April 24, 2017

Two of Soapy Smith's personal notebooks uncovered.

Soapy Smith's notebook
Courtesy of the Geri Murphy collection

(Click image to enlarge)

wo of Soapy Smith's notebooks uncovered

In 2007 I gave a Soapy Smith presentation for the Newnan city/Coweta County Historical Society. My cousin Geri attended the presentation. She brought along a notebook that Soapy had kept notes in. I had but a few minutes to look through the notebook and found the above notation for a weeks worth of prize package soap sales Soapy made in Tombstone, Arizona. Also I found, in Soapy's own words and handwriting, his witnessing of the shooting of outlaw Sam Bass in Round Rock, Texas in 1878. There was little doubt that this was a mother lode, a very valuable historical resource. Thankfully, I thought to show the notebook to author Gary Roberts, who also attended the presentation, before handing it back to my cousin. Gary ended up being my only witness that the notebook actually existed, and its existence was question several times by others. I could not blame them as many of the historians I know were past victims of historians like Glenn Boyer, who became infamous for writing about documents and letters that did not exist. Gary saved my reputation more than once.
      My cousin was wonderful in sending me many copies of the letters in her collection, but had not gotten around to copying the notebook. A few of life's wrenches were thrown, first at Geri and then at myself. Ten years later, I went out to my mailbox and found a surprise from Geri. A package of 55 xeroxed pages, from not one, but TWO of Soapy's notebooks, including the Tombstone and Sam Bass pages!
      This is a GOLD MINE of new information about Soapy, where he went, how much he made, the people he met, some pages reading like a diary. NONE of this has ever been published, let along seen by anyone outside of the family! I am not sure how I will handle this new information yet. Perhaps for a second edition of Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel?
     I saw the notebook in 2007. I had made no notes on what little I saw of the notebook so my book, published in 2009, only included that Soapy had seen the Sam Bass shooting and Tombstone. With copies of the notebook pages I now can say with certainty that Soapy sold soap while in Tombstone. In Soapy's own handwriting, he writes,
Sales in Tombstone.
A.T. Dec. 1883
Dec 17th Mon. .......$65.00
Dec 18th T [Tue] ....$58.00
Dec 19th W [Wed] ..$53.00
Dec 20th T [Thur] ...$57.00
Dec 21st F [Fri] .......$23.00
Dec 22nd Sat ...........$58.50

"Jeff forged to the front as a leader among professional gamblers and sure-thing men. During his career, he built and ruled three criminal empires, two in Colorado and one in Alaska. He opened and operated saloons, gambling establishments, and swindling operations where men of ill virtue preyed upon the innocent."
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 16


1800: The Library of Congress is established with a $5,000 allocation.
1805: The U.S. Marines attack and capture the town of Derna in Tripoli.
1833: A patent is granted for first soda fountain.
1851: Morgan Earp is born in Marian County, Iowa.
1877: Federal troops are ordered out of New Orleans with the end of reconstruction after the Civil War.
1878: Henry Underwood, a member of Sam Bass' outlaw gang, leaves Texas and is never heard from again. Bad man Soapy Smith witnessed the shooting death of Sam Bass in Round Rock, Texas.
1889: The Edison General Electric Company is organized.
1896: Soapy Smith, under the name Randolph John Smith, is arrested in Juneau, Alaska for operating the prize package soap racket.
1897: William Price becomes the first named White House news reporter.
1898: Spain declares war on the United States after rejecting America's ultimatum to withdraw from Cuba.

April 23, 2017

William J. "Billy" Allen: Soapy Smith gang member?

William J. "Billy" Allen
circa 1895
Courtesy Regina Peck Andrus (g-granddaughter of W. J. Allen)

(Click image to enlarge)

as "Billy" Allen a member of the Soap Gang?

