November 12, 2017


The Killing of Jim Moon
by Clay Wilson in
the Arcade
Rocky Mountain News
July 11, 1915
(Click image to enlarge)

Rocky Mountain News
July 11, 1915

Following is the published content of an article about the closing of, and history of the Arcade Restaurant, saloon and gaming house in Denver, Colorado.

Rocky Mountain News
July 11, 1915
Read the entire article below
(Click image to enlarge)

"Every man is a sucker to the wily schemes of some other man."
—Soapy Smith
(according to the Rocky Mountain News)


     The recent closing of the Arcade, 1613 Larimer street, in anticipation of the statewide prohibition law to go into effect on the first of the new year, brings to minds of Denver residents of an early day the various angles and viewpoints from which be judged this once famous, then it notorious, Larimer street establishment—first opened as a high-class restaurant, then for twenty odd years Denver’s largest public gambling house, afterwards a saloon and restaurant, and in later years conducted as a saloon downstairs and a rooming house above. For the Arcade, for better or worse, certainly has a place in the history of the city. The opening of the Arcade as a high-priced restaurant in September 1880 was coincident with the opening of the then splendid Windsor hotel, two blocks further up Larimer street, and the completion of the Tabor block, just across the street from the Arcade. All of these enterprises were the result of the flowing wealth from Leadville, an impulse breathing new life into the state, adding largely to Denver’s population and its material welfare.
+ + +
     Barney Slack of Denver and James Fisher of Albany, N. Y., started the Arcade restaurant. John Elitch, who afterwards opened a restaurant of his own and years later founded Elitch’s gardens, was the Arcade’s first chef. He was followed as chef by John Tims is of Leadville restaurant fame. The popularity of the early-day Arcade knew no bounds. It leaped into public favor both in the city and state. It divided honors with the Windsor as headquarters of the mass of mining men and speculators who passed their time between Denver and Leadville and other mining camps. The excellence of its table brought to the Arcade the patronage of Denver epicures. Its doors were never closed. Denver newspaper workers sought the Arcade for their after-midnight meals.
     No gambling was connected with the Arcade at that time. John E. Wilcoxen, commonly known as Jim moon, opened the first gambling room above the restaurant early in 1881. He was known as the town bully. He defied the police and was in constant mixups with them. Previously he had conducted a gambling resort known as the “Oyster Ocean.” He was shot and killed by Clay Wilson, another gambler, June 16, 1881, in the bar of the Arcade, the restaurant owners not being involved in any way. It was the sensation of the day.
+ + +
William Cates
became one of owners of the Arcade
after Jim Moon was killed in 1881
Rocky Mountain News, July 11 1915
     The gambling rooms were then taken over by William Cates and William Tampkin’s, who run them for several years. Then there was a succession of new owners, and the restaurant, after Slack and Fisher sold their interests, was merged into the new proprietorship, all known as the Arcade. With each succeeding set of owners, the notoriety of the place grew. From a small gambling place it became the largest in the West. Hundreds of men gambled at one time at its tables. It was open day and night and the play was for low er high-stakes. The man with the dinner bucket laid his single white chip alongside the stack of reds or blues of the more prosperous man at his elbow. It was the favorite resort of the mining men of the hills and the stockmen of the plains country. There are numerous stories of fortunes won and lost in those days.
+ + +
     MURPHY’S EXCHANGE, which adjoined the Arcade, also was a notorious gambling resort. The two saloon entrances were side by side and the gambling rooms above were connected. From the crowds milling in and out of the two places, it was hard to distinguish one from the other. In this way many of the dark tragedies which occurred in the Exchange were soon credited to the Arcade. John P. Clow, a former champion prizefighter, was, in fact, shot and killed by Frank Marshall in the Exchange. Tom Cady, the monte expert, shot and killed Cliff Sparks in the Arcade. Shooting scrapes and knife cutting affairs were so numerous in these twin places that extra police were stationed there night and day.
