February 23, 2014

Acquisition of old Juneau Wharf photographs: Where Soapy Smith was killed.

Skagway, Alaska by Case and Draper
Approx. 1900
(right to left) Moore Wharf, Sylvester Wharf, Juneau Company Wharf, Seattle-Skaguay Wharf
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

 few recent proud acquisitions of mine showing the demise of the Juneau Company Wharf where Soapy Smith met his own demise during the Shootout on Juneau Wharf.
      Skagway Bay was not deep enough for ships to anchor very close to land. In the early days of the camp, floating skids rowed out to meet incoming steamers and for a fee passengers could unload their gear onto the skid and then it would be taken to the shore and dumped off. Passengers had to move their stuff before the tide rose or chance losing everything to the rising waters. Wharves, four total, were built rather quickly for ships to anchor at, but in order to do that, they had to build wharves that reached out into the bay nearly one mile in length. Eventually the bay was dredged out so that ships could dock close to land.
      There's not a lot of information on each photograph, but they tell the story of Juneau Wharf's short life. The above photo is the oldest and nicest. A cabinet photo by the photographers Case and Draper, dating about 1900. The photo measures approx 7.5" x 9.5" and with the original matting it comes out to 11" x 14". The matting is not in the best condition but these are too rare to be picky. Although the matting has taken somewhat of a beating over the last 113-years, the photograph itself is in excellent shape. I am proud to add it to my collection.

Close up of Juneau Wharf
The Shootout on Juneau Wharf too place here
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

Best known photograph of
the approximate location where
Soapy Smith shot it out with vigilantes
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

Juneau Wharf, 1907 postcard
Juneau Wharf (far left) is still in full operation
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

Juneau Wharf, 1907
Yellow circle shows where the gunfight took place.
Jeff Smith
(Click image to enlarge)

Steamer docked at Moore's Wharf
Postcard, dated 1924
Juneau Wharf can be seen on the far left
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

Close up of Juneau Wharf, 1924
The two warehouse buildings are gone
Wharf is closed and deteriorating.
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

Moore Wharf, abt. 1940
The ruins of Juneau Wharf are dead center
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

Close up of 1940 photograph
Much of the plank flooring that held the two buildings is gone
The yellow circle contains the location of the Shootout on Juneau Wharf.
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

Skagway, Alaska today
None of the four original wharves remain
Dotted blue line shows where Juneau Wharf once stood
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)


Juneau Wharf
November 29, 2008

December 23, 2008
June 2, 2009
November 1, 2009
February 16, 2011
April 23, 2011
March 1, 2011

Juneau Wharf: pages 9, 12, 530-32, 535, 538, 546-51, 554, 564, 575, 595.

I turned to say thank you, sir, but he was gone…. I am only a woman, but I have got a vote and so has my husband, and anybody who does an act like that for us shows that they have hearts that are in the right place, and I think that they are better than the people who abuse them.
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 329.


1792: The Humane Society of Massachusetts is incorporated.
1813: The first U.S. raw cotton-to-cloth mill is founded in Waltham, Massachusetts.
1821: The Philadelphia College of Apothecaries establishes the first pharmacy college.
1822: Boston, Massachusetts is incorporated as a city.
1836: the siege of the Alamo begins in San Antonio, Texas.
1847: Santa Anna is defeated at the Battle of Buena Vista in Mexico by U.S. troops during the Mexican-American War.
1861: President Abraham Lincoln arrives secretly in Washington, D.C. to take his office after an assassination attempt in Baltimore, Maryland.
1861: Texas becomes the 7th state to secede from the Union prior to the Civil War. In 1876 the parents of Soapy Smith make Texas their new home.
1864: Between 20 and 200 Tonto Apache Indians are murdered after being lured to an Arizona peace conference in Bloody Tanks, Arizona Territory by King Woolsey, claiming to be a representative of the Federal government. The Indians are fed pinole loaded with strychnine and then fired upon. A possible motive is that gold had been discovered at nearby Prescott.
1870: The state of Mississippi is readmitted to the Union.
1874: Walter Winfield patents a game called sphairistike, known later as lawn tennis.
1875: J. Palisa discovers “Adria” (asteroid #143).
1879: Outlaw William “Colorado Bill” Elliott, wanted for murder in four states, kills his fifth victim, David Brown. Elliott was apprehended and sentenced to death on May 28, 1879 in Fort Smith by Judge Isaac Parker and hung on August 29, 1879.
1883: Alabama is the first state to enact an antitrust law.
1885: The last Missouri charge against outlaw Frank James is dropped. It involved the 1876 Missouri Pacific train robbery near Otterville, Cooper County, MO in which over $15,000 was stolen. Frank was arrested shortly after his acquittal in the Muscle Shoals paymaster case the previous April. This marked the end of Frank’s legal problems as Minnesota’s effort to charge him in the murder & attempted robbery at Northfield eventually faded away.
1886: Charles M. Hall invents aluminum.
1896: The Tootsie Roll candy is introduced.
1904: The U.S. acquires control of the Panama Canal Zone for $10,000,000.

February 21, 2014

Jeff Dunbar: bad man member of the Soapy Smith gang.

