October 30, 2013

Soap with a valuable ring inside: A modern swindle of Soapy Smith proportions.

Soap with a prize inside!

ings worth $10 to $7500 with each bar of soap!

My good friend, Leah, up in Seattle, Washington clued me in on a soap ring. No not the bath tub variety, but actual soap, with a diamond ring prize inside. It has to be real because they are giving each buyer 10% off their first order (sarcasm).

The firm is called Jewelscent. For $15.00 a bar you can get a $10 ring (their appraisal). Once you have your soap "enjoy the luxurious lather of your Moroccan oil soap. As the soap wears down, your surprise jewel will be contained in a plastic pouch. Simply pull it out, dry, and remove the jewel from the pouch. Enjoy the rest of your soap and your dazzling new jewel!"

On their FAQ (frequently asked questions) page they state.

All of the rings we include in our products are worth anywhere from $10 to $100. If it’s valued more than that and up to $7,500, you will find a golden token with a claim number. Contact us, and we’ll ship out your prize in a separate package with a certificate of value.

Could it be this easy? What a perfect time to swindle the victim a second time. I'm pretty certain there is no $7,000 ring to be had, but I bet anyone that gets that "golden token" (if there is one) will get a very confusing document that requires more money and a legal loophole (an 'out') so that no big prize is ever won, or received.

What, me worry?

Although the site is "safe" and "inspected and monitored" (by whom) I recommend using Soapy's old message in Latin that hung on the entrance to the Tivoli Club in Denver, "Caveat Emptor," in purchasing this product. They do make a great souvenir example of a swindle game that is very related to the prize package soap sell racket performed by Soapy Smith.

Prize package racket

Prize package soap sell racket: pages 8, 15, 37-39, 41, 43, 45-56, 58, 75, 95-97, 106, 119-20, 149, 159, 163, 410, 464, 485.

"Dear Mr. con man
you wicked old sinner now
ain't you ashamed your con-
duct is simply a fright
With your jackpot to sweeten
And straights to be beaten
And chips that pass in the night"
— L.R.P. 1909


1735: John Adams, the future second president of the U.S., is born in Braintree, Massachusetts. His son, John Quincy Adams, will become the sixth president.

1831: Escaped black slave Nathaniel "Nat" Turner is apprehended in Southampton County, Virginia, several weeks after leading the bloodiest slave uprising (August 21, 1831) in American history, resulting in 60 white deaths and at least 200 black deaths. Turner is convicted, sentenced to death, and hanged on November 11, 1831.

1857: Soldiers from Fort McIntosh, Texas pursue and attack a band of Comanche Indians who had been raiding Laredo, Texas.

1864: Last Chance Gulch, in Montana Territory, is renamed Helena. Helena becomes a gold rush, the second biggest placer gold deposit in Montana, producing about $19 million in gold in just four years. In 1875, the city becomes the capital of Montana Territory, and in 1894, the capital of the new state of Montana.

1866: The outlaw James-Younger gang robs the Alexander and Company Bank in Lexington, Missouri of $2,011.50.

1868: Construction begins on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad in Topeka, Kansas.

1875: The Reverend O. P. Mains persuades bad man Clay Allison to beat a confession out of Cruz Vega, in a New Mexico Territory jail. Vega is suspected of assisting in the murder of Reverend F. J. Tolby. Vega implicated Manuel Cardenas as the murderer, and then vigilantes hung Vega from a pole. Vega was suffering so Allison shot the man dead. The body was taken down and dragged through the streets, and then left in the desert without a burial. On November 10th vigilantes stormed a jail and shot Cardenas to death.

1875: The constitution of Missouri is ratified by popular vote.

1882: George Ruby, a black Reconstruction politician, dies of malaria in New Orleans, Louisiana. Born and educated in the North, Ruby served with the Freedmen's Bureau, and was elected to the Texas State Senate in 1869. At the end of Reconstruction he retired and moved to Louisiana.

1893: The U.S. Senate gives final approval to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890. This act destroyed the silver boom towns, such as Creede, Colorado, where Soapy Smith ruled as underworld boss. It is also partly at fault for the Panic of 1893.

1894: The time clock is patented by Daniel Cooper of Rochester, New York.

October 25, 2013

Did Frank Reid (shot Soapy Smith) build this house?

