August 24, 2017

Soapy Smith in court: The US Commissioner journal for Dyea, Alaska, 1898; Part 8.

Violet "Vie" Torpy arrested"Mrs. Michael J. Torpy"
"keeping a house of ill-fame"
Courtesy Alaska State Archives
(Click image to enlarge)

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

     The following is the last of an eight part series of articles regarding the journal of legal proceedings regarding Soapy Smith and the Soap Gang 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 On this case Commissioner Smith has been replaced by Charles Augustus Sehlbrede.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, Soapy Smith was shot and killed in the shootout on Juneau Wharf. Minor members of the Soap Gang were deported out of Skagway, Violet Torpy (Mrs Michael J. Torpy) was one of those forced to leave. Following is the transcription of the events listed on page 438 compiled by Commissioner Sehlbrede.

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

United States vs Mrs. M. J. Torpy - Violation Sec 651 (1867) O.C. [Oregon Code]

July 15, 1898
     Complaint filed by H. L. Swaggart, charging defendant with keeping a house of ill-fame [prostitution], and warrant for the arrest of defendant issued.
     Defendant arrested and brought before the court and being advised as to the nature of the charge filed against her, and as to her right to the benefit of counsel, waived counsel and proceeded with the examination.
     The follow witnesses were sworn and testified upon the part of the prosecution for the United States: John Schroder; J. M. Tanner, F. F. Lelank; J. L. Speery; H. E. Batten [Battin] and H. L. Swaggart.
     The following witnesses were sworn and testified upon part of the defendant.
     J. F. Burkhard and S. S. Roberts.
     The defendant being then advised as to her right to make or waive making a statement not under oath, proceeded to and made statement not under oath which said statement was reduced to writing by the court in the presence of the defendant, and after being read over to the defendant, the same was signed by the defendant in the presence of the court.
     It appearing to me from the testimony produced before me on the examination that the crime of keeping a house of ill-fame has been committed, and that there is sufficient cause to believe the defendant Mrs. M. J. Torpy guilty thereof, I order him to be held to answer the same and I have admitted him to bail in the sum of one thousand dollars.
     Commitment issued and with the defendant and committed delivered to James M. Shoup United States Commissioner Marshal James M. Shoup.

C. A. Sehlbrede
United States Commissioner for Alaska.

* 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 3.
Commissioner's Journal: part 4.
Commissioner's Journal: part 5.
Commissioner's Journal: part 6.
Commissioner's Journal: part 7.

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.
Violet "Vie" Torpy [Tarpy]: pp. 573.
Joseph Burkhard: pp. 91, 452, 461, 521, 565-67.
Josias M. Tanner: pp. 82, 459, 500, 530, 533, 535, 541, 544, 547-49, 551, 562, 564, 566-71, 575-79, 582.
H. E. Batten [Battin]: pp. 543, 567, 571.

"In the 1930s while involved in St. Louis political circles, Jefferson thought such exposure could jeopardize his position in the city. He even went so far as to hide the enormous collection of Soapy Smith documents and memorabilia behind wall panels in the basement of the family home. John Randolph Smith, the author’s father, told of the hiding place and how he would sneak down and play with the rifle, faro cards, gaming equipment, and old hat and coat secreted there."
Alias Soapy Smith, page 7

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