December 22, 2015

Joe Simmons shoots W. M. Shuck...or did he?

Taking care of the problem.
(Click image to enlarge)

ambler Joe Simmons

Not a whole lot known about Joe Simmons. He is mentioned on twelve pages of Alias Soapy Smith. This blog covers post about Joe (link below), including information on his son, directly from his descendants.

In the book The Reign of Soapy Smith (William Ross Collier and Edwin Victor Westrate, 1935) there is mention of Joe Simmons taking a glancing shot at a man. No source, no details, just a glancing mention! After Alias was published I found this mention in the "local brevities" of the Rocky Mountain News, November 9, 1890.

W. M. Shuck of Lyons was not struck by Dick Hawkins, as was at first supposed. Mr. Hawkins was not anywhere in that vicinity. Shuck was shot by Simmons, supposed to be proprietor of Soapy Smith's place [Tivoli Club]. The revolver was a 45 Colt. Glancing shot.

I just found this newspaper clipping below. This is the first mention of the shooting, published in the Rocky Mountain News on the previous day, November 8, 1890. I actually found this by accident. I never found it in past searches using a "search engine" as "Dick Hawkins" is the only name mentioned in the article and I looked under everything but "Hawkins." 

Hawkins and His Gun.

Last night at about 7:30 the notorious Dick Hawkins, the shell worker who deals faro at the Texas house on Seventeenth and Market streets, got into a dispute with a drunken bobo over a poker game in the house, and to keep up his dead tough game he hit his opponent over the head with a loaded pistol, which went off and the bullet flattened itself against the wall, and caused a stampede in the house. The fellow he hit ran out of the house more frightened than hurt.

Here is the details from these two clippings:

W. M. Shuck of Lyons, Colorado walked, or was led, into the Tivoli Club and got swindled in a "big hand" (rigged) poker game. When he complained, Simmons hit the man over the head with his pistol. The weapon discharged, but the bullet hit no one, nor went outside the room, becoming a threat to any innocents outside.

The following day's revamp of the article states that "Shuck was shot by Simmons" in a "glancing shot." This is a far cry from being hit on the head and remaining uninjured.

What's going on?

Great! In finding the latest clipping I solved a few mysteries, only to open a couple more. It seems pretty obvious to me that the first newspaper reporter was paid off to make the victim out to be a "drunken hobo," in an attempt to belittle the severity of the crime and accompanying violence.

In the first report the bullet hits no one and even "flattened itself against a wall." Sounds to me like the reporter wanted the weapon discharge to sound like 'just an accident" and that no harm had been done. The victim is said to have run in fright, but not injury. I have read plenty of accounts in which someone is hit over the head with a revolver and do not recall any of them escaping injury. 

Did Dick Hawkins hit the man with his revolver, or was he getting the blame, to keep Simmons, the manager of the Tivoli Club, from being arrested? Hawkins did deal faro for Soapy but was let go for insubordination. According to what I have read, Hawkins was not a particularly popular person. He ended up robbing the faro table at the Arcade and the Silver Plate club rooms in Denver, and then the Mint club room in Creede.  

Joe "Gambler Joe" Simmons?
Unidentified tin-type
Believed to be Joe Simmons and Joe Palmer
Jeff Smith collection

signed, "from Jeff Smith" and was sent to his daughter Eva around 1892.
Kyle Rosene collection
(Click image to enlarge)

The Poem, Jeff and Joe was written in 1892 in Creede, Colorado and is based on the death of Joe "Gambler" Simmons and how hard Soapy Smith took it. It is this poem that is responsible for the fallacy that Jeff and Joe were cowboys together when they were young. There can be no doubt that Jeff valued the poem for after his death in 1898 in Skagway, Alaska, a copy of the poem was found in his trunk.

Joe Simmons (there are numerous posts, scroll)

Joe Simmons: pages 33, 89, 131, 210, 214, 225-29, 273, 594.

There is not a man on the Denver police force who did not breath a sigh of relief when he read that “Soapy” was dead. It was bound to come, and all realized that, but the question bothering the police officials was how long “Soapy” was to go about killing other men.
Rocky Mountain News
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 584.


1775: The Continental naval fleet is organized in the American colonies under the command of Ezek Hopkins.
1807: The U.S. Congress passes the Embargo Act, designed to force peace between Britain and France by cutting off all trade with Europe.
1856: Captain Richard W. Johnson and Company F, 2nd Cavalry, from Camp Colorado attacks a Comanche Indian camp along the Concho River in Texas. Two soldiers are killed and two wounded. Three Indians are killed and three wounded. Thirty-four horses are captured and a Mexican captive is recovered.
1864: During the Civil War Union General William T. Sherman sends a message to President Lincoln from Georgia, which reads, "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah."
1872: Texas Jack Omohundro, who is appearing with Buffalo Bill in a stage show, The Scouts of the Prairie, in Chicago, Illinois, falls in love with Giuseppina Morlacchi, an Italian dancer in the show.
1877: The American Bicycling Journal is published.
1877: The Sam Bass gang robs a stagecoach heading towards Fort Worth, Texas. Soapy Smith would later witness the shooting death of Sam Bass in Round Rock, Texas.
1878: Outlaw Billy the Kid surrenders to sheriff George Kimball in Lincoln County, New Mexico Territory, but escapes a short time later and heads for Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory.
1887: “Big Ed” Burns is the defendant in the first recorded court case of the shell game in Los Angeles, California. He soon leaves for Colorado where he joins the Soapy Smith gang.
1888: Annie Oakley appears in the stage show Deadwood Dick: or the Sunbeam of the Sierras.
1890: 294 members of Sitting Bull's Indian tribe surrender in Cherry Creek, South Dakota.
1894: The U.S. Golf Association is formed in New York City.
1900: The Sherman Tunnel in Wyoming, on the Union Pacific line is completed.

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