March 31, 2016

From Rancher to Robber: Dick Hawkins, the Life and Death of a Hardcase Member of the Soap Gang.

rom Rancher to Robber.
Dick Hawkins: The Life and Death of a Hard-case

     At the time I published Alias Soapy Smith, my information on bad man Dick Hawkins was lacking, limited to mere mentions on a total of five pages. Over the years I collected more about this character. His life as a Colorado rancher is uneventful and largely void of published detail, but that all changed when, according to friends and family, he became interested in the gambling scene. Gambling was an introduction into the criminal underworld, and one bad move led to another, unraveling Hawkins' chance for an honest, peaceful life.  
     His mother (Rocky Mountain News for March 18, 1896) lists Hawkins' birth name as Aquilla C. Hawkins, but everyone knew him as Richard C. Hawkins, "Dick" to his friends.
     In Alias Soapy Smith I published that Hawkins had died on March 10, 1896, after a shootout in a Denver saloon. That's pretty much all I had on his death. Since then, I found that I had the correct date of the shooting, but not of Hawkins' demise. I had the correct location of his death but not the location where the shooting took place, or the circumstances.
      Hawkins did die in Denver, but that is not where he was shot. He was shot and mortally wounded during the afternoon hours in the Gregg and Combs saloon in South Platte, Colorado, wounded by a revolver in the hands of proprietor James R. Gregg. Hawkins died on March 14, 1896, four days after the shootout and four days later than I originally reported. In a pre-death statement Hawkins told a doctor that his shooting was a setup and that members of the Soapy Gang were instruments of his murder.
     So what's the story of this good rancher turned bad man?
     A search on shows that Aquilla C. Hawkins was born sometime in 1866 in Spencer Township, Ralls County, Missouri. He had two older brothers and three younger sisters. At some point Aquilla took on the name Richard. In 1880 he worked with his father, Arculus Crittendew Hawkins, as a miner in Silver Cliff, Colorado. On January 10, 1893, the father and Aquilla's older brother Arculus Coleman Hawkins were killed in a mining accident according to one source. In 1893 Aquilla was working as a gambler and cattle rustler; otherwise he might have perished with his father and brother.
     A March 1896 edition of the Rocky Mountain News disclosed that Hawkins started his criminal career around 1891. Before that, he was a gambler. The newspaper clipping below, dated 1888, may be the first known mention of Hawkins' life as a professional gambler. 

Earliest mention of Hawkins
Buena Vista Democrat
May 31, 1888
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      Dick Hawkins and his partner opened up a "faro bank" (table) in a saloon known as Savard's place. Advertised was that it accepted "under a liberal limit," meaning that the table proprietors accepted larger bets. Saloons and gambling establishments of the nineteenth century often rented space to gamblers who had gambling equipment and capital from which to operate a game.
     Not known is when Hawkins came to Denver and began working for Soapy Smith as a faro dealer. The first mention of Hawkins in Denver was published in the Rocky Mountain News, August 18, 1890. He is running a faro table but had branched out into crime, operating a shell and pea swindle. Here is the text of that article followed by a photocopy of the newspaper clipping.

The shell and pea swindle

 A Shell Worker Who Was Not Put Under Arrest.
     One of the most disgusting scenes imaginable occurred yesterday afternoon at Sheridan park. That place is a popular resort Sunday for the people who cannot visit the mountain resorts in the various parts of the state. Dick Hawkins, a faro dealer and an all-round gambler who is well-known in the city, was present and manipulated a shell game that surprised everybody at his boldness. He played without regard to the Sunday law and took advantage of the innocent who visited the place. A Swede, whose name is not known, proved to be the sucker of the occasion and he swallowed the bait offered by the man who ran the game. He played several times and finally lost some money. He raised a racket and created a disturbance, and in a few minutes everybody present knew that he had been fleeced of what he had. He tried to convince those present that he had been "worked," but Hawkins was too slick, and managed to make those who were present believe that the Swede did not know what he was talking about.
     Indignantly the Swede walked off a few feet and drawing his revolver fired three shots at the man who had who had worked him so nicely. In the melee that followed he was arrested by Bob Stockton, a saloon keeper on Seventeenth street, who formerly was an inmate [employee] of the sheriff's office. Stockton arrested the Swede, but refused to jail Hawkins. The Swede was landed in the county jail while the notorious Hawkins was allowed to continue his nefarious game contrary to law.
     Stockton was at one time a sheriff's deputy under Barton, but whether he retains his commission is not known.
Rocky Mountain News
August 18, 1890
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A crooked cop

     On this particular day Hawkins was in Sheridan Park just outside Denver city limits. As a faro dealer in Denver, it is doubtful that he is the proprietor of the bank. Possibly he is an employee of Soapy Smith at the Tivoli Club located on Seventeenth and Market. It is probably not a coincidence that Bob Stockton, the ex-deputy sheriff, "saloon keeper" also worked in a Seventeenth Street saloon, perhaps even Soapy's Tivoli Club. This is a good example of the power held by Denver's criminal underworld. A victim of the shell game attempts to shoot Hawkins but misses, only to have a crooked ex-deputy sheriff, saloon keeper arrest the victim but not the criminal Hawkins.
     This article also brings up the obvious advantages and probability that Soapy hired ex-deputy sheriffs and ex-policemen as employees in the Tivoli Club and other establishments.
     The following month, Deputy Sheriff Bob Stockton played a role in Denver's fraudulent elections when he followed Soapy and his men into a poll-counting room and took control of the ballot box. The official excuse for commandeering the box was to protect it from "vote stuffing (or placing unauthorized ballots in the box). Obviously, the "protectors" of the ballot box had their own "vote stuffing" in mind (Alias Soapy Smith, page 182).
     Three months later, Hawkins was accused of firing his gun and assaulting a complaining victim at Soapy's place. However, Hawkins was not present. Following is the newspaper account and story.    

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 hobo 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.

