April 29, 2013

Three possible buildings of Soapy Smith in Skagway, Alaska

Three dark shaded building in the foreground
Drawing by Brenda Wilbee

(Click image to enlarge)

renda Wilbee is a friend of mine who lives in Skagway, Alaska during the summer season and spends the rest of the year in British Columbia, Canada. She penciled the above drawing from a photograph showing 3 black buildings that supposedly belong to Soapy Smith while he was there. “It's inscribed on the photograph itself, 'Soapy Smith's Black Buildings.' I'm going to show some of my images to Phyllis Brown, whose family have been here since the Gold Rush. (She's related to the Rapuzzi's and owns their estate.) She's been helpful with some of the research I'm doing and perhaps can fill me in with more detail about 'what used to be.'"
      Brenda apologized for not being able to help me any more than she could, but there is no other known information on these buildings. One day I may come across more information but for now we can only use our imagination. For instance, how many of you imagined that Soapy's fake telegraph office might have been located in one of these 3 buildings?

Fake telegraph office: page 480.

"We falsely interpret the world around us. We ignore evidence that doesn't support our prior beliefs and we convince ourselves we know things we don't. We think we know things we don't know."
— Errol Morris


1813: Rubber is patented by J. F. Hummel.
1852: The first edition of Peter Roget's Thesaurus is published.
1861: Maryland votes against seceding from Union.
1862: New Orleans falls to Union forces during the Civil War.
1879: In Cleveland, Ohio electric arc lights are used for the first time.
1859: The Army's Division of the Pacific establishes its headquarters in San Francisco, California.
1866: A wagon from Confederate Gulch arrives at Fort Benton, Montana Territory with 2.5 tons of gold dust.
1867: The first train arrives in Salinas, Kansas.
1872: Five members of the James-Younger outlaw gang take at least $600 from the Bank of Columbia in Columbia, Kentucky. Bank teller R. A. Martin is shot and killed by both Jesse and Cole, while a customer takes a bullet in the hand that later has to be amputated. All the members of the gang escape without injury.
1878: Texas outlaw, Sam Bass and his gang are found hiding at the home of Jim Murphy near Cove Hollow in Texas and a four-day running gunfight ensures.
1879: In Cleveland, OH, electric arc lights are turned on for the first time.
1913: Gideon Sundback patents an all-purpose zipper. 

April 28, 2013

Author Richard Huston's photos of Skagway, Alaska in 1947.

"Soapy Smith" poses for photographs with tourists
Skagway, Alaska
August 1947
Photo by Richard Huston

(Click image to enlarge)

n March 24, 2013 I posted on author Richard Huston's book, A Silver Camp Called Creede: A Century of Mining (2005). Since then, I was able to track down Mr. Huston and had a few very interesting conversations with him. His book of the Creede mines is very thorough so I was unable to obtain any additional  information, minus where I might go to investigate more about the mines Soapy Smith held interests in. However, in speaking with Mr. Huston he offered to copy and sent me the Soapy related pages of the book, Creede, by Nolie Mumey. In finding out that I am related to Soapy he mentioned that he had visited Skagway in August 1948. Along with the xeroxed book pages he sent along the four photographs you see here.

Soapy and members of his gang face down the vigilantes
Skagway, Alaska
August 1947
Photo by Richard Huston

(Click image to enlarge)

Broadway, looking north
Skagway, Alaska
August 1947
Photo by Richard Huston

(Click image to enlarge)

East of Broadway, looking north
Skagway, Alaska
August 1947
Photo by Richard Huston

(Click image to enlarge)

Thank you very much Mr. Huston, for sharing!


"The criminal element had the advantage of being thoroughly organized and armed, and skillfully led by a man named “Soapy” Smith, who was the uncrowned King of Skaguay. He was not a constitutional monarch, but his word was all the law there was. [Thus,] the criminal element … had things all their own way, until the railroad builders began to oppose them on behalf of decency and order, and to form a nucleus round which the law-abiding element could rally."
— Samuel H. Graves, president of the White Pass and Yukon Railway
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 524.


