August 12, 2017

Soapy Smith in court: The US Commissioner journal for Dyea, Alaska, 1898; Part 1.

Soapy in "court"
March 9, 1898
From warrant to dismissal
Courtesy Alaska State Archives
(Click image to enlarge)

The legal journal of the U.S. Commissioner Court
Dyea, Alaska; part one of eight.

     John U. Smith, the U.S. Commissioner, the U.S. Marshal's office, and the court, were all stationed at Dyea, five miles from Skagway, even though Skagway was the "metropolis" of the area. The next large town was Juneau 100 miles away. While serving in Dyea John kept a legal journal of the legal proceedings.

"Vol 1 Criminal"
The cover of the journal
Courtesy Alaska State Archives
(Click image to enlarge)

Inside cover of the journal
Courtesy Alaska State Archives
(Click image to enlarge)

Following is the transcription of page 148 (top pic).

United States vs Jeff R. Soapy Smith - Vilo [violation] Sect 3526 O.C. gambling

    March 9: Complaint filed by U.S. Deputy Marshal John Cudihee

    March 9: Warrant issued.

    March 9: Warrant returned and filed.

    March 9: Defendant arraigned and asking for time to plead. The hearing was set for next Monday at 7 pm at Dyea. Defendant allowed to go on his own recognizance.

    March 14: Defendant appeared and the court being unable to act the hearing was indefinitely postponed.

    March 29: dismissed.

     Interesting to note that the early entry of his name is just Soapy Smith. "Jeff R." was apparently added later as it is written in smaller text. So what crime was Soapy charged with? Gambling. It is interesting to note some of the events that were taking place, in which were laid at the "gambler's door."
     On Monday evening March 7, 1898, between 6 and 7 miles from Skagway on the White Pass trail near Porcupine Hill, Peter Clancy Bean, a twenty-five-year-old miner from Williams, California, was murdered. Powder burns were on his face and a .38 caliber slug in his left breast. Near his body was his empty pocketbook. However, the Daily Alaskan reported $300 in gold was found in his belt as well as $33.72 in cash in his pockets. It was believed his killer, or killers, were frightened away before searching the corpse. His killer(s) was never discovered. It is always possible that a member of the Soap Gang was involved in this robbery turned murder but there is no accusations or evidence that point to this, and hardly not enough to arrest Soapy.
     On March 8 the vigilante Committee of 101 posted "warning" handbills in Skagway and along the trails. The warning was meant for Soapy and his gang, though not mentioned by name, to remove themselves from Skagway. On March 12, two days after his arrest, Soapy posted his own "answer to warning" handbills around town. The following day, March 13, U.S. Deputy Marshal John Cudihee had his hands full when gambler Sam Roberts is shot and killed outside of his cabin in Dyea. The Seattle Times states that Roberts was one of Soapy's gang members, and he may very well have been, but at this time this is no known connection.
     This charge for "gambling" could possibly be linked to the charge of robbery made in the March 3, 1898 edition of the Seattle Daily Times, in which Mr. Frank Secombe,
states that the Hon. Soapy Smith is still the "warmest lobster" of the Skagway crroks. He and his gang boss the town and are running it wide open. A Swede entered this scoundrel's joint and was looking at a game when someone said, "why don't you play?" "I don't want to," he replied. "Don't want to, eh? Well, I guess you ain't got no money!" "Yes, I have, too," he replied somewhat proudly and drew out his roll containing about $500. Some one snatched it and the laugh was on the Swede, for he never saw it any more. 
One newspaper reports that U.S. Deputy Marshall Cudihee "is now the sole guardian of peace for Skagway and Dyea, it is almost impossible to keep the sure-thing gamblers and others of their ilk off the trails ..."

U.S. Deputy Marshall Cudihee
sole guardian of peace for Skagway and Dyea
The Daily Republican
May 23, 1898
(Click image to enlarge)

* A very special thank you to Art Petersen who located and copied the pages of the journal.

(links will be added as they are published)
Commissioner's Journal: part 2.
Commissioner's Journal: part 3.
Commissioner's Journal: part 4.
Commissioner's Journal: part 5.
Commissioner's Journal: part 6.
Commissioner's Journal: part 7.
Commissioner's Journal: part 8.

U.S. Commissioner John U. Smith: pp. 440-41, 460, 477, 496, 499, 506, 512.
Deputy U.S. Marshal John Cudihee: p. 500.

"Congressmen, lawmen, criminals, parsons, writers, and businessmen called him friend and asked after him."
Alias Soapy Smith


1851: Isaac Singer is issued the patent on the double-headed sewing machine.
1860: Temple Lea Houston, son of Texas President and Governor Sam Houston, is born in Austin, Texas. He is the first child born in the Governor's Mansion.
1861: Apache Indians attack and kill 15 Confederate soldiers in Texas.
1864: General Alfred Sulley's party reaches the Yellowstone River during the largest campaign against the Plains Indians thus far.
1865: Disinfectant is used for the first time during a surgery by Dr. Joseph Lister.
1867: President Andrew Johnson suspends Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, which leads to Johnson’s impeachment.
1868: Captain Fredrick Benteen of the 7th Cavalry reports that Indians have killed seventeen civilians on the Solomon River, Kansas.
1877: Thomas Edison invents the phonograph making the first sound recording.
1878: John W. Swilling, the founder of Phoenix, Arizona Territory is jailed as a suspect in a stage coach robbery that involved two murders. He dies in jail before he can be tried.
1879: The first National Archery Association tournament takes place in Chicago, Illinois.
1881: Cow-boys attack three Mexican soldiers, killing one, outside of Tombstone, Arizona.
1897: The vigilante Committee of 101 is formed in Skagway, Alaska, in response to Soapy Smith and the Soap Gang.
1898: The Spanish-American War ends with the signing of an armistice protocol in Washington D.C. It specifies that Spain relinquishes authority over Cuba and Puerto Rico. Disposition of the Philippine islands is to be decided by American and Spanish negotiators, who meet in Paris for a formal peace treaty.

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