Hawkins and His Gun.
Rocky Mountain News
November 8, 1890
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"Friendly" game of poker swindle

     The newspaper story above is not accurate, probably intentionally falsified in order to confuse the public and protect Joe Simmons, the manager of the Tivoli Club. Note the name "the Texas house" used in reference to the location of the saloon. Known is that the Tivoli Club contained a downstairs saloon and upstairs gambling rooms. Several times during its existence, it appeared to "change proprietorship," at least on paper. At one point the Tivoli Club was sold (the paperwork is in the author's collection), and the bar downstairs might have undergone a name change. The sale, though, might have been part of a swindle. However it was, Soapy regained control of the Tivoli Club, which kept its name until 1895.
     The following day the Rocky Mountain News came out with the following addendum in its local brevities column.

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. The revolver was a 45 Colt. Glancing shot.

     Quite a different story from the previous published version the night before. W. M. Shuck, the victim, goes from "hobo" to a citizen of Lyons, Colorado. The mention of "poker game" indicates that this was probably the standard "big hand" poker swindle, a rigged game of poker staged in backrooms all-around the business district, awaiting dupes. The story appears to have been intentionally misreported with Hawkins firing the shot so that Simmons would not be arrested. With blame diverted, no one is arrested, and Hawkins cannot be charged as he is reported as not "anywhere in that vicinity." As most of the saloon patrons were probably drunk, the common practice of misdirecting blame had the added benefit of a hungover victim who could not recognize or faithfully pick out his assailants in the following police investigation in the days to come.
     I love the line from the first published report: "he hit his opponent over the head with a loaded pistol, which went off and the bullet flattened itself against the wall...." Obviously the intention was to show that there was no murder attempt and that the accidentally discharged bullet did not threaten the innocent lives of Denverites on the street. The line "the fellow he hit ran out of the house more frightened than hurt" makes it appear that no one was harmed at all, except of course, that "Shuck was shot by Simmons," even if a "glancing* shot."
(*Glancing: to strike a surface obliquely, especially so as to bounce off at an angle.)
     At some point in late 1890, club manager Joe Simmons fired Hawkins, drove him from the Tivoli Club, and fired a bullet in the fleeing man's direction. Hawkins gave up Denver but not before robbing the Arcade and the Nickel Plate gambling houses.

The Arcade saloon and club rooms
The Arcade is the building to the left of the one where the men are standing
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     In January 1891 Hawkins used a pistol to rob the faro bank at the Arcade gaming house on Larimer Street in Denver. Then he went into the Nickel Plate club on Lawrence Street and reenacted the scene there. The first published account was that the robber was a man named "Smith."

(The following sequence of events in Denver is taken from Alias Soapy Smith:)
Sometime before January 23, 1891, a dealer named Smith (no relation to Soapy) who worked one of Jeff’s Tivoli Club gambling tables was fired. The reason is unknown, but Jeff later told a News reporter that “the man was such an unprincipled scoundrel that he was discharged.” This man Smith, “a medium-sized, rather good-looking, smooth face, with the exception of a mustache, black stiff hat and light over coat,” strolled into the Arcade club rooms at about 8:30 p.m. on January 22, 1891, and placed a $100 wager at a faro table. The bet was a losing one, and the News covered what happened as the dealer collected the bet. Smith then drew his
45-calibre Colt’s gun, cocked it and requested the dealer pass the money back. The bank dealer was not slow in complying with the request.
     The bravo held the pistol in his hand, backed out of the room and walked leisurely down stairs and disappeared, although a crowd of about 150 men were in the room…, yet not a move was made to intercept the “tin horn.”
Next Smith [Hawkins] went into the Nickel Plate club on Lawrence Street, arriving about 10:30. He went to a faro table, bet “$50 on the king and said: ‘This all goes, see!’” The dealer said “All right,” the $50 was lost, and the dealer said,
“Well, you have lost your ‘dough’….
“The h____ I have! Give me that bet, and quick too,” at the same time drawing the same big pistol as he displayed at the Arcade club rooms.
     The desperado backed out unmolested, in the same manner as he did making his other successful play. … Detectives are looking for the would-be Jesse James, and it is quite possible that the “bad man from Market street” will languish in the city jail before morning.
     In 1892 Soapy moved his operations to Creede, Colorado. With him were members of the Soap Gang, as well as his younger brother Bascomb Smith.

Bascomb Smith
The inset is a drawing of Bascomb
The photograph is not confirmed to be Bascomb
Author's collection
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     While in Creede, Bascomb made an enemy of Dick Hawkins. Bascomb mentioned the trouble in the June 24, 1893, issue of the Rocky Mountain News.
     It is an old quarrel. I whipped his partner, Dick Hawkins, a year ago and Harry [Harry Smith] said that he would get me. ... Bob [Ford] opened a saloon and gambling house, and Hawkins and "Shotgun" Harry Smith boosted for the place.

Rocky Mountain News
June 24, 1893
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     The trouble started with a fistfight in a Creede saloon. Hawkins is said to have attempted to shoot Bascomb, but before he could, an unknown member of the Soap Gang floored Hawkins with the swing of a cane. Hawkins and pal “Shotgun” Harry either chose, or were forced, to leave Creede. Before leaving they robbed the Mint Club where Hawkins was employed.  
     On March 7, 1892 Hawkins robbed the Mint Club in Creede, Colorado in the same fashion as the Arcade and the Nickle Plate gaming houses in Denver, only this time, he was an employee of the house he robbed. The Creede Candle published the story on March 10.
Dick Hawkins, one of the faro dealers at the Mint, … on Monday night, with the aid of Harry Smith and Jerry O’Brien, covered the crowd with their guns, collared the bank roll of about $1,300 right out from the jaws of the tiger [a nickname for the game of faro] and made good their escape with the boodle. A posse was at once organized and many innocent young men who were supposed to resemble the absconding Dick because of a common lack of whiskers were held up and examined, but the looters were away, and the green on which they sported now knows them no more.
     The Creede Candle was a weekly newspaper, so although the robbery took place in Creede, the Denver Rocky Mountain News beat them to their own story, which follows:


Dick Hawkins and Two Pals Rob a Roulette Wheel in Creede. With Drawn Revolvers They Lay Claim to Twelve Hundred Dollars And Decamp. Now the Crowd Is Looking for the Bold Trio With Tight Neck Tie Ready.