     But all this was changed in 1907 when Governor Buchtel, through the fire and police board, put an end to public gambling.
+ + +
     The principal figure in the heaviest faro game in the Arcade’s history was Charles O. Pierson, at the time one of the three equal owners of the gambling rooms. The amount of his losings is variously estimated by old-time gamblers. They all agree that the sum was in excess of $50,000; some place the amount near $100,000. Pierson would never say and his partners were equally silent on the subject.
     Pierson was a character in his way. He was of Swedish parentage, tho born in the United States. In the early ‘70’s he was a waiter in the famous old Charpiot’s restaurant. He went to Leadville in 1878 and was identified with the big gambling establishments that thrived in those exciting days, and afterwards followed his luck at Aspen and Glenwood Springs. In this way he accumulated a small fortune, part of which he invested in a stock ranch near Glenwood. Coming to Denver, late in the ‘80’s, he bought a third interest in the arcade gambling rooms, then at high-tide of its fortunes.
+ + +
     On the night of the “big game” Pierson sat down at one of the faro tables. His bets were small sums, but the dealer raked them in with such persistency that Pierson was first nettled, then angered. Prior to this time Pierson had frequently played at his own bank, but losses or winnings never changed his demeanor. This night Locke was against him from the start; every bet he laid on the table disappeared with the first card turned out of the box.
     A short time later Pierson approached John J. Hughes, one of his partners, and made him a proposition.
     “I have $10,000 in my pocket, and I want to play faro,” he explained, “but I want you to agree to a change in house rules, and that the limit be raised to $1000. With that understanding I will play the whole $10,000.”
     Hughes was agreeable, and the play opened. Hughes stood by as an onlooker. Pierson kept the cases. Tim Stocking was in the dealer’s chair. The first time that Pierson placed a $1,000 bet the dealer looked inquiringly at Hughes. The latter nodded, Stocking turn the cards, and Pierson won. Pierson laid down two $1,000 bets and a few smaller ones. The dealer gasped and appealed to Hughes, who at once took the dealer’s place, and the two partners faced one another. The other players had quit and join the spectators.
+ + +
     With such high-stakes and luck running against Pierson, the game was a short one; in 20 minutes all the checks were in the dealer’s rack.
     Pierson’s usual flow of good humor had returned. He was no longer exasperated. He wanted to continue the play.
     In the big safe of the gambling hall was an emergency bank roll of $25,000. It represented joint profits of the house. Could Pierson draw his one third interest in that role and play it? He could as far as Hughes was concerned, altho the latter advised his partner not to play anymore that night.
     Pierson’s share of the emergency bank roll also soon disappeared, and then, the gambling spirit not being quenched, Pierson offered to sell his interest in the house to his partners in order to continue the play. It was then 2 o’clock in the morning, and the third partner was supposed to be at home and asleep. Pierson and Hughes jumped into a hack and were driven to the third partner’s home. Two hours of negotiations followed, at which the price of Pierson’s interest in the Arcade was agreed upon, and Pierson and Hughes returned to the gambling rooms. It was then daylight.
+ + +
     The game was resumed, under the same high limit conditions, and lasted until 10 o’clock. Then the last of Pierson’s share in the big gambling house disappeared as the dealer “whipsawed” two $1000 bets. The big game had been noised about the other gambling establishments, and the closing plays were witnessed by a dozen of the heaviest gamblers than in the city.
     It was also said at the time that Pierson obtained a large sum of money by mortgaging his Glenwood ranch and continue to play faro that afternoon and night. He did continue to play, at intervals, for the next two or three days, but for small stakes, and then he left the city for his ranch, which he owned until the time of his death in Denver 10 years ago. Peter Pierson, a brother, who at one time was also an owner in the Arcade, is now proprietor of the Glenwood ranch. He is a wealthy man, a large owner of Denver property, and is now traveling in Europe.
     Charles O. Pierson, for several years prior to his death, lived a quiet life in Denver, having married a second time and becoming a church member.