The killing of Jeff Dunbar
July 24, 1898

Pen and ink drawing by Bob Meldrum, 1914 depicting bartender
James W. Davis shooting and killing Jeff Dunbar.
Meldrum did not actually witness the shooting.
Courtesy of the Wyoming State Museum
(Click image to enlarge)

ad man Jeff Dunbar

first appears as a member of the Soap Gang in October 1892. Page 257 of Alias Soapy Smith contains the following.

According to the News, “Jeff Dunbar, one of Soapy’s steerers, and a general all around athlete in the art of heeling,” was fleecing a Miss Flossie Leigh of her money. On October 15, 1892, less than a week after the Sparks killing, Dunbar asked Flossie to meet him at the Tivoli Club [Denver, Colorado]. The purpose of the meeting was never determined, but it seems likely to have involved a “sure thing” transaction. A detail to emerge was that when it came time for Flossie to produce money, she refused.

He became abusive and the woman got up to leave, when Dunbar pulled out his gun and struck her violently over the top of the head with it. As she staggered to the floor he struck her a second blow on the forehead, and she sank bleeding and senseless to the floor.
     Dunbar immediately fled out the side door and the men in the saloon, attracted by the noise of the assault, ran in and found the woman senseless on the floor, her scalp torn and bleeding from the blows. A doctor was summoned and the wounds dressed as hastily as possible. Miss Leigh was placed in a hack and driven to her home. Her skull is thought to be fractured near the base and it is not certain that she will live.
     A warrant for the arrest of Dunbar was sworn out … and is now in the hands of the constable for service whenever he can find Dunbar.
     This is the first attempt in Soapy’s new blood-letting establishment. It is just possible that the next woman who ventures into the death trap will be instantly killed.
Dunbar appears never to have answered for his assault.
      Six months later, April 24, 1893 Dunbar was arrested, along with seven other bunco steerers from the Soap Gang, including famed gangsters John L. "Reverend" Bowers and George Wilder, for swindling a visitor from Salt Lake City, Utah, once again within the Tivoli Club. The story is covered in the Rocky Mountain News.  

Detectives Ordered to Round Up the Entire Fraternity.—
      H. Slade of Salt Lake complained to the police yesterday afternoon that he had been buncoed out of $150 in a gambling house at Seventeenth and Market streets. The game was friendly poker, but there were odds of 2 to 1. Several complaints of late have come into the police station against the class of gamblers known as “sure thing” men, so Chief Veatch, after hearing Slade’s story, ordered Chief Howe to land in jail all the sharps found on the streets. As a result, Detective Carberry, Connors and Carrier soon had George Wilder, Frank Weldon, George Beck, Jeff Dunbar, A. B. Smith, John Bowers, James Jenks and Handsome Casey all behind the bars.
      The is the last known time Dunbar appears in connection with the Soap Gang, but not with history. Apparently this bad man went on to make an interesting history all his own, even becoming the leader of the outlaw Wild Bunch gang of train and bank robbers. I came across his name on the Old West Rogues forum and they supplied me with some additional information that I share with you now.

Drawing of "Jef" Dunbar
Possibly published in the Rawllns Republican 1897 or 98
Courtesy of Vince Garcia
(Click image to enlarge)

(From historian Daniel Buck — Old West Rogues)
      Jeff Dunbar seems to have first made his mark, using the word "mark" loosely, in 1887, when he was "acquitted of the charge of shooting" in Sheridan, Wyoming, though fined for carrying "a concealed deadly weapon." He upped the ante in 1892, when he killed a man in a bar room brawl in Casper, Wyoming. He was tried for murder and acquitted.
     A newspaper clipping I located, dated April 14, 1892 in the Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, In.).

Cheyenne, Wyo., April 13.—At Casper last night Jeff Dunbar shot a negro named Lewis Adams. They got into a dispute over a game of cards. Dunbar shot four times, three of the shots taking effect. The negro was instantly killed. Dunbar was arrested.
Note: It was after his acquittal in September 1892 that he came to Denver and joined the Soap Gang. His last known association with the Soap Gang is reported in April 1893.  
In 1894, he stole $15 in a Silverton, Colorado, faro game, and relieved at gun point a fellow sporting man of $200 at "Mid's Hell," a Fort Duchesne, Utah, gambling den. (His accomplice in the latter crime, one William Hughes, was killed the following year in yet another bar room fight.)
      In the mid-1890s, Dunbar was said to be terrorizing the citizens of Dixon, Wyoming. (Will Kane must have been out of town.) Both Jeff and his brother were in the saloon business there. From the tone of the articles, Jeff Dunbar was one mean drunk.
A newspaper clipping I located, dated October 28, 1895 in the Omaha World Herald]

Rawlins, Wyo., Oct. 27.———Reports have been received that Jeff Dunbar, a notorious "bad man," has been terrorizing the towns of Dixon and Baggs for the last week. At the saloons in both places he has shot the bars full of holes and has broken up the stoves and lamps. There are no officers in either town to take him into custody.
      In 1897, the same year he marries and settles in Dixon, Jeff Dunbar's name surfaces in the national press, Boston Globe, November 5, 1897, as an associate of Butch Cassidy. The story is accompanied by a sketch an Alfred E. Neuman looking Butch Cassidy. From there on out, Dunbar enjoys a brief national notoriety as a mass murderer and leader of a gang of upwards of 500 outlaws.
      In July 1898, a drunk and ornery Dunbar is shot dead in a bar room fight in Dixon. Best I can tell: Notches on Dunbar's gun, 1; total take from his crimes, $215. Jack Stroud undoubtedly can tell us more, as well as correct the errors in my account. Dan PS Most of the above info from the usual digitized newspaper vaults.