      Special to The News. CREEDE, Colo., March 7.—The most sensational affair that has been witnessed at Creede occurred this afternoon at 3 o’clock. Dick Hawkins, a well-known Denver sport, and two “pals,” robbed the Mint Exchange of $1,280. Dick Hawkins is the same individual who held up one of the faro banks for $200, the Arcade, in Denver, a year ago, and made good his escape. Hawkins began to deal faro this morning for Charlie [M.] Lorje [or Lorge], or “Sheney [sic] Charley,” as he is called in Denver at the Arcade, where he has been running the principal roulette wheel…. …
     Hawkins dealt all day and at the closest estimate the bank won nearly $1,000. At 3 o’clock Harry Smith and Jerry O’Brien, his two pals, came in and began playing. Instantly the trio drew their revolvers, took all the money and backed out the door. Captain Light, Captain [Jack] Kirwin and Deputy [Mike] Delaney and a posse of men are in search of the robbers, and if found, quick retribution will be meted out to them.

Rocky Mountain News
March 8, 1892
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The Mint Club
Creede, Colorado, 1892
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     A three-man posse went after Hawkins, but he was not apprehended. Nor did he ever answer for any of the robberies. This may not be so surprising as one of the posse was "Cap" William Light, Soapy's brother-in-law.
    There is a theory that Soapy may not have actually fired Hawkins, that Soapy allowed the loose cannon free reign to cause hell, perhaps with an agreement that Soapy would receive gratuities from his plunder. However this theory has no provenance.
     After fleeing Creede Hawkins went back to his family ranch in Pine Grove, Colorado, and kept a low profile for the next three years. Cattle rustling and an attempt on the life of a deputy sheriff brought Hawkins back into the lime-light, and his old boss, Soapy Smith, took notice, clipping and saving a newspaper story of the events. Soapy wrote on it, "Denver Republican April 14," but failed to put the year, which remained a mystery for decades.
     I believe I have uncovered the date, based on another newspaper article, "Two Men Shoot to Kill." Appearing in the Rocky Mountain News, March 11, 1896, it contains the line "He has been mixed up in trouble of various kinds, and only a few months ago was tried in Jefferson county for cattle rustling." This matches up with the Denver Republican clipping, which would make the missing year 1895. However, the March 11 article states that "only a few months ago [Hawkins] was tried in Jefferson county for cattle rustling." His arrest was for cattle rustling and attempting to kill Deputy Sheriff Corbin. Although there is a time span of nine months (04/14/1895 to 03/11/1896), Hawkins could have spent the time in jail, awaiting preparations for trial, or trials, considering these are two separate offenses. If correct, the date of the following article is April 14, 1895.


Dick Hawkins Attempts to Kill Deputy Sheriff Corbin.


One of Jeff Smith’s Old Men Gets Into Trouble Over Another Man’s Cattle and Trick to Wind Up the Affair Explosively by Shooting an Officer He Fails in the Attempt and [three words?] in Irons-A Lively Meeting at a Little Summer Resort in Platte Canon.

      Dick Hawkins, a well-known tough character, formerly one of Jeff Smith’s bunco men, but lately said to have been implicated in some questionable cattle deals up in Jefferson county, was brought in heavy ironed on the South Park train at midnight last by Deputy Sheriff Corbin of Pine Grove. According to the story of the officer, Hawkins attempted to kill him on the streets of Pine Grove yesterday afternoon and a fatal shooting affray was narrowly averted. Sheriff Kelly of Jefferson county met the pair at the train and the prisoner was taken to Golden in a buggy and placed in the county jail.
     The attempted shooting grew out of trouble which Hawkins and his family and friends have been having with the Jefferson county officers for some time, and which has continued to grow more serious until it culminated in yesterday’s nearly fatal encounter. Hawkins was formerly one of “Soapy” Smith’s lieutenants in this city and his particular branch of business was the entrapping of “hayseeds,” miners and cow-punchers come to town for a good time. When business dropped off Hawkins moved his headquarters up the Platte and located at Pine Grove, a little summer resort up the river on the line of the South Park.

Some Cattle Dealings.

      In this vicinity P. J. Hannah, father-in-law of Charles D. McPhee, has a ranch and is heavily interested in cattle. In some manner he came to have business dealings with Hawkins and his relatives and it is said that they worked the old game on him, on a somewhat larger scale, with the result that he charged them with stealing all his cattle and running him and his employees out of the neighborhood.
     Mr. Hannah is quite an old man and unable to look after business of this character actively, and it is said that these people appropriated his live stock in a very cold-blooded manner and after the style of highwaymen. Hawkins claimed to own all the stock and, it is said, threatened to shoot any officer who ventured into the neighborhood. When he heard that warrants had been issued for his arrest for cattle stealing, he rode up and down the country with a Winchester rifle on his shoulder, waiting for the officers.
     Sheriff Kelly and Deputy Corbin, armed with warrants for Hawkins and others of the family and also with a writ of replevin [restoration] for the stolen cattle, without resistance, in spite of Hawkins and his Winchester. Hawkins and the others were arrested and taken to jail at Golden. His mother was one of those charged with larceny, but the case against her was not pushed and she was released. Hawkins himself was released on bail, and the cases were to have come up at the present term of court in Jefferson county.

Sued for Damages.

      After the cattle had been taken Hawkins brought suit against Hannah for damages, and it is this action which brought matters to a crisis. Corbin, who was the deputy located at Pine Grove, Ben Spencer and others were witnesses and testified strongly against Hawkins. The case is still undecided, and Hawkins and his crowd cherish bad feeling against the witnesses who testified against them. Spencer was attacked by Hawkins several days ago and badly pounded up, and his assailant has since been looking for Corbin.
     The officer has been out on the range, and rode into Pine Grove yesterday afternoon. Hawkins and several of his friends were on the street and approached Corbin directly. The latter saw trouble was imminent and tried to avoid a quarrel. Hawkins was armed and evidently intended trouble. Words followed and Hawkins finally shouted: “You — — — you know you swore to a —.”
     “Don’t say such a thing about me.” Interrupted Corbin, divining his intention to accuse him of perjury.

Drew His Revolver.

