March 26, 2014

Soapy Smith on Jeopardy

Would Soapy have made a good game show host?
(Click image to enlarge)

will take CON MEN for $400 please, Alex...

      March 25, 2014 will be remembered and treasured within the family of Soapy Smith. The date, and its importance, is permanently included in the ON THIS DAY calendar of events I publish at the bottom of each blog entry (scroll down). On the very popular TV game show, Jeopardy, Soapy's name came up in a question under the category Con Men. No one got the correct answer about where Soapy hid a little ball. The answer? Under a shell. As my good friend, Whit "Pop" Haydn write, "It pays to keep up with this page folks! It might one day help you on Jeopardy."  About five of my friends, all fans of Soapy, contacted me on Facebook and in emails, about the mention. You just know you made the big time when your name is mentioned on a TV game show...


Not the least amusing trait of “Soapy” Smith’s character is the eager interest which he takes in the preservation of law and order. The interest is, of course, not purely unselfish, for he realizes that crimes of violence create a sort of public opinion likely to be unhealthy for his own peaceful, if peculiar, industry. He feels that there are times when fine distinctions get confused, and therefore he is always foremost for law and order coupled with life, liberty and the pursuit of a sure thing. [San Francisco Examiner]
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 493.


1804: Congress divides the Louisiana Purchase into the District of Louisiana and the Territory of Orleans, and then orders the removal of all Indians east of the Mississippi to Louisiana.
1862: The Civil War, Battle of La Glorieta Pass, in New Mexico Territory, ends. It was called the "Gettysburg of the West." 1862: Union troops capture 50 Confederate soldiers in a fight near Denver, Colorado Territory.
1874: Rancher, John Iliff, brings in the body of C. M. Manchester, a cowboy who was killed by Indians near Cheyenne, Wyoming.
1879: A mob pulls Bill Howard, a convicted rapist, from his jail cell in Fort Scott, Kansas, hanging him from a lamp post, and then setting his corpse on fire.
1881: Outlaw Bill Ryan, of the James gang takes shelter from a storm in the White's Creek Store and Saloon near Nashville, Tennessee. He drinks heavily and is arrested. Jesse and Frank James learn of Ryan's arrest, and fearing he might talk to authorities, Jesse leaves Nashville with his family for Kansas City, Missouri, while Frank takes his family to Virginia.
1882: Frederic Remington's first nationally published illustration, “Cowboys of Arizona,” appears in Harper's Weekly.
1884: Charles Kusz is shot and killed through the upstairs window of his home Manzano, New Mexico. Kusz published The Gringo and the Greaser, a controversial newspaper that attacked numerous groups, including Catholics, rustlers, the education system, etc.
1885: Eastman Kodak (Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company) produces the first commercial motion picture film in Rochester, New York.
1910: Congress passes an amendment to the 1907 Immigration Act that bars criminals, paupers, anarchists, and carriers of disease from entering the U.S.

March 25, 2014

Soap Gang member "Slim Jim" Foster in 1923.

The con man Foster
Alias "Slim Jim," "The Kid," "W.E.," "J.H., and "W.F. Foster"
handcuffed to other members of the Soap Gang, aboard the steamer Cottage City
(Click image to enlarge)

oster was one of the men who led unfortunate miner John Stewart down the alley beside Jeff Smith's Parlor (Soapy Smith's saloon) in Skagway to a waiting three-card monte game, in which Foster grabbed Stewart’s gold sack and tossed it to the monte game operator, Van "Old-Man" Triplett who ran away with it.
      After Soapy's death Foster was arrested with the other members of the Soap Gang and placed in a room on the second floor of the Burkhard hotel. A blood-thirsty mob was just outside clamoring for a lynching. Fearing for his life Foster escaped by crashing out a second story window where he was nearly hanged by those who caught him. At trial, he was fined $1,000 and sentenced to a year in prison with an additional six months for assaulting Stewart.

"Slim Jim" Foster 
September 8, 2009
October 31, 2010

"Slim Jim" Foster: page 80, 92-93, 471, 475, 525-26, 554, 564-67, 569-70, 575-76, 579, 595.

You may lend “Soapy” Smith $100 or more at any time and be certain to get your money back with interest sooner or later, all without a scratch of the pen. [San Francisco Examiner]
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 493.