(from Jack Stroud — Old West Rogues)

      The Jeff Dunbar articles were probably all penned by Willis George Emerson, who was known for sensationalizing. I’ve heard a lot of stories about Jeff Dunbar, none were positive. As far as I’m concerned, Jeff Dunbar was nothing more than a low life bushwhacking crook. After the Lewis Adams affair at Casper in 1892, which clearly sounds like self defense, brother William “Mike” Dunbar relocated to Dixon, Wyoming, brother Jeff, joined him shortly thereafter. Jeff Dunbar organized a loosely knit group of locals, who were already in the area. In the early days they were mostly into rustling stock in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. It was only after Cassidy showed up about 1897, that they hit the big time, most likely without the assistance of Jeff Dunbar. William Arthur “Mike” Dunbar did have a close relationship with Cassidy long after the demise of Jeff Dunbar. William “Mike” Dunbar’s 1925 Utah death certificate by suicide shows his residence as Rock River, Wyoming, he is buried in Utah.

Jack found the following in the Vernal Express, Aug. 16, 1894.

Sheriff Geo. Searle received a telephone message from Fort Duchesne, Tuesday morning stating that Geo. Huse and Jeff Dunbar had robbed Wm. Nichols, of $200. A warrant was sworn out for their arrest and the sheriff and a posse of deputies are on their trail.


In the Vernal Express, Sept. 20, 1894
Jeff Dunbar, the man wanted for robbing Wm. Nichols on this side of the Post has been terrorizing the citizens of Dixon, on Snake river, in Wyoming. Our sheriff has telegraphed to the sheriff of Rawlins to arrest him.



      Jeff Dunbar, who was in contact with the toughest people, including train and bank robbers, lived in this area for a number of years. John Ledford, of Craig, Colorado, told me Jeff Dunbar came into his saloon one day when there were two warrants out for him, one in Colorado, and one in Utah. He said, "Jeff, do you know there are two warrants out for you?" Jeff said, "Yes, but I can't stay in the cedars all the time". He was in Ledfords Saloon for several days, when the Sheriff came to John Ledford and said, "Is Jeff Dunbar in your place?" Ledford said, "Yes, though I am not upholding him." The Sheriff said, "Does he know there are two warrants out for him?" John Ledford said, "Yes, he knows."
      The Sheriff put his head down for a little while and then said, "If those Mormon (blankety blanks) want him, let them come and get him." After leaving Craig, Jeff Dunbar went to Glenwood Springs, went broke gambling, and for several nights put on a mask, held up someone, then hid his mask and helped hunt for the stickup, so he later told Ledford. Once a number of robbers had a Dixon merchant take their measurements and order new suits. They were afraid to call for the clothes. A friend called for the clothes. Jeff Dunbar owned the only saloon in Dixon for a time. Drinks in the saloons those days were fifteen cents each, or two for twenty-five cents. "While Dunbar had the saloon, Emerson, a blacksmith, who was working for D. C. Jones, started a saloon in Dixon. After Emerson had been running his saloon for about a week, Dunbar went there one night, shot a number of times on both sides, and a number of times over Emerson's head. Emerson never opened his saloon after that night. He left Dixon the next morning early and has never been back to Dixon. Dunbar sold his saloon to James Davis, a very quiet man who always attended to his own business. Davis was known to be an expert pistol shot, one who could shoot sage chickens' heads off with a pistol as they walked along. Dunbar went to where there was a mining boom, Dexterville, near the head of the Savery. After being there for about a year, and the boom was over, Dunbar was back around Dixon. He went into James Davis' saloon and started shooting into the bar. Davis pulled his gun from under the bar and shot Dunbar in the chest three times. Dunbar shot Davis, and said he was not going to die in the blankety blank place, and staggered to the door where he fell dead.