      At this Hawkins drew a six-shooter from his belt and aimed it at Corbin. The officer was too quick for him, and seizing the barrel of the revolver, held it away from his body while he drew his own gun. Hawkins’ friends rushed up and tried to disarm the officer, but a number of citizens who had been attracted by the quarrel, ran up and insisted on fair play.
     Disarmed of his weapon Hawkins started in to assault Corbin with his fists. A scuffle ensued, in which the officer had his coat and vest torn off, but succeeded in knocking Hawkins down and punishing him severely. After this he secured a piece of rope and tied Hawkins securely, bringing him down to Denver on the South Park train in this condition.
     At the depot, where they were met by Sheriff Kelly, Hawkins was relieved of his fetters, and after some refreshment the trio set off for Golden in a buggy. Hawkins now has the charge of assault to kill added to the others against his name on the prison records at Golden.

Denver Republican
April 14 [1895?]
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Author's collection
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     On March 10, 1896, Hawkins was shot and mortally wounded, succumbing to his injury four days later. Supposedly in self-defense, saloon proprietor James R. Gregg, shoots and mortally shot Hawkins in the Gregg and Charles Comb's saloon, South Platte, Colorado, 45 or 50 miles southwest of Denver. In a death-bed disclosure Hawkins claimed that Soap Gang shell and pea operator Tom Cady [spelled Keady] was plotting to kill him. It would certainly not be the first, or last, time members of the Soap Gang would do such a thing. In Gregg's Saloon Hawkins asked to borrow a pistol for protection, and it was given to him. Hawkins believed that Gregg was involved in the plot, thus the attempted shooting of Gregg. Hawkins died four days later in a Denver hospital. The Rocky Mountain News published the story the following day:


Dick Hawkins Brought Down by Saloonkeeper Gregg.


Gregg Barely Escapes a Bullet, but Then Brings His Trusty Colt's Into Play, and Hawkins Falls, Wounded in the Hip, and Is Now in a Critical Condition—Wounded Man Once Held Up a Faro Bank at Creede—Both Are Gun Fighters.

     In the saloon of Gregg and Combs, at the town of South Platte Richard C. Hawkins, better known as Dick Hawkins, a rancher of Pine Grove, was shot, perhaps fatally, by Saloonkeeper Gregg yesterday afternoon at 4 o'clock. Hawkins was brought to this city and placed in St. Luke's hospital, where at a late hour last night he was in critical condition.
    The saloon fight started over the payment for a round of drinks served to slake the thirst of a dusty company of ranchers, cowboys and miners. Hawkins, who gained notoriety about four years ago at Creede by holding up a faro bank, and who is a quick hand with a gun, took offense at the saloonkeeper and began shooting.
     Gregg was behind the bar and the first bullet from Hawkins' revolver passed within an inch of his ear and shattered a new mirror purchased by the firm. The shot cleared the bar room, all leaving except Hawkins and Saloonkeeper Gregg.
     Although slightly excited by his escape from death Gregg retained enough presence of mind to reach for his trusty long-barreled 44 caliber Colt's revolver that lay upon a shelf of the wall behind the bar. He brought the weapon to aim and fired, the shot taking effect in Hawkins' right side and bringing him to the floor.
     Great disorder prevailed on the outside. Several members of "Soapy" Smith's gang  of flim flammers who were engaged in running a thimble game near the saloon door, deserted their post and their table was knocked over by one of the excited witnesses to the shooting.
Hawkins Floored.

     When the excitement had cooled the crowd returned to the saloon and found Hawkins on the floor weltering in his own blood. Saloonkeeper Gregg stood behind the bar, revolver still in hand. Gregg's face was badly powdered burned, the effect of the shot that was fired deliberately at his head. Among the witnesses to the shooting was Albert H. Weber, of West Creek, lately chief of the guard at the Arapahoe county jail, who was on his way to Denver, and several friends of Hawkins. The sympathy of the crowd, it seems was extended more to the saloon keeper than to Hawkins, as witnesses say that Hawkins almost without warning took a shot at the man behind the bar. The trouble originated in the crowd lined up at the bar. Hawkins refused to pay for a round of drinks, and a row started which the saloonkeeper endeavored to stop.
     An old grudge, it is said, existed between Hawkins and Gregg, owning to a dispute over mining claims in Pine Grove district. As there was no medical help at hand, Hawkins lay bleeding at the station until the arrival of a train at about 5 o'clock. He was removed to St. Luke's hospital in the police ambulance, and on the way made a statement to the effect that he was shot without provocation and in a cold-blooded manner. He refused to give the name of his assailant, but said that the shooting was caused by a dispute over mining claims situated upon his farm in Pine Grove. A number of claims have been located upon the property, and much dispute has arisen regarding them. Saloonkeeper Lou Blonger met the wounded man at the depot and accompanied him in the ambulance to the hospital. 

Hawkins' Bad Record.

      The fate of Hawkins, according to the statements of a number of his friends, has not been unexpected. He has been mixed up in trouble of various kinds, and only a few months ago was tried in Jefferson county for cattle rustling. The holding up of the faro bank at Creede was another of Hawkins' escapades, but in each case he was acquitted by a jury.
     An examination of the wound at the hospital showed that the bullet had entered Hawkins' right side about two inches above the apex of the hip bone. The course taken by the bullet has not been ascertained, but will be made known to-day by probing. Hawkins is 33 years of age and unmarried. He has a sister living at 2509 Arapahoe street, and his mother has been rooming at 1724-1/2 Curtis street.
     Saloonkeeper Gregg is 6 feet 3 inches in height and has a reputation as a gunfighter. He is about 30 years of age, and has been running the saloon at South Platte for some months. Hawkins' parents lived upon the Pine Grove farm for a number of years, leaving him in charge after the death of the father.

Rocky Mountain News
March 11, 1896
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Gregg's arrest begins to reveal details of the shooting.


Sheriff Kelly of Jefferson County Arrives With the South Platte Saloonkeeper in Custody.