1634: Lord Baltimore creates the Catholic colony of Maryland.
1655: Catholic forces win a military victory over the colony of Maryland. The Puritans jail their Governor Stone.
1668: The first recorded horse race in America takes place.
1774: English Parliament passes the Boston Port Bill.
1776: The Continental Congress authorizes a medal for General George Washington.
1813: The frigate USS Essex flies the first U.S. flag in battle in the Pacific.
1856: A. E. Burnside patents the Burnside carbine.
1857: Frederick Laggenheim takes the first photo of a solar eclipse.
1865: The steamship General Lyon catches fire and sinks at Cape Hatteras, killing 400 people.
1865: Confederate forces capture Fort Stedman in Virginia, during the American Civil War.
1877: John Slaughter, a Cheyenne and Black Hills stagecoach driver, is shot and killed by Robert McKimie, of the outlaw Sam Bass Gang as they rob the stage outside of Deadwood, South Dakota. Also there is Sam Bass, Joel Collins, James “Frank” Towle, and either Bill Potts or James Berry. This is the first robbery of the Bass Gang. 17 months later bad man Soapy Smith would later witness the shootout that ended the life of Sam Bass in Round Rock, Texas.
1879: New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace orders the arrest of John Slaughter on suspicion of cattle rustling.
1879: The Army captures Cheyenne Indian Chief Little Wolf and 113 followers at Box Elder Creek, Montana Territory.
1886: Apache Indian Chief Geronimo meets with General Crook at Canon de los Embudos, Mexico to agree on terms of surrender.
1894: Jacob Coxey and his Army of the Commonweal begin their famous march to Washington. It is bad man Soapy Smith’s poem that is believed to be the suggestion idea for the march.
1898: The Intercollegiate Trapshooting Association is formed in New York City.
1900: The American Socialist Party is formed in Indianapolis.
1901: Cuba discloses a fear of annexation by the U.S.
1902: Irving W. Colburn patents the sheet glass drawing machine.
1905: Confederate battle flags captured during the American Civil War are returned to the Southern states where they came from.
2014: A question involving Soapy Smith appeared on the TV game show Jeopardy. The category was “con men.” No one got the correct answer about where he hid a little ball--under a shell.

March 23, 2014

U.S. Versus Jefferson R. Smith, June 1898

(Click image to enlarge)

n Saturday June 25, 1898 Soapy Smith assaulted a prospector named F. R. Staples. There is no other known information of the incident minus the above court paperwork. It appears on page 520 of Alias Soapy Smith. You have to wonder how many incidences took place that were never recorded. It was definitely not easy for victims to make a legal complaint against Soapy and the gang. First, one had to fight a law man. They probably made themselves scarce after each con. To file a complaint, a victim had to go over to Dyea, five miles away. Once filed, the corrupt U.S. Deputy Marshal Sylvester S. Taylor was required to find, serve, and arrest Soapy. Being arrested was expected if Soapy expected Taylor to remain on the job. It is a little surprising how fast this case came together, but that may be due to Soapy's notoriety at that late date. So late that Soapy has but 13-days to live.
      Below is the text of the court record pictured above.

In United States Commissioners Court for the Dist. of Alaska at Dyea.

United States vs. Jefferson Smith. [one undistinguished abbreviated word] sec 537 [three undistinguished abbreviated word]

June 25, 1898
Complaint charging defendant with the crime of assault and battery sworn to by Staples filed, and warrant issued and placed in the hands of S. S. Taylor U.S. Deputy Marshal for service.

June 25, 1898
Defendant arrested and brought before the court and arraigned. Sworn and Appeared by U.S. Deputy Marshal A. J. Daly, and the defendant appeared by his attorneys W. R. O'Donnell and R. D. Weldon.

June 28, 1898
Defendant pleads not guilty and asks for continuation of said court until 2 o'clock p.m. Tuesday June 28, 1898.

June 28, 1898
Marshal makes motion of warrant which is received and filed. Upon request of defendent court continued until 2 o'clock p.m. June 28, 1898.

June 28, 1898
2 o'clock p.m. The prosecuting witness appears and refuses to prosecute this case, and pays the cost and the court is duly dismissed.