The Arcade and The Exchange
circa 1890
courtesy of Denver Public Library
+ + +
     Jefferson Randolph Smith, commonly known as “Soapy” Smith, made the Arcade his headquarters for many years. Smith was an inveterate gambler, “straight,” as the term goes, when events were smooth for him, but of devious methods when he needed the money. An axiom often quoted by Smith was that every man is a sucker to the wily schemes of some other man. Smith was a sucker to the faro game. All the money he could get from his many resourceful ways disappeared over the faro table. He didn’t gamble by other methods, but to “buck” faro was a mania with him. Once he got possession of a “roll,” large or small, he was frantic until seated in front of a faro layout. Then he played until his money was gone. If he won the game was a continuous performance with him, lasting day and night, with only the briefest periods for food or sleep. It is said of “Soapy” Smith that he lost more money at faro than any other man in the history of Denver, and old-time gamblers do not dispute the claim.
     “SOAPY” SMITH was an adept in the art of selling soap in the streets. That’s how he gained his familiar title. Mounted on a box on a street corner he would sell small cakes of so at topnotch prices, not because of the quality of the article he offered, but because of seductive prices in the way of $5 or $10 bills, which were thrown in with the soap. Smith had a careless way in wrapping the soap to allow a tip end of the money prize to peep out of the wrapper, and there was instant demand for the soap packages on the part of alert-eyed purchasers. Strange as it was to the buyer, when the packages were unwrapped no prize was to be found, nothing but the soap. The manipulation was sleight-of-hand work, but tho Smith played the game for years, so clever was he with his fingers that he always had a crowd eager to buy his wares.
+ + +
     SMITH’S favorite soap selling Stand was Sixteenth and Market streets. Here he kept active the suckers to his game until he had gathered in from 50 to 150 good dollars, enough to start him in a faro game, and then he would close “business” for the day, and make haste to reach the Arcade and a faro table. He always insisted on himself keeping cases, and if luck came his way he piled his chips as high as the dealer would permit. Usually the limit was $25 a bet, and he carried a dozen or more bets at a time. Sometimes the limit was raised to $100. But it could be set down as a rule, old-time gamblers say, when “Soapy” Smith sat down to play that the dealer folded back his shirtsleeves another notch and the lookout man took up a fresh chew tobacco and moved his chair closer.
+ + +
     “’SOAPY’ was no piker,” commented a former faro dealer. “I was dealing for him one night when he ran $100 worth of chips up to $2000 or more, and ‘Soapy’ all the time asking for a bigger limit. I calls for the proprietor of the house, and suggests that he turned the cards himself. He did, and ‘Soapy’ wins another thousand or so. With his hat pushed back on his head and using both hands and spreading chips over the table, all the time having a Sunday school song until the tune became irritatingly monotonous, ‘Soapy’ played such a vigorous game that soon all other gambling stopped, and the players joined the spectators and watching ‘Soapy’s’ attack on the big bank roll, for he announced that he was going to get it that time, sure. He didn’t get it all, but he cashed in $5,500 worth of red chips, and before the week was out ‘Soapy’ was about $12,000 to the good. That was the biggest win ‘Soapy’ ever made. But it didn’t last him long. He was noted for the generous side of his nature, and his friends shared in his luck—just as they always did if they needed money and ‘Soapy’ had any.
     “’Here, Jack,’ he would say to a friend, ‘how’s things at your house? Poorly? I thought so. Take this $100 and give it to your wife, and tell her to lay in coal and buy the children shoes. And don’t you spend a quarter of a dollar of it on yourself. If you do, I’ll know it, and it won’t be good for you.’ That was one side of ‘Soapy’s’ nature that the public knew nothing about. The public only knew the rough side—of his reputation as a police character, and of being the biggest gambler in town.”
     “Soapy” Smith met his fate in the early days of the Klondike excitement in Alaska. There he got into a “gunplay” with another gold-seeker, and was fatally shot. Rising to his elbow, he aimed carefully and killed the man who had wounded him; then toppled over dead himself.
+ + +
     One of the incidents connected with the passing of the Arcade and one freely discussed by former habitues of the place, concerned Charley Pickerell, known always to his friends as “Red Cloud,” and, incidentally, his wife to whom he cheerfully gave the name of “Spotted Tail.” “Red Cloud” first flew into Denver from Montana in the early ‘70’s and for twenty-five years was a notable character in the gambling fraternity. He got his nickname from the fact that his face was covered with red splotches. He didn’t resent the cognomen and given him by friends in a kindly spirit and perhaps it was his appreciation of the humor of it that induced him to call his wife “Spotted Tail.” He was a strong, broad-shouldered man and affected a big, white hat and a red handkerchief loosely tied around his neck.
+ + +
     A ROMANCE in the lives of the couple was known to but few. She was a sister of the wife of a Colorado pioneer, a politician of long and high standing, who held an important state office while the sisters were living in Denver. The statesman’s wife was not proud of her lowly sister and the latter was content to leave her solely to herself.
     For many years they lived on a 10-acre tract of land situated just south of Cherry Creek and near Broadway, a part of it being the present baseball park. “Red Cloud” was a competent faro dealer and make good wages at it. He had promised his wife not to longer play on the “other side of the table,” and he kept that promise until their joint bank savings amounted to $6,000. Then the old fever seized him anew. He drew the money from the bank and commenced a high-rolling faro game at the Arcade. He played with varying luck for several hours and then his wife created a commotion among the hundred odd players in the room by appearing at the table at which “Red Cloud” was sitting. She had learned of his drawing down of the bank roll and had followed him. She demanded that he stop playing at once. “I’ll bet you have lost it all now,” she exclaimed, as she saw her husband pushing out large stacks of “chips” on the board.
+ + +
     BUT “Red Cloud” was not perturbed. He continued to play faster than before, as tho afraid he might have to quit playing soon, and he wanted to fight to be to a finish. Mrs. “Red Cloud” expostulated in vain.
     The finish was not long coming. The last pile of chips was raked in by the dealer, and then “Red Cloud,” turning to his now frantic wife, dramatically exclaimed:
     “A way to the wigwam, ‘Spotted Tail;’ ‘Red Cloud‘ will follow thee.”
     The couple together left the room amidst the cheers and laughter of the gamblers. Three months later “Red Cloud” met the unromantic fate of being gored to death by a bull at his “ranch.” His wife still is living on a ranch near Sedalia, twenty miles south of Denver.

