November 29, 2016

An Act of Kindness: The gift of a 1924 Photograph of Soapy Smith's Grave.

1924 Photo of Soapy's 2nd grave marker
(Click image to enlarge)

oapy Smith's grave, 1924.


On eBay, I came across a 1924 Alaska scrap book from the Peoria, Illinois Life Insurance Company. The scrap book contained 140 photographs, including a photo of Soapy Smith's (my great-grandfather) and Frank Reid, one of two men who shot and killed Soapy. Soapy killed Reid, but not before Reid was able to shoot Soapy twice, once in the left arm and once in the left thigh. 

I considered buying the scrapbook, but at a total price of $51.40 including the shipping) I decided to opt out. I sent a message to the seller, "internetstore61021," letting him know that if he didn't sell the book, that I would be interested in the two photos, if he was willing to sell the scrapbook piecemeal. His name is Charles, and he sent back a message that he might consider that, but also kindly offered to scan both photos and send them to me for $5 including the shipping. That was indeed a very generous and kind offer, and I responded with the following.

1924 Photo of Frank Reid's grave
(Click image to enlarge)

"Thank you very much for the offer. Very considerate. I will pass though. The smaller marker is my great grandfather's grave. I collect original photographs of his grave, which a lot of tourists photographed. Believe it or not, I own that marker! Attached is a photograph of it. Glad you were able to sell the album as a whole. ~Jeff"

I kindly declined as I have many scans of Soapy's grave markers and was seeking actual photographs. Soapy's grave was (and still is) a popular stop so there are lots or old photographs out there. Then another buyer placed a bid and won the whole scrapbook. I figured that was the end of that, but seller internetstore61021 wasn't ready to end the conversation just yet.

Charles: "The photo you sent has graffiti....that is horrible. what kind of turd does this?"
Jeff: "Yes, there is a lot of graffiti. This was common on wooden markers, especially of well-known characters, which is why you often see cages around the markers."
Charles: "I contacted the purchaser. and told him about the grave marker."

The name of the buyer is Dennis and he wrote back to the eBay seller the following.

"Everybody collects something different. I collect White Pass & Yukon Route railroad (or Skagway, AK; Lake Bennett, B.C., Carcross/Whitehorse Yukon Territory photos) which is why I bid on the scrapbook and he is welcome to the photos of his grandfather's headstone. Tell him if he (or you) runs across White Pass pictures prior to the World War II era to keep me in mind."

Page from the 1924 album
(Click image to enlarge)

For the price of the postage Charles sent me the two original photographs. A very nice story about how some sellers and people go above and beyond, AFTER already having made his sale. It doesn't get much better than that!

Thank you eBay seller Charles (internetstore61021) and buyer Dennis! Here is the link to Charles' eBay store.

Close-up of Soapy's marker
photo-shopped to see better
(Click image to enlarge)

Soapy's 2nd grave marker as it looks today.

What we can learn from this photograph.

Being that the trip to Alaska was taken in 1924, it is proven that the second grave marker was sitting upon the grave at that late date. I used my photoshop skills to bring out what details of Soapy's marker can be seen. There is plenty of graffiti and missing slivers from the top, as can be seen today. The marker is being held up by rocks and the bottom shows that it has been broken. Soapy's original grave was washed away in a 1919 flood and it is guessed that the marker survived, and placed in the ground near the gully that held the original grave.


1) The history of Soapy's grave markers
2) Charles' ebay store.

"Poor Smith [Soapy] thought he made this [the following] proverb truer to the facts of life, I am told, by revising it to read, ‘The way of the transgressor is hard … to quit.’”
— Reverend John Sinclair


1869: Texas Outlaw Samuel “Bob Hays” Hassells is shot and killed. He is identified as one of the men who robbed the post office in Separ, New Mexico Territory in October 1869. A posse of lawmen cornered the gang at the Diamond A ranch, and Hassells was killed during the ensuing gun battle.
1872: Modoc Indians, refusing to move off their homelands, to Oregon's Klamath Reservation, fight back against Captain Jack Jackson and 38 members of the 1st Cavalry.
1878: After 14-years of use, Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, is abandoned. It was never attacked by Indians.
1888: Jacob “Sleepy Jake” Kasenhelm and two other Denver con men are arrested in San Francisco, California for trying to swindle a man of $3,200 in the purchase of a machine that makes gold coins out of burmese metal. Soapy Smith robbed this confidence man by way of a fake highway robbery as the two men walked discussing business.

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