1635: Virginia Governor John Harvey is removed from office for treason.
1788: Maryland becomes the seventh state to ratify the Constitution.
1818: President James Monroe proclaims naval disarmament on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain.
1868: Negotiations to end the war with Indian chief Red Cloud at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. As agreed troops in the Powder River region are removed, in return for cessation of Indian raids.
1876: The gold camp of Deadwood, Dakota Territory is founded.
1878: During the Lincoln County War of New Mexico Territory, Marion Turner and John Jones organize the Seven Rivers gang to fight John Chisum. On a ride into Lincoln they shoot Frank McNab and Ab Sanders, and capture Frank Coe.
1880: Cooney, New Mexico Territory is raided by Apache chief Victorio. Apache raids in the territory have claimed the lives of twelve settlers since April 20.
1881: Court guards, Robert Ollinger and James Bell are shot dead in the Lincoln County courthouse, New Mexico Territory by Billy the Kid during a successful jailbreak.
1896: The Addressograph was patented by J. S. Duncan.

April 12, 2013

That Fiend in Hell: "Jeff Smith fails to mention," except that he did "mention"..., and a lot more about the murderer of Soapy Smith.

The Shootout on Juneau Wharf
Smith and Reid shoot one another as Jesse Murphy (left)
rushes in to aid Reid. Murphy kills Smith with Smith's rifle.
Artist Andy Thomas worked closely with Jeff Smith to get the details precise.
(Courtesy of Andy Thomas)
(Click image to enlarge)

elow is the latest post from my blog, Examining "That Fiend in Hell": Soapy Smith in Legend. Please let me know what you think.

     On pages 192-93 of "That Fiend in Hell," author Cathy Spude offers an example of how I make an "effort to convince … readers that Jesse Murphy 'murdered Soapy'…." She points to a news report that I cite in the July 19, 1898, issue of the Portland Morning Oregonian and asserts that I cite only the portion of the sentence that serves my point (that Murphy claimed to have killed Soapy Smith) and that I purposely left out the rest because it disputes my point. To make her case about the omission from the Portland paper, she uses phrases like "Jeff Smith fails to mention" and "he fails to point out."
      This is indeed a very strange quibble because I did quote the entire sentence. In fact, I quote not just the entire sentence but the entire paragraph in which the sentence appears. The matter is made even stranger because to document her accusation, she cites the numbers of three surrounding pages on which discussion of the matter appears, but she fails to list the page on which appears the entire sentence and paragraph from the Portland Morning Oregonian. Here for clarity is that paragraph as it appears on page 548 of Alias Soapy Smith.
The shooting, Dr. Cornelius says, is the best thing that ever happened to Skagway next to the new railroad. Dr. Cornelius performed the autopsy on Smith’s body for the coroner’s jury. A man named Murphy claimed after the first autopsy that it was his bullet that killed the gambler, and it was necessary to perform a second [autopsy] to determine that Reed’s [sic] bullet did the work.
      I would like to think that the author of "That Fiend in Hell" just made a mistake. Mistakes happen. I even made one once … perhaps two. But Cathy Spude takes such a heavy handed approach that it seems there is much more than a mistake at work in her thinking. In writing that "Jeff Smith fails to mention" and "fails to point out," she does not imply but rather outright accuses me of intentionally leaving out text in order to "justify" a conclusion. I cannot know what was in Cathy Spude's mind, but the stern, accusatory tone of her language does make itself known and felt as she apparently intended. Then in light of how her example is in complete error, revealed is not just a mistake or careless inattention to detail but a deep and determined bias against my biography of Soapy Smith. I am at a loss for any other way to explain such a focused indictment based on an error of her own making.
      Cathy Spude in her criticism of my treatment of Soapy's death and the cover up that followed would have a reader believe my conclusion is based on half a sentence rather than the 23 pages of evidence and interpretation that appear in chapters 25 and 26 of Alias Soapy Smith (pages 538-561). I took much time and care in laying out the evidence, evaluating it, and drawing reasoned conclusions about it. To my knowledge, nothing has been omitted or obscured.
      The story of the murder of Soapy Smith has just appeared in a feature-length article I was invited to write for Wild West magazine (April 2013, pages 44-51). It's a nice spread, with many illustrations. Though a feature piece, its space requirements called for compression, so only the most pertinent facts and the overall conclusion appear. For the full story, my book is the ultimate source for a survey of all known evidence and an even-handed examination of it.
      Cathy Spude on page 193 of her book also claims that Jeff Smith lacks "understanding of [the] historic context" of Skagway in 1898. Probably no one will be surprised to learn that Jeff Smith disagrees. For three decades I have studied the players of this period and the details of their doings. I know this context extremely well; I just don't follow Cathy Spude's interpretations of people or events. Each of these disagreements, as well as correction of errors—one at a time—will make good reading for other days.

