December 1, 2011

Edwin Smith seeks Soapy Smith, 1893: Artifact #41

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In October 1893 Soapy Smith's cousin, Edwin Bobo Smith was looking for him. At the time Soapy was probably in Chicago with his wife Mary, visiting the Colombian World Exposition according to a letter dated October 10, 1893 (see March 9, 2010). Artifact #41 is the letter and envelope Edwin sent to George Waterbury, the Denver Post-office Inspector, in hopes that a message would be given to Soapy to contact his cousin. Most likely Edwin had sent a letter or two to Denver without a reply.  This is one of the numerous letters that did not make it into my book due to space.

Edwin wrote the letter on stationary of the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. and mentioned a positive article about Denver with the intention of convincing Waterbury to act on the request. He address Waterbury as "Capt." on the envelope. I could not find any such title for Waterbury so perhaps this was also an extra nicety in the hopes that Waterbury would search for Soapy.    

The envelope is addressed to “Capt George Waterbury, Denver, Colo.” it is postmark: “Washington D.C., Oct. 23, 1893.” The letter was hand-written on stationary of the House of Representatives, Washington D.C., and is dated October. 21, 1893. It reads as follows.

Mr. George Waterbury
Denver, Colo.
Dear Sir:

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You may remember meeting me at the time I was doing work for the Washington post, and I think I got up a little interview with you about the way Denver kept her streets in such good shape. I write to ask if you will do me the favor to ascertain the present address of my cousin Jeff Smith ("Soapy") as I want to telegraph to come to Washington on business of importance. By so doing you will confer a favor that will be appreciated highly. Truly yours, E.B. Smith. Address E.B. Smith Ass't Doorkeeper, House of Reps.

Interesting that he actually calls his cousin "Soapy" to aid Waterbury with the search. There were numerous Jeff Smith's but only one Soapy Smith.

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George Hobart Waterbury worked as the Denver Post-office Inspector since at least 1885. He died sometime in 1909. Although the work of a postal inspector does not ring of excitement there is at least one known event in which Waterbury showed skills and determination not normally found or needed in such a position. In 1897 Waterbury received due fame for his help in capturing a gang of post office burglars who had been successfully robbing post offices all across the country and had netted approximately $153,000 before they were rounded up. In the December 4, 1897 edition of the New York Times it reveals that Waterbury had been working with detectives for several months tracking down the gang of robbers. Waterbury was able to link Denver resident W. S. Hostetter to the gang but before he could be arrested he fled. With a warrant for Hostetter's arrest, Waterbury tracked the man's escape route all the way to the mining districts of Canada (The Klondike?) before catching, arresting, and bringing him back to Denver. Waterbury was then sent to New York to assist detectives there where it was believed the rest of the gang took refuge. Waterbury is the man who arrested the gangs leader, C. E. Morson, but not without a fight. The exciting details can be read at the New York Times Archives link below.

Family genealogy:
New York Times Archives

Jeff Smith


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