C. A. Sehlbrede, U.S. Commissioner.
Court costs $1.95 Paid.



      W. R. O'Donnell advertised his attorney firm with R. D. Weldon in the pages of the Daily Alaskan. Their office was located in the Occidental Hotel. O'Donnell was made the solicitor for Soapy, meaning that he was Soapy attorney although deceased. It was O'Donnell who gave Reverend Sinclair the supposed Soapy Smith derringer.
Rev. John Sinclair also attended the inquest and witnessed sections of the autopsy. In his diary for Saturday, July 9, 1898, he wrote that he went to the inquest for awhile, “taking my camera along to get a picture. But Mr. O’Donnell, solicitor for the deceased, had had U. S. Commissioner Sehlbrede order that no photos be taken.” When the adjournment for lunch came, however, O’Donnell came to Sinclair and asked him to “conduct a funeral service for Smith next Monday, promising to pay me well for it.” Rev. Sinclair “complied” but refused payment.
When he insisted, I told him I would much prefer some relic such as Soapy’s small derringer pistol which he always carried with him in a holster concealed under the waistband of his trousers. O’Donnell at once agreed he would secure the derringer for me. I am happy to have it as there is no doubt it will be an interesting souvenir and much sought after.
O’Donnell later “came quietly” to Sinclair and said that because he “was a clergyman,” he could take photographs for his “own private use. “So,” wrote Sinclair, “I have negatives of the corpse, one very lifelike with eyes open, one showing the breast exposed and surgeons conducting the post mortem and the third showing the bullet wounds.
Although his name is not listed in the newspaper account, three of Soapy's attorney's were among the eight people who attended the burial, so it is highly probable O'Donnell was one of them.
      R. P. Weldon was in charge of the estate finances and monies collected. He was most likely one of the eight attendees at the burial as well.


F. R Staples: page 520 
W. R. O'Donnell: page 542-43, 557
R. D. Weldon: page 544

It is true that if you go up against his game you will certainly lose your money, but it is a process of painless extraction. I may as well acknowledge an imperfect sympathy for those who let themselves be swindled in the persuasion that they have themselves a sure thing.  [San Francisco Examiner]
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 493.


1792: The Humane Society of Massachusetts is incorporated.
1813: The first raw cotton-to-cloth mill is founded in Waltham, Massachusetts.
1821: The Philadelphia College of Apothecaries establishes the first pharmacy college.
1822: The city of Boston, Massachusetts is incorporated.
1836: The siege of the Alamo begins during the Texas Revolution, in San Antonio, Texas.
1839: The first express service in the U.S. is organized between Boston, Massachusetts and New York City by William F. Harnden.
1847: Mexican General Santa Anna is defeated at the Battle of Buena Vista in Mexico by U.S. troops under General Zachary Taylor.
1858: The U.S. Senate approves statehood for Kansas.
1861: President Lincoln secretly enters Washington D.C. to take his office after an assassination attempt in Baltimore, Maryland.
1861: Texas is the 7th state to secede from the Union previous to the Civil War.
1870: The state of Mississippi is readmitted to the Union after the Civil War.
1874: Walter Winfield patents a game called sphairistike, later known as lawn tennis.
1875: J. Palisa discovers asteroid #143 (named “Adria”).
1877: Mormon Elder John Lee is executed at the site of the Mountain Meadow Massacre, twenty years previous, for his part in the murder of a wagon party heading to California.
1882: An illegal posse, led by Wyatt Earp out for revenge, has a shootout at Iron Spring, Arizona Territory, with men thought to be the “cowboy’s gang” of Curly Bill Brocius. Earp claims he shot and killed Brocius but later reports indicate the “cowboys” were actually miners, each party believing the other was bad. One of the posse members is “Texas Jack” Vermillion, who later becomes a member of the Soapy Smith gang in Denver, Colorado.
1883: Two people are killed by Indians at Point of the Mountain, Arizona Territory.
1883: Alabama is the first state to enact an antitrust law.
1886: Charles Hall completes his invention of aluminum.
1889: President Harrison opens Oklahoma for colonization.
1896: The Tootsie Roll is introduced by Leo Hirshfield.
1904: The U.S. acquires control of the Panama Canal for $10,000,000.
1905: The Rotary Club is founded in Chicago, Illinois.
1910: The first radio contest is held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

March 16, 2014

Soapy Smith in the Opera, The Color of Gold

The Color of Gold
Preacher Finias Lynch, played by David Miller, faces
off with saloon owners Ellson Babcock and Belinda,
played by Sylvain Demers and Mary Catherine Moroney
Photo courtesy of Sam Harrel/News-Miner
(Click image to enlarge)

oapy Smith in Opera?