The following comes from a page called The Wild Bunch

      Some letters left behind by bandits fleeing from the Winnemucca bank robbery and other recently discovered materials show that an obscure Dixon, Wyoming bartender was a vital link in Wild Bunch operations. His name was Mike Dunbar. Dunbar had taken a one-year lease on an old bar in Dixon once owned by Phil S. Lerler. He painted, varnished and redecorated the bar in much the same manner as he was refurbishing his life. A newspaper report of the grand opening of the new bar in Dixon said "the liquor sold over this bar will transform very ordinary men into poets, orators, artists, statesmen and millionaires." Was he being facetious?
      Some say the Wild Bunch gang got its name from hurrahing towns like Dixon and its neighbor in south central Wyoming, Baggs. People would say there goes that "Wild Bunch from Powder Springs." Powder Springs was the outlaw hideout west of the towns. And that put Mike Dunbar right in the middle of the action.
      According to census records, William "Mike" Dunbar was born in Illinois in December, 1852. His family, including his brother, Jefferson, migrated west, through Kansas into Wyoming, where the boys apparently began to test the limits of the law. On April 12,1892, Mike and Jeff were in the Carter and Brenham Saloon in Casper, Wyoming, where Mike was running a poker game. Jeff and a black man named Lewis Adams got into an argument which escalated with threats and abuse until Jeff drew his revolver. Adams grabbed a nearby billiards cue stick and advanced menacingly on Jeff, who fired three or four warning shots before killing Adams.
      Jeff reholstered his gun and calmly walked out the rear of the saloon with Mike. Sheriff Rice and his deputy found them at a nearby stable and Jeff said, "I’m the one you want." At a preliminary hearing, Jeff was held over without bail and taken to Douglas, Wyoming, to stand trial on a charge of murder. He pleaded self-defense and was acquitted.
      Mike and Jeff relocated to Dixon, Wyoming. On July 28, 1893, Mike leased the bar from Lefler, where in addition to liquor he sold supplies and ran a billiards table. Mike appeared to have settled down. He married Louisa, an immigrant from Norway, and they soon had a daughter, Ruth, born in August, 1893.
      However, on December 31, Mike witnessed a shooting involving a man named Frank Howard. It occurred near Mike's saloon. He was called to testify at the trial, which began on January 1, 1894. Justice of the Peace and Acting Coroner D.C. Jones presided. Jones was known to fear and hate Mike's brother, Jeff, and therefore thought little of Mike's testimony.
      Jeff, meanwhile, had gone to Craig, Colorado, where he remained for the duration of the trial. As much as Mike seemed to want to go straight, Jeff apparently drew him to outlaw life. Suspected as a rustler, thief and killer, his acquaintances were of questionable character. Jeff became a full-time outlaw on August 14, 1894, when he and George Huse robbed William Nichols of $200 on the Strip near Fort Duchesne, Utah. A warrant was issued in Vernal and Sheriff George Searle and a posse began searching for the culprits. Within a week Huse was captured and jailed but Jeff had eluded the posse. Sheriff heard that Jeff was hiding out in Dixon and notified the sheriff in Rawlins, Wyoming. However, there is no record of Jeff's arrest and things quieted down for the brothers for awhile.
      A news item in the Craig Courier next mentioned that Jeff arrived in Baggs on August 15, 1896, from the Four Mile, a small gold-mining camp and a nest of rustlers and outlaws. Two months later, the paper reported that Mike Dunbar of Dixon had accidentally shot himself near the knee on the right leg while "recklessly handling" his gun. Both Mike and Jeff were in the Baggs and Dixon area at the same time that Harry Longabaugh, alias The Sundance Kid, was working for the nearby Al Reader Ranch. The brothers and Sundance became trusting friends and stayed in touch with each other when Sundance left the area.
      On July 24, 1898, Jeff headed into Jim Davis' saloon in Dixon. An argument ensued and Jeff drew his gun and shot Davis, wounding him. Davis reached for his gun and fired four rounds, killing Jeff. According to Dunbar's front-page obituary, Jeff had been the leader of the Robbers Roost Gang, a band of 400 or so outlaws, which included Butch Cassidy, Isom Dart, and Bert Charters, among others. The reporter speculated that "Butch Cassidy will be Dunbar's successor as a leader, but it is generally believed that there is not a single man in all the league possessed of sufficient ability to hold the gang in line."
      No sooner had Jeff been buried up on Blue Mountain than Mike's wife gave birth to a son, Charles. Mike no longer ran the saloon in Dixon but moved his growing family into Baggs. His friendship with Sundance and members of his brother's old gang continued, however. This resulted in Mike coming under surveillance of the Pinkerton Detective Agency.The Pinkertons dossier on Mike used the code name "Coyote" when referring to him in correspondence with their field agents.
      The Pinkertons also were watching numerous other residents in the Snake River Valley, an area they considered a hotbed of banditry. Charles F. Tucker, a rancher in Dixon; Jack Ryan, Bert Charters, Sam Green, Jim Hanson, Chippy Reid, and Jim Ferguson, all of Rawlins; and Robert McIntosh, the postmaster at Slater, Colorado. All were under surveillance by Charles Ayers and Bob Meldrum both of Dixon.
      Ayers, a rancher and stock association inspector from Dixon, was the first person to identify and describe the Sundance Kid to the Pinkertons. That description became well known on wanted posters and is found in the Wild Bunch files today. Meldrum was another story, however.
      According to census records, Robert D. Meldrum was born in 1866 in England. The census shows him working as farm laborer but Pinkerton records identify him as a deputy sheriff in Dixon, with a code name "Cigar." Researcher Dan Davidson says that Meldrums' position with the Pinkerton's with similar to that of Tom Horn. Meldrum often walked a fine line between gun-for-hire and law officer.
      Meldrum eventually crossed that line when he killed Chick Bowen in cold blood on January 19, 1912. Sentenced to five to seven years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary, Meldrum had plenty of time for his hobby, drawing. Now stored in the Wyoming State Archives and Museum, one of the sketches he made in 1914 was the saloon gunfight between Jim Davis and Jeff Dunbar.
      By August 29, 1900, plans had been finalized for the Wild Bunch holdup of the Union Pacific train at Tipton, Wyoming. Many of Jeff Dunbar's old gang were being watched by Ayers and Meldrum and soon after were questioned as to their knowledge of the crime. Nearly all of those questioned had known some aspect of the robbery prior to the event. In fact, the Pinkerton report on Tipton mentions that four of these men should have been charged as accessories before and after the fact. Mike also knew about the robbery in advance because he was the contact person for correspondence between Sundance and the Wild Bunch lawyer Douglas A. Preston. Mike knew that Sundance would not be at Tipton but instead was headed for Nevada and the bank robbery in Winnemucca. He was helping Preston and Sundance make arrangements to dispose of some blackened gold and currency along the return trip from Nevada. On September 1, 1900, Mike had his wife, Louisa, addressed a letter to C.E. Rowe in Golconda, Nevada. It read, "Dear Friend: Yours at hand this evening. We are glad to know you are getting along well. In regard to sale enclosed letters will explain everything. I am so glad that everything is favorable. We have left Baggs so write us at Encampment, Wyoming. Hoping to hear from you soon I am as ever, Your Friend, Mike." The letters which Mike had enclosed were from Preston and indicated a deal could be made to sell or trade "the black stuff." All arrangements had gone through Mike Dunbar.
      Soon afterward, Mike dropped from sight. Through census records, we know that he and his wife remained in Wyoming at least through 1902 when their second son, Norman, was born. One report claims that Dunbar moved to Montana but that has not been verified. Maybe Mike just tired of being on the fringes of the lawless element and finally found a way to go straight. While Mike and Jeff Dunbar certainly knew many of the Wild Bunch members and associates, they also made a mark of their own on the Snake River Valley.