"She told lies so well a man would be a fool not to believe them."
— Unknown


1782: The British navy wins its only naval engagement against the colonial navy at the Battle of Saints, off Dominica, during the American Revolution.
1799: Phineas Pratt patents the comb cutting machine.
1811: The first colonists arrived at what would later be named Cape Disappointment, in the future state of Washington.
1833: Charles Gaylor patents the fireproof safe.
1861: Confederate forces fire on the U.S. at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, starting the Civil War.
1864: Confederate General Nathan Forrest captures Fort Pillow, in Tennessee and murders the black Union troops there.
1867: From Fort Larned in Kansas, General Hancock tells Cheyenne Indians to abide by the treaty of 1865 and stay on their lands south of the Arkansas River, or risk starting a war.
1872: The outlaw Jesse James gang robs a bank in Columbia, Kentucky of $1,500 and killing one person.
1877: A catcher's mask is used in a baseball game for the first time.
1883: Charles “Black Bart” Bolton robs the Lakeport-Cloverdale stage a second time, this time about 5 miles from Cloverdale, California.
1888: John Billee and Thomas Willis rob and murder W. P. Williams and bury his body in a ravine in the Kiamichi Mountains, Oklahoma Territory. They would eventually hang for the crime on January 16, 1890.
1889: Buffalo Bill's Wild West leaves New York for a tour of France.
1892: Voters in Lockport, New York became the first in the U.S. to use voting machines.
1898: Soap Gang member Harry Green signs his name as “Jeff Smith” on the register of the Hotel Northern in Seattle, causing newspaper there to falsely report that Soapy Smith was in their city. The real Jeff Smith, aka “Soapy,” was in Skagway, Alaska.
1905: The Hippodrome opens in New York City.

April 9, 2013

Was the research for the book, Alias Soapy Smith, unscholarly and lazy?

y ninth, and far from last, post on the blog, Examining "That Fiend in Hell:" Soapy Smith in Legend looks into the accusation that my research for my book Alias Soapy Smith was unscholarly and lazy. You can also find it online here.
      Throughout That Fiend in Hell, author Cathy Spude assails my research as unscholarly and at times implies that I was lazy in its conduct. Emphasized is the assumption that the bulk of my research was performed online, but as explained in the preface of my book, that was far from the case. Newspaper research was especially difficult in 1985 when I began the task as there were no online collections that allowed one to simply to open a screen and type in a key search word. My early research took me to numerous libraries, archives, and museums in Alaska, Colorado, and Washington to view microfilm unavailable through inter-library loan. On page 192 of her book Spude assumes and implies that I accessed Alaska newspapers online, but as she researched the same Alaska newspapers I did, she is fully aware that, even now, these newspapers are not available online. Further, she assumes I accessed other sources for quotation from these newspapers. This is not the case. Every quotation in my book that is from Alaska newspapers in Skagway for 1897-98 comes from photocopies in my possession from library-held microfilm of those newspapers, cranked through a "reader" page by page.
      In my home state I ordered microfilm rolls, one at a time, for two decades. As microfilm has no search capability or index, thousands of hours were invested in scouring each of the many reels, reading page-by-page, day-by-day, year-by-year, researching my subject and those in his circle in newspapers of that time and place. I was extremely successful in finding and publishing information that otherwise might never have been uncovered and explored because much of it lay buried until I found it, assembled it, gave it interpretive context, and published it in 2009. "Reading upwards of 90,000 pages took years. It was a daunting task but proved a goldmine of information not known to have been republished anywhere...." (Alias Soapy Smith p. 6).