FAIRBANKS — The rich history of Interior Alaska’s gold rush past is now set in song in an opera making its world premiere in Fairbanks.
      “The Color of Gold,” composed by Emerson Eads and written by Cassandra Tilly, tells the story of the frantic blitz of miners who converged on the Interior in search of the precious metal, resulting in the founding of Fairbanks and its growth from boomtown to thriving city. The production is produced by Opera Fairbanks in conjunction with the 2014 Arctic Winter Games cultural events and debuts tonight in the Pioneer Park Theatre in the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts.
      The opera tells the story of John Turner and his family, who come North in hopes of striking it rich. What they are greeted with are the beginnings of an era filled with fellow miners and saloon girls, businessmen and scoundrels, and hopes and dreams set amid the crushing realities of pioneer life in Alaska.
      “It’s been really rewarding to do this,” said Tilly, who wrote the libretto, or text portion, of the opera. “It’s filled a personal goal for me in that I’ve gotten to bring an idea to life on stage. It’s been a fascinating process. I think it’s great to have an opera based on and inspired by Fairbanks.”
      For that inspiration, Tilly drew upon her love of history and nonfiction books chronicling Alaska’s gold rush past. Many of the characters are loosely based on real life pioneers, including the famed E.T. Barnette, Felix Pedro, Soapy Smith and Klondike Kate. Others are creations of Tilly’s imagination, such as the characters of Abigail and Belinda — two pioneer women dealing with vastly different circumstances.
      “The big trigger was looking at my daughter, who was about 6 then when I started writing this, and I started thinking about options open to women in a gold rush town,” Tilly said. “If you didn’t have a husband, there wasn’t much open to you.”

An opera is born

      Tilly, who is a founding member of Opera Fairbanks, had been considering writing an opera based on the city’s past. About two years ago, she approached the board of directors of Opera Fairbanks and pitched her idea. They gave her the go ahead, and she started the process of putting her ideas down on paper at nights and on weekends when she wasn’t involved with her career as an attorney with the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
      As opera depends on music, she enlisted Eads’ help to compose the music. Like Tilly, Eads’ musical prowess was known to Opera Fairbanks, and about a year ago they commissioned him to compose the music.
      “I was finishing up graduate recital work and was in ‘Carmen’ last year, so I worked like crazy until the beginning of November getting a finished version I could show,” Eads said. “The whole time I was in collaboration with Cassie. I started in August, by the end of November I was editing and by December had a full vocal score and orchestral score and we started rehearsals in February. The combined effect was kind of colossal.”
      To help visualize his efforts, Eads started watching the television series “Deadwood,” which tells the story of the fictional city of Deadwood, S.D., and how it grew from a railroad camp to a pioneer town. “That gave me the kind of character sketch of the types of people that Cassie may have been writing about. Anytime I had questions, I called Cassie. She was huge wealth of information.”
      Musically, Eads spared nothing on the performers, opting for big orchestral pieces requiring big performances. “I figured, basically, I was going to be writing in a style of what I consider the whole gold rush effort to be — the westward dream of moving North. I’m honestly overwhelmed by the opportunity to do this with the fabulous musicians who are putting so much into it. It’s a phenomenal honor.”

Bringing 'Gold' to life

      With Eads and Tilly in collaboration on the music and libretto, the next step was finding the right director. For that, Eads reached out to Cindy Oxberry of New York, who he knew through their experiences together during the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival.
      Oxberry told Eads he had to convince Opera Fairbanks to let her do it, and when she got the phone call offering the job, she took it.
      “Emerson and I have a great relationship, and I had gotten to know him through Festival,” Oxberry said. “He wanted me to come, and I did it for him. And I’m a big history nerd. It was easy for me to get into the history of Fairbanks and do research. I love reading about all of this. When you go in the history books and you can actually read about all these people who your draw as your sources of inspiration, I say yippee.”
      Oxberry has a vast background in the world of theater and opera as actor, performer and now director, and she drew on that in assembling a team to recreate the city’s pioneer look on stage. She researched archival records of Fairbanks’ past and created gold rush-era signs and set designs that recreate the vintage look of an early mining community. Even real pioneers of Fairbanks will be involved in the production as part of the set includes images and photos from gold rush days that will be projected onto the stage.
      “This is a historical opera about here,” she said. “Who gets to do that? Not many directors get to do that. You’re the first person to put your stamp and image on it and I get to put that on stage, and that’s very exciting.
      “I absolutely love what I do,” Oxberry said. “I’m lucky to be able to say that I earn my living doing what I love.”



“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.