The death of Jeff Dunbar
From Jack Stroud — Old West Rogues

(August 1897 George R. Caldwell correspondent of the Denver News wrote Bandits of the Border. Similar versions same article, November 1897 The Idaho Daily Statesman, "Organized Highwaymen Terrorize Northwestern Colorado," December 1897 Wheatland World, "Great Robber Gang.")
      Publication: Steamboat Pilot (Steamboat Springs, Routt County); Date: Aug 10, 1898; Section: Front page; Page: 1

Ending of a Career Notorious in Criminal Annals.
Said to Have Killed a Hundred Men, Jeff Dunbar Himself Dies With His Boots on. Some Incidents of a Strange and Adventurous Career

      Willis George Emerson writes as follows to the Denver Times: the noted outlaw, Jeff Dunbar, is dead. He lived by the sword and “died with his boots on.” He was shot to death by Jim Davis, the saloon keeper at Dixon, Wyo. He was one of the leaders of a marauding band of desperadoes known as the “Robbers Roost” gang. For years the citizens of Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado have been terrorized by this noted highwayman and his associates, who without question constituted the greatest criminal league that has ever existed in America. Jim Davis is one of the gang and runs a saloon at Dixon. Last Sunday evening Jeff Dunbar came to the Davis saloon and commenced abusing Davis for a fancied insult that occurred a few weeks previous. It seems that Davis early in July refused Jeff Dunbar, who was on a periodical drunk, any more liquor, and put him out of his saloon late one night, shutting the door in his face. The outlaw leader was humiliated and determined to have revenge. For weeks Jim Davis has been on the alert expecting an encounter with the notorious bandit. Last came last Sunday night. The first shot was fired by Jeff Dunbar, which grazed the left temple of Jim Davis, cutting the hair from his head. Quick as a flash Davis fired four shots into Dunbar’s body, Killing him almost instantly. William B. Snyder, a bystander, accidentally received a shot through his right forearm. A coroner’s jury returned a verdict exonerating Jim Davis, alleging that the killing was done in self defense. Among the members of the gang, numbering some 400 men, probably more, there is much sorrow because of their leader’s death, and mutterings of revenge are heard on every side. They will probably kill Jim Davis.
      Among the settlers of the surrounding country there is a feeling of general relief that at last the country is rid of this murderous outlaw. Jeff Dunbar was a vicious character and it is said he has murdered more than 100 men in his time; he has led raids of a score of bank robberies and a countless number of highwayman stage robberies and murderous holdups. His band consists of refugees from justice from nearly every state and territory in the union. There rendezvous was amid the vastnesses of the Rocky Mountains, many miles inland from railroad communication, and near the intersection lines of Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. For a dozen years Jeff Dunbar has been the high chief of this band of robbers. When not raiding banks or playing the part of a “Claude Duval” highwayman, they have busied themselves in stealing horses and cattle.
      For years the surrounding country has been plundered by this gang of thieves until their boldness has made them the terror of every border point for miles around. It is said that much of their stolen property, such as cattle and horses, have found an outlet into the Utah and Colorado markets through a tribe of Ute Indians, who are supposed to be in league with the highwaymen. Among Jeff Dunbar’s “hundred slain” may be mentioned Tom Owen, whom he killed in Fort Worth, Tex., over a game of Mexican monte, and then “flew the country.” At Santa Fe. N. M., he killed Jake Blevins, a policeman, who attempted to arrest him. In Denver it is said that half a dozen murderous crimes are traceable direct to his skill with a revolver and bowie knife. In Cheyenne, Bob Stewart’s lamp of life went out because, forsooth, he crossed the track of Jeff Dunbar. For years he has boasted of his ability to “shoot up” any town that he planned throughout the country surrounding his mountain retreat. Among his associates may be mentioned “Broncho” Johnson, Butch Cassidy, Bert Charters, Jack Garland, Jim Stevens, Tom Turley, “Cherokee Buss,” Isam Dart and a score of other less prominent but none the less desperate characters, who have acted as captains and lieutenants for the noted outlaw who now lies in cold death. A little over a year ago the bank at Montpelier, Idaho, was raided with all the skill and boldness that characterized the most daring exploits of the James boys in years gone by. Over $20,000 was secured from the bank, and up to the present time local authorities have been in bringing the perpetrators to justice, although “Bud” Meeks, one of the gang has been arrested and charged with being an accomplice in the robbery. The country will perhaps breathe easier now that the leader is dead. In many particulars he was a wonderful character. His ability to organize and hold in subjection the lawless class of refugees from justice, who during the last dozen years he has gathered about him, was quite remarkable. It is thought in Dunbar’s death the beginning of the end is discernable. The civil authorities of the states bordering the headquarters of these outlaws are arranging a concert of action to rid the country, if possible, of this terrorizing gang of desperadoes. Some say that Butch Cassidy will be Dunbar’s successor as leader, but it is generally believed that there is not a single man in all the league possessed of sufficient ability to hold the gang in lone and keep them subject to the dictatorship of any one man. The hope of the community is that half a dozen leaders will spring up and the old adage will obtain: “when thieves fall out just men get their dues.” Late Sunday night, after the tragic death of the bandit, six masked men on fiery steeds came dashing up to the Davis saloon. They had carbines swung to their saddle pommels and a brace of revolvers strapped to their belts. The lifeless body of Jeff Dunbar was thronged on the back of his favorite horse, that had carried him in life through many a hairbreadth encounter, and now with patient docility carried the dead chief away in the gathering twilight to his lonely burial ground. High up on the rugged side of Blue mountain, near the summit of the continental divide, amid crags and peaks and torrents of waterfalls, Jeff Dunbar, the inordinate and wicked desperado sleeps and waits in troubled slumber the coming of judgment.