+ + +
Clay Wilson
Shot Jim Moon
(photo taken in Dayton Ohio 1912)
Rocky Mountain News, July 11 1915

     THE Killing of Jim Moon by Clay Wilson startled the whole city and kept people talking for a week. The newspapers fill pages with the tragedy and its many angles. The principles in the encounter had been friends, Wilson being a faro dealer in Moon’s employ at the Arcade. Jealousy on Moon’s part over a woman Moon was living with at the time was the cause leading up to the killing. On the night before the tragedy, Moon visited a room in the Batione block, on Larimer street, where Clay Wilson and Charles London, a fellow gambler, were rooming together. Moon entered the room without knocking, evidently looking for evidence to confirm his jealous suspicions. The two men were in bed. Moon then said the object of his visit was to collect $200 which London owed him. London got up counted out the sum from his pocketbook and gave it to Moon. Wilson remained in bed. Moon started toward the door then turned and made a threatening move in Wilson’s direction.
     “You wouldn’t kill an unarmed man in bed, would you, Jim?” Wilson pleaded.
     “No, I wouldn’t,” replied Moon, “but the first time I meet you on the street I’m going to kill you,” was his threat as he left the room.
+ + +
     THE next morning, at 10:30 o’clock, Moon was sitting in a shoe-shining chair on the sidewalk near the entrance to the Arcade, when Wilson and London came down the sidewalk, past Moon, who simply glared at them, and entered the Arcade bar. The two men stood facing the bar when Moon followed them in.
     “I see you are looking for trouble,” were Moon’s first words, addressed to Wilson, as he joined the two men at the bar.
     “I’ll bet you a hundred dollars that he isn’t,” quickly replied London, stepping between Moon and Wilson, in an effort to prevent serious trouble.
     Moon walked calmly down to the far end of the bar, where there was a cigar lighter, and started to light a cigar. Wilson left the bar and walked over to the corner, near to the swinging door entrance to the saloon. As Moon touched a lighted match to his cigar he glanced at the mirror in front of him and in the reflection so Wilson’s position in the corner. He turned and rapidly started toward his enemy. Wilson, alert to the move, quickly walked through the screen door, as quickly turned and re-entered the saloon, at the same time taking from his coat pocket an English bulldog revolver and leveling it.
+ + +
     AS MOON advanced he attempted to get his revolver from his right hip pocket, but did not succeed. The two men were twenty feet apart when Wilson fired his first shot. The bullet pierced the body near the heart, but it didn’t even stagger Moon, who kept advancing. Wilson remaining at his distance. A second bullet passed through Moon’s body less than two inches below the point where the first bullet struck. Either wound would have proved fatal, but moon kept on coming and before Wilson could fire a third shot Moon grappled with him and tried to wrest the weapon from Wilson’s grasp. Moon threw his arms around Wilson’s body and remained in that clinging position until his giant strength began to give way. While in this death embrace Wilson managed to fire a third shot, the bullet passing through the right leg and severing the main artery. Moon now fell to his knees, but still struggling and clinging to Wilson’s body, and did not cease his efforts to gain possession of the weapon until a fourth bullet, fired by Wilson without aim, passed through Moon’s neck, severing the vertebrae and causing instant death.
+ + +
     THIS, in brief, is the story of the tragedy which set Denver aflame for many days. Moon’s body was placed on public exhibition at Albert Brown’s undertaking place, on Lawrence street, and was viewed the first day by no less than 6,000 morbid people. The crowd was so large and excitement was at such a heat the police were called in to form the people into line, and keep the line moving from the street, thru the building and out into the alley.
     Wilson was acquitted on the ground of self-defense. He remained in Denver for about a year, then left for the East. He has visited Denver several times since, his friends say, but always keeping his identity well undercover.
+ + +
Charles L. "Doc" Baggs
As he looked in 1915
Rocky Mountain News
July 11, 1915
     “DOC” BAGGS, the acknowledged king of all bunco men, made the Arcade headquarters during its palmiest days. Baggs was not himself a gambler in the full sense of the term—he kept to his one line of bunco—but at the Arcade he found victims and willing hands to aid him, in fleecing victims.

