August 23, 2013

New information on Soapy Smith gang member, "Gambler" Joe Simmons.

Joe "Gambler Joe" Simmons?
Unidentified tin-type of
family or members of the Soap Gang.
Possibly Joe Simmons and Joe Palmer
(Click image to enlarge)

oseph Simmons' time as a friend and member of Soapy Smith's Soap Gang is short on information. As manager of the Orleans Club in Creede, Colorado, and perhaps the Tivoli Club in Denver, obviously indicates how important he was to the outfit.When he died of phenomena in 1892 Soapy took it very hard, openly weeping in public.

The information I published in Alias Soapy Smith came from newspapers, previously published works, and a relative. In 1988 I made the acquaintance of Beth Jackson, Simmons' granddaughter. She was able to supply me with some very helpful family history, which aided in the telling of his story.

At the start of August 2013 I received an inquiry from a genealogist named Christine, who was helping a client look up his family history, which included Joe Simmons. The client turned out to be David Jackson, Beth Jackson's son. I was saddened to learn of Beth's passing in 2002.

Christine was very helpful in helping David find what she could about his great-grandfather Joe. They both were kind enough to share their findings with us here.

The 1870 Census indicates that Joseph Simmons was born about 1855 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to the parents of Henry and Jalia Simmons. However, according to a document in the possession of David Jackson, and filled out by Joe's son, William, it shows Joe Simmons may have actually been born in 1850.

Joe was one of five children, Elizabeth, William, John and James. In 1870, if the Census is correct (many times they were not) Joe was about age 15 and lived with his parents and siblings in Hazel Green, Wisconsin.

Joe married Anna Christina Hanson sometime between 1873-1876. Anna was born about 1854, possibly in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. In 1873, at about age 19, she migrated to the United States. Joe and Anna gave birth to William Edward Simmons on February 2, 1876 in Denver, Colorado. Sometime after Joe died, March 18, 1892, Anna remarried William H. Sisk. She is listed as Anna Sisk in the 1911 city directory for Pueblo, Colorado as a seamstress. The 1930 Census indicates Anna and husband William were still married and living in Alamosa, Colorado. David Jackson stated that his mother, Beth Jackson, was born in Alamosa in the 1920s, so it can be assumed that William, son of Joe and Anna, lived there as well.

The children of William Edward Simmons
John, William, Charlie, Wilson Simmons
circa 1915
Beth Jackson collection

In later years, son, William reported on a census document in Denver that his father had been a brewer in the mid-west. It is not known if Joe's son, William, ever learned about his father's times and adventures working with America's most famous nineteenth century confidence man and bunco boss.

It is believed that William Edward Simmons, Joe's son, passed away in 1954.

William Edward Simmons and family
March 17, 1912
(left to right) Charlie, William Edward, William, Ester R. Simmons
1732 Pearl Street, Denver, Colorado

Beth Jackson collection

Joe Simmons
October 17, 2008
April 20, 2010
April 7, 2011
April 21, 2011

Joe Simmons: pages 33, 89, 131, 210, 214, 225-29, 273, 594.

"In my childhood I saw Soapy Smith putting on his lucrative soap act in the streets of Denver, with a gullible mob milling around his “pitch” and eagerly shoving money at him. I have no clear memory of him, but to youngsters all through the Rocky Mountain region his name was as familiar as that of Santa Claus."
— Lemuel F. Parton, New York Sun, February 15, 1935


1838: Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in Massachusetts, one of the first colleges for women, honors its first graduates.
1842: Explorer John C. Fremont carves his name in Independence Rock, Wyoming.
1858: "Ten Nights in a Barroom," a melodrama about the evils of drinking, opens in New York City at the National Theater.
1868: Three members of the 31st Infantry are killed by Indians near Fort Totten, Dakota Territory.
1868: Eight settlers are killed by Indians between Pond Creek, Kansas and Lake Station, Colorado Territory.
1873: Outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez is involved in the “Tres Pinos Massacre.” He is believed to have killed 42 men. On March 19th 1875 Vasquez is hung in San Jose, California, for the murders.
1877: Texas Ranger John Armstrong shoots and kills Jim Mann, and pistol-whips Hardin into unconsciousness, before arresting him for the murder of Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb in 1874.
1882: Two murderers are lynched from a tree in Globe, Arizona Territory.
1892: The printed streetcar transfer is patented by John Stedman.
1945: Lawman Elfego Baca dies at age 80 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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