Ten patients were cared for with these ailments:
1- frozen toes amputated 2 - cerebral spinal meningitis
2 - pneumonia
2 - grippe
1 - bronchitis
1 - influenza
1 - inflammation of the bowel
1 - death

In April [1898] the hospital became the Bishop Rowe Hospital, named for Episcopal Bishop Peter Trimble Rowe, its benefactor, who made frequent trips to Skagway. Women of Skagway decided the hospital needed a women's ward, and funds were soon raised for the ward. The Bishop Rowe Hospital advertised on April 15, 1899 that "its location was high and healthy, accommodations for 30 patients, clean, well ventilated, with own dispensary with full stock of medicines and three doctors on staff ."
Our neighbor, Skagway Folklore posted (April 6, 2010) the text of a letter dated April 15, 1898 from the Right Reverend Peter Rowe, Bishop of Alaska in which "he described the desperate situation in Skagway and the need for the hospital."
"...the people of Skaguay have been forced to start an emergency hospital. The need of it beggars description. It has relieved many cases of great distress. The people have responded to appeals to their humanity nobly. Impressed with the importance of the institution, representatives of the public have asked me to take charge of it, and I have done so. They have transferred it all into our hands.

"The emergency hospital is a low cabin 30 feet long and 18 feet wide. One room on the ground floor answers for kitchen and cots; one room above is but half-story or attic. In this room I found 12 cots, and 10 of them were occupied with men in all stages of pneumonia and meningitis. Yesterday while visiting it a young man was brought in from the summit, 18 miles, on a sled, tied on to keep him from falling off, having been dragged over rocks and through mud all that distance.

"Last night I was with a young man who died in my arms, from New Brunswick, telling me what to say to his father and mother and sisters. It was most sad, most pitiful. Sickness is ging to increase. The appeals to our humanity cannot be ignored. The sick are absolutely friendless, helpless, and without the hospital would simply die by the wayside. We have one woman nurse, two men, and a cook. Skaguay doctors are attending for little or nothing as expenses permit. We must build an addition if only of an inexpensive and temporary character.

"I am going to begin this immediately. Present accommodations are totally inadequate and unsuitable. We have assumed great responsibility."

White Pass and Yukon Railway hospital
(Probably similar to the inside of Rowe Hospital)

It is known that Soapy was one of the first contributors to the hospital. The following is from my book (Alias Soapy Smith).

The Daily Alaskan published another subscription list, this time of those who had contributed to the community hospital site and building that had been purchased from Packer Joe Brooks. “Jeff R. Smith” was fourth from the top with a $25 donation. Previously, when the Union Church adopted the idea, as reported in Sinclair’s Mission: Klondike, “a board of three trustees was named with Reverend R. M. Dickey as chairman.” A committee was formed to canvass Skaguay for contributions, and one night as canvassing lists were being reviewed, Dickey’s Gold Fever narrator, Quebec, tells of coming “to one entry that read, “Jefferson Smith $25.” The person who collected that donation said,

“…I was passing Jeff’s place, and he came to the sidewalk and said, ‘I understand you’re collecting money to build a hospital. That’s something any of us may need sometime—I’d like to help.’ And he handed me $25.”

After a debate about not accepting tainted money, Rev. Dickey (named “Dominie” in Gold Fever) said, “If Soapy wants to contribute to a good cause, we have no right to prevent him.” When asked what was thought “of the stories being circulated about Soapy’s benevolences,” Dickey replied, “I believe some of them are true….”

Soapy's involvement with the hospital did not end there, again from my book:

Dr. W. T. Barrett wrote of his having observed Jeff look after some of his men when they were afflicted by disease.

I met Soapy Smith many times during our ten days stay in and near Skagway through D. Moore, a resident physician who was attending dozens of cerebrospinal meningitis cases, many of whom were associated with Soapy in gouging the public. Soapy often accompanied us on our daily rounds and seemed rather a delightful fellow to meet, one that would pass in any ordinary community as a successful business man—mild mannered and much interested in the humanities. His record, however, as an outlaw leader was well known to both American and Canadian authorities.

Sept. 16, 2009

Bishop Rowe Hospital: page 537.


Our friends over at Rocky Mountain Profiles have some photographs of how Sunrise, Alaska looks today. Hope is one of the camps Soapy visited on his first trip to Alaska in 1896. A diary notation confirms that he swindled miners with the prize package soap sell racket.

Jeff Smith


November 20, 2011

Jeff Smith's Parlor study: Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park: Part 9.

Newspaper ad for Soapy Smith's saloon
Skagway, Alaska
Daily Alaskan July 2, 1898

The PDF version of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park study of Jeff Smith's Parlor has been released. I was lucky enough to have received a hard copy but below you can now view the full study. I found it very interesting!

Back in the 1980s I made business card size copies of the Jeff Smith's Parlor ad (see photo at top). Purchasers of my book that asked for my to autograph the book received one of the cards. It's not meant as a reward for asking for an autograph, but merely the fact that my publisher does not have the cards, I do.

Palor Museum Hsr

1892:  “Chief” Soapy presents his fraternity, the Improved Order of Red Men with a war bonnet that came directly off the battlefield of Wounded Knee.


Our friends over at Rocky Mountain Profiles have some photographs of how Hope, Alaska looks today. Hope is one of the camps Soapy visited on his first trip to Alaska in 1896. A diary notation confirms that he swindled miners with the prize package soap sell racket.


Jeff Smith