August 18, 2017

Soapy Smith in court: The US Commissioner journal for Dyea, Alaska, 1898; Part 3.

Charges against members of the Soap Gang
W. F. Foster, Van B. Triplet and John Bowers
The robbery of John Douglas Stewart
Courtesy Alaska State Archives
(Click image to enlarge)

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

     The following is part three of a series of articles regarding the journal of legal proceedings regarding  Soapy Smith in Skagway, Alaska, started by U.S. Commissioner John U. Smith. On this case Commissioner Smith has been replaced by Charles Augustus Sehlbrede.
    On Friday, July 8, 1898, three of Soapy's gangsters who started out swindling miner John Douglas Stewart with a three-card monte game, but ended by outright robbing Stewart of his gold poke worth about $2,600. This robbery led directly to the death of Soapy on the evening of the 8th. Following is the transcription of the events listed on page 428, compiled by Commissioner Sehlbrede.

The United States Commissioners Court for the District of Alaska at Dyea

United States vs W. E. Foster, Van B. Triplet, and John Bowers - Violation Sec 534 (1742) DC.

July 8th 1898.
     Complaint charging defendants W. F. Foster, Van B. Triplet and John Bowers with larceny from the person of another sworn to by J. D. Stewart filed.
     Warrant for arrest of defendants issued and placed in the hands of S. S. Taylor U.S. Deputy Marshal for service.

July 8th. U.S. Deputy Marshal S. S. Taylor being unable to act, J. M. Tanner is appointed to make service of said writ, which said appointment is in writing in words and figures as follows:

United States of America
District of Alaska
    On account of the inability of S. S. Taylor the Deputy U.S. Marshal, to serve this writ, and there being no other officer within the reach of this court to serve this writ, I hereby appoint J. M. Tanner to make service here of.
     Dated July 8th 1898.
     C. A. Sehlbrede
     U.S. Commissioner for District of Alaska, at Dyea.

July 11th 1898. J. M. Tanner who was appointed to make service of the warrant of arrest herein, made his return in words and figures as follows:

United States of America
District of Alaska
     I, Josias M. Tanner hereby certify that the within warrant came into my hands, for service on the 8th day of July, 1898, and I served the same by arresting all the within named parties on the 10th day of July 1898 and I now have the bodies of the said defendants in my custody, awaiting the action of the within named court.
Dated at Skagway, Alaska, July 10th, 1898.
Josias M. Tanner

No. [number] of miles traveled, 40.

July 14th 1898.
     Defendants brought before the court, complaint read to them, and each of said defendants being advised by the court as ti their right to have the benefit of counsel, declined the aid

[Continued on page 428]

More on the charges against the Soap Gangsters
Courtesy Alaska State Archives
(Click image to enlarge)

of counsel and personally waived examination, whereupon it is adjudged that said defendants and each of them be held to answer for the crime of larceny from the person of another. It therefore appearing to me that the crime of larceny from the person of another has been committed, and there is sufficient cause to believe the said defendants W. E. Foster, Van B. Triplet and John Bowers are guilty thereof, I order them to be held to answer the same, and I have admitted them, the said defendants to bail, to answer in the sum of $25,000.00 each.
C. A. Sehlbrede U.S. Commissioner for Alaska

Complaints issued as follows
In the U.S. Commissioners court for the District of Alaska at Dyea.

United States
W. E. Foster, Van B. Triplet and John Bowers
     In the name of the President of the United States of America.
     To the United States Marshal for the District of Alaska.
     An order having been this day made by me, that W. E. Foster, Van B. Triplet and John Bowers be held to answer upon a charge of larceny from the person of another, you are therefore commanded to receive them, the said W. E. Foster, Van B. Triplet and John Bowers in your custody and detain them and each of them until legally discharged.
Dated at Skagway, Alaska, July 14th, 1898.
C. A. Sehlbrede
U.S. Commissioner for Alaska.

Upon said committant [sic] was indorsed [sic] the following I have admitted each of said defendants to bail to answer in the sum of $25,000.00

C. A. Sehlbrede
U.S. Commissioner
* A very special thank you to Art Petersen who located and copied the pages of the journal.

Commissioner's Journal: part 1.
Commissioner's Journal: part 2.
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 Charles Augustus Sehlbrede: pp. 506-07, 514, 520-21, 527, 529, 533, 537, 542, 544, 547-48, 550, 553, 557, 562-63, 566-67, 570-71, 575, 577.
W. E. "Slim-Jim" Foster: pp. 80, 91-92, 471, 475, 525-26, 554, 564-67, 569-70, 575-76, 579, 595.
Van B. "Old Man" Triplet (Triplett): pp. 90-92, 471, 475, 526, 554, 564-67, 575-79, 595.
John L. "Reverend" Bowers: pp. 65-69, 76, 87, 91-92, 128-30, 188, 193, 195, 214, 247-48, 268, 272, 313, 328-29, 342, 351, 353-55, 358, 361-62, 264-67, 369, 382, 389, 396, 398, 417, 471, 478-79, 487, 489, 502, 509-10, 525-26, 554, 564-67, 570, 575-76, 578-79, 594-95. 
Deputy U.S. Mars hal Sylvester S. Taylor: pp. 508-12, 520, 527, 562, 575-76, 580-81.
John Douglas Stewart: pp. 55, 80-82, 91, 434, 525-28, 532, 547, 553, 558, 562-63, 565, 567, 574-75, 577-79, 581, 585, 595.
Josias M. Tanner: pp. 82, 459, 500, 530, 533, 535, 541, 544, 547-49, 551, 562, 564, 566-71, 575-79, 582.

“Enter biographer Jeff Smith with his determination to record apparent realities, no matter what they might be. His method was to line out all available information about the man and interpret it based on documentation of strong or at least reasonable authority. His decades of work draws back a curtain on times and details previously unknown about Soapy Smith…”
—Art Petersen, Alias Soapy Smith


1587: Virginia Dare is the first English child known to be born on American soil. Born in the colony that is now Roanoke Island, North Carolina, it mysteriously vanished.
1735: The Evening Post of Boston, Massachusetts begins publishing.
1840: The American Society of Dental Surgeons is founded in New York City.
1846: U.S. forces led by General Stephen W. Kearney, capture Santa Fe, New Mexico.
1862: Indian Chief Little Crow leads an attack on the Lower Sioux Agency near Fort Ridgely, Minnesota, killing twenty men and taking twelve women captive. Other raids will take the lives of as many as 400 settlers.
1862: Union troops reoccupy Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas, controlling the Rio Grande's Middle Valley for the remainder of the Civil War.
1872: The Hayden Expedition camps at a geyser basin in Yellowstone, Wyoming Territory.
1889: John O. “Texas Jack” Vermillion, now known as “Shoot-Your-Eye-Out-Jack,” of Wyatt Earp fame is arrested as a steerer in one of Soapy Smith’s Denver, Colorado auction houses along with Soapy, Soapy’s brother Bascomb, J. Allen, and “Fatty Gray” Morris, after a front page expose’ entitled Smith and His Pals.
1894: The Bureau of Immigration is established by Congress.

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