Frank Reid house?
(Click image to enlarge)

id Frank Reid, one of the men who shot and mortally wounded Soapy Smith, build the home pictured above? Robby Albrecht is hoping we can help him answer that question.

Hi Jeff,

The house is located at 1576 Lake Whatcom Blvd. in Bellingham, WA. It's on Lake Whatcom. The driveway was originally named Clara Place if that helps anyone. I don't know why it was named that.

Apparently the house was built on Reed Lake (near Cain Lake) and moved here in pieces after a few years. The original editor of the Bellingham Herald owned it (I don't know if this was Frank) and used it as a gentleman's club. He had friends bring him rocks from all over the world and those were used to finish the fireplace.

In the 1970s a friend of mine says his brother came here and found an envelope in the dilapidated house with a man from Seattle's address on it. They wrote him and asked if they could camp on the property. It then became a big hippy party spot through the '70s named Rock Meadow.

Original interior walls exposed
 (Click image to enlarge)

My sister bought the property in 1985. I bought it from her in 2003. My sister bought it from a group of Canadians who had camper trailers on the property. She fixed up the house, moved her family in, and built another large log home on the property. That place is for sale now ( http://www.windermere.com/listing/WA/Bellingham/1578-Lake-Whatcom-Blvd-98229/14947240). I raised my family there and am downsizing and have moved into the original house. Before I moved in here, I brought all the interior walls back to their original state, refinished the fireplace and the wood floors upstairs. It was all covered up. You can see the axe marks. It is beautiful. As I said, I am trying to put together a history on the house and property. Any information your blog might drum up would be very helpful.

Robby Albrecht

I know that Frank Reid lived in Oregon, but I have nothing on him living in Washington. If anyone can assist in adding information about this story, please contact Jeff Smith here on this blog.

Frank Reid

Frank Reid: pages 10, 439-41, 447, 477, 529-42, 544, 547-53, 555, 574, 576-77, 579, 585.

"Murder may pass unpunish'd for a time,
But tardy justice will o'ertake the crime."
—John Dryden


1812: The U.S. frigate United States captures the British vessel Macedonian during the War of 1812.

1853: Paiute Indians attack and kill U.S. Army Captain John W. Gunnison and 7 other men in Utah, Territory. The men and 37 soldiers were a part of a transcontinental railroad survey near Sevier Lake, Utah.

1860: Adventurer Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton is born in Hartford, Connecticut.

1864: The Battle at Mine Creek takes place. The only major battle fought in Kansas occurs at Mine Creek in Linn County, Kansas. The Union Army defeats the Confederate Army, ending the threat of a Confederate takeover in Kansas.

1870: The first U.S. trademark is given. The recipient is the Averill Chemical Paint Company of New York City.

1873: A detachment of Sixth Cavalry from the Indian Territory attack a party of Indian raiders near Little Cabin Creek, Texas, recovering 70 stolen horses and 200 heads of cattle.

1877: Famed Lincoln County War combatant, Dick Brewer, and posse, catch up with Tunstall's stolen cattle in New Mexico Territory, 10 miles from the Texas border.

1878: Cheyenne Indian Chief Dull Knife and 150 of his tribe reach Fort Robinson accompanied by 75 soldiers. The soldiers provide the Indians food, medicine, and blankets.

1881: In the early morning hours, Tombstone, Arizona Territory residents John “Doc” Holliday and Ike Clanton spew threats at one another while in the Alhambra saloon. The following day both face one another in the famed gunfight behind the OK Corral.

1886: the Texas State Fair opens on a section of John Cole's farm in north Dallas. A rival organization, the Dallas Exposition, opens its first fair the following day. Both fairs are successful and eventually merge to form the Texas State Fair and Dallas Exposition, which eventually becomes the State Fair of Texas.

1891: Jacob Walzer, of the "Lost Dutchman Mine" dies without revealing the secret location. People have been hunting for the mine ever since.

1921: Bat Masterson, famed lawman and gambling figure, dies at his desk while writing a column for the Morning Telegraph where he was sports editor in New York City, New York. Masterson was a good friend of Soapy Smith.