      Sheriff Kelly of Jefferson county arrived in Denver last night from South Platte, where he arrested J.R. Gregg for the shooting of Dick Hawkins. Before leaving South Platte the sheriff investigated the affair and is convinced that Gregg shot in self-defense. The latter told the story of the shooting last evening and was corroborated in every particular by the sheriff.
      "I was standing at the bar waiting on a customer," said Gregg, "and had just taken off the metal cap from a bottle of whisky, when Hawkins fired. He had come into the place and stood at the end of the bar without saying a word until his shot. There was no dispute of any kind, for there had not been a word spoken to him by myself or anybody else. The shot from his revolver missed my right ear by less than an inch and tore off the top of the metal bottle cap which I had just taken off the bottle. Then I grabbed my gun and fired, and that was about all there was to it. I was almost blinded by the burning powder in my face and the blood streaming from every place where the grains struck, but I managed to shoot in the right direction through the smoke."
     Gregg's face and hand seem to bear out his story. Hundreds of little blotches tell where the powder struck and he exhibits the metal cap with a jagged hole through the top. The bullet is a huge affair and went through several thicknesses of glass, four inches of wood and then crossed the street and embedded itself in the side of the building. "Why, I just loaned Hawkins the gun not an hour before," said Gregg," and I didn't expect to get shot when I gave it to him."

Rocky Mountain News
March 13, 1896
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      As witnesses and friends report in, the acceptance of a clear case of cut and dry self defense is beginning to wear thin as questions are being asked. Then as witnesses and friends began to report in, the clear case of cut-and dried self-defense began to grow less clear, giving rise to questions, as reported in the March 14, 1896, edition of the News.


Saloonkeeper Gregg's Victim May Not Survive an Operation at St. Luke's Hospital.

      Dick Hawkins, the victim of a bullet from the revolver of Saloonkeeper Gregg of South Platte, was operated on at St. Luke's hospital last night and the probabilities were that he would not live until daylight, intestinal troubles having set in.
      The trouble over which the shooting occurred in the little saloon has never been thoroughly explained, and it is said to have dated back two or three years to when Hawkins was dealing faro for "Soapy" Smith in Denver. The saloon was filled at the time of the affair with several well known characters in the criminal history of the country, two of them having big records in Chicago [Big Ed Burns?], both in the straight criminal line and in connection with this Cannon election frauds. Some of these persons came to Denver with Hawkins early in the week and were arrested within a few hours after reaching town. Yesterday they were given ten hours to leave and they got out last night.
      Mrs. Hawkins, mother of Dick, was at the station early last evening. She informed Chief Russell that there was a probability of the early death of her son as a result of the shooting, and she wanted the men held in the city as witnesses. This the chief refused to do, claiming that there were other and more reputable witnesses, who could easily be secured.
     The tough record which Dick Hawkins possesses dates back only a few years and it seems to be an agreed fact that up to the time that he was led astray by bad companions, about five years ago, he was a plain, good-natured fellow with no vicious habits. The family lived at Pine Grove, where they moved seventeen years ago from Missouri. About five years ago Dick began to gamble. Soon after that, in company with Joe Palmer, it is charged, he held up "Sheeny Charlie's" faro bank at Creede and secured several hundred dollars. Then he returned to the ranch and divided his time between Pine Grove and Denver, where for about a year he dealt faro bank for Jeff Smith. In some manner he was charged with being a bunco man, but persons on the inside say that he never did any "outside" work, but worked entirely behind the table. The next trouble Hawkins got into was in connection with cattle rustling, and in this affair his mother was also involved, but both were cleared. Then Dick took a shot at a deputy sheriff a year ago and was placed in jail at Golden. 

Rocky Mountain News
March 14, 1896
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      The above article gives insight into the beginnings of Hawkins' downfall. The account says "about five years," which would be in the neighborhood of 1891, which is a pretty close match to the newspaper stories published here. It seems obvious that the Soap Gang strongly influenced his career choices, from gambler to con man. The idea that Joe Palmer may have influenced Hawkins' decision to rob the Mint in Creede opens up new questions and theories.
      In Alias Soapy Smith I go into what is known about Soapy's dislike of Bob Ford, the killer of Jesse James, and a fellow Creede saloon entrepreneur. This dislike was not a secret. Even the editor of the Creede Chronicle spoke of it. Joe Palmer, one of Soapy's men, befriended Ford, probably to obtain information. Some of the actions taken by Palmer, such as a wild, drunken shoot-em-up, shooting out windows, blow off of steam, which got both Palmer and Ford evicted from the town, may have been an attempt to get Ford out of Creede, or to get him shot dead. Possibly Palmer talked Hawkins into robbing the Mint Club to get rid of Hawkins. Perhaps that plan just did not work out when Hawkins and his "pals" escaped the posse hunting for them.
      The following article from the Rocky Mountain News, March 15, 1896, reports Hawkins' death. It also discloses what the previous day's story stated, that direct witnesses to the shootout are ordered to leave Denver before their depositions can be taken by the coroner.          


Saloonkeeper Gregg's Bullet Strikes a Vital Spot and Medical Skill Fails.

Richard C. Hawkins, the victim of J. R. Gregg's bullet, died at St. Luke's hospital yesterday afternoon. Hawkins was shot at the saloon of Gregg and Combs at South Platte last Tuesday afternoon. He was brought to Denver on the evening train that day and sent to St. Luke's hospital where he was so weak that no effort was made to remove the bullet until Friday afternoon when an operation was performed, which disclosed the utter hopelessness of the case, a vital point having become involved, and by sheer physical strength the young man survived until yesterday afternoon.
     Mrs. Hawkins, mother  of deceased, called on Chief of Police Russel Friday night and explained that there were probabilities of the affair taking a serious phase by the death of her son, and she wanted the witnesses taken into custody. Orders had already been issued for the men to leave town, and they were permitted to depart Friday night.
     The body was yesterday given in charge of Undertaker Miller. Arrangements were not made for the funeral, which will not be held until Bob Hawkins of Albuquerque, a brother, can be communicated with. Hawkins leaves a mother, two sisters and one brother. He owned some ranch property near Pine Grove, on part of which a mining townsite has been located, and which may prove of considerable value.    

Rocky Mountain News
March 15, 1896
Newspaper image
(Click image to enlarge)

      Before Hawkins died, he was finally able to get his side of the shooting published, which beg for an investigation. Although apparently nothing more was done, his last statements do add information and bring up important questions that would have been lost to history otherwise.


Death Bed Disclosure of Aquilla C. Hawkins.


Testimony of D. Fish Reveals a Warfare Among the Thimble-Riffers of West Creek—Denver's Outcasts Fight for a footing in the New Mining Camp, Where They Were Privileged to Defy Local Authority.


