December 25, 2011

Artifact #43: A letter to Soapy Smith's wife 1895

Today I post another item from my collection. Artifact #43 is a letter from Hi Ki and "Yank Fewclothes" in Denver and addressed to Mary Eva Smith, Soapy's wife, in St. Louis, Missouri. It is a handwritten letter on stationary from the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, which still proudly resides as a historical landmark. The next time I visit Denver I plan to stay there. Having the stationary does not mean that Hi Ki and Yank were staying or living in the hotel. It was common practice to use stationary where one could find it. I would venture to guess that since they were staying in the Smith home the stationary may have come from there. "Yank" wrote to Soapy in August using Brown Palace stationary again. This letter is dated October 15, 1895. The envelope, also from the Brown Palace, is postmarked in Denver on the 15th at 9:30 a.m. and postmarked again in St. Louis on the 16th at 8:00 p.m. Below is the deciphered contents of the letter and then further down I explain some of the content.

Mrs. Mary E. Smith
                Dear Friend:

Your welcome letter of the 12th inst., was received by due course of mail, and I am very sorry to hear of Jimmies accident; but am pleased to learn that it was not any serious affair and that he may come out in good shape in a short time. Tell him that Hi Ki and Yank send him their warmest sympathies, and hope that he will soon be able to get up, and go out to Elitch's Garden, and see the bears and monkeys and then take me out boat riding at City Park. Am pleased to know that the other children are well and attending school. Would like very much to see you all, and hope you will come back soon, even lf you do not remain only for a short time. Met Mrs. Chase the other day, she was pleased to hear from you, and sends her kind regards and would like to see you when you return. Wished you would send her a card and she will call on you. Forwarded your letter last week to Texas. Things here are just as you left them. Hoping this will find you in good health and spirits, and that you will be here soon, with kind regards and best wishes to all family friends we remain as ever

Hi Ki and Fewclothes

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Hi Ki is the wife or lover of "Yank Fewclothes" whose real name is Henry Edwards, a member (steerer) of the Soap Gang. I know very little of Hi Ki. Certainly that can't be her real name. Yank's history is detailed in my book, Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel.

(Click image to enlarge)

When Mary had to leave Denver Soapy did not stay in their home. He preferred to stay downtown near his businesses and the action of the saloons and gaming houses. Hi Ki and "Yank" were invited to live in the home and take care of it surely with the hope that one day Soapy would let Mary return to Denver.

Mary had been living in St. Louis, Missouri since 1889 when Soapy sent her to live with her mother after the mention of her and the children in the Rocky Mountain News and Soapy's subsequent beating of the newspapers general manager, John Arkins for mentioning them. The letter is written six years after the fact and a later letter makes mention that Mary had been to Denver previous to December 5, 1894. We know she went to Creede, Colorado for a visit when Soapy was there in 1892 so it is easy to imagine she made a trip to Denver to check on her house and see old friends like Hi Ki, "Yank" and Mrs. Chase whose husband "Big Ed" was a partner of Soapy's in the Tivoli Club (and probably other ventures as well). 

(Click image to enlarge)

Ever since the April 20, 1895 beating of Arcade saloon manager John Hughes Soapy had been staying away from Denver for fear of going to prison. In August Mary and her husband spent time in Galveston, Texas.In this letter there is mention that Hi Ki had forwarded Mary's letter to Texas, which most likely was addressed to Soapy.

Hi Ki mention's "Jimmies accident," Jimmie being Soapy and Mary's youngest child, James Luther Smith, born November 27, 1889 making him one month shy of 6-years-old. There is no information on what happened to him but a another letter at the end of December has him still recuperating. Elitch Gardens mentioned in the letter as a planned trip is a famous amusement park in Denver which opened in 1890 as a zoo, which explains the mention of bears and monkeys. It was the first zoo west of Chicago. The zoo is no longer there but the park is still open as a thrill ride and water park today.

Hi Ki wrote Mary another letter, using Brown Palace stationary on December 14, 1895 (see artifact #6

Henry "Yank V. Fewclothes" Edwards: May 29, 2011, April 11, 2010
James Luther Smith: Sept. 19, 2010
Ed Chase: Sept. 3, 2010

Henry "Yank V. Fewclothes"Creede: pages 50, 52-53, 80, 92, 111-12, 172, 232, 243, 258, 386, 388-89, 395-96, 422, 582, 589, 592, 595.
Brown Palace Hotel: pages 368, 404.


1907: Soap Gang member, Joe Palmer, is placed in the county insane ward, imagining old enemies, alive and dead, were coming back to shoot him.

Jeff Smith


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