March 24, 2012

The story of Vena Blanchard: Employed by Soapy Smith?

How Soapy wants you to see him
fantasy art by Jeff Smith

June 15, 2012

riend, Leah from Old West Rogues tells me of a book she read in which Soapy employed prostitutes. She was reminded of the story when reading about my post on Soapy in Astoria, Oregon in 1882. Following is what she had to say.

... And speaking of my neck of the woods. There was a madam in Yakima City called Vena Blanchard. Vena was said to be a beautiful woman who wore very elegant, very demure, high necked evening gowns. She always wore a necklace, a single emerald on a gold chain that had been presented to her by a former "employer" in Creede Colorado. A gentleman named Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith. Have you heard this before? I don't recall it in your book and I was looking into some "working " women and came across this tidbit.

The story is from a book titled "Those Naughty Ladies of the Old Northwest" It was written by Gary and Gloria Meier. There are no footnotes. A few of the ladies covered are known to me (Vena is not one of them) and the information on them is basically correct. Information that I have from other sources.

The book is Those Naughty Ladies of the Old Northwest, Gary and Gloria Meier, Bend, Or., Maverick Publications, 1990. I do not have it and could not locate the text online. I responded on the Old West Rogues board that there is no evidence that Soapy operated or controlled any prostitution rings. He was consistently in court posting bail for members of the Soap Gang, friends, and other associates, but no known prostitutes. I did not elaborate on the subject as I was thinking in terms of full on proprietorship, however, it slipped my mind that on numerous times in his lifetime he utilized the ladies of the night for his ends and Creede, Colorado just happens to have been a well reported case. Basically, at the start of Creede's silver boom in 1892 Soapy hired and sent in some Denver soiled doves to "gently" purchase leases at reasonable prices from lot owners so that Soapy and his friends could build and operate saloons and gaming houses. Unfortunately, the book authors above did not include footnotes or sources so this very well may be sheer coincidence and luck on their part.

I tried Googling Vena Blanchard and found one that worked as a sex surrogate and another who worked as an actress in porn films, but both are from this century and still alive and the Blanchard we are looking for was an adult in the 1890s. I sincerely doubt she would be still alive, let alone working as a surrogate or a porn star.  Not finding her on Google should not be considered "proof" one way or the other.

The actual leases Soapy obtained in Creede may be viewed in the links listed below.

Creede leases:
September 16, 2010
December 30, 2010
January 6, 2011 
January 29, 2011

Creede Leases: pages 201-202.
Using "ladies" from Denver: page 205.

1884: Soapy’s brother-in-law, William S. Light, rides with a posse that tracks and kills local outlaw, William Northcott in Texas.


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