      At the corner's inquest held yesterday afternoon over the remains of Aquilla C. Hawkins, better known as Dick Hawkins, who was fatally shot by Saloon Keeper James Gregg at South Platte last Tuesday, Dr. A. R. Fish sprung a sensation. He told the jury of an ante mortem statement made by Hawkins, which was to the effect that Tom Keady ["Troublesome Tom" Cady], a well-known shell-game man, and Saloon Keeper Gregg had conspired to start a row in which he (Hawkins) was to be shot by Gregg.
      The conspiracy was planned, declared Hawkins, for the purpose of getting him out of the way on account of the part he had taken in certain mining deals in which Keady and Gregg were interested with him.
     The ante mortem statement was not taken in writing, but the doctor, who is disinterested, never having known any of the parties to the affair, said that Hawkins was fully aware of the approach of death at the time when he made the statement.
No Witnesses Present.

      A strange feature of the case is the fact that witnesses to the shooting were not in evidence yesterday at the inquest, although at least a dozen men, most of whom live in Denver, were present in Gregg and Comb's saloon when the fatal shot was fired. Only one witness to the shooting could be found yesterday, although the coroner made efforts to locate the others. The witness who testified is Tom Keady, sometimes known as Cady, the shell-game man. The witness testified that he was in the saloon at the time of the shooting, and that among the other witnesses were Al Weber, ex-chief guard at the Arapahoe county jail, "Big Ed" Burns and several companions and some friends of the saloon keepers.

      "Hawkins fired two shots at Gregg," said Keady, "before Gregg fired at him, although the second shot of Hawkins was fired at about the same time that Gregg shot. Just before the shooting I had a row with a big fellow who made a pass to pull his gun on me. Gregg leaned over the bar and tried to hit me with his gun, and I dodged down under the bar, and then Hawkins fired.

Interested in Gambling.

      Witness said that he and Hawkins had been interested together in gambling games carried on about the saloon and had previously carried on their games at West Creek. His testimony was given before that of Dr. Fish, and the coroner therefore had no opportunity to question him regarding matters suggested by the ante mortem statement of Hawkins.
      Mrs. Lucy A. Hawkins, mother of the deceased, was sworn, and testified that her son's name was Aquilla C. Hawkins; that he was ["28" or "29"] years of age at the time of his death, and that he was born in Missouri. Witness had a talk with her son shortly before his death, and he informed her that a man named Loomis and a saloon keeper at West Creek, whose name he did not know, could tell all about the fight, they having witnessed it. The jury returned the following verdicts:
      That said Aquilla C. Hawkins came to his death Saturday, March 14, 1896, about 3 p.m., at St. Luke's hospital, Denver, Arapahoe county, Colorado. The cause of said death was shock from gunshot injury, the gun being in the hands of one Jim Gregg at South Platte station, Jefferson county, Colo., between the hours of 4 and 5 p.m., Tuesday, March 10, 1896.
      We, the jury, find from evidence that the said shooting was felonious.
      Gregg was arrested on a charge of assault to kill by Sheriff Kelly of Jefferson county two days after the shooting.
      The mother of the dead man has sworn out a warrant charging Gregg with murder, and it is reported that Gregg is now in custody of a deputy sheriff at South Platte, attending to his duties as usual.

Rocky Mountain News
March 18, 1896
Newspaper image
(Click image to enlarge)

Aquilla "Dick" Hawkins was a rough character, to say the least. The Denver Evening Post wrote of him, “He was never suspected of earning a dollar honestly, and was always regarded as a crook who might be guilty of committing any crime from petite larceny to murder.” From these words I had always assumed that Hawkins was born a bad man, but the new information uncovered shows a different side. While not an honest, law-abiding man, he was likely one that others could take advantage of. A man that crimes could be pinned on. A man who could be murdered and few would care or miss. 

Epilogue: James R. Gregg

Seven days short of the one-year anniversary of Hawkins' shooting, Gregg shot another of his saloon patrons. The Herald Democrat covered the occasion, revealing that Gregg had "killed at least three men in Oklahoma Territory," giving some credibility to the account of the News (March 10, 1896) that Gregg had "the reputation as a gunfighter." 


     Puma City. March 4.—Peter S. Cox, a saloon keeper, was killed last night in a dance hall by James R. Gregg. The trouble occurred over the purchase of a saloon and dance hall. It was claimed that Cox fired the first shot with a Winchester. Gregg fired at Cox striking him in the breast, and afterwards, while his victim was on the ground, he fired two more shots at him.
     Gregg is well known at South Platte, being a partner in the saloon business there with Charles Combs. It is said he has quite a record as a man killer, and holds a commission as deputy sheriff in Park county. The statement is made that about six months ago he killed a shell-game operator in a saloon in South Platte, and was then acquitted on the plea of self-defense. He came to South Platte from Enid, Oklahoma Territory, where he was reported to have killed at least three men in saloon fights.

Herald Democrat
March 5, 1897
Newspaper image
(Click image to enlarge)

      I found no further legal action taken against James R. Gregg for the shooting of Dick Hawkins.
    Ten months later the Fairplay Flume for January 8, 1897, spoke of a liquor license issue for Gregg and Combs. Nine months later (October 22, 1897), the same newspaper published Gregg's news of acquittal in the shooting death of Pete Cox. The last report of Gregg comes from the Durango Wage Earner for May 18, 1899. Gregg had been charged with assault and robbery, a friend (Bruce Sanders) caught him stealing $50 from his pants in the hotel room where the two were staying. 

Last man standing
The South Platte Hotel
built by the Zang Brewing Company
South Platte was a regular stop
and the last stop for Dick Hawkins
(Click image to enlarge)

Dick Hawkins: pages 79, 182-84, 273.

"He is the most gracious, kindhearted man I’ve met. To know him is to like him.
—William Saportas
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 590.


