September 23, 2012

The New York Herald
August 7, 1898
page 2
(Click image to enlarge)

   great newspaper article that warrants the "BE CAREFUL" label. News of Soapy Smith's death took a month to make its way to New York City. His story made page 2 headlines along with two illustrations, which are amazingly correct. The story the New York Herald published is amazing as well, but not correct. It seems that the facts got a little hazy in the travel from Skagway to New York. In all it's glory, I offer the entire contents below for your amusement and joy.

Most Picturesque Is This Glimpse of Rough
And Ready Civilization in a Brand
New American City.

Those who imagine that Mark Twain and Bret Harte have exhausted the field of
rough and ready American frontier life should read this letter from Skaguay,
Alaska. The American adventurer of to-day is much the same as in the classic
days when California was new. The scene has shifted to Alaska. That is all.
And who will say that the late lamented “Soapy” Smith is a less vivid or less pic-
puresque character than those made famous in “Roughing It”?

SKAGUAY, Alaska, July 15.
With the passing of “Soapy" Smith Skaguay's reign of terror seems drawing to a close. "Soapy" is dead, and his confederates stand a pretty good chance of going after him, if only the law-abiding citizens of the town can connect with a halter. But there is a man here named Sehlbrede, a Judge, who considers halters undignified. So the law abiding citizens will probably have to content themselves with the prosaic routine of a trial by jury.

“Soapy'' would have gone down the dark trail long ago had it not been for the fact that he was never seen alone, and to pull a gun on him meant death to the puller. “Tom” Reed, the city engineer, found that out, but "Soapy" went with him, and there, is a heap of satisfaction in that.

The killing of "Soapy" Smith by Reed was the result of a period of lawlessness which was picturesque, if uncomfortable and inconvenient. “Soapy" came to these regions shortly after gold was discovered, and immediately turned himself loose on the community as a bad man. He quickly gathered about him a gang of "sure thing" gamblers, thieves and cutthroats, who regarded him as their leader. He ran things with a high hand. His word was law, and there was for a time no other law known in Skaguay. It was a nice place for a tenderfoot:

Terror of Skaguay.

To show how completely "Soapy" ran the town it is only necessary to state that on Memorial Day he delivered the address at the celebration gotten up by the citizens of Skaguay, and on the Fourth of July he acted as chief marshal of the parade. A versatile man was "Soapy."

He came here from Colorado, the cradle of bad men. He first gained fame by saving the life of "Bloody Bridles" Waite, then Governor of Colorado. Single handed, and armed only with a shotgun, he kept at bay a squad of infantry who were on the trail of the populist leader. He knew no fear, and often predicted that he would die with his boots on.

When Creede was experiencing a reign of lawlessness in 1891, Smith was United States Marshal, and so vigorous was he in the pursuit of his calling that in a short time he had turned the camp into a fairly respectable community. On coming to Alaska, however, a change came over the spirit of his dreams.

Gathering some thirty of the most hardened and desperate men about him he proceeded to take affairs into his own hands. He opened a saloon on the main street of Skaguay. It was called "Jeff Smith's Parlors," and here the gang had its headquarters.

There were ugly rumors about Smith and his "parlors," and the more reputable citizens gave the place a wide berth, hut in spite of this the personality of the man was for a time strong enough to stifle the ill feeling against him.

"Soapy" Smith's was about as tough a place as you would and on the Western Hemisphere. In addition to dispensing bad liquor and occasionally chloral for "knockout" purposes, "Soapy" ran a very prosperous gambling business. No stranger ever left the place a winner. If the cards and the doctored roulette wheel did not do the business he was knocked over the head and robbed. That is the sort of a place "Soapy" Smith ran.

He could always rely upon his satellites to do his bidding, for "Soapy" in their eyes was a hero. He was a consummate and fertile liar, his language was lurid and picturesque, and the stories of his prowess were undoubtedly manufactured by him from the whole cloth. But he told them well, with a liberal sprinkling of original profanity, and it is a tribute to his intellect that he often made them up as he went along. I would almost be willing to swear to that.