October 23, 2013

Shave or no shave: Dick Ware and the Round Rock shootout with Sam Bass

Texas Ranger Richard "Dick" Ware
Courtesy Robert W. Stephens, Dallas, Texas
(copied from the book Sam Bass and Gang by Rick Miller)
(Click image to enlarge)

or many years I had heard the family stories that Soapy and his cousin Edwin Bobo Smith had witnessed the shooting death of Texas outlaw Sam Bass, but in my 25-years of research I could not find any provenance. Then in March 2007 I made a presentation on Soapy in Newnan, Georgia for the Coweta County Historical Society. While there my cousin brought a notebook of Soapy's to show me. In it was his description of the Round Rock shooting, plus some other fantastic stuff on Tombstone, etc. Unfortunately, my cousin has not scanned the notebook for me, and my only proof of it, is that author Gary Roberts was shown the notebook by myself.

Before publishing my book I also located a nice description about witnessing the Bass shooting by Soapy's cousin Ed. That description is published on pages 30-31 of my book Alias Soapy Smith. Ed states he and Soapy were talking with Texas Ranger Ware in a restaurant, and that Ware was born within a mile of the Smith home, however, according to Rick Miller, author of Sam Bass and Gang (1999), Ware was born in Floyd County, which is over 65-miles from the Smith house. I am positive that Soapy and Ed witnessed the shooting in Round Rock, but there are discrepancies in the versions they give, with what is historically known to be true. In my book I report the error given in the Smith versions due to a shave Ranger Dick Ware was supposedly receiving in the barbershop. The idea that he was getting a shave came from an erroneous source because according to Miller, Ware was posted in German-born Henry Burkhardt's barber shop just east of Henry Koppel's store (where the shooting started) and across the street from the bank, the intended target of the Bass gang. Miller states Ware was in the barbershop on stakeout, with no mention of receiving a shave (Sam Bass and Gang, pp. 247-48). It is very possible that Soapy, Ed, and Ware met in a restaurant, perhaps located in the nearby Hart House hotel mentioned in Miller's book (Sam Bass and Gang, pp 258-59). There is no mention by Miller that Ware was eating breakfast in a restaurant as claimed by Soapy and Ed. Missing from Ed's version is a mention of the barbershop stakeout.

Sam Bass and some of the gang
(standing, left to right) Sam Bass and John Gardner
(seated, left to right) Joe Collins and Joel Collins

(Courtesy of Robert G. McCubbin, jr.)

According to Miller, Ware came out of the barber shop after hearing the first exchange of gunfire. He saw Sam Bass, Seaborn Barnes, and Frank Jackson, crossing the street from Koppel's store and started a firefight with the men. He took cover behind a hitching post. One round split the top of the post within inches of his head and showered him with wood splinters. Ware kept advancing as the outlaws retreated and turned east down an alley to get to their horses. In his version of the fight, Ed Smith stated he and Soapy followed Ware as he advanced. Both Smith and Miller speak of Ware's "deliberate aim," but at what moment Ed was referring to is questionable. Miller states that Ware shot and killed Seaborn Barnes in the alley, Barnes dropping dead to the ground. In Smith's version Soapy stated "I think you hit him" after Ware fired a shot. Could this moment have taken place as the outlaws were entering the alley, or perhaps after? It appears from the Smith's versions that they believed Ware was shooting at Bass, but not knowing what any of the outlaws looked like, how would they know for certain? There is still some controversy as to who shot and killed Bass. Miller states Ranger George Herold shot Bass in the ally as he tried to mount his horse. Barnes, also trying to mount his horse is shot dead with a head shot by Ware as he and other Rangers enter the alley. Bass and Jackson race their horses out of the alley and out of Round Rock. The Rangers soon pursue the outlaws but Jackson escapes and the Rangers do not find Bass until the following day.

Interesting to note is that Ranger Jim Gillett and Lee Hall both said that Bass stated that he had received both of his wounds just after leaving Koppel's store, which would align with the Smith's versions that Ware had shot him (Sam Bass and Gang, p. 260).

Richard Clayton "Dick" Ware was born November 11, 1851, in Floyd County, near Rome, Georgia. He came to Dallas County, Texas with his parents in 1870. He joined the Texas Rangers on April 1, 1876. He was discharged from the Rangers on February 1, 1881, after having been elected the first sheriff of Mitchell County, Texas on January 10, 1881. He was reelected five time, until being defeated by one vote in 1892. On May 11, 1893 he was appointed U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas by President Cleveland. He served until he was replaced in 1898. Ware was then appointed an unpaid "Special Ranger" in "Volunteer Guards" in San Antonio in 1898 to protect property and aid the authorities. Ware never married and died in Fort Worth of heart trouble on June 26, 1902 (Sam Bass and Gang, pp 372-73).