(from Jack Stroud — Old West Rogues)
The Carbon County Journal, July 30, 1898

Jeff Dunbar Falls From Bullets Fired By Jim Davis.

      Davis Full of Wounds But Will Probably Recover --- Another “Bad Man” Gone Forever.

     Sunday night about 10 o'clock, Jeff Dunbar, Who for years has terrorized Dixon with his gun plays, attacked Jim Davis, a saloonkeeper at Dixon. and was killed a few moments after the proceedings opened. Davis was shot through the right thumb, the bullet making two wounds in the arm, entering the armpit thence into and through the body, lodging under or near the shoulder blade. Another bullet entered the thigh from the rear and came out of the right groin. Dunbar died in a few moments, while Davis is alive with fair prospects of recovery.


      Dunbar for a number of years ran a saloon in Dixon and periodically got a spree and taking six-shooter or Winchester shot up the town. Some time last fall or early this spring he sold his saloon business to Jim Davis and ran a joint near the Douglas mine on the Sandstone. Recently he came back to Dixon and had been staying near there for a few weeks past. Davis is a hunter and trapper and reported to be a quiet, peaceable man, running his saloon in an orderly manner and neither overbearing or quarrelsome, but nervy when aroused and a fighter to the end. Davis weighs 230 pounds and is a strong, fearless man.


      It seems that on July 4th Dunbar wanted to open a “crap” game in Davis’ saloon, but Davis objected, saying he would probably open one himself this fall. Jeff Dunbar rather took offense at this, but made no disturbance at the time. Once before, Davis, it is said, prevented a disturbance in the saloon in which Dunbar was implicated, and on that afternoon of the shooting, Dunbar, who had been drinking at Dixon, fired his revolver off once or twice there, then came up to east Dixon and entered Davis’ place. He sat in a game of poker and during the game tore up a deck of cards. To this Davis objected telling him he had a right to order a new deck but not to destroy his (Davis) property. After the game Dunbar cashed his checks, Davis paying him, when Dunbar challenged Davis to shake dice for the drinks. Davis shook and lost. While drawing beer for Dunbar, Dunbar remarked, “What do you think of the Irish?” Davis replied, “They may be alright or all wrong, he knew nothing about them.” Dunbar said, “I’m Irish, and you’ve been trying to put it on me.” Davis replied he had not, “that he didn’t run over any man.” Dunbar said he had and pulled his six-shooter and commenced firing, and according to John Grossheart’s testimony, who witnessed the fight, fired two shots at Davis while Davis was getting his revolver out of the drawer behind the bar. Then Davis opened up, both shooting. Davis’ wounds have been described. Dunbar was hit twice. One bullet struck him in the breastbone a few inches below the throat, and went out under the shoulder blade. The other struck within a couple of inches of the first bullet, but striking something was deflected and came out near the spine in a downward course. Dunbar staggered outside the door and died within a few moments.


