ho the hell was Harry Gilmore?
We are all mere "students" of history. When I published my book, Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, there was a limit to time and resources I had available to work with. I could not spend the time researching every person Soapy Smith knew. These days I have more time and resources at my disposal. Thus, as a result, I am coming across new and interesting historical information. Today's article regards a con man Soapy knew, named Harry Gilmore, alias "Jim Jordan."
In Alias Soapy Smith I describe him as an opposition figure of "Troublesome" Tom Cady, standing at Soapy's side in Denver on October 11, 1892, the day gambler Cliff Sparks was shot and killed in Murphy's Exchange. The Denver newspapers report that his name is Jim Jordan, alias Harry Gilmore, and I accepted that at the time. A more thorough search indicates it is likely the other way around, his real name being Harry Gilmore, alias "Jim Jordan." Who shot and killed Sparks was never determined, and the murder remains a mystery, though throughout the rest of his life newspapers gave Gilmore credit for the deed when reporting on him.
The shooting of Sparks indirectly caused problems for Soapy six years later in Skagway, Alaska, when brothel proprietor Mattie Silks arrived in town. Her husband, Corteze “Cort” Thomson, was a friend and business partner of Gilmore's and for a brief time was also implicated in the shooting. As told to a Seattle reporter, Silks accused Soapy of plotting to murder her.
While Alias Soapy Smith contains much more detail about Gilmore, the above information summarizes what I knew about him, until very recently. Research of Gilmore in a Denver newspaper suggested that I should try to pick up his trail and follow it. That pursuit led to a landfill of new information about this criminal. For some of the following newspaper listings, the "Harry Gilmore" cited may be about some other criminal using this name. However, all of the listings suggest one and the same person based on details known about the man and the criminal nature of his crimes.
- 1840-1846: Newspapers vary on Harry Gilmore's year of birth. In 1894 the Rocky Mountain News stated he was 48 years old, where as the Morning Star (Washington, D.C.) states that he was 78 at the time of his death in 1918.
- September 15, 1876: Gilmore is incarcerated for burglary and larceny. Jamestown Journal (New York).
- October 18, 1876: Gilmore is in police court for "larceny of gas pipe from J. F. Reardon; [sentenced to] six months in jail." Evening Star (Washington D.C.).
- Unknown date prior to 1881: Gilmore was injured in "A trespassing operation [that] was unsuccessful," and as a result, "there is a silver plate in Gilmore's head to-day." November 8, 1886, Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois).
- March 14, 1881: Gilmore shoots and kills George McBride. Daily Illinois State Journal (Chicago, Illinois).
SHOT AND KILLED.
CHICAGO, March 13.—George McBride, a hostler, in the employ of William B. Simpson, was shot and killed by a well known thief named Harry Gilmore, in front of the Wabash Avenue Pavilion today. Simpson had been on a spree last night, and McBride was sent from his home to hunt him up, and found him in the Pavilion in company with Gilmore. McBride tried to get his employer away, but Gilmore interfered and called McBride names, whereupon McBride invited him outside to settle the matter with fists. When they started out Gilmore was handed a pistol by the bartender. When Simpson saw the pistol in Gilmore's hand he tried to stop the fight, and McBride said he had no intention to fight unarmed against Gilmore. The latter said he had no intention to let his adversary off so, and leveling the pistol over Simpson's shoulder, sent a ball through McBride's temple, killing him instantly. Simpson, the owner of the saloon and the bartender were arrested, but Gilmore escaped.
- March 15, 1881: "A dispatch from Fort Wayne [Indiana] says Gilmore is well known in that city, where it is thought he murdered Corner [Connor?] Webb, three years ago." Evening Leader (Chicago, Illinois).
- June 6, 1881: Gilmore is spotted in Chicago, entering the brothel where his mistress, Monte Hamilton, lived. Police searched the brothel, but Gilmore was not found. Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois).
- Unknown date: Gilmore serves "a two year’s sentence in Fairfield, Iowa for some three-card monte business." November 8, 1886, Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois).
- 1884: Gilmore is sighted in Portland, Oregon, but disappeared before he could be captured. November 7, 1886, Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois).
- November 7, 1886: Gilmore is captured in Chicago by Sergeant Max Kipley and Detective Costello as he emerged from a resort in Calhoune Place. Gilmore is described as "small and elegantly dressed." The paper also wrote that at the time of the murder in 1881 Gilmore was a "young appearing man, with luxurious black hair and beard. As he trembled in the clutch of the officers in his old haunts this morning, he was a man grown prematurely old. His hair and beard were white as snow, and he bore other evidence of having waged brisk war with fear and remorse during the five years that elapsed since the murder he is