And yet he was far from being a bluffer. Several months ago one of has bartenders shot two men, and an infuriated mob sought to lynch him. At the risk of his own neck "Soapy," armed to the teeth, kept back the crowd and held the upper hand until the United States Marshal from Sitka arrived.

Bad Place for Klondikers.

Things finally came to such a pass in Skaguay, that the miner returning from the Klondike with his dust would steer clear of the town altogether. If he didn't he knew that he stood either a good chance of being skinned out of his pile or of being knocked on the head if, in a moment of thoughtlessness, he neglected to walk in the middle of the street. The sidewalks are seldom used in Skaguay after dark for obvious reasons. The middle of the street is more healthy.

Well, the thing culminated the other day when a party of returning Klondikers struck town. They came from Dawson over the Dalton trail, arriving in Dyea on Thursday. Finding that they could get not steamer out immediately, they left there for Skaguay in the hope of getting one here, which, of course, they couldn't. But they didn't know that. One of them, a man named Stewart, wishes he had never seen Skaguay, but at the same time he knows that his coming was the direct cause of the passing of "Soapy" Smith.

When "Soapy" and his gang heard that the Klondikers were in town they pricked up their ears. They sniffed gold dust in the air. A returning of Klondikers over the Skaguay trail Is a rare bird nowadays, and one well worth the plucking. The metropolis of the "dead horse" trail usually sees to it that such a one does not soon forget his visit.

The Looting of Stewart.

Arriving In the evening, the party made a few purchases and retired for the night, resisting all the Inducements to go abroad offered by the cappers. The next morning Stewart was on his way to the bank to make arrangements for having his dust shipped to his home in British Columbia. A gang of confidence sharps had camped on his trail, ready to resort to any measure to fleece him.

Four of them met him on the street. They were "Slim Jim," one of "Soapy" Smith's chief henchmen; “Reds" Bowers, "Bub" Tripp and "Jack" Wilder. They piled him with questions about prices and wages in
Dawson, and finally "Slim Jim" requested Stewart to let him "heft" his little bag of dust.

Stewart thought it best to comply, as he was unarmed, and not realizing that his money could be stolen at ten o'clock in the morning on the public thoroughfare. But it was, just the same. The "hefter" quickly disappeared, and when Stewart attempted to follow him the others closed in and prevented a pursuit. Then they, too, scattered in all directions.

The Citizens Aroused.

The stolen bag contained $3,000 worth of gold Dust, Stewart's earnings for a year. He went to Dyea and reported the matter to Judge Sehlbrede, who issued a warrant and sent it to the marshal at Skaguay for execution. The Judge, who has the reputation of being a game man, followed to see that it was served. The robbery took place near "Soapy" Smith's place, and both the marshal and the Judge knew that they would not have far to look for their men.

As soon as the particulars of the robbery became known, and before either the Judge or the warrant had arrived, a number of the citizens who believe in law and order, but more particularly in order, held a meeting, at which it was determined that something must be done at once. Of course it was surmised that "Soapy" Smith was at the bottom of it, and so a committee was appointed to wait on "Soapy."

"Soapy" was told that his reign had lasted long enough and that he and his gang must quit.

"We want the man who robbed Stewart and we want the dust he stole," said the committee.

“What’ll you do with the man in case you get the money?" asked "Soapy." He didn't mind showing his hand.

"That is none of your business," was the reply of the committee. It was an unfortunate reply for Stewart, for it lost him his dust forever. And "Soapy" got mad clean through. His language was something weird.
He said he was tired of being pestered by committees of law abiding citizens. He had no use for law abiding citizens, and he wanted it stopped, and would see that it was stopped.

The Town Meeting.

