May 1, 2013

Why Soapy Smith went to his death?

3-D-ish looking photograph of the
natural skull formation rock in Skagway, Alaska
Photo courtesy of Mark Larsen
(Click image to enlarge)

he following article was published in the Tacoma Daily News in Washington, August 3, 1898. It appears to be a logical possibility as to why Soapy Smith faced the entire vigilante organization with only eight men behind him. But, is this story real?


According to information from Alaska there was a desperate method in the madness which prompted "Soapy" Smith to defy the citizens' meeting that outnumbered himself and the yellow streak gang that followed him on the eventful evening when he fell dead pierced by a bullet fired by the man whom he attacked.

The Skagway News tells the story as follows:

While we have not been able to see it, nevertheless it is a fact that three days before Jeff Smith met his death on the evening of the 8th inst., a paper was received here containing an account of the murder of a man named Kneady, which occurred in Colorado several years ago, and which implicated Smith. It seemed that Smith and a pal killed Kneady and that the pal recently weakened and gave the secret away. Extradition papers were issued for Jeff Smith by the governor of Colorado, and the news having been telegraphed ahead reached here in an Astoria, Oregon, paper before an officer could arrive and just three days before Smith was shot. The paper was received by a well known and responsible business man of this city, who, in the presence of another business man, equally responsible, handed it to Smith, calling attention to the article. Smith read it and turned deathly pale, his only remark being:

"It is only one more of the many lies circulated about me."

From that hour, it is said, "Soapy" Smith was a changed man, and it was doubtless the knowledge that he might soon be encompassed by the strong minions of the law that prompted him to attempt the strong play that ended in his death. Realizing that his days of freedom were numbered he risked all on a big bluff and failed to win.

Although the article quotes the Skagway News, no such article is known to exist. In fact, no such death report of a man named Kneady, at the hands of Soapy, appears to exist anywhere else but in this issue of the Tacoma Daily News. This is not the first time I have found this newspaper publishing apparently false stories that had no sources.

A thousand probabilities do not make one fact.
— Italian Proverb


1751: The first cricket tournament in the U.S. is held in New York City.
1805: Virginia State passes a law requiring all freed slaves to leave or risk imprisonment or deportation.
1852: Martha Jane “Calamity” Canary is born in Princeton, Missouri. She served as a muleskinner for the U.S. Army. She is said to have married Wild Bill Hickok in 1870. In 1893 she joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. She died August 1, 1903 and was buried next to Hickok in Deadwood, South Dakota.
1861: Union soldiers surrender Fort Washita, Present day Oklahoma to Confederate troops without one shot being fired.
1863: The Civil War Battle of Chancellorsville (Virginia) begins. General Lee's forces fight the Union forces under General Joseph Hooker. Confederate General Stonewall Jackson is mortally wounded by his own soldiers during the battle (May 1-4).
1867: Reconstruction in the South begins with black voter registration.
1877: President Rutherford B. Hayes ends southern Reconstruction.
1877: James Dolan, shoots and kills employee Heraldo Jaramillo, in Lincoln, New Mexico Territory, for pulling a gun on him. Dolan is acquitted.
1878: Jim Murphy and his father are arrested in Texas for harboring the outlaw Sam Bass Gang. Jim makes a deal with the Texas Rangers to join the gang in order to keep the Rangers informed about where the gang is hiding.
1880: The first issue of the Tombstone Epitaph, Tombstone, Arizona Territory is published. The proprietor is John Clum, who writes, “every tombstone should have its epitaph.”
1883: William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody performs his first Wild West Show.
1883: Captain Emmett Crawford leads a force of 100 troops and 93 Indian scouts into Mexico, searching for Chato's Apache Indians.
1884: The construction of the first U.S. 10-story building begins in Chicago, Illinois.
1889: Asa Candler publishes the first ad for Coca-Cola in the Atlanta Journal, proclaiming it “Delicious, refreshing, exhilarating, and invigorating."
1895: Members of Bill Doolin's outlaw gang; Bitter Creek Newcomb and Charlie Pierce are shot to death while they slept in the beds owned by the Dunn Brothers. The Dunn’s took the bodies to Guthrie and turned them over to the marshal for the $5,000 reward.
1898: Soapy Smith is mistakenly reported as being arrested in Tacoma, Washington. The real Soapy was in Skaguay leading a parade as captain of his Skaguay Military Company.
1898: The U.S. navy under the command of Commodore George Dewey defeats the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, in the Philippines.
1901: Soap Gang member, Van B. “Old Man” Triplett dies in poverty at age 60.
1905: In New York, radium is tested as a cure for cancer.

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