"People have a tendency to make things turn out the way they want them, not necessarily as they are. They find ways of making the evidence tell them what they want it to mean."
— Miss Pierce, English 211 professor


1682: Robert La Salle claims the lower Mississippi River and all lands that touch it for France.
1833: Peterborough, New Hampshire opens the first municipally supported public library in the U.S.
1865: Confederate General Lee surrenders, effectively ending the Civil War, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. The four year war claimed 360,000 Union lives and 260,000 Confederate for a total of 620,000 lives lost.
1866: The Civil Rights Bill passes over President Andrew Johnson's veto.
1867: The Senate ratifies a treaty with Russia that includes the purchases of the District of Alaska for 7.2 million dollars.
1870: The American Anti-Slavery Society is dissolved.
1872: S. R. Percy receives a patent for dried milk.
1878: Marshal Ed Masterson is killed in Dodge City, Kansas by Jack Wagner at the Lady Gay Dance Hall. His brother Bat was a short distance away and shot Jack Wagner and Alf Walker. Wagner died the following day and Walker died of his wounds about one month later.
1892: Nate Champion is shot dead at the K.C. ranch near Buffalo, Wyoming when a posse of hired gunmen, led by Frank Canton, Tom Smith and Frank Wolcott who had been hired to by cattlemen to wipe out the settlers during the Johnson County War.
1892: Parson Tom Uzzell has $75 and his pants stolen in Creede, Colorado. Soapy Smith helps him get his money back.
1892: McGinty the petrified man is “discovered” and then purchased by Soapy Smith in Creede, Colorado.
1892: Soap Gang member, Cornelius “Con Sullivan” Sullivan is elected to the Creede, Colorado city council.
1898: John Addison Porter, Secretary to President McKinley, writes to Soapy Smith acknowledging the minutes and letter from the Skagway Military Company. Soapy hangs this letter on the wall in Jeff Smith’s Parlor.

April 7, 2013

Soapy Smith's proposed saloon and gaming house in Dawson City, Canada, 1898

Site of S.S. Portland landing
Seattle, Washington
Photograph by Art Petersen

(Click image to enlarge)

ver the decades one question I have not been able to answer, is whether Soapy Smith ever crossed the Canadian border and went to Dawson in the Klondike. At least one letter from Soapy to his wife in St. Louis, tells of having to go to Dawson and not looking forward to the trip. Apparently he also mentioned the trip to friends as the St. Louis Republic got wind of one of the proposed trips. This is the first mention that I have seen that he planned to open a saloon and gaming house there.

      The Well-Known Sporting Man Has Started for Dawson City to Open a Gambling House.
      Jeff, better known as "Soapy," Smith has left St. Louis for Dawson City, Klondike country. In that city he will open a saloon and gambling-house, the like of which has never been seen in that frigid country.
      When the Klondike boom was first started Smith told his friends in this city that he was going up there and start the largest gambling-house in the region. He has sent up to Dawson every device known to the gambling fraternity, including craps, keno, stud poker, roulette, chuck-a-luck, faro, wheel of fortune and other games known to those with sporting proclivities.
      It is understood that Smith will have one of the most complete establishments of its kind ever started, and that it will be, as it is intended to be, a second Casino as long as Dawson remains a rival of Monte Carlo.

St. Louis Republic, January 3, 1898


Dawson, Canada
 March 10, 2011
August 7, 2011 
January 17, 2012

Dawson City, Canada: pages 432, 441, 449, 451, 456, 466, 472-73, 479, 483, 493, 495, 498, 508, 512-13, 524, 552, 583-84, 586-87, 590-91.