July 21, 2009
October 3, 2013

Sam Bass: pages 30-31.

"He who knows best knows how little he knows."
—Thomas Jefferson


1864: Union forces led by General Samuel Curtis defeat Confederate forces in Missouri under General Stirling Price, during the Civil War.

1865: Union forces retake Fort McIntosh from Confederates in Laredo, Texas.

1869: A mail route is established between Camp McDowell, Phoenix, Florence, Fort Grant, and Tucson, Arizona Territory.

1877: Future Lincoln Count War combatant, John Tunstall returns to his ranch in New Mexico Territory only to learn that all his cattle have been stolen.

1881: Outlaw Dave Rudabaugh escapes from the Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory jail and heads for Mexico never to return to the U.S.

1882: Seven dangerous prisoners escape from the county jail in Tucson, Arizona Territory.

1883: The railroad town of Abilene, Texas becomes the Taylor County seat.

1892: Soapy Smith and five others enter a Denver election polling place and forcefully eject the poll box keeper, placing one of their own in charge, then proceed to allow repeat voters in to cast fraudulent votes.

October 22, 2013

That Fiend in Hell: Soapy Smith's Denver reign in the Haigh dissertation.

Goldbug Council of War—A Daily Scene in Boodle Hall.
Soapy Smith at the head table
Rocky Mountain News, October 16, 1892
(Click image to enlarge)

n 2009 Jane G. Haigh completed her dissertation for a PhD in history and American Indian studies at the  University of Arizona. The title of her work is Political Power, Patronage, and Protection Rackets: Con Men and political Corruption in Denver 1889-1894.

On page 8 of That Fiend in Hell, Cathy Spude incorrectly states that Jane Haigh

dispels the notion that Smith was influential in Denver politics, concluding that he was used by the Denver politicians as a tool to buy votes. 

Spude goes on to expand Haigh's supposed "conclusion" by stating that Soapy's "infamy" came from "the pleasure Denver newspapermen took in making fun of him—and by extension the candidates that he supported—than any real influence he had in Denver politics." Spude gives Haigh a general footnote credit, which cites no page(s) and adds how "This conclusion" should be taken into account in evaluating "Smith's overall legend."

I own a copy of Haigh's dissertation, have read it thoroughly and looked back through it numerous times. I found it well written and informative, but I also found that Haigh presents a very different history than the one of which Spude writes. Nowhere in the dissertation does Haigh indicate that Soapy was merely a tool, that Denver newspapermen took Soapy's reign lightly, or that they made fun of him. On the contrary, Haigh does write that "The most well known con man in Denver was Jefferson Randolph 'Soapy' Smith..." (p. 38). To demonstrate Soapy's prominence and degree of influence, Haigh quotes numerous newspaper accounts, such as this one published on July 29, 1889, in Denver's Rocky Mountain News

Soapy, in the language of the fly-by-night fraternity “has” Denver…. He has it to do with what he will in so far as all professional swindling and stealing is concerned…. The city is absolutely under the control of this prince of knaves, and there is not a confidence man, a sneak thief, or any other parasite upon the public who does not pursue his avocation under license from the man who has become great through the power vested in him by those whose sworn duty it is to administer the laws out of fear or favor. (Dissertation, p. 77; also see more of this article in Alias Soapy Smith, pp. 145-46. The article includes this subtitle in capitals: "HE OWNS THE TOWN.")

Haigh adds the following:

Arkins [editor and owner of the Rocky Mountain News] was correct that in addition to his personal soap game and gambling, Soapy Smith had gained control of a downtown protection racket that exercised authority over the operations of thieves and con men, and paid off the police on behalf of all. Soapy developed this practice in Denver, perfected it in Creede, Colorado at the height of the brief silver rush, and later applied it to his advantage at Skagway, Alaska at the beginning of the Klondike Gold Rush.  (Dissertation, p. 77)

An examination of the dissertation shows that the "conclusion" Cathy Spude claims Jane Haigh draws does not belong to Haigh but to Spude and Spude alone.