     I was not able to find a lot about William J. Allen. According to Robert K. DeArment in his Knights of the Green Cloth (1982), Billy Allen was a "gambler of a somewhat higher grade" in Deadwood, South Dakota in 1876. He seemed to migrate between jobs as a policeman and bartender. For most historians Allen is best known for his altercation with famed gun-fighting dentist, John Henry "Doc" Holliday in Leadville, Colorado on August 19, 1884.
     [John "Doc"] Holliday had borrowed $5 from an ex-Leadville policeman named Billy Allen, a bartender and special officer at the Monarch [saloon], a position that gave him the right to carry a gun and make arrests on the premises. Allen worked with Tyler and Duncan and was a member of their gang. Holliday was laggard in repaying what he owed Allen. In fact, he was nearly busted, his jewelry already in hock. Allen cornered him in the Monarch on Friday, August 15, 1884, and told him to pony up by noon on August 19 or else. The “or else” was a promise at the very least to thrash him—a promise Allen, a robust man fully 50 pounds heavier than 33-year-old Holliday, could easily have kept—or at the worst to kill him.
     Doc Holliday was acutely aware of the danger he was in as August 19 dawned, his creditor still unsatisfied. Keeping gambler’s hours, Holliday had gone to bed at 5 in the morning and did not awaken until 3 in the afternoon—well past the deadline set for repaying the $5. Knowing that Allen was thick with the thieves at the Monarch, Holliday believed the debt would serve as a convenient pretext for his enemies to put him out of the way once and for all. He would later call Allen a “tool of the gang.”
     Holliday left his room in the Star Block, a building located at 405 Harrison Ave., shortly after 3 p.m. He came upon a gambler named Pat Sweeney, who told him Allen had been to Hyman’s earlier that afternoon and was armed. Upon hearing this news, Holliday hiked back up the stairs to his second-floor room and may have concealed his revolver about his person, or he may have entrusted it to Sweeney or to a close friend and fellow boarder, Frank Lomeister, to carry to Hyman’s—testimony on this point is inconclusive. He then sent Lomeister to find Marshal Harvey Faucett or Captain Ed Bradbury of the Leadville Police Department and seek their aid.
     En route to Hyman’s, Holliday bumped into Faucett himself in front of Sands and Pelton’s clothing store at 312 Harrison. He explained his predicament to the marshal, asking if Allen really was a special policeman. Sensing Holliday’s apprehension that this appointment would permit Allen to walk the streets armed, Faucett answered that even though Allen was a special, he had no right to carry a gun outside of the Monarch. Holliday then made a strange statement: “I’ll get a shotgun and shoot him on sight.” Strange, because it showed intent—to the city marshal, no less—to commit a crime in Colorado, and it was Holliday’s lawful conduct in this sanctuary that guaranteed he would not be extradited to Arizona Territory. There, he would have to stand trial for the Tucson train yard murder of Frank Stilwell on March 20, 1882—if Holliday’s sworn enemies did not assassinate him first. Events strongly suggest this remark showed Holliday’s desperate state of mind, but if he was carrying a concealed weapon and therefore liable to a fine he could not afford to pay, it may also have been disingenuous and intended to forestall the marshal’s searching him. Whatever the full intent, it alerted Faucett to a prickly situation. He set off posthaste to find Billy Allen. He entered the Monarch shortly thereafter, but Allen had just left.
     Holliday shuffled through the double glass doors into Hyman’s and made sure his revolver was placed behind the bar, close by the lighter on the cigar case next to it. Versions differ as to the caliber of the large single-action Colt revolver, some claiming it was .41, others .44.
     Billy Allen had left his house uptown and strolled down the Avenue. He stopped at the Tabor Grand Opera House to pick up theater tickets and get his shoes shined, and then went into the Monarch. After spending a few moments in the saloon, he was putting on his coat to continue down to Hyman’s when one of the proprietors, Cy Allen (no relation to Billy), warned him against hunting up Holliday just then. Billy Allen answered there would be no trouble and, with a careless air, walked out into the fading sunlight, striding down the boardwalk toward Hyman’s, the hands on the moon-faced clock that overlooked the Avenue to his right nearing 5 o’clock.
     Holliday was lounging by the cigar case when he laid eyes on Billy Allen through the plate glass window at the front of Hyman’s. He reached behind the counter for his Colt and stared at the door. Allen pushed it open, hesitating when a voice outside hailed him. Then he stepped across the threshold, about 6 feet distant, and Holliday leveled the six-shooter that had been dangling in his hand and pulled the trigger.
     The first shot sailed over Allen’s head, shattered a pane of glass in the double doors and lodged in the door frame. Startled, Allen spun on his heel, intending to flee, but tripped over the threshold and pitched forward, landing on his hands and knees. The ex-policeman scrambled to get to his feet. Holliday leaned over the cigar case and, almost on top of the man who’d been the hunter only seconds earlier, fired again. This shot hit its mark. The bullet tore into Allen’s right arm from the rear about halfway between the shoulder and the elbow and passed clear through, severing an artery in its flight. Jolted upright, Allen stumbled outside. He staggered against the wall of Dave May’s clothing store next door. By now he was in shock and bleeding freely, and he fainted into the arms of an onlooker.
     Holliday had only winged his bird and had been ready to fire again. But before he could squeeze the trigger for a third time, the bartender had rushed up to him from behind and clamped down on his gun hand. Captain Ed Bradbury, who’d given Allen a belated warning, then charged into the saloon and snatched the smoking Colt. Holliday immediately asked for protection, and Bradbury led him to the county jail. At the same instant, Cy Allen and other friends of Billy Allen loaded the wounded man into an express wagon and conveyed him to his house. Doctor F.F. D’Avignon was summoned. He could find no pulse in Billy Allen’s right arm, and concluded the artery was severed. As quickly as possible, he sewed it together...