"Better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie."
—Russian proverb


1712: A slave revolt breaks out in New York City.
1798: The territory of Mississippi is organized.
1857: Snow falls in every state of the Union in a late-season freeze. In Houston, Texas the temperature drops to 21 degrees Fahrenheit.
1862: Union General Ulysses Grant defeats Confederate troops at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee.
1864: The first known camel race in America is held in Sacramento, California.
1867: Major General Winfield Hancock arrives at Fort Larned, Kansas for a conference with the local Indian chiefs. He is organizing a 1,400-soldier campaign against the southern Plains Indian tribes. Hancock's chief field commander is Lieutenant Colonel George Custer.
1874: A stagecoach robbery near Austin, Texas is attributed to the James-Younger outlaw gang.
1879: Soldiers surprise the camp of outlaws Bill Campbell and Jesse Evans near Dowlin's Mill, New Mexico Territory. The men escape but the soldiers capture an army deserter going by the alias of “Texas Jack.”
1882: The Tombstone, Arizona Nugget reports that Turkey Creek Jack Johnson is riding with Wyatt Earp's gang. Johnson has a $2,500 bounty for his capture.
1888: P.F. Collier begins publishing Collier’s, a weekly periodical.
1889: The Cheyenne, Wyoming Weekly Mail publishes its harshest attack on Jim Avrill and Cattle Kate. The editorial causes gunman Frank Canton to insist that Averill and his prostitute partner be eradicated. Nearly four months later, on July 20, 1889 they are hung.
1892: Soapy Smith sells the Orleans Club in Creede, Colorado. Two months later it burns to the ground.
1892: Lou Blonger’s gaming house at 1741 Larimer, is shut down because a “systematic bunco game was being carried on at this joint, and that the unwary were being roped in by the wholesale.”
1898: Outlaw Richard “Little Dick” West is shot and killed while resisting arrest at the Arnett Ranch near Guthrie Oklahoma Territory. West was a member of the Dalton and Doolin outlaw gangs in the early 1890s. 

April 6, 2013

Did Soapy Smith operate in Cleveland, Ohio, 1896?

Tina Petersen points out "Sylvester" the petrified man
Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe, Seattle, Washington
According to photographic comparisons Sylvester is actually McGinty
Soapy Smith's petrified man from Creede, Colorado 1892
Photo taken by Art Petersen

(Click image to enlarge)

  found this interesting, religious related joke about Soapy Smith in the pages of the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) March 11, 1896. Did Soapy spend time in Cleveland, Ohio?

The Scriptural Way

      Dusty Rhodes: "I seen Soapy Smith yistiddy for th' fust time since he give us the shake. He looked tuff."
      Weary Walker: "Wot was he up to?"
      Dusty Rhodes: "He hed on trowsis made out o' flour sacks an' he was gittin' out somebody's ashes."
      Weary Walker: "Soapy must be keepin' Lent."
      Dusty Rhodes: "How so?"
      Weary Walker: "In sackcloth an' ashes."
      Soapy was traveling around the country, staying on the move, waiting and hoping to hear from his attorney in Denver that a case against him for attempted murder was dropped down to a lesser charge. He knew this was unlikely as his younger brother Bascomb was already serving a one-year sentence in the same case. We know that in late February 1896, before any possible Ohio trip, Soapy went back to Denver a couple of times. After visiting Ohio Soapy made his way to Gillette, Colorado where he was arrested on March 19. On April 1, 1896 Jeff boarded the steamer General Canby for his first trip to Alaska.
      At this time there is no provenance about any possible time in Cleveland, Ohio in 1896.


"That which can be asserted without evidence
can be dismissed without evidence "
—Christopher Hitchens


1789: U.S. Congress begins regular sessions in New York City.
1830: Joseph Smith organizes the Mormon Church in New York.
1830: Mexico disallows further emigration into Texas by settlers from the U.S.
1862: The Battle of Shiloh during the U.S. Civil War begins.
1862: The explorer, John W. Powell, loses his right arm during the Battle of Shiloh.
1865: One third of General Lee’s Army is cut off by Union troops during the Battle of Sayler's Creek.
1875: Alexander Graham Bell is granted a patent for the multiple telegraph, which sent two signals at the same time.
1875: Indian Chief Black Horse and 10 others are killed, and 19 soldiers are wounded near the Cheyenne Agency, Indian Territory.
1886: The “anti-dude” club of Newton, Kansas is formed and sets fines for various infractions including $5 for carrying a cane, $10 for wearing kid gloves and a plug hat, and $20 for parting one's hair down the middle.
1900: George Scarborough, a peace officer and a cattle detective, dies from gunshot wounds received during a gunfight with four suspected rustlers near San Simon, New Mexico Territory. Scarborough was known as the man who killed the man (John Selman) who killed Wesly Harden.
1909: Americans Robert Peary and Matthew Henson claim to be the first men to reach the North Pole. 