Click HERE for more discussion of Cathy Spude's book, That Fiend in Hell.

"A morsel of genuine history is a thing so rare as to be always valuable."
—Thomas Jefferson


1746: The College of New Jersey is officially chartered. The name is later changed to Princeton University.

1836: Sam Houston is inaugurated as the first elected president of the Republic of Texas.

1844: The world was expected to come to an end on this day according to the followers of William Miller.

1859: Fort Larned in Kansas, also known as “Camp Alert,” is established to protect travelers, commerce, and mail on the Santa Fe Trail. It also provided a more centralized point for the distribution.

1876: U.S. troops arrive at the Red Cloud Agency in Nebraska to move Sioux Indians to central camps. Near Camp Robinson Red Cloud is forced to surrender all ponies and weapons to the 4th Cavalry. 400 Indians return to the agency.

1879: Thomas Edison conducts his first successful experiment with a high-resistance carbon filament.

1883: The New York Horse show opens. The first national horse show is formed by the newly organized National Horse Show Association of America.

1902: Train robber, Camillo Orlando Hanks, alias ”Deaf Charley,” is killed by lawman Pink Taylor after a saloon brawl in San Antonio, Texas. Hank’s was a notorious train robber during the latter nineteenth century, often aligning himself with Robert Leroy “Butch Cassidy” Parker’s Hole-in-the-Wall Gang.

October 20, 2013

History as it wasn't. A steampunk vision of Soapy Smith and the Denver City Hall War.

esterday, while researching for my post on the Denver City Hall War, published October 18, 2013, I accidentally came across a Soapy Smith steampunk story. The story just so happens to center on the City Hall War. There is no author listed and I wrote the site, but have yet to receive a reply. It is published as a page of the main website, Obsidian Portal, and called The Story is the Game/The Weird West, which they advertise "This is the Wild West as it wasn’t, with a heavy dose of fantasy and steampunk." The site invites members to invent history and this one author chose Soapy and the City Hall War. Soapy even has his own biography page on this site. The author of this piece appears to have done a little research Soapy, probably on my website or from my book, Alias Soapy Smith. I found it very entertaining. Below is the complete story as published. Put a little steam in your day.

Denver City Hall War

A Foolproof Plan

Having agreed to both the Governor’s plan to take down Denver kingpin Soapy Smith and Soapy’s plan to take down Governor Waite, the heroes need to find some way out of their predicament. Fortunately, Vincent has a cunning plan.

The following morning, June 15, after taking in breakfast at Mrs. Alford’s, the party treks over to the Governor’s office, where they lay their cards on the table: Soapy has seen through the Governor’s ruse and wants them to take one of his items for use in a spell. Governor Waite doesn’t believe in sorcery, but he’s troubled by the leak of his plan. Vincent then urges the Governor to mobilize the militia and have them surround City Hall. This escalation will keep Soapy’s attention while the heroes put into effect the rest of their plan. Governor Waite declares martial law in Denver and prepares to join his troops.

The heroes then hurry back to the Tivoli Club. Word of the escalation has spread fast (thanks to Denver’s telephone system) and the place is practically deserted. The heroes convince Soapy’s remaining men that they need to see him immediately. They are taken over to the Clubs room, where Soapy is going over things with his top lieutenant Fatty Gray and his brother Bascomb Smith.

The heroes convince Soapy that they need to speak with him alone. Once that happens, Vincent whips out the Mnemomizer before his big mouth foils the plan. Successfully operating the device, Vincent blanks Soapy’s memory and leaves him highly suggestible, at which point the party asks about the location of Soapy’s illicit records. The records are inside the frame of a picture in Soapy’s office next door. Jack also wisely asks if there are any surprises and Soapy warns them about a bomb in the desk. Jack immediately takes the tin ID chip that will keep the bomb from going off. Hightower then clocks Soapy and ties him up.

Realizing that they won’t be able to talk or sneak their way past the two guards downstairs, Vincent begins to assemble two makeshift stun grenades. Low on spare parts, he has to dismantle the room’s light fixtures and in the process finds a tiny listening device shaped like a beetle.

After they get past the guards, Vincent and Hightower carry the unconscious Soapy towards City Hall, while Argent and Jack swing by Soapy’s office. There they find Bascomb and another henchman going over the floor plans of the city building.