1621: Samoset, a native Indian from the Monhegan tribe in Maine, walked into the Plymouth settlement (later Plymouth, Massachusetts), and greeted the occupants.
1802: Congress establishes the West Point Military Academy in New York.
1836: The Republic of Texas approves a constitution.
1850: The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is published.
1861: Arizona votes to leave the Union during the Civil War.
1861: Sam Houston resigns as governor of Texas over the state's secession to the Confederacy during the Civil War. Later, in 1876, the parents of bad man Soapy Smith, make Texas their home.
1871: The State of Delaware enacts the first fertilizer law.
1874: John Younger is killed during a gun battle with lawmen near Monegaw Springs, Missouri. John’s brother, Jim was with him but unhurt.
1881: a posse in Tombstone, Arizona, consisting of “Buckskin Frank” Leslie, “Doc” Holiday, Bat Masterson, and Virgil, Morgan and Wyatt Earp, attempts to find suspected stage robbers, Bill Leonard, Harry Head, and Jim Crane. Masterson is a long-time friend of bad man Soapy Smith.
1882: The Senate approves a treaty allowing the United States to join the Red Cross.
1883: Susan Hayhurst graduates from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. She was the first female graduate of pharmacology.
1903: Judge Roy Bean, known as the only "Law West of the Pecos," in Langtry, Texas, dies in San Antonio, Texas by over indulgence in alcohol.

March 14, 2014

Another "newly discovered" witness to the shooting death of Soapy Smith.

Otto Bayless
Witnessed the demise of Soapy Smith
Photograph courtesy of Mike Byer
(Click image to enlarge)

larence L. Andrews said that, "if all the men who claimed to have seen the shooting of Soapy Smith were laid end to end, the line would extend to the equator and back again." (The Real Soapy Smith, The Alaska Sportsman Nov. 1947, page 38.) Some of these were easy to disprove as their facts were all out of whack. At least one man who claimed to be there, stated the gunfight took place inside Jeff Smith's Parlor, Soapy's saloon, while another said that he was hung by the neck. Others varied their stories over the years, such as Harriet Pullen, who told her hotel guests that Soapy died with his head in her lap. Most had their facts pretty well down, but repeated the same old story of Smith and Reid shooting each other and dying on the spot with no other interaction from the others present. There really is no way people who were in the area can prove their stories as the newspapers did not interview anyone, let alone, make note of anyone being in the area at the time of the shootout, except for the Smith gang and the vigilantes.
      The latest discovery (to me) of a witness to the gunfight comes from Mike Byers' who says his great grandfather, Otto Bayless, saw Soapy killed. The story Otto told to his kin appears to closely match the most up-to-date facts of how the fight took place. Mike found and contacted me about the story on Facebook.    

      My Great-grandfather saw your Great-grandfather die.
      My great-grandfather was 10 years old. His name was Otto Bayless and he is well documented, and it is well documented that I am his Great-grandson. I am putting together a story about Otto and about the fact he said he saw a second man killed Soapy.
      Otto always told the story that Frank Reid shot Soapy twice and while he lay on the ground a man stepped out of the crowed and picked up Frank's gun and shot Soapy point blank in the chest and then dropped the gun down beside Frank, and It wasn't Jesse Murphy.
      By the way my name is Mike Byers and I am really glad to meet you.
      Mike explained that his great-grandfather and some other boys were playing on a stack of railroad ties. It is true that White Pass and Yukon Route Railway president, Samuel Graves was on the Sylvester Wharf, to the east of Juneau Wharf, checking on supplies that had just arrived.

Bayless family, Christmas 1923, Circle, Alaska
(left to right, Mary, John, and Otto Bayless in the rear.
the young boy is Howard Bayless, Otto's son.
Photograph courtesy of Mike Byer

