November 9, 2014

Soapy Smith and the First National Bank of Denver.

First National Bank of Denver
circa 1879-1883
Jeff Smith collection
(Click image to enlarge)

Denver, Colorado

      Pictured at top is a very nice color rendition of the Tabor Block in Denver, Colorado. Once located on the north-west corner of Larimer and 16th Streets, it was built in 1879. By 1883 two more stories were added. It was home of the First National Bank, which played a small but vital part in Soapy Smith's wild west.
      The bank was owned and presided over by D. H. Moffat, one-time president of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, investor in vast Denver Real Estate, owner of vast mining interests, and principle investor in the Denver, Northwestern, and Pacific Railroad.

Inside the First National Bank
circa 1886
Courtesy of Denver Public Library

      On March 30, 1889 famed outlaws, Tom and Bill McCarty, and Matt Warner robbed the First National Bank. It is believed by some historians that Butch Cassidy accompanied them. According to one story Tom McCarty approached the bank president and with his odd sense of humor, stated: "Excuse me, sir, but I just overheard a plot to rob your bank."
      The bank president appeared visibly shaken and managed to ask "Lord! How did you learn of this plot?"
      "I planned it," McCarty said, pulling his gun. "Put up your hands." The men rode out of Denver with $20,000.
      Although Soapy Smith probably dealt with the bank for a good number of years, having arrived in Denver about 1879, the bank is not reported in Soapy's history until 1895.

Tabor Block
after addition of two stories
circa 1883-1900
Courtesy of Denver Public Library

(The following paragraphs come from ALIAS SOAPY SMITH: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A SCOUNDREL)

"Four days later, on Wednesday May 15, 1895, the day of his arraignment, Jeff went drinking with gunman Joe Palmer. Obviously he was upset over the legal proceedings. By mid-afternoon they were, in the words of the TIMES, 'as jolly as a pair of pirates.' Notified of the inebriated men, the police were on the lookout for them. It was mid afternoon when officer Kovsky located Jeff leaning wearily against a pillar of the First National Bank. Upon being searched and found to be carrying a large revolver, he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. At headquarters he was released with a warning to go straight home. Instead he procured another pistol, and using a belt and holster, Jeff strapped the gun on his waist in full view of the community. He then linked up again with his drinking buddy, Palmer.
      Around six that evening, Jeff and Palmer were parading Larimer Street. They stopped in front of the Arcade to voice opinions on recent events. Officer Kimmel approached the men and tried to talk them into going home, but they resisted. Sergeant Lew S. Tuttle arrived, and the two policemen were placing the pair under arrest when Jeff grew quarrelsome. He argued that his gun was not concealed and that city gun laws allowed him to have it. With brazen deliberateness, Jeff drew his pistol from its holster and began cocking the hammer and slowly releasing it back down. Then he began pointing the revolver towards the crowd of on lookers that had gathered. Palmer grew panicky and said, 'If yer goin’ to shoot’er up, Jeff, I’m widge,' and made a dive for his own pistol. Officer Kimmel grabbed Palmer’s arm just in time to stop him and probable bloodshed. Jeff and Palmer were arrested. Both men were held until shortly before midnight and released on bonds of $1,000 each."


"In mid November Jeff made a daring return to Denver. Among reasons for coming, one was to secure a loan. On November 18, 1895, he borrowed $1,725 from the First National Bank of Denver."


      "Jeff was back in Denver on February 19, 1896, to visit The First National Bank of Denver. He borrowed $1,750—$25 more than in November 1895. Records show that seven month’s later, Jeff paid back the amount in full. On the day Jeff took out the loan, he was leaning against a building’s stone pillar on the corner of Larimer and Sixteenth streets when Parson Uzzell walked by. The parson gasped and extended his hand in friendship. The following day’s Evening Post reported their conversation.
      'I never drink—no more.' Said Soapy.
      "The Lord be praised,' said the parson.
      'Where you hail from?' asked Soapy.
      'The vineyard of the Lord!' said the parson.
      'Your breath don’t show it.' Remarked the pseudo gambler. 'Dear parson, you must excuse me, I’m in a fearful hurry—mining business. I’ll call on you at the tabernacle in the very near future. Goodbye. May the Lord bless you. Amen.' And Soapy hurried up the street."


      "That August [1896] from Spokane, Jeff attempted to defraud J. Hugh Bauerlein of a mining claim. Jeff sent Bauerlein of the Denver Stock & Mine Exchange an unsigned check for $2,500. Hoped for, probably, was that the claim papers and unsigned check would be returned for signature. Bauerlein responded on his letterhead stationary:

Newlin’s Gulch Gold Camp, Aug 13, 1896

Mr. Jeff R. Smith
Spokane, Washington

My dear sir,
      Your registered letter with enclosed check for $2500 (not signed) received. I herewith return the same to you for your signature.
      A big strike has just been made in the adjoining property owned by the “Covade” company.
      I am pleased to learn that you have been so successful. I am sure you will be well pleased with the investment you are making with me.

Yours truly J. Hugh Bauerlein
      You can return it to me signed, to room 4 'Denver Stock & Mine Exchange' care of 'Covade Mountain Gold Mining, Tunnel & Milling Company.'

The printed check was on the First National Bank, Denver Col. It seems doubtful that Jeff had funds there. The check might have been one in his possession from when he had an account there."


Artifact #9.
Soapy borrows $1725.

According to the information I received from the Deputy Marshal, a man named Murphy is credited with the killing of Smith and not Frank Reid as reported in the newspaper.
— Major Sam Steele, NWMP
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 547.


1857: The Atlantic Monthly began publishing. Its first issue featured the first installment of The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes.
1865: Soldiers from Fort Owen, Montana Territory ship 12,000 pounds of cabbage to mine workers.
1871: The White Mountain Indian Reservation is established in Arizona Territory.
1872: A fire destroys about 800 buildings in Boston, Massachusetts.
1875: Indian inspector Watson makes the recommendation that all Sioux be forced onto reservations by January 31, 1876.
1881: Bill “Russian Bill” Lintenburn and Sandy King, arrested for dealing in stolen cattle, are grabbed by masked vigilantes from a Shakespeare, Montana hotel where a makeshift court was in session. The men were hung in the lobby of the hotel and left hanging for the townspeople to see.
1890: Joe “Gambler Joe” Simmons, proprietor of the Tivoli Club is reported to have wounded W. M. Shuck of Lyons, Colorado with a glancing shot from his .45 Colt. The reason is unknown.
1898: Trials begin for Soap Gang members, Bowers, Jackson, Triplett, Foster, Wilder and Taylor for the robbery of John D. Stewart.
1906: U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt left for Panama to see the progress on the new canal. It was the first foreign trip by a U.S. president.