Argent overcomes Bascomb’s initial suspicions and convinces him to let them into Soapy’s office, where Jack finds the scrapbook hidden in the false back of a picture of Soapy’s family. The book contains newspaper clippings of Soapy’s exploits, as well as records of Soapy’s bribes to local officials. It also contains references to his dealings with someone called “Wizzie,” including the sale of around 50 Cavalry uniforms. As they leave, Bascomb lets them know that most of Soapy’s men are holed up in City Hall with at least one case of dynamite.

The party reunites and approaches City Hall, which is now surrounded by militia who’ve deployed two Gatling guns and a small cannon. A hundred or so Denver Police Officers have taken up defensive positions outside the building, while more gunmen can be seen through the windows. The heroes are taken to the command post, where they present Soapy and the evidence to the Governor.

Coyote Angry

They are interrupted by the arrival of Thomas Edison, who drives an industrial load lifter between the soldiers and the police. He urges the Governor to peacefully resolve the situation by taking it to the Supreme Court. When Edison learns of Soapy’s arrest, he speaks to the heroes privately. The bug they found was his, planted by his technicians as they “repaired” the Tivoli Club’s wiring. While there, Edison’s men suspected that there was a hidden room behind the janitor’s closet. Edison speculates that this is the site of a power source that fuels Soapy’s ability to influence people.

The heroes return to the now-deserted Tivoli Club to investigate. Unable to find the hidden trigger for the entrance to the secret room, Hightower and Argent just bash in the back wall of the janitor’s closet, which does the trick. Inside, they find a circular room much larger than the space it occupies on the second floor. It is decorated everywhere with paintings of coyotes, has a strange red symbol painted on the floor, and at the far end has an altar with a pile of soap bars including one wrapped in a hundred dollar bill. Jack recognizes the room as a shrine to the trickster spirit Coyote, drawing its energy from the deceit taking place all around it in the rigged casino.

After talking Jack out of burning the place down, Hightower gets some mops and buckets and tries to wash the paint off without offending Coyote. However, disrupting the symbol on the floor causes the pile of soap bars to assemble itself into a man-sized Soap Golem. Vincent’s flamethrower is only semi-effective, while the water from the buckets has no impact. A well-placed shot from Hightower, however, pierces the hundred dollar bill and breaks the spell animating the golem. All supernatural energy drains from the room and the heroes get out before it shrinks back to its proper size.

I Need You For The U.S. Secret Service

After breaking Soapy’s mystical power source, the heroes go to Edison’s townhouse, where he introduces them to “Sam,” an agent with the U.S. Secret Service. Sam has received Col. Mackenzie’s report on the Cheyenne incidents, which link the Pinkerton Detectives and reclusive industrialist Darius Hellstromme to the Wizard. Both the Pinkertons and Hellstromme are based out of Salt Lake City, the site of numerous sightings of the Wizard’s top lieutenant, the Dark Woman.

Sam says that the Secret Service has had difficulty inserting agents into Deseret, but he thinks the heroes will have an easier time of it. He asks them to cross the Rocky Mountains and take the Bee Line railroad from the town of Defiance, CO to a stop just outside of Salt Lake, known as the Junkyard. Its the site of Hellstromme’s massive factories and one of the few places a Gentile won’t stand out. They are to confront the Pinkertons and Hellstromme and search for any evidence on the Wizard’s identity. In return, they will be “handsomely rewarded” by the U.S. government.

The heroes accept the offer and then spend the rest of the afternoon and evening shopping for equipment. By the time they return to Mrs. Alford’s, it has grown dark. Outside the boarding house, they are accosted by some toughs that seem to be under the influence of the Hateful Thing. Hightower manages to talk them down by assuring them that the party will be out at dawn tomorrow.

Escape From Denver

Inside, however, a new crisis is awaiting them. Ed Chase, an influential local gambler and owner of the Palace Theater urgently needs to speak with the heroes. Chase runs an honest casino, but he explains that he also operates a safehouse for those in need. He is currently sheltering a pregnant young woman named Maria, who was married to a Union Blue Railroad enforcer gunned down by Central Rail thugs. A Central posse is in town looking to keep her from testifying about the murder, while a Union Blue squad is gunning for her to prevent her from revealing any company secrets. Chase has lined up an escape plan for her, but for it to work he needs her on the South Platte Ferry by 8:10 a.m. tomorrow. Unfortunately, Soapy had hired all the local gunhands and thanks to the heroes, they’re all in jail. So now he has to turn to the party at the last minute.