     The day after the Allen shooting, Captain Bradbury swore out a warrant for Holliday's arrest, charging him with assault with intent to kill. He was taken to court, and bail was set at $5,000. John G. Morgan, proprietor of the Board of Trade saloon, and Colonel Sam Houston, one of the managers, signed on as Holliday’s sureties, and he was released....

In the Jeff Smith collection is a letter to Soapy Smith from John Morgan, asking Soapy to keep a lookout for a gaffed faro box in the Denver pawnshops, that had been stolen from the Board of Trade.

     At the trial, Allen testified that he was unarmed at the time Holliday shot him, that he had never threatened Holliday’s life, and that he did not even know Holliday was in Hyman’s Place when he entered it on the afternoon of August 19, 1884....
     Billy Allen’s career after Leadville was long and adventurous. Researcher Gary Roberts has traced him to Garfield County, Colo., in 1887, where he served as an Army scout during the Ute troubles. Afterward, he worked as a fireman in Pueblo and later as fire chief in Cripple Creek. By 1900 he was participating in the Klondike gold rush and was appointed a deputy U.S. marshal. The manager of the insurance underwriters of Colorado once described the popular Allen as “a strong, brave, determined man.” He died in the Old Soldiers’ Home in Orting, Wash., on March 21, 1941, at age 82.

(The above text comes from the article Spitting Lead in Leadville, by Roger Jay and originally appeared in the December 2003 issue of Wild West magazine. [http://www.historynet.com/spitting-lead-in-leadville-doc-hollidays-last-stand.htm])
Five years later, Allen is working as a bartender during a special train trip picnic to an out of city park named Logan Park. Allen ingrained himself into the criminal affairs of the Soapy Smith gang when he joined in a melee known as the Logan Park riot.
On Sunday, July 21, 1889, the destination of one such outing was Logan Park. The trip was heavily promoted, though by whom was not exactly clear. Advertised as "a dazzlingly beautiful spot for a day’s picnic adventure," in reality, Logan Park was far from beautiful, far from home, and far from the law. For Jeff and the Soap Gang, it was a dazzling opportunity with a captive audience...
The bartender Billy Allen became interested, and joined in the row, ostensibly, to quiet matters, but his appearance was like waving a red flag at an infuriated bull. Grasping a couple of beer glasses, he began to strike right and left, believing in the Irish tactics of hitting every head he saw….
RMN 07/22/1889.

Two and one-half years later Allen is in Creede, Colorado where he gets involved with Soapy's brother-in-law, William Sydney "Cap" Light, in a shooting scrape that ends in the death of faro dealer Reddy McCann.
     The official story goes something like this. At 4:15 a.m. on Thursday March 31, 1892, “Reddy” McCann, a faro dealer from the Gunnison Exchange, was drinking heavily in the Branch Saloon and causing a ruckus. Earlier somebody had been shooting out windows and lights near the section of Main and Wall streets. McCann was believed to have been doing the shooting. It was Deputy Marshal Light’s job to disarm the hip-pocket brigade, as the men who carried guns into Creede were called, so Light, under the influence of alcohol himself, entered The Branch Saloon accompanied by William Allen and approached McCann. The story appeared on page 1 of the April 1, 1892, edition of The Creede Candle:

Reddy McCann Shot and Instantly
Killed by Captain Light.

It is said that Light went into the place and was told by McCann that no — — — could take his gun away from him; that one word led to another until finally the deputy slapped McCann in the face; that following the slap came the guns and that Light was forced to shoot in self-defense.
     Sheriff Delaney had previously taken two guns from McCann at different times, the latter time getting a sore hand as his part of the struggle.
     McCann was a faro dealer at the Gunnison Exchange. He came to Jimtown from Salt Lake and had been in the camp about six weeks. …
     At the inquest, Mr. Schwartz, a friend of McCann, testified as follows: “At 4:15 a. m. Mr. McCann, deceased, went into Mr. Murphy’s saloon and stepped up to the bar. In a few minutes Captain Light and William Allen entered the place and began to talk with Mr. McCann, and in my opinion both were under the influence of liquor at the time and they began joshing one another, and Captain Light slapped McCann in the face, knocking a cigar out of his mouth, and I saw them both reaching for their guns, and I dropped behind the counter and I do not know who fired the first shot. After the shooting was over I got up and found McCann laying [lying] on his back on the floor and the barkeeper and I walked up to him and he told us these two words, “I’m killed!” We sent for the doctor at once. We picked him up and laid him on the table, where he expired about fifteen minutes later. I was too excited to tell how many shots—about five or six I judge.”
     William Allen testified: “My residence is Jimtown, Colo., occupation, bartender. After I came off watch this morning at 4 a. m. Mr. Light and myself went over to Mr. Long’s saloon to take a drink, and there met Mr. McCann. He and Mr. Light began to talk. I walked over to the stove and I heard a few words of tussing [cussing?]. Saw Mr. Light slap the cigar out of McCann’s mouth and McCann drew a gun and commenced firing at Mr. Light. Then Mr. Light began firing at McCann. Then I saw McCann fall. Mr. Light turned and walked out.”
     To district attorney: “I did not go into the saloon alone. Mr. McCann was standing against the bar when we entered. Can not tell who spoke first, McCann or Light. They seemed like friends to me when they met. Did not think Light was angry when he slapped McCann. McCann drew … first and he fired first. Can not tell who were present when the firing began, only Dave Allen, myself and Captain Light. Myron Long was attending bar at the time...