1513: Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon goes ashore onto what will later be named Florida.
1776: George Washington receives an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard College.
1817: Famed Texas Ranger William “Big Foot” Wallace is born.
1829: James Carrington patents the coffee mill.
1842: William “Big Foot” Wallace is one of 159 prisoners of war of General Santa Anna. A raffle for who lives and who dies is held, by putting 144 white beans and 16 black ones into a gourd. Those who drew a black bean were to be executed. Wallace drew a white bean. His death, by natural causes, came in 1899, at age 82.
1860: The first Pony Express rider leaves St. Joseph, Missouri towards Sacramento, California. The riders were paid $125 a month and were expected to ride 30 to 70 miles a day with the total ride taking nine days. Despite numerous dangers from Indians and robbers only one mail rider was killed (by Indians) during the Express's 19 months existence.
1861: Cadet George Custer receives three demerits for throwing snowballs near the West Point barracks, New York.
1865: Union forces occupy the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia during the Civil War.
1866: Rudolph Eickemeyer and G. Osterheld patent a blocking and shaping machine for hats.
1868: A wood chopping party is attacked by Indians in Rock Creek, Wyoming. One woodcutter is killed.
1882: Outlaw Jesse James, age 34, is shot in the back of the head and killed in his home in St. Joseph, Missouri by Robert Ford for a $5,000 reward.
1885: 2.75 million acres of land in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Dakota Territory are opened for settlement.
1898: An avalanche at Sheep Camp on the Chilkoot Pass, in Alaska, during the Klondike gold rush kills approximately 70 men.
1908: Former hotel bellboy and well known gambler, Riley Grannan dies with an estate of $100. A few years prior he was known for putting $250,000 on a horse and winning the wager.
1910: Mt. McKinley in Alaska, the highest mountain in North America, is successfully climbed.

March 23, 2016

Dan White's The Ballad of Soapy Smith

Dan White
The Drive-by Troubadour
Photo courtesy of Dan White
(Click image to enlarge)

(Click the above link to hear the song)

ery recently, western singer Dan White, The Drive-by Troubadour, was visiting the historical town of Tombstone, Arizona. By chance, Dan happened to run into a good friend of mine, Stephen Keith, at the Crystal Palace Saloon. They began talking and Dan brought up a song he had written, called The Ballad of Soapy Smith. Stephen, of course, brought up the fact that he and I were friends. Keith later wrote to me with a link to Dan's site and the Ballad.

Within a couple of days, Dan and I were chatting on the phone.

Dan told me that he had seen a commercial for the Soapy Smith episode for Blood Feud, on the American Heroes Channel. This is the episode in which I was hired as a "talking head" (expert). Dan told me that he likes to write and sing about the lesser known old west characters. When he heard the commercial for Blood Feud he thought that Soapy would make a good subject for a ballad. He had never heard of Soapy and liked what little he saw, but unfortunately missed the program. So he went online to Wikipedia. It was a good choice as I am largely responsible for most of the sourced information on that article. He wrote the Ballad, and the rest, as they say... is history.      

A little about Dan (from his website)

"Growing up in San Jose California, music had always been a part of Dan’s life….and performing it as well as writing his own compositions naturally followed. Playing in bands as a young man, the influences of music ranged from Glenn Campbell to The Beach Boys, The Beatles to Jimmy Buffet, Crosby Stills and Nash to Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. Whether he is sharing western folklore through music and poetry, or a 70’s cover, he takes the listener with him, back in time, to re-live a few moments of their past.

The goal of my music is to preserve our country's western and music heritage. It’s values, stories and legends, and contrast those lessons to the issues we individually and collectively face in these times.

Consistently ranked in the top western singer songwriters in the US by, Dan is an active member of the Western Music Association chapters in WY, ID, MT, UT, CO, AZ and NM, is always interested in sharing his latest composition and insights as he travels thru western states. The venues he performs at are varied from dude ranches to country clubs, neighborhood restaurants to your back yard gathering. Whether it’s a branding party or a family celebration, a poetry gathering or rodeo or a wedding, Dan would like to hear from you and schedule your event."

You can listen to his streaming music and follow his scheduled appearances at

Stephen Keith
A special thanks to good friend Stephen Keith
For informing us of this ballad!
Photo courtesy of Stephan Keith

"… he was not at all inclined to stir up trouble, and by his pleasant address never wanted for friends. Besides, he was one of the most kind-hearted men that ever lived. I will venture that there is scarcely a big city in the country where you couldn’t find some man that could tell you of a good act that Jeff Smith had done him. In his palmy days in Denver and Creede, he gave away money recklessly to almost any applicant. When hard times came to Denver in association with a well-known priest, he organized a score of free-lunch stands, and every sport in town was assessed at what Smith thought a reasonable figure. None of them demurred to giving up, and nobody went hungry during that adverse period."
—R. M. Eddy
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 590.


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 John O. “Texas Jack” Vermillion, who later becomes a member of the Soapy Smith gang in Denver, Colorado, becoming known as “Shoot-Your-Eye-Out-Jack.”
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 4, 2016

Did Soapy Smith make a political speech in Montana?

"Soapy Smith" gives a speech in Montana
Helena Independent
September 13, 1889

September 13, 1889

I received a very interesting email from author Jane Haigh.

Hello Friend Jeff,

An academic contact doing research on Scandinavian Republican politics discovered this Helena newspaper article from 1889, and forwarded it to me. I see from your book that Soapy was in Montana around that time, but I never heard of him making public political speeches before, and he mentions he was active in Minnesota Republican politics, also new to me. Just thought you would be interested, and perhaps you have some more information or thoughts?

Congratulations on the opening of Jeff Smith's Parlor in Skagway!
Jane Haigh, Phd
Alaskan Author

Following is my response.

Hello, friend Jane.

Thank you very much for thinking of me, and sending this very interesting newspaper article!

It very well could be him. The dating is right. The first few days of September 1889 the Soap Gang is fleeing in several directions after the gunfight at the Pocatello train depot. Bascomb flees into Dillon, Montana, which is good enough reason for Soapy to venture into the state. He is still on trial for the attack on John Arkins and Denver is at the beginning of one of its numerous reforms. Soapy could very well have been looking for a new home, or at least making plans for one if the empire in Denver collapsed.