Mike continues,
      That was meant as just some back ground on my Great-Grandfather he did go over the chilkoot trail and founded Bayless and Robertson Trucking based out of Tok.
      A breed of men apart Gene Rogge, Jess Bachner, Al Ghezzi, the O'Learys, Bayless and Roberts, among others established trucking from Valdez to Fairbanks, the forerunner of a modern industry. Beginning as high school kids hauling fuel as an odd job, they "invented" commercial freighting in Alaska's frontier. This is the first in a three-part series. One-time owner of Alaska Freight Lines, Sourdough Express and Sourdough Freighting, Gene Rogge, now 89, is an energetic, bright-eyed gentleman. He was the foundation and the capstone of Alaska trucking. Rogge, like some other high school graduates in 1929, bought a truck and began freighting firewood and fuel locally. He and his friends, Jess Bachner, Charlie Simmons, Bob and Andy Growden and Al Ghezzi met occasionally at O'Leary and Jewel trucking on the site of today's Royal Fork restaurant. With John Roberts, Otto Bayless, Maurice O'Leary and Wilbur Jewel, they drew lines on maps and discussed possible work. Rogge fired up his wooden-spoked, 1-ton Chevy pickup and began the first of a lifetime of Valdez-to-Fairbanks runs. At Paxson's roadhouse on the new Richardson Highway, Dan Whitford greeted Rogge, hollering, ``Hey, finally we're going to get some traffic on this road!'' During the next few years, Rogge ``worked 24 hours a day,'' to buy a $900 new Willy. The Richardson ``highway'' as yet had no bridges so Rogge plunged his new car through the Alaska Range's creeks. He was also testing the waters of love with Pat Hering, the daughter of the owners of Sourdough Express. In 1935, brothers Larry and Gene Rogge, bought the company. Adding 17 trucks, they extended the company's circuit from Valdez to Circle. All these young freighters, Ghezzi, Bachner, Simmons and Rogge routinely dealt with overflow, whiteouts, open rivers and failing cars everything but federal controls. Sandwiched between the territorial Alaska Road Commission and the federally owned railroad, Gene fought for independent truckers in the spontaneous Truckers' Rebellion. The ARC, in 1941, began charging $9.27 a ton for commercial loads to cross the Tanana River at Big Delta, intending to direct the freighters' business to the struggling railroad. Between federal entities, these ``gypsy'' truckers known as ``gypos''were dispensable. Risking jail, Gene, Charlie Simmons, Otto Bayless and several others outmaneuvered the questionable toll. The men built their own depot and ferry at Big Delta. Flying the pirate flag, the truckers appointed Bayless as their official ferryman. With a boat pushing their ferry, they circumvented the ARC's expensive ferry.
      Thank you very much for sharing this information with us Mike. Please, if anyone has any additional information on this witness, or on Otto Bayless, feel free to leave a comment and I will make sure Mike sees it. Thank you.


It is possible that … some injustice has been done to Mr. Smith which should be corrected, if only out of regard for the distinguished family to which he belongs, for the sun never sets on the Smiths. [San Francisco Examiner]
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 493.


1629: A Royal charter is granted to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
1743: First known American town meeting is held at Boston's Faneuil Hall.
1794: Eli Whitney receives a patent for his cotton gin.
1868: Twelve Indians are killed, two captured, during a battle with U.S. troops under Lieutenant Colonel George Crook at Dunder and Blitzen Creek, Oregon.
1877: Fort Keogh is established near Miles City, Montana Territory.
1900: U.S. currency goes on the gold standard with the ratification of the Gold Standard Act.
1901: Utah Governor Heber Wells vetoes a bill that would relax restrictions on polygamy.
1903: The Senate ratifies the Hay-Herran Treaty that guarantees the U.S. the right to build a canal at Panama.
1904: The Supreme Court upholds the governments’ claim that the Northern Securities Company is an illegal merger between the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies.

March 11, 2014

Former Alaska Gov., owner of Soapy Smith's Pioneer restaurant, Mike Stepovich, passes.

Mike Stepovich loved his restaurant!
(Click image to enlarge)

ike Stepovich, former governor of pre-statehood Alaska, owner of Soapy Smith's Pioneer Restaurant and Soapy Smith's Pull Tabs (lottery tickets) in Fairbanks, Alaska, and fan of Soapy, passed away February 14, 2014. He was 94-years-old. I regret that I never had the pleasure of meeting him. I did thank him once, via mail, for helping to continue the legacy of Soapy Smith. 


Stepovich services scheduled for Friday in Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS — Services for former Alaska territorial Gov. Mike Stepovich will be held Friday in Fairbanks, with a funeral Mass followed by a reception at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
      Stepovich, who died Feb. 14 at 94, was born in Fairbanks and was elected locally to three terms in the Alaska Territorial Legislature. He and his wife, Matilda, raised their 13 children in the community.
      He became a national figure after being appointed as Alaska’s territorial governor by President Eisenhower in 1957. The 38-year-old Stepovich was the first governor born in Alaska and became one of the key figures in the push for statehood.
      A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Sacred Heart Cathedral, with Archbishop Roger Schwietz and Bishop Donald Kettler con-celebrating. Burial will follow at Birch Hill Cemetery.
      The Mass will be open to the public. Visitors will include Gov. Sean Parnell, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, former Gov. Frank Murkowski and Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty.
      A public reception is planned at 1 p.m. at the UAF Wood Center. The gathering will include a video presentation with highlights from Stepovich’s life and public service, said his daughter Antonia Stepovich Gore.
      Limited parking will be available behind the University of Alaska Museum of the North, with heated shuttles available for visitors going to the Wood Center.
      A Rosary and viewing also will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at Immaculate Conception Church. The Rosary is a devotional practice that is a part of the Catholic period of mourning and is open to those who wish to participate.
      Alaska State Troopers will lead small processionals to the Rosary service, Mass and cemetery, Sgt. Brian Wassman said. (Feb. 26, 2014)

