March 23, 2014

U.S. Versus Jefferson R. Smith

(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.

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