As law abiding citizens should, the committee went its way and made a report. Notices were posted all over town, calling for a meeting of the citizens at Sylvester's Hall at nine o'clock that night. At the appointed hour the place was filled to overflowing, and more were clamoring to get in. Then the meeting adjourned to the wharf, where there was room for everybody.

Here the meeting was in progress when affairs took a serious turn. In the midst of a speech denouncing the lawless element of the town, "Soapy" Smith and several of his followers appeared on the scene, fully armed and prepared for anything that might turn up. They were looking for trouble.

"Soapy" stood up on a barrel, where everybody could see him, and raised his hand in an imperative gesture for silence. The law abiding citizen who was speaking stopped.

"Who in hell is runnin' this here town?" demanded "Soapy," in thunderous tones.

There was a dead silence. You might have heard a pin drop.

Tom Reed, the city engineer, was standing on the outskirts of the crowd. He walked over to where "Soapy" Smith was gazing defiantly at the upturned faced.

The Killing of Soapy.

"Do you want to know real badly who is running this town?" he demanded.

“I reckon you heard what I said," yelled "Soapy."

"Well, then," said Reed, and the stillness seemed to grow more intense, "let me tell you that the good citizens of Skaguay are, and not "Soapy" Smith and his gang. Their reign is over!"

"Soapy" ripped out an oath and everybody scattered. They knew trouble was coming. "Soapy" was armed with a Winchester rifle, and Reed was standing directly beneath him. He unstrung his weapon, and with its butt struck the engineer full in the face, knocking him to the ground. Then he jumped down from the barrel and fired twice. One bullet went through Reed's foot, and the other passed clean through his body.

Reed knew that he was mortally wounded, but he pulled his revolver and took steady aim as "Soapy" was standing over him, ready to send another bullet into his prostrate body. There was a flash and a report, and the desperado sank back and fell to the ground with a bullet through his heart, stone dead.

It was a good shot, but poor Reed paid the penalty. He was buried day before yesterday.

A Scene of Riot.

The killing of "Soapy" was only the beginning. Those who had been clamoring for law and order were loudest in their demand for vengeance. The death of "Soapy" Smith had only whetted their appetites. They wanted the entire gang to share his fate. But the gang had taken to cover.

“Soapy’s cohorts were well known, and the meeting broke up to look for them. The air was filled with the popping of pistols. The law and order meeting evolved itself into a vigilants’ [vigilantes'] committee, such as characterized the early days In California. Resolutions were adopted to the effect that the gamblers and "con" men must tot only leave Skaguay, but Alaska.

It was determined they should go South, and no other way. To carry out this plan, committees were sent up the trail to guard that outlet, a detachment was told off to patrol Skaguay beach, and three boatloads were dispatch [dispatched] to Dyea to see that no Skaguay men took refuge there. The entire population of the town was up all night.

An Alaskan War Extra.

In Dyea is published a newspaper called the Dyea Trail. The regular price is ten cents a copy. At seven o'clock in the morning the editor of that enterprising sheet had gotten out an extra, a sort of war extra, a single sheet printed on one side, describing the killing of "Soapy" Smith. It was a marvellous [marvelous] piece of journalistic enterprise. The papers went like hot cakes, some of them bringing fabulous prices. There was great excitement

In the meantime Judge Sehlbrede had arrived from Dyea, prepared to do what he could to preserve order. In the morning things were at fever heat. All sorts of rumors were afloat, and lynching’s were freely talked of. The entire town was up in arms, but "Soapy" Smith's gang lay low.

At six o'clock fourteen of the suspected men had been captured and were under strict guard in the City Hall. About midnight another and very important capture was made in the taking of one of the men who was with "Soapy" on the dock. Later two or three other men were arrested in the house where he was found, and the arrests (not made without bloodshed) continued until the City Hall had become crowded with prisoners, and a number were confined in the upper rooms of the Burkhard Hotel, in all numbering about thirty.