Friends of McCann recognized that they would not be heard in Creede so they went to newspapers in other towns to publish their version of the affair. Their story was accepted. In Light's obituary some of that story tarnished his image as a lawman.

The painted fairies [showgirls] from all over the West flocked in and they made the place hum for a few months. A bartender named [William] Allen became enamored of one of these angels whose beauty had not been seriously marred by the excesses of the camp. He had as a rival Red McCann. The eventual quarrel followed and the girl agreed to take the man whose nerve showed up to the best advantage in a Creede shooting scrape. Captain Light was a friend of Allen’s, and to him he confided the story. That night they started out to do their daily kalsomining, and before entering a saloon they met McCann and a party of friends whose hilarity was such that they all began shooting off their guns in the air. The chambers were emptied and they all went into the saloon to liquor. McCann and Light exchanged words and the latter, always calm and composed, irritated McCann to such an extent that he pulled his empty gun on Captain Light. With that the deputy marshal nailed him, and before his gun quit smoking five cartridges had found a resting place in some vital part of McCann’s anatomy. An inquest was held, but before the verdict was announced Light had left the camp. —RMN 12/27/1893
These two accounts indicate that the story told at the inquest was a cover-up for the murder of an unarmed man. Four months later on July 22, 1892, in Pueblo, Allen was arrested and transported back to Creede to face a murder charge. He was suspected of possibly firing his gun at McCann as well. He was standing at the roulette table with McCann between him and the bar. Light was near the door facing McCann. According to some reports the shot which killed took effect in the victim’s left side, the one toward the roulette table, could not have come from Light’s gun.

The friends of McCann in Creede had apparently been pushing for justice but four days later Allen was released owing to a want of witnesses.

This is the last Known information on William J. Allen's connection to Soapy Smith and the Soap Gang. It is known that Allen did go to the Klondike, but I have not located him in Skagway.

"He used his considerable intelligence and personality to devise and manage predatory schemes, yet he persisted in showing sympathy and charity to those in need."
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 16


1789: President George Washington moves into the Franklin House, New York, the first executive mansion.
1856: Abolitionist, J. N. Mace shoots pro-slavery Sheriff Samuel Jones in the back in Westport, Kansas.
1861: Arkansas troops seize Fort Smith during the Civil War.
1872: Charlotte E. Ray became the first black woman lawyer.
1896: The Vitascope system for projecting movies onto a screen is demonstrated in New York City.
1865: A day of fasting and prayer for President Lincoln, assassinated on the 14th takes place by order of the Kansas governor.
1874: After a nine-year engagement, outlaw Jesse James and Zee Mimms marry at the home of a friend in Kansas City.
1875: Indian Chief Little Bull and seventy-five Cheyenne followers are nearly annihilated in northern Kansas by a company of U.S. Cavalry and buffalo hunters. The Indians were on their way back to their home in the Black Hills of (South) Dakota, territory.
1875: Wyatt Earp is employed as a policeman in Wichita, Kansas. He serves in this capacity for three-days short of exactly one year to the day.
1885: Denver, Colorado, the home of bad man Soapy Smith, experiences its greatest known snowfall to date, 23 inches in 24 hours.
1892: At the Denver, Colorado Republican convention, bad man Soapy Smith is elected alternate delegate from the fourth division.
1907: Alfred Packer, the infamous cannibal miner of the Rocky Mountains dies of natural causes in Jefferson County, Colorado.

April 21, 2017

Did Soapy Smith know John Bull?

id Soapy know gambler John Bull?
Crooked gambler, steerer, gunman.

      In July 1898, after Soapy Smith was killed in Skagway, Alaska, J. M. Tanner, the vigilante turned deputy U.S. Marshal, took possession of Soapy's letters found in his personal trunk. These letters were published in Alaska-Yukon Magazine, December 1907 and January 1908. The letters disappeared afterwards. Text of one of those letters (from the January 1908 issue) follows.