Chase runs down some of the background on the Great Railroads: they are powerful, ruthless companies that have been waging their own private war against each other for 15 years. Union Blue’s founder, Dr. Thomas Durant, has close ties with the War Department, allowing him to equip his goons with military grade heavy weapons. Central Rail, meanwhile, has fallen under the sway of a cabal of hexslingers known as the Wichita Witches. Neither group should be tangled with lightly.

Chase says he’s doing this out of charity but offers to pay the heroes. Hightower declines for the group, noting it’s on their way out anyway. The party reviews the potential routes to the Ferry and decide to try smuggling Maria through the alleyway behind the Palace Theater while Jack attempts to divert attention by driving the stagecoach down 17th Street. Unfortunately, the party isn’t able to slip out without being noticed and they are ambushed by a Union Blue squad armed with a small cannon. In the ensuing firefight, Vincent commandeers an Industrial Load Lifter and uses it to smash the cannon and the rail warriors’ makeshift barricade.

At the ferry, Hightower, Jack and Maria walk into a trap laid by the Central Rail team, whose witch had foreseen their plan. Maria reveals that her “pregnant” belly was actually concealing a pair of Colt Peacemakers. She and the witch badly wound one another. In the bloody firefight that follows, several heroes are wounded but only one Central thug manages to escape. After treating Maria with the Heal-o-tron 9000, the party takes her out to the middle of the river on a ferry. She orders them to stop midway, just in time for her ride to show up—an auto-gyro fitted with floatation devices. Maria thanks the heroes for their help and then climbs aboard the aircraft, which soars up and then west.

As a result of their actions over the past three days, the PCs have become folk heroes in Denver, where they will always find a helping hand.

"The challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present."
—David Thelen


1774: The Continental Congress passes a proclamation that citizens "discountenance and discourage all horse racing and all kinds of gaming, cock fighting, exhibitions of shows, plays and other expensive diversions and entertainment."

1803: The U.S. Senate approves the Louisiana Purchase.

1818: The U.S. and Great Britain establish the 49th parallel boundary between the U.S. and Canada.

1870: The town site of Phoenix, Arizona Territory is established.

1871: Bad man “Coal Oil” Jimmy and two others rob a stage near Vermeho, New Mexico Territory.

1873: Phineus. T. Barnum opens his Hippodrome in New York City.

1877: Dick Brewer, Charles Bowdre, and Doc Skurlock arrive in Las Cruces, New Mexico Territory with arrest warrants for Jesse Evans and his gang.

1880: Charles Earl Bowles alias “Black Bart” holds up the Redding, California-Roseburg, Oregon stage 1 mile from the Oregon state line.

1889: Oil is discovered in Douglas, Wyoming.

1890: General Nelson Miles recommends that the U.S. government turn its abandoned forts and military posts into schools or reservations.

1892: The city of Chicago dedicates the World's Columbian Exposition. Soapy Smith took his wife in October 1893.

1903: A Joint Commission made up of Great Britain and the U.S. rules in favor of the U.S. concerning a dispute over the boundary line between Canada and the District of Alaska. The U.S. legally gains the ports along the coast of southeast Alaska that it already possessed.

October 18, 2013

Denver City Hall War special police ribbon.

Special Police ribbon
Could this be from the Denver City Hall War?
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

he Denver City Hall War of March 1894 was the defining moment in which Soapy Smith showed that he was ready and willing to put his very life on the line to support the corrupt Denver city officials in their time of need, during the armed confrontation between the state militia and the regular and deputized men of the Denver police and sheriff’s departments. While it is true that he needed them as much as they needed him, at this moment, he could have easily abandoned the very real and dangerous standoff, as most men might have done in his position. He chose to stay and fight.