      John Grossheart, Dutch “Chris,” Willard Reynolds and J. P. Snyder were in the saloon and witnessed the affray. Snyder had one of the bullets go through his forearm, but no bones were broken. Dr. Weaver attended Dunbar, but could render no help. Davis, it is thought, will recover.
      The coroner’s jury composed of J. C. Kane, D. Jones, Jack Strayber, W. Hays, West Lamb and John Wilkes, rendered a verdict after examining the witnesses, that the deceased came to his death from gunshot wounds inflicted by James Davis. Jeff Dunbar was buried at Baggs, his brother, Mike Dunbar, superintending the disposition of the remains.
      "Willard Reynolds" misidentified, he was actually Willard Runnells the grandson of Jim Baker and later partner of Bob Meldrum at Telluride, Colorado.

(from Daniel Buck — Old West Rogues)

      By the way, years later, December 23, 1915, the Encampment Record ran a short recollection on Dunbar and Davis, describing Dunbar as a "noted highwayman" who along with "his associates . . . constituted the greatest criminal league that ever existed in America," and Davis as "one of the gang." The reference to Davis as an outlaw prompted an old-timer to write in protest (December 30), saying that Davis "was one of the most honorable and upright citizens on Snake River."
      The unnamed old timer could not resist, however his own exaggeration, saying that the "killing of Jeff Dunbar did more toward suppressing lawlessness in southern Wyoming than any ten agencies combined that were ever waged against the Hole in the Wall - Powder Springs - Robbers Roost gang of outlaws." Well, all right then.
      Any thoughts on how Jeff Dunbar, a hard-drinking small-town tough, at best a marginal figure in the annals of Rocky Mountain crime, landed in nationally syndicated stories (and as well in the memory of at least one Wyoming old timer) as a major-league outlaw generalissimo?
The Denver Post, August 14, 1898
Several of the state papers have expressed sympathy for the residents of Hades {Hell} since Outlaw Jeff Dunbar was pistoled and sent down there from his late residence at Dixon.


Old West Rogues
Vince Garcia (Old West Rogues forum)
Daniel Buck (Old West Rogues forum)
Jack Stroud (Old West Rogues forum)
The Wild Bunch (web page)


Jeff Dunbar: pages 92, 257, 260, 264, 268.

Honest historians rarely try to shout down those they disagree with.
— William Urban


1842: John J. Greenough patents the sewing machine.
1858: The first electric burglar alarm is installed, Boston, Massachusetts.
1862: Texas Rangers fighting for the Confederacy win a victory in the Battle of Val Verde, New Mexico Territory.
1866: Lucy B. Hobbs becomes the first woman to graduate from a dental school, the College of Dental Surgery in Cincinnati, Ohio.
1874: The Oakland Daily Tribune begins publication in Oakland, California.
1878: The first telephone directory in the U.S. is distributed to residents in New Haven, Connecticut. It is a single page of fifty names.
1896: Judge Roy Bean hosts the Maher-Fitzsimmons heavyweight boxing championship on an island in the Rio Grande, Texas.
1900: The U.S. government gives a full military funeral to chief Washakie, one of the few Indian chiefs who never warred against white settlers.
1904: The National Ski Association is formed in Ishpeming, Michigan.
1916: Outlaw Cole Younger dies at Lee's Summit, Missouri. He is best known as a member of the James-Younger gang of train and bank robbers.

February 17, 2014

Soapy Smith action figure: Feeding Denver's poor

"Take this, go feed your family"
Soapy Smith's annual feeding of Denver's poor.
figure by Jeff Smith
(Click image to enlarge)

ction figures as a hobby started in 1964 with the creation of Hasbro's G. I. Joe. They did not want to call Joe a doll. It's an ongoing joke that "it's not a doll!" Today, Hasbro is but one of many companies who manufacture the 1:6 scale figures, to fit nearly every conceivable need and wish, including movie stars, sports stars, historical figures, non-fiction and fictional characters. The hobby is large enough to warrant their own collectors exhibitions and shows, as well as their own category on eBay.

The real Soapy hands out turkey's to the poor.
Denver Evening Post, July 31, 1898
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

      It was on eBay that I encountered my first Soapy Smith action figure (see photo below). Naturally I was ecstatic at the idea, but somehow, looking at the doll, ah.. I mean, "figure," I could not see it being Soapy. I imagined holding the figure in my hands without knowing who it was supposed to be, and Soapy did not come to mind. I began to wonder if I could do a better job? I began the chore of researching if I could produce the figure. My first option was to have one made. The head alone was cost prohibitive and none of the manufacturers would reproduce the exact clothing I wanted. What I thought would be a couple of hours of online research turned into a couple of weeks. Finding the right head and the right clothing, hat, gear is a huge undertaking and not cheap. I say is, because I am still working on it!

Supposed to be Soapy Smith
The best the artist could do?
courtesy of eBay
(Click image to enlarge)

      I completed a Soapy figure (see photos at top and below), but it is not the one I started with, which is Soapy as he looked at the time of his death in Skagway, Alaska, July 1898. The figure I completed is Soapy of the early to mid-1890s, when he resided in Denver, Colorado. It is winter time and Soapy is participating in his annual food giveaway to the poor. Some of Soapy's charitable works are recorded. The handing out of turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas time is one of those recorded in newspapers. The only item I could go by was a newspaper drawing done for the July 31, 1898 Denver Evening Post. I gathered the needed items, as close to being accurate as possible. I couldn't find small turkeys laid out like those in the drawing. All I could find was 1:6 scale cooked and plattered plate turkeys. It just would not look right to have Soapy handing out plates of food. Luck was with me when I found a sale for 1:6 scale rubber chickens. By rubber chickens I mean the standard joke rubber chicken you find in gag-gift shops. Wrapping it up with the legs sticking out, and I had instant turkey handouts. I bought six of the chickens and I'm still looking for a wooden barrel to put them in and place beside Soapy as shown in the newspaper drawing.  