Seattle, Wash.
May 9, 1898
Friend Jeff:
    I understand ["Reverend" John L.] Bowers has gone to Skagway. I wrote him in Victoria and Vancouver, but have rec'd no answer. I was in good shape here to get on my feet but old Bull had me pinched on a deal that Bowers and I was in, and because I didn't turn the proceeds over to him, he had Durff swear his life against me, and c., which caused me some trouble. Bull has lost many friends and is not in it. I will have things all right in a few days. Jeff, it makes no difference what people say for or against you, I am always your friend and I hope you are doing well. I will make some money here, but it won't be through the Bull click. Write me soon as you get this. I have two letters for Bowers. One from Skagway and I think it is from you. As soon as I know where Bowers is I will forward them to him.
    Write by return mail. Ever your friend,
Jno. W. Murphy.
Care, Horse Shoe Saloon [Seattle]

      The letter was written by John W. Murphy, mistakenly referred to as being the fictitious "Ice Box" Murphy in several books, but who is actually the same John W. Murphy, proprietor of Denver's famed gambling den, Murphy's Exchange (The Exchange), known as "the slaughter house" for all the blood spilled upon its floors. It was here where Soapy is accused of shooting and killing Clifton Sparks in 1892. Note that Mr. Murphy ends his letter with "Care, Horse Shoe Saloon." It is believed that John W. Murphy is the same "John Murphy," a partner in the Horse Shoe Saloon, frequented by Soapy when in Seattle, whom in October 1897 got into a violent fight in said saloon.
      John Edwin Bull was born in England in 1836. Little is known of his life, or when he came to the United States. He first appears, in historical texts, in 1861, as a professional gambler making his way around the mining camps of the western states, managing to make a name and place for himself in the sporting hierarchy.

John Bull and cohorts playing joke on "Mark Twain"
Pretending to rob Samuel Clemens
From Roughing It

(Click image to enlarge)

      For a few years in the early to mid 1870s Bull worked as a steerer for the notorious three-card monte bunko gang led by "Canada Bill" Jones. Others in the gang included Gerorge Devol, Charles "Doc" Baggs, Ben Marks, and Jim Bush. In 1880 Bull was in Denver as a partner in the Oyster Ocean saloon, restaurant and gaming house with gambler John E. Wilcoxon, alias "Jim Moon."
      In 1881 John Bull opened the Turf Exchange, a gambling house and hotel, on Larimer Street. In January 1882, gambler and old associate, Jim Bush, and Bull got into an argument in Bull's establishment, in which Bush drew a revolver and shot Bull in the foot. Shortly afterward Bull left Denver for the north-west and Washington. In 1898, he was in Spokane, Washington, when John Murphy wrote to Soapy Smith about Bull. Sometime later that year Bull got into a shootout with friend Fisky Barnett. One of Bull's shots hit a woman, another took off one of Barnett's fingers. Bull had been shot four times, in the neck, groin, chin, and left arm. Bull was forced to have the arm amputated. He lived to the age of 93 before passing away in 1929.

For more on John Bull pick up a copy of Deadly Dozen: Forgotten Gunfighters of the Old West, Volume 1 (2010) by Robert K. DeArment.

"He was strikingly generous, giving a good percentage of his ill-gotten riches to those less fortunate, preferring the limelight of notoriety and popularity to the accumulation of wealth."
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 16


1789: John Adams is sworn in as the first U.S. Vice President.
1836: General Sam Houston defeats Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. This battle decides the independence of Texas.
1856: The Mississippi River is crossed by a rail train for the first time (between Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island, Illinois).
1862: Congress establishes the U.S. Mint in Denver, Colorado.
1865: President Abraham Lincoln's funeral train leaves Washington.
1876: five men are hung in Fort Smith, each separate and for murder. They are William Leach, Orpheus McGee, Aaron Wilson, Isham Seeley, and George Ishtonubbee. It is estimated that up to 5,000 people witnessed the execution.
1876: Murderer William F. “Persimmon Bill” Chambers the “Scourge of the Black Hills Trail,” attacks and kills H. E. Brown, manager of the Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage Company, as he rode a freight wagon with two employees towards Hat Creek Station, Wyoming.
1877: Emile Berliner invents the microphone.
1888: Soap Gang member Frank “Blue-Jay” Brown attempts to shoot the man his wife had been seeing in Denver, Colorado, but his gun misfires and the man returns fire striking Brown in the face. Brown survives, following Soapy Smith to Alaska in 1898.
1892: The first Buffalo is born in Golden Gate Park.
1894: All gambling houses in Denver, Colorado are ordered closed. Just one of the many attempts to close down gambling in Denver.
1895: Soapy Smith and brother Bascomb go on a rampage assaulting numerous people in Denver, Colorado, including the chief of police and saloon manager John Hughes, the latter bringing charges that puts Bascomb in prison for one year, and has Soapy fleeing the state as a fugitive.
1897: Wild Bunch gang leader Robert Leroy “Butch Cassidy” Parker and Elzy Lay rob the Pleasant Valley Coal Corporation payroll at Castle Gate, Utah. They escape with $9,860.
1898: Spain breaks diplomatic ties with the United States.
1898: U.S. declares war on Spain, April 25, but backdates the declaration to this date, April 21, so that it appears as if the U.S. declared war first.