The pros for this being our Soapy is good, however, there is one snag. That is the use of the name of "Soapy." As you know he did not like that alias. Only his enemies called him "Soapy." He used the alias when making threats. There is one good possibility; perhaps the editor of the Helena Independent was on to Jeff Smith's real identity and used the article to expose him? This is just over a month after the Arkins assault, which made newspaper headlines all-across the U.S. Surely the Independent could have recognized the name but forgot the details to give its readers a biography of "Soapy." Perhaps they refrained from outright accusing "Jeff Smith" of any involvement in crime, just to protect themselves from a libel case.

A day later I received some information from my favorite genealogist researcher, Linda Gay Mathis. Linda writes,

This "Soapy Smith" mentioned in your article, previously, may have been Cyrus Little Smith (C. L. Smith). See these 2 newspaper clips from Friday, September 13, 1889 Paper: Helena Daily Herald (Helena, Montana) Page: 8. Also, will post a bio of Cyrus Little Smith.

Helena Daily Herald
September 13, 1889


Helena Daily Herald
September 13, 1889
"C. L. Smith"

A biography of Cyrus Little Smith

C. L. Smith was born at Dover, Wayne County, Ohio, January 22, 1845. John R. Smith, his father, was a farmer, and while Cyrus was still a small child his parents removed to Southern Michigan, settling in an unbroken wilderness. There were no schools on the Michigan frontier in those early days, and Cyrus was taught to read by his mother. As the country settled up, schools of a poor quality began to be established, and at the age of eleven the boy secured his first four months' schooling. This was in a little log school house, where presided a Baptist preacher. The seats were oak slabs with stout wooden pins for legs. He attended this school for two winter, learning the rudiments of reading, spelling and arithmetic. During these two terms he had but one book of his own, the arithmetic. In 1858 he went to Southern Indiana and worked in a nursery for the next years. When the war broke out in 1861, Mr. Smith enlisted, though only sixteen years of age. He became a member of Company E, Eleventh Michigan Infantry, and served three years and two months, principally in Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia. Among the noted battles in which the participated were those of Stone River, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, Mission Ridge and the battles before Atlanta. Soon after being mustered out of the service he came to Minnesota, in October, 1845, and engaged in selling trees and shrubbery for an Eastern nursery company. At the same time he began planting and experimenting on his own account, and in this way proved his inborn taste for horticultural affairs. Mr. Smith frankly admits a financial failure at the nursery business, the principal cause being poor health. He suffered from diseases contracted in the army, which prevented him from working out doors a large part of each year, but he acquired considerable practical experience in nursery and gardening matters which he turned to account in newspaper and literary work. For all this time he has been largely engaged with horticultural and agricultural papers, and addressing farmers at institutes and other gatherings throughout the state. At the same time he has not abandoned farming and gardening, but has cultivated a tract of forty acres, where he raises various trees and a variety of crops, largely for experimental purposes. As a Republican Mr. Smith has been especially active since 1885. During these later years he has done much aggressive work for the Republican party. His observation of the condition of the farming classes and the common people for many years have convinced him that, notwithstanding all the mistakes made by the party of his choice, its principles and policies have been for the best interests of the people. During the Fish-Donnelly regime of the Populist party, Mr. Smith was state organizer of Republican League Clubs, and made an aggressive campaign against the Populistic influences. He frequently met the enemy on the stump and was active and successful in joint debates. Mr. Smith was one of the organizers of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society in 1866. He served as secretary of the State Forestry Association for four years and a member of the executive committee for six years. He has been a member of the State Dairymen's Association since its organization, and on January 25, 1895, was appointed assistant dairy commissioner of the State Dairy and Food Commission of Minnesota. Mr. Smith rendered valued service in preparing the Minnesota forestry exhibit for the World's Fair in 1893. He took an active part in the first farmers' institute held in the state, and aided in securing their establishment as a permanent state institution. Since 1891 he has been agricultural editor of the Farmers' Tribune.

Source: Progressive men of Minnesota. Published by The Minneapolis Journal, 1897.

Talk about a mystery for the ages! There is no denying that Linda may be right. The Helena Independent may have politically opposed C. L. Smith, thus calling him "Soapy Smith" in derision may have been the latest trendy insult in Montana as it was in Colorado. All this information will be included in the file with the original newspaper article for future use, and to keep from making the same automatic assumption. 

Thank you very much Jane Haigh and Linda Mathis for sharing your fine detective work with us! I've known both Jane and Linda for a number of years, and am happy to call them "friends."

"A bunch of con men opposed to Smith were trying to horn in and get the pull with the big bugs. Stopping to exchange a few words with a vigilance committee, contrary to his usual custom of ‘firing first and talking afterwards,’ caused his death."
— Henry “Yank Fewclothes” Edwards
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 589.

March 4

1634: Samuel Cole opens the first tavern in Boston, Massachusetts.
1681: England's King Charles II grants a charter to William Penn for an area that later becomes the state of Pennsylvania.
1766: The British Parliament repeals the Stamp Act, which had caused bitter and violent opposition in the American colonies.
1778: The Continental Congress votes to ratify the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance. The two treaties are the first entered into by the new government.
1789: The first Congress of the United States meets in New York and declares that the Constitution is in effect.
1791: Vermont is admitted as the 14th state. It is the first addition to the original 13 American colonies turned states.
1794: The 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is passed by Congress. The Amendment limits the jurisdiction of the federal courts to automatically hear cases brought against a state by citizens of another state. Later interpretations expanded this to include citizens of the state being sued, as well.
1826: The first railroad in the U.S., the Granite Railway in Quincy, Massachusetts, is chartered.
1837: Chicago, Illinois is granted a city charter.
1861: The Confederate States of America adopts the "Stars and Bars" flag.
1868: John Chisholm, trailblazer of the Chisholm Trail dies in Oklahoma before the trail is named in his honor.
1877: Emile Berliner invents the microphone.
1880: Halftone engraving is used for the first time in the Daily Graphic, published in New York City.
1881: Eliza Ballou Garfield becomes the first mother of a U.S. President to live in the executive mansion.
1881: Outlaw Billy the Kid writes and sends a letter to Governor Lew Wallace, asking for a meeting to discuss the situation in regards to the Lincoln County War, as well as a pardon for himself.
1886: The University of Wyoming in Laramie is chartered.
1902: The American Automobile Association is founded in Chicago, Illinois.
1908: The New York board of education bans the act of whipping students in school.