The restaurant's memorial to Mike
(Click image to enlarge)


Reaction to former Gov. Stepovich's death underscores his impact in Alaska.

FAIRBANKS — Mike Stepovich will go down in history as one of the key figures in Alaska’s push for statehood, but family members say it’s become clear in the past two weeks that his legacy extends beyond that distinction.
     In a corner at Soapy Smith’s Pioneer Restaurant, a small memorial is filled with old photos, magazines and mementos in memory of Stepovich, the Fairbanks-born attorney who died Feb. 14. At age 94, he was the last living territorial governor.
      Most notable, perhaps, is a guest book that has steadily filled with dozens of condolences and fond memories from visitors. The greetings come from around the world and across the political spectrum.
      “We are all overwhelmed, our whole family, by the love and support and care from Alaska,” said his son, Nick, who owns Soapy Smith’s. “We’re certainly all growing up with the passing of my dad.”
      Stepovich’s 13 children and 37 grandchildren have arrived from around the country for today’s funeral Mass, scheduled for 11 a.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral. A reception will follow at 1 p.m. at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Wood Center, with parking and a shuttle available behind the University of Alaska Museum of the North.
      Those expected to be in attendance include Gov. Sean Parnell, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and former Gov. Frank Murkowski. But for the Stepovich family members who arrived in Fairbanks for the services — as of Wednesday, there were 88 and counting — there’s an obvious pride that goes beyond politics.
      Born in 1919 at St. Joseph’s Hospital to an immigrant gold miner from Montenegro, Stepovich moved to Oregon as a boy with his mother when his parents separated. He was raised in Portland and married there, but returned to the Interior after earning his law degree from Notre Dame University and spending a tour in the Navy.
     “Fairbanks was his hometown,” Nick said. “This is where he raised his family.”
      Stepovich and his wife, Matilda, who died in 2003, settled in the Slaterville neighborhood. The Stepovich children — Antonia, Maria, Michael, Peter, Christopher, Dominic, Theodore, Nick, James, Laura, Nada, Andrea and Melissa — all grew up in Fairbanks and attended local Catholic schools, within walking distance of their home.
      “Hit the books and hit the rail,” was a favorite piece of advice for the children, referring to the altar railing where Catholics take communion.
      The home was busy and warm, the children remembered, but when money or discipline was being discussed at the dinner table, the parents would speak in Croatian to keep the kids from following the conversation.
      “That’s when we knew something was up,” Nick said.
      All of the children went on to college, largely at well-known Catholic institutions like Marquette, Notre Dame, Gonzaga or Georgetown. The elder Stepovich made a point in paying entirely for their schooling, Maria said, part of a lifelong emphasis on education and faith.
      “He always said his biggest accomplishment would be if all his children made it to heaven,” Antonia said.
      During a Wednesday gathering at Soapy Smith’s, several of his children relished telling stories to illustrate his colorful life. He was noted for his tight-knit family, his skill as an attorney and his athletic talent.
      Nick strolled through the restaurant, pointing out photos of his father posing with politicians, surrounded by kids or smiling on the cover of a magazine.
      Stepovich served as a coach for the Fairbanks Goldpanners baseball team in the 1960s, and a picture shows him with the 1964 team, which included eight future major leaguers, including Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver.
      Stepovich passed up a chance to shoot for a baseball career himself. As a young man in Portland, Stepovich was invited by the Boston Red Sox for a tryout, but his mother quickly nixed any plans for the pros.
      “His mother said, ‘No son of mine is going to be a bum,’” Maria said.
      His well-intentioned reputation for offering advice — sometimes unsolicited — was well-earned, Antonia said. She still recalls some of his input after she announced her plans to marry.
      “Daddy said, ‘Do you like him?’ I said, ‘Oh daddy, I love him,’” Antonia said. “He said, ‘You better like him, because you’re going to spend the rest of your life with him.’”
      Maria and Antonia laugh as they tell the story of their father giving a pep-talk to a young singer he sat next to on a flight, encouraging her to pursue her dreams. Only when she was greeted by an entourage at the gate did he learn she was Whitney Houston.
      “He had absolutely no idea who she was, but he gave her a lot of good advice,” Maria said with a smile.
      And, of course, there are political stories. Stepovich became the state’s youngest and first Alaska-born governor when President Eisenhower appointed him to the position in 1957.
      The warm, handsome governor became a key advocate for statehood. He made appearances on “Tonight with Jack Paar,” and “What’s My Line?” during his frequent trips to push for statehood, and was featured on the cover of Time Magazine.
      He even won over Eisenhower, who was an early skeptic of the necessity for a 49th state.
      “Ike treated him like a son,” Nick said. “He felt like Eisenhower mentored him through the whole process.”
      Alaska was a strongly Democratic state at the time, and Stepovich was unsuccessful in subsequent runs for U.S. Senate and governor. But he remained active in Republican politics, including his memorable role as a delegate to the 1964 Republican National Convention, which nominated Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater for president.
      Stepovich thought Goldwater was a good man but an unelectable candidate. He cast his vote instead for New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, prompting a woman from the Arizona delegation to bonk him on the head with her purse, Antonia said. That triggered a fracas between Goldwater and Rockefeller supporters, which famously ended with news anchor John Chancellor being whisked off the floor by security.
      Stepovich’s intuition turned out to be right — Goldwater lost to Lyndon Johnson in a landslide.
      With his departure, Nick said, more than a few visitors this week have mentioned that one of the last links to those early years of statehood has been broken.
      “It’s the end of an era,” Nick said with a sad smile. (Feb. 28. 2014)