April 15, 2017

Skagway, Alaska Photograph: 1908-1928

Circa 1908-1928
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

Skagway, Alaska, circa 1908-1928

I purchased a great old photograph of Skagway, Alaska (photo #1) that I originally had guessed to date post-1935. I thought this because it appeared that Soapy Smith's saloon, Jeff Smith's Parlor, was on the south side of Sixth Avenue, which was moved there by Martin Itjen in 1935 (photo #4).

Upon closer examination I came to a preliminary conclusion that the photo was older than 1935. My first clue was the amount of original structures still standing, many of which were gone by 1935. I gathered up my photographs of Skagway and quickly realized that the Parlor was still on the north side of Sixth Avenue, in it's original location (photo #1). I circled the Parlor in yellow, on the far right side of the photo, but the Parlor cannot really be made out and positively identified. At this time period the Parlor was owned by the Hook and Ladder Company, Skagway's volunteer fire department (1900-1935).

Upon my first examination of the photograph (photo #1) I assumed that the white-walled building across the street from the Parlor (circled in red in photo #1) was the Parlor, but looking at the same location in a photograph taken in 1898 (photo #2) we see the same two buildings circled in yellow. The red arrow points to Jeff Smith's Parlor during the time Soapy was alive.  

(now Sixth Avenue)
June 1898
Red arrow points to Jeff Smith's Parlor
Courtesy University of Alaska, Fairbanks

circa 1916
Owned by Hook and Ladder Company
courtesy Library of Congress

(Click image to enlarge)

Now that I was able to determine that the photograph was pre-1935 I undertook to see if I could nail-down an earlier date. I researched some of the buildings along Broadway, the first being the Golden North, the large three story hotel at the south end of Broadway (far left of photo #1). The third floor of the hotel was completed by August 1908 so the photograph cannot be earlier than 1908. Next, I looked at some of the structures that I knew did not endure the ages. The Clayson Block, circled in yellow (photo #1) was destroyed by fire in 1928, so my new acquisition cannot date after 1928. I was not able to obtain a more precise date but I am sure it can be made.

Circa 1940s
After Martin Itjen moved and rebuilt
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

"How men of good family and connections East can come here and marry prostitutes–take them out of a dance house–I can’t see. "
—George Parsons
diary entry
July 16, 1880


1813: U.S. troops under James Wilkinson attack the Spanish-held city of Mobile, in the future state of Alabama, during the War of 1812.
1817: The first school for the deaf opens in Hartford, Connecticut.
1850: The city of San Francisco, California is incorporated.
1859: Along the Colorado River in New Mexico Territory (present day Arizona), work begins on Camp Colorado, which is meant to assist emigrants en route to California. The name soon changes to Fort Mojave.
1861: President Lincoln mobilizes the Federal army in preparation for the Civil War.
1862: The Battle of Peralta, the westernmost battle of the Civil War, takes place in New Mexico Territory (present day Arizona). At Picacho Pass an advance unit of the California Column from Yuma defeats a Confederate detachment of Texans. Upon learning of the battle, Confederate troops retreat from Tucson, Arizona.
1865: President Abraham Lincoln dies from the bullet he received in Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth the previous night.
1869: The Supreme Court, in Texas vs. White, rules that secession from the Union is unconstitutional.
1871: James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok becomes the marshal of Abilene, Kansas. His salary is $150 a month.
1877: Captain William Hancock files the first claim in Arizona Territory, under the Desert Land Act.
1879: John Chisum recommends Pat Garrett to Governor Lew Wallace of New Mexico Territory, as the man to take care of the outlaws running east of Fort Sumner.
1881: Outlaw “Billy the Kid” is convicted of murder in Mesilla, New Mexico Territory for the shooting of Sheriff William Brady. The “Kid” is sentenced on the 15th to be hanged on May 13, 1881. He escapes while being held in Lincoln.
1881: The Battle of Keating's Saloon takes place in El Paso, Texas. After two Mexican officers conducting an investigation of international cattle rustling are killed, Mexico demands an inquest of the two men. Constable Gus Krempkau acts as interpreter, which angers the rustlers. At noon, Krempkau leaves the courtroom and is accosted outside Keating's Saloon by George Campbell, a friend of the rustlers. While Cambell and Krempkau argue, John Hale, comes up and shoots Krempkau in the chest. Hale runs behind a post in front of the saloon when Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire appears on the scene. Stoudenmire fires at Hale, killing him instantly, but a second shot wounds an innocent man emerging from the saloon. In the meantime, a dying Krempkau fires at Campbell, striking him in the wrist and toe. Krempkau dies at the steps of the saloon, when Campbell, returns fire. Stoudenmire then shoots and kills Campbell.
1889: A marshal's posse in Oklahoma Territory kills a couple of “sooners,” and captures a group more, nine days before the official start. Sooners are settlers who sneak onto the Public Domain territory to make land claims before the official start of the land rush.
1892: The General Electric Company is organized.
1892: Soapy Smith “leases” McGinty the petrified man for $3,000 and leaves Creede, Colorado back to Denver to place it on display there.
1894: First public showing of Thomas Edison's kinetoscope in New York City.

