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
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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.

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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)

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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.

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