March 28, 2013

"Slippery Jim" McDonald: Soap Gang member

(Click image to enlarge)

etters and newspaper clippings in the Smith family collections show that there were quite a few more men and women who worked for and with Soapy Smith then the history books indicate. Getting a full count for any one time period is nearly impossible as members of the Soap Gang came and went. Many were visitors to town, who were used for their skills while they resided in the local area before moving on to another location. Some stayed days, while others stayed years. The best I can do is to add the new names to my growing gang profiles and hope to find more details on each person, for example, "Slippery Jim" McDonald.

Recently, a woman named Elaine wrote to me asking if I had any knowledge of a Soap Gang member called "Slippery Jim" McDonald? The man was her grandfather, whom "whilst under the influence" admitted that he once went by that alias as a member of the Soapy Smith gang. I wrote back to Elaine asking her to tell me all she could about her grandfather. I had to admit to her that I have nothing on him, but that many of the members of the gang are still unknown. Following is what she shared.

Hello Jeff,

We have no pictures of my grandfather, only one with his wife and child, he claimed to have been in Alaska with John L Sullivan, the boxer, Jack London the author, involved in Seal poaching and other illegal activities.

He was born in New Brunswick, Canada in 1872 and died in 1946 in Wales. My Aunt Beattie who has also passed away saw a picture of a group of [in her words ] dodgy looking characters and she swears one was her brother under the name of "Slippery Jim" McDonald. The picture was of some of Soapy’s men. He was also arrested and question about a bank robbery in Montreal, the RCMP thought he was the mastermind but he was released, his alibi, he was in the mid Atlantic ocean at the time of the robbery. He traveled to the UK with a boxer Yank Daley they were both prize fighters. He settled down in Wales after a stroke married and raised a family. We have looked for the book and pictures of the gang with no luck. He was known as a real romantic and story teller, claimed to have been a relation to Sir John A McDonald, and various other famous people. We do not know what is in fact true and what was fiction.

So sorry to say, I have no proof he was part of the gang. I have no problems or am ashamed of what he did, but I would have loved to have met any and all my ancestors. Even people with bad reputations had good and bad qualities. I am tracking my ancestry and have my mothers side of the family in the UK back to the 1200 era. Going to have my DNA done to see my maternal and paternal roots and where they have been in the world.

My I do ramble when I get going on family history, but they were real people and had a story to tell of their lives.

Have a great day,

Thank you very much Elaine. I will add his name and information to the list in hopes that one day the whole story may be revealed.


"I seriously cannot wait for the book. I have pics of Soapy's saloon, and pics of him in my tattoo room, and explain some of the Soapy story almost every day to people."
— Ryan Schepp, owner of Cream City Tattoo


1774: Britain passes the Coercive Act against Massachusetts.
1797: Nathaniel Briggs patents a washing machine.
1834: The U.S. Senate votes to censure President Jackson for the removal of federal deposits from the Bank of the United States.
1864: A group of men attack Federal soldiers in Charleston, Illinois, killing five and wounding twenty.
1865: Outdoor advertising legislation is enacted in New York. The law bans painting on stones, rocks and trees.
1868: “Wild Bill” Hickok and Buffalo Bill supervise prisoners being relocated to Topeka, from Fort Hayes, Kansas.
1883: Apache Indians, led by Chato, kill Judge H. C. McComas and his wife in New Mexico Territory.
1884: Five men convicted of the December 8, 1883, Bisbee Massacre in Arizona Territory are hung.
1885: The Salvation Army is officially organized in the U.S.
1898: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that a child born in the U.S. to Chinese immigrants is a U.S. citizen. The parents were saved from being deported under the Chinese Exclusion Act.
1905: The U.S. takes full control over Dominican revenues.
1908: Congress passes a bill for vehicle licensing and federal registration.

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