April 14, 2017

Crazy Stupid Soap: Comedy show episode on Soapy Smith

(Click image to enlarge)

razy Stupid Soap
The story of Soapy Smith

Comedian Ari Mannis joins the comedy duo of Rich Slaton and Jon Shefsky of the growing podcast show CRIME in Crazy Stupid Soap: the story of Soapy Smith. This is an uncensored show so be prepared for raunchy language as these funny and knowledgeable comedians riff through the notorious crime story of Soapy Smith. The vulgarity may offend some, while others will find it hilarious. The good news is that the story they tell is well researched and complete, so if you can handle x-rated humor then you will enjoy this 1-1/2 hour broadcast very much!

CRIME can be found and listened to HERE. You will need to have iTunes uploaded.

The Soapy Smith episode can also be heard on Soundcloud, right here and now!

"Never reckoning the cost of his actions, Jeff throughout his life was guided by circumstance. An opportunist who rarely planned, he was swift to grab at life’s offerings and make the most of them through shrewdness and cunning."
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 16


1775: The first abolitionist society in the U.S. is organized in Philadelphia with Ben Franklin as president.
1828: The first edition of Noah Webster's dictionary is published under the name American Dictionary of the English Language.
1860: The first Pony Express rider arrives in San Francisco with mail originating in St. Joseph, Missouri.
1865: President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated in Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln dies the following day.
1873: The “Easter Blizzard,” a three-day storm kills many settlers in Kansas, Nebraska and southern Dakota Territory.
1874: Alferd Packer, the lone survivor of the Packer party, makes it to the Los Pinos Indian Agency, near Sagauche, Colorado Territory. Packer told a story of men quarreling and killing each other and of eating human flesh to survive.
1884: Bob Cahill kills outlaw Buck Linn in El Paso, Texas, over a misunderstanding that Cahill had killed Bill Raynard, a partner of Linn’s. Linn came crashing into the gambling hall firing four poorly aimed shots. Cahill's first shot went through Linn’s stomach and shattered his spinal column and the second lodged in Linn's heart.
1894: First public showing of Thomas Edison's kinetoscope.
1902: James Cash Penney opens his first retail store in Kemmerer, Wyoming. It is called the Golden Rule Store. Later stores would be become J. C. Penney.

April 2, 2017

The Creede "Straddle across" sisters, 1892

he "straddle across" sisters 
of Creede, Colorado, 1892

    When Soapy Smith first arrived in Creede, Colorado in February 1892, he obtained lot leases from V. W. Wason. He paid for enough lots in Creede’s business district for himself and some of his Denver friends. The problem was that some of these properties were on “school land.” The state contested these leases and cancelled V. B. Wason’s lease, intending itself to auction lots from the land to the highest bidder. The 102 “squatters” who had leased “school land” from Wason and who had already made improvements were ordered to vacate without reimbursement. They chose to stay and fight if necessary.
    The boast is openly made that the state may sell at auction and give title which may be good at some time, but that nothing less than Winchesters carried by militiamen can give possession.
    In the days prior to the sale, Creede was filled with investors wanting to capitalize on the misfortune of Creede’s early settlers.
    Two days before the auction, eight or nine hundred men met on behalf of the Wason leasers in a large tent at the center of the school land. The plan was to discourage, verbally—or physically if need be—outside bidding so that current lot holders could buy their properties from the state. At one point during the meeting, heard were gun shots and cries of “lot jumping” and “he is jumped.” In meetings with state officials, representatives of the “squatters” argued that current leasers should be given a fair chance to purchase the land from the state, but state law prohibited such action. Trouble looked probable.
    The public sale on Friday morning, February 26, 1892, took place in a 40-foot circus tent. A stand was erected in front of the state auctioneer, occupied by E. H. Watson, chairman of the citizens’ committee. He was ready to contest the sale of any squatters’ lots. With him were 25 men of the committee all wearing red badges. Jeff had leased some of these lots, but his involvement with the citizens’ committee, if any, is not known. However, the fact that men marched in wearing red badges fits Jeff’s mode of operation. Some of Jeff’s associates, however, were definitely involved. On March 2, the following Wednesday, while the auction proceedings were still ironing out differences, a committee was appointed consisting of S. T. Harvey, A. T. Jones, Clinton T. Brainard, John Kinneavy, E. C. Burton, John Lord, G. R. Miller, Louis Kerwin, and W. J. Allen. Kinneavy, of course, was one of Jeff’s allies, and G. Miller could be George Miller and W. J. Allen could be J. W. Allen, both of the Soap Gang.