(Click image to enlarge)

A cartoon depicting the event appeared on the front page of the National Populist newspaper. In it, Jeff carries two kegs of dynamite at the head of a “Committee of Safety,” marching to city hall. Following him was a parade of gamblers, bankers, brokers, politicians, and hobos carrying signs. One reads, “Governors have no power which gamblers need respect.” The Denver Republican reported that “Jeff Smith arrived at the head of the guerrilla contingent, and men wearing red badges bearing the words, ‘Special Police,’ began to grow numerous in the corridor.” (see red badge at top of page)

 (Click image to enlarge)

The City Hall War received national attention, and people wanted to know more. On March 19 when the Colorado Washington delegation was asked about it, Jeff’s old neighbor and former lawyer Congressman Lafe Pence was willing to speak up:

Who the Leader of the Denver Opponents to Governor Waite Is. 

Washington, March 20.—Governor Waite of Colorado and his recent actions form a common topic of current gossip. No one is better able to talk of Colorado matters than that brilliant young representative, Lafe Pence. He told a good story of "Soapy” Smith, whose recent exploits in Denver at the head of the mob is much talked of. “He is one of the greatest characters in the west,” said Mr. Pence. “He is probably not over 30 years of age, and by no means impressive in his build. He is, however, the king of the lawless element in Denver. If Smith and four men were in the city hall tower and five dynamite bombs were thrown into the militia, the world would naturally say that Smith and the other four men each threw one. But I am willing to bet that if the bombs had been thrown and Smith had been indicted, each of his four companions would have sworn that Smith begged them not to throw a single bomb, and that in the scuffle one of the men threw two, which would account for the five. You never knew anyone to have such power. He never lets one of his followers go hungry if he has a dollar in his pocket, and they know it.Register 03/23/1894. Jeff had enjoyed power and authority during the day-long City Hall War as the leader of a company of special policemen and later as a deputy sheriff. As for Jeff, the Denver City Hall War had brought him greatness and disaster. He proved to friends and peers that he was a leader of men, ready to lay down his life for a cause. That high point, though, had been the beginning of the end of gang rule as it had been in the city’s government. New powers were emerging, including expanding public utility companies. With these edging into the main stream and Jeff was feeling his fit with Denver becoming uncomfortably tight

Details on the Denver City Hall War can be found in chapter 12 of my book, Alias Soapy Smith. There are a couple of links below on the blog which have some information as well.

City Hall War
March 14, 2011
March 17, 2011

City Hall War: pages 3, 59, 292, 294, 298, 310, 312, 321,328-29, 334, 359, 379, 390, 594.

"Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it. "
—George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905.


1763: It is reported in the Boston Gazette that the first piano had been built in the U.S. by John Harris, who named it the spinet.

1789: Alexander Hamilton negotiates and secures the first loan for the United States. The Temporary Loan of 1789 is repaid on June 8, 1790 at the sum of $191,608.81.

1793: U.S. President George Washington lays the actual cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol.

1830: “Tom Thumb," the first locomotive built in America, races a horse on a nine-mile course. The horse won when the locomotive had some mechanical difficulties.

1850: The Fugitive Slave Act is enacted by the U.S. Congress. The act allows slave owners to claim slaves that had escaped into other states.

1851: The New York Times is published.

1861: Construction of the transcontinental telegraph from Missouri reaches Salt Lake City, Utah. Brigham Young sends a telegram to President Lincoln.

1867: Alaska is formally transferred to the U.S. from Russia.

1868: The 10th Cavalry kills 10 Indians in a battle at Beaver Creek, Kansas.

1868: Vigilantes hang 4 and shoot 2 in Laramie, Wyoming Territory.

1871: 600 kegs of gunpowder explode inside a freight car for the Colorado Central Railroad, 6 miles outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory. No deaths or injuries are reported.

1877: Outlaw Sam Bass and his men rob a Union Pacific train at Big Springs, Nebraska, escaping with $60,000 in gold coin. They will be unsuccessfully tracked by Charles Bassett and Bat Masterson. Soapy Smith will later witness the shooting death of Sam Bass in Round Rock, Texas.

1877: Bad man Jesse Evans and his sons steal horses belonging to John Tunstall, Alexander McSween, and Dick Brewer at the Brewer Ranch in New Mexico Territory.

1884: The Black Canyon stage is robbed in Arizona Territory.

1886: Eight Apache Indians surrender to Captain Cooper in the Black River Mountains, Arizona Territory.

1891: Harriet Maxwell Converse became the first white woman to ever be named chief of an Indian tribe. The tribe is the Six Nations Tribe at Towanda Reservation in New York.

1895: Daniel David Palmer gives the first chiropractic adjustment.