Troops on the Scene.

The most important capture consisted in the taking of the four men who had been directly Implicated in the Stewart robbery—"Slim Jim," Bowers, Tripp and Wilder. The neighborhood of the City Hall was filled with excited men, crazed with the lust for human blood. It looked as though the jail would be stormed, and all the prisoners taken out and promptly lynched, but the wise counsel of Judge Sehlbrede prevailed, and the prisoners were removed, without any further demonstration, to the Burkhard Hotel for safer protection and examination.

Captain R. T. Yeatman, commanding the United States troops in Alaska, had repeatedly telephoned from Dyea to the United States Commissioner in Skaguay to know if he could control affairs, and at eleven o’clock Sunday night he received answer that twenty-five or thirty men might be necessary, As things were in bad shape, and he had arranged to send a boat for them.

Captain Yeatman lost no time, and in fifteen minutes was on the way with seventeen men, which force he felt was ample. As the boat did not arrive he was obliged to seize one lying at the dock, and the troops arrived at Skaguay at two o’clock Monday morning. Oh his arrival he was met with the request that, though excitement was high, it was hoped he would not assume charge until after Investigation.

Upon agreeing to this and leaving his men in the warehouse, he joined the Judge at the Brannlck Hotel, just back of where the prisoners were confined. He had no sooner reached the hotel than a shot was fired, immediately followed by others.

Escape of "Slim Jim."

Both the Judge and the Captain ran into the street and soon found themselves in the midst of a howling mob, in the centre [center] of which was "Slim Jim," with a rope about his neck. He had attempted to escape by leaping from the third story window, and the attempt very nearly cost him his life prematurely. It took all the persuasive eloquence of the Judge, backed up by the commanding presence and the uniform of the Captain, to enable "Slim Jim" to get back to his quarters. And glad enough he was to get there.

After that Captain Yeatman brought his men up and placed them on guard about the hotel. But the excitement has now subsided, at least for the present, and the troops have been withdrawn. Marshal Tanner, in an address to the people of Skaguay, said that Captain Yeatman at the first act of violence would return with his men and place the town under martial law; that he had gone back to Dyea, but had only done so upon the solemn assurance of the Marshal and the leading business men that order would be maintained and the men who had been arrested would be protected and have a fair trial.

And that is the way matters stand in Skaguay to-day.

"That "Soapy” is engaged in robbery wherever he is may safely be taken for granted."
San Francisco Call, April 2, 1898.


1642: The first commencement at Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts is held. 
1779: John Paul Jones, commander of the American warship Bon Homme, is quoted as saying "I have not yet begun to fight!" 
1780: John Andre, a British spy, is captured with papers revealing that Benedict Arnold is planning on surrendering West Point, New York, to the British. 
1806: The Corps of Discovery, the Lewis and Clark expedition, arrives back to St. Louis, Missouri, ending the trip to the Pacific Northwest. 
1838: Victoria Chaflin Woodhull is born. As an adult she will be the first female candidate for the U.S. Presidency. 
1845: The Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York is formed by Alexander Joy Cartwright. It is the first baseball team in America. 
1846: Astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle discoveres the planet Neptune. 
1862: Little Crow Indians attack Colonel Sibley's advance party at Wood Lake, Minnesota. 
1869: The 8th Cavalry kill 18 Indians in a battle at Red Creek, Arizona Territory. 
1872: From Fort McPherson, Nebraska, William F. Cody leads General Phil Sheridan and his party to Fort Hayes, Kansas. 
1875: Outlaw, Billy the Kid is arrested for the first known time in Silver City, Arizona for stealing clothes. After two days, Billy took advantage of his small frame to squeeze his way up a chimney and escape. 
1877: Nez Perce Indians raid an army depot at the Cow Island Landing, Montana Territory, killing one soldier and two civilians. 
1881: Dave Rudabaugh escapes from the Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory jail and heads for Mexico.

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