Mike Stepovich/Pioneer Restaurant
December 19, 2008
May 06, 2011
May 23, 2011
May 09, 2012
June 14, 2012

"You can't cheat an honest man." One of the things that makes the grifter so successful is people's willingness to jump on a sure fire thing and desiring to cheat the cheat. A flash of a paper ball underneath a bottlecap, a turned up corner on a card in Three Card Monte. Things like these have emptied out the pockets of many and helped to make men like Jefferson Randolph Smith II very rich. Yep I am enjoying 'Alias Soapy Smith : the Life and Death of a Scoundrel.'
—Roger Smith


1791: Samuel Mulliken becomes the first person to receive more than one patent from the U.S. Patent Office.
1824: The U.S. War Department creates the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Seneca Indian Ely Parker becomes the first Indian to lead the Bureau.
1847: John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman dies in Allen County, Indiana. This day becomes known as Johnny Appleseed Day.
1861: A Confederate Convention is held in Montgomery, Alabama, where a new constitution is adopted.
1865: The forces of Union General William Sherman occupy Fayetteville, North Carolina.
1867: a pony express-type route is established between Helen, Montana Territory and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
1881: US. Army Engineer Paymaster Alexander Smith is robbed of the payroll near Florence, Alabama by three bandits identified as outlaw Jesse James, Frank James, and "Wild Bill" Ryan. They relieve Smith of $500 in gold, $4,500 in currency, his watch, and $221 from his purse. They force him to accompany them until midnight, at which time they return his watch, overcoat, and $21 cash and release him.
1882: The Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association is formed in Princeton, New Jersey.
1884: Gambler Ben Thompson and lawman John King Fisher are murdered in a hail of gunfire while attending a show at the Vaudeville Variety Theater in San Antonio, Texas. There was a public outcry for a grand jury indictment of those involved, however, no action is ever taken.
1887: The local Cheyenne, Wyoming newspaper reports that Calamity Jane is in town.
1887: Major Benteen, of Little Bighorn fame, is discharged from military service after being court-martialed for conduct unbecoming an officer. The charge includes entering a store at Fort Du Chesne, Utah, intoxicated, quarreling with civilians and exposing himself.
1888: The "Blizzard of '88" begins to rage along the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard shutting down communications and transportation lines. More than 400 people die before the storm ends on March 14.
1890: Lieutenant Watson reports two Indians slain and three captured in a battle with the 4th Cavalry near Salt River, Arizona Territory.
1901: U.S. Steel is formed when industrialist J. P. Morgan purchases Carnegie Steep Corporation. The event makes Andrew Carnegie the richest man in the world.
1907: President Theodore Roosevelt induces California to revoke its anti-Japanese legislation.