Close up of Soapy
figure by Jeff Smith
(Click image to enlarge)

      The detail in the figure is amazing, and some of it is covered by his coat, which includes a nice period vest with watch chain and pocket watch. His period pants even have suspenders, just as they did in the nineteenth century. To give the feeling of coldness I have his left hand holding his coat closed, with the special "gloved" hands I purchased for it. Then I sprayed fake snow on the figure from above. Trust me, that is not as easy as it sounds. I am pleased with the way it came together. Now, to finish the Skagway 1898 Soapy!


Some people follow wagon tracks while others break new trails.
— unknown


1801: The U.S. House of Representatives breaks an electoral tie between presidential candidates Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Jefferson is elected president and Burr becomes vice president.
1817: Gaslights light up the streets of Baltimore, Maryland.
1851: Famed female gambler Alice “Poker Alice” Ivers is born in England. She most likely met Soapy Smith in 1892 in Creede, Colorado.
1865: Columbia, South Carolina is burned to the ground during the Civil War as Confederates troops evacuated and Union Forces moved in.
1876: Julius Wolff is credited with being the first to can sardines.
1878: The first city telephone exchange opens in San Francisco, California. It has only 18 phones.
1878: Roving bands of Cheyenne Indians attack cattle camps, killing civilians near Fort Dodge, Kansas.
1890: Soapy Smith hangs a sign reading, “Gone to church; to-day is Sunday,” on the door of his Tivoli Club Denver gaming house. All saloons were recently forced to close on Sundays.
1894: The governor of Texas pardons outlaw, John Wesley Hardin, after spending 16 years in prison.
1897: The National Congress of Mothers, the forerunner of the National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) is organized in Washington, DC.
1909: Apache Indian Chief Geronimo dies at age 80 of pneumonia, while in captivity at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

February 8, 2014

Is Soapy Smith the absolute worst in Alaska?

(Click image to enlarge)

he absolute worst person from each state is what it is advertised as. Soapy Smith is the representative for the state of Alaska, on the worst map on Mandatory.com. I've heard others add their opinions of far worse human beings that could/should have been chosen, but if they had, you wouldn't be looking at this post right now.
Matt Shirley.

      Matt Shirley, creator of the map, writes, "Ever wondered who the biggest asshole from your state is? We've got you covered! And we aren't talking about the Shia LaBeoufs and Paris Hiltons of the world... Much, much worse than that."

Warren Yeager disagrees.
      Was Soapy really the "Worst Person"? I mean, he was a scoundrel, bunko artist, con man and grifter, but seriously, haven't there been more despicable individuals? Always glad for some Soapy props, but, worst person?.....dubious at best...

Then there is Brittney Thomas.
      He beat out that serial killer near Anchorage who would take the women by bush plane out to his remote cabin and brutally rape and torture them, and then let them loose naked and blindfolded before tracking them and hunting them down with a knife or rifle. So this list is probably a little off.


"Soapy" Smith is not a dangerous man, and not a desperado. He will fight to very good purpose if he must, but he is not in the least quarrelsome. Cool in the presence of danger, absolutely fearless, honorable in the discharge of those obligations which he recognizes, generous with his money, and ever ready with a helping hand for a man or woman in distress, he bitterly resents the imputation that he is a thief or vagrant. [San Francisco Examiner]
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 493.


1675: The first U.S. corporation, The New York Fishing Company, is charted.
1790: In the U.S., George Washington delivers the first State of the Union address.
1815: The Battle of New Orleans begins. The War of 1812 had officially ended on December 24, 1814, with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent but the news of the signing had not reached British troops in time to prevent their attack on New Orleans.
1838: Alfred Vail demonstrates a telegraph code he had devised using dots and dashes as letters. The code is the predecessor to Samuel Morse's code.
1856: Borax (hydrated sodium borate) is discovered by Dr. John Veatch.
1863: The Central Pacific Railroad has its groundbreaking ceremony in Sacramento, California.
1865: 1,400 Kickapoo Indians defeat 370 members of the attacking Texas militia at Dove Creek, near San Angelo, Texas.
1869: Camp Wichita is established on Medicine Bluff Creek, Oklahoma by General Sheridan.
1870: US mint Carson City, Nevada begins issuing coins.
1877: Crazy Horse (Tashunca-uitco) and nearly 800 Sioux and Northern Cheyenne Indian warriors launch a surprise attack on Colonel Nelson Miles and 7 companies of infantrymen in the Wolf Mountains above the Tongue River, Montana Territory. It is their final battle against the U.S. Cavalry in Montana.
1889: The tabulating machine is patented by Dr. Herman Hollerith. His firm, Tabulating Machine Company, later becomes International Business Machines Corporation (IBM).
1894: Fire causes serious damage at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, IL.
1895: Outlaw John Wesley Hardin marries Callie Lewis, a marriage that lasts only a few hours.
1900: U.S. President McKinley places the District of Alaska under military rule.