    The crowd was enormous. When a lot was called upon which was a squatter’s cabin, the improvements and the name of the claimant were read by the chairman of the committee of twenty-five and there were loud cries of “Let him have it!” “Throw out the man who bids over him!” The cries were hoarse with anger, but as one or two lots had been knocked down to squatters at the minimum price fixed by the state appraiser, good nature … reasserted itself. There were calls of “They will do the square thing!” and “The speculators are all right!” The sale ran along for some time without particular incident, the lots bringing a price from $200 to $300.
    … Lot 14, in block 28, was claimed by a woman. When the minimum price was called, cries of “Give it to the woman,” went up.
    “Let her have it.”
    “Do not bid over her.”
    The first bid was made in the woman’s behalf at $50. Martin Froody then raised the bid to $51, loud cries of “Put him out,” were heard, and there was a rush in the direction of the auctioneer’s stand where Martin stood. The confusion and noise was quieted with the utmost difficulty. Stretching his hand as high as possible, Martin with the gallantry which he averred every man from Denver should possess, announced that his bid was for the woman and Rev. Mr. Brodhead called lot 14, in block 28, for the “woman.” At $51. Martin was loudly cheered and Denver friends pressed forward to take his hand….
    Women mounted the stand with babies in their arms and the kids took the real estate. For half an hour a woman in a fiery red dress held her position at the corner of the squatters’ stand and cast her most seductive glances at the auctioneer. When the golden opportunity came she plead to be permitted to buy lot 12 in block 12, to carry on a small mercantile business. She gave her name as Louise C. Grebor and amid wild cheers took in the perpendicular patch of ground 25 feet by 125 at $105.
    …No sooner was it knocked down than she asked for the adjoining lot for her sister. Five hundred voices in the crowd asked as many questions.
    “Where is your sister?” “What is the matter with one lot?” “You are overdoing it.”
    “Come off!”
    “Well,” said Louise, “I have a business on one and she on the other and we straddle across.”
    Hats were thrown high in the canvas, shrieks of laughter split the air, the auctioneer leaned back and took an observation through the bottom of a beer bottle … the crowd howled, “Let them straddle it.”
    “They need it,” and accordingly Mrs. William Hoyt of New York straddled the second lot at the same figure. Louise went around back of the state auctioneer and from a black silk handkerchief, pulled a roll of bills, which was smilingly received by Register France and handed over to Bill Smith, who deposited them in his tin box….

Rocky Mountain News, February 28, 1892

The "straddle sisters:" pages 203-204.

"At the height of his power in Denver, he boldly admitted to being a confidence man: “I beg to state that I am no gambler,” he told a newspaper reporter. “A gambler takes chances with his money, I don’t.” He seems earnestly to have believed that his successful life of crime should be considered more of a credit to his social standing than a blemish."
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 16


1513: Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon sights Florida from his ship. The following day he goes ashore.
1792: Congress passes the Coinage Act to regulate coins of the U.S.
1865: Confederate President Davis and most of his Cabinet flee the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia after losing the Civil War.
1867: The Kansas Pacific Railroad sells Delaware Indian land.
1868: The newspaper in Topeka, Kansas reports that detective W. F. Cody and Deputy U.S. Marshal James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, bring 11 prisoners and lodge them in the jail.
1870: Indians kill six settlers at the headwaters of the Sweetwater River, Wyoming.
1872: G. Brayton receives a patent for the gas-powered streetcar.
1876: Wichita, Kansas police officer, Wyatt Earp gets into a fistfight with William Smith, a candidate for city marshal, and is fined $30 and fired.
1877: The first egg roll was held on the grounds of the White House in Washington, D.C.
1880: Dave Rudabaugh and John “Little Allen” Allen attempt to break John Webb out of from the Las Vegas, New Mexico jail. Allen kills jailer Antonio Valdez. Webb doesn't leave his cell, and the jail breakers flee. A posse gives chase but is unsuccessful. Rudabaugh will later be tried and convicted of the jailer’s murder.
1882: Thomas James Hunt, an innocent look-a-like to outlaw Jesse James, is wrongfully identified and convicted of robbing a stagecoach in Missouri. The following day, Jesse James is shot dead by Robert Ford. In James’ belongings was the name-engraved watch of Judge R. H. Roundtree who lost it to the real stage robber, James. Hunt was released from his imprisonment.
1889: Charles Hall patents aluminum.
1889: Bat Masterson and John O. “Texas Jack” Vermillion are implicated in election fraud, with Soapy Smith and others in Denver, Colorado.
1901: William Carver, a member of the Wild Bunch, is killed by Sheriff Bryant in Sonora, Texas.
1902: The Electric Theatre, the first motion picture theatre opens in Los Angeles California.