After leaving here in 1885, because of police trouble, “Doc” Baggs formed a partnership with Clay Wilson, the slayer of Jim Moon, and the two ranged the United States, according to the police, as the smoothest pair of bunco men in the country.

In 1912 Baggs and Wilson “turned a trick” at Dayton, Ohio. Wilson was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison at Columbus. He appealed to a higher court, gave bond and jumped it, and his whereabouts is unknown. Baggs evaded arrest, and is now believed to be living in New York.
+ + +
     NEARLY every man whose name was prominently linked with the early day history at the Arcade gambling house came to some unrighteous end. A few of them changed their mode of living and afterwards followed more worthy lines of calling. One of these was Tom Collins. He professed to have invented a secret system by which the game a faro could be beaten. Dealers of the game did not take any stock in his system, but the fact was, according to old-time gamblers, that Collins won money at his play and, with his comfortable accumulations, moved east and settled down in a small New York state town, and is today leading an upright life. Bat Masterson once sheriff at Dodge City, Kan., with a record of having killed more men in the early and exciting cowboy days of Dodge City, moved to New York city, became a popular writer on sporting topics and is today one of the owners of a newspaper of that city.
+ + +
     JOHN W. MURPHY, who owned the Exchange, was found guilty of killing his wife and served two years of a six-years’ sentence. A few years later death ended his checkered career. Harley McCoy, who shot and killed Captain of police Hawley, lost his life as a result of a railroad accident near Durango. Sam McCall was shot and killed by the Kistard brothers at Joe Lowe’s place, south of Denver, in a dispute over an irrigation ditch. Joe Lowe, known as “Rowdy Joe,” was shot and killed in a Denver saloon by Charles Kimmel, a policeman. Tom Cady, after serving a ten-year sentence for killing Cliff Sparks, became a physical and mental wreck. Mike Ryan was shot to death by a town officer near Fort Logan.
     And then there were Jack Crowder, known as “Aspen Jack;” William Chick, nick-named “Chicken Bill;” John Vermillion, called “shoot-your-eye-out Jack,” and “Irish Jimmy,” who never had any other name, according to police records, and a long list of lesser-light habitues of the Arcade—all passed away with few to mourn them.

July 5, 2009 

Arcade: pages 74, 84, 89, 106, 122, 125, 183, 193, 207, 225, 268, 273, 323, 325, 360, 374-75, 378, 382, 392, 400, 405, 443.

"If all the men who claimed to have seen the shooting of Soapy Smith were laid end to end, the line would extend to the equator and back again. "
—Clarence Andrews
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 538.


1799: Andrew Ellicott Douglass witnesses the Leonids meteor shower from a ship off the Florida Keys.
1815: American suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton is born in Johnstown, New York.
1867: Congress begins discussions on “Indian problems” and to negotiate a peace with the Sioux at Fort Laramie, Wyoming Territory.
1892: William "Pudge" Heffelfinger becomes the first professional football player when he is paid a $500 bonus for helping the Allegheny Athletic Association beat the Pittsburgh Athletic Club.
1893: Rocky Mountain News reports on revolutionaries capturing the capture of the custom’s house at Las Paloman, Mexico. The Mexican President raised an army of thirteen thousand to fight the rebels but it was poorly equipped and lacked telegraph communication. Soapy Smith sees an opportunity to profit by raising a private army of mercenaries fighting for the President of Mexico, but organized and led by “Colonel” Smith.


  1. 'lived in Colorado for 21 years. Familiar with a lot of this. 'Very enjoyable reading. Thank you.


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