April 3, 2013

Soapy Smith arrested in Boise, Idaho, 1895

Fantasy rendition of Soapy Smith waking up in jail
(Click image to enlarge)

irst, I would like to apologize for the lack of posts. It is certainly not for lack of content as I am surrounded by literally thousands of stories waiting to be told, most never having been published before. My problem is simple procrastination mixed with a big load of overwhelmingness. The good news is that I have a drive growing within me to get my life together, especially my paper life and by that I mean filing and putting everything where it belongs. I guess you could call it spring cleaning.
      Today's post involves a "Jeff Smith" arrested in Boise, Idaho for being drunk and carrying a concealed weapon. There is no certainty that this is our Jeff Smith but the time table is correct. In June 1895 Soapy was traveling around the country, staying on the move, waiting and hoping to hear from his attorney in Denver that a case against him for attempted murder was to be dropped down to a lesser charge. In late June Soapy took on the fists of two St. Louis detectives and came out pretty bruised up. On July 1 he returned to Denver for a court date only to get a needed one week delay and once again he was on the road (Alias Soapy Smith, p. 383). Texas, Mexico, St. Louis and back to other parts of Colorado were on Soapy's agenda, never staying in one location for more than a few days at most. It is known that he traveled to Spokane Falls at least once in 1895 so he could have very well stopped off in Boise, Idaho. Until such a time that there is better provenance the following newspaper article may or may not be talking about our Jeff, but will be filed under the realm of possibility.

Police Magistrate Randall had Jeff Smith before him yesterday on a charge of being drunk and disorderly, using vulgar and obscene language in the presence of women and children and carrying a concealed weapon. Smith was arrested Monday, and when confronted with the multitudinous charges pleaded not guilty. Yesterday he withdrew that plea and substituted a plea of guilty. In view of Smith's inebriation and other considerations, the court touched him up for a very light fine-$28.
Idaho Statesman, July 3, 1895  

"Hi Jeff! Just got my April 2013 edition of 'Wild West' magazine, and I immediately sat down and read your article, 'Soapy Smith's Showdown with the Vigilantes,' from beginning to end. As always when I read your work, I'm totally impressed with your research and just excellent writing. Thank you, and it was fun to revisit the historic tale about your great granddaddy's shootout."
— Roscoe Tarwater Beaumont


1513: Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon lands in what would later be named as the state of Florida.
1776: George Washington receives an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard College.
1817: Famed Texas Ranger William “Big Foot” Wallace is born. In 1842 Wallace was one of 159 prisoners ordered shot by General Santa Anna. The officer held a raffle of sorts by putting 144 white beans and 16 black ones into a gourd and shot only those who drew a black bean. Wallace survived, dying at age 82 in 1899.
1829: James Carrington patents the coffee mill.
1860: The first Pony Express rider leaves St. Joseph, Missouri towards Sacramento, California. The riders were paid $125 a month and were expected to ride 30 to 70 miles a day with the total ride taking nine days. Despite numerous dangers from Indians and robbers only one mail rider was killed (by Indians) during the Express's 19 months existence.
1861: Cadet George Custer receives three demerits for throwing snowballs near the West Point barracks, New York.
1865: Union forces occupy the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.
1866: Rudolph Eickemeyer and G. Osterheld patent a blocking and shaping machine for hats.
1868: A wood chopping party is attacked by Indians in Rock Creek, Wyoming. One woodcutter is killed.
1882: Outlaw Jesse James, age 34, is shot in the back of the head and killed in his home in St. Joseph, Missouri by Robert Ford for a $5,000 reward.
1885: 2.75 million acres of land in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Dakota Territory are opened for settlement.
1898: An avalanche at Sheep Camp on the Chilkoot Pass, Alaska, kills approximately 70 men.
1910: Mt. McKinley in Alaska, the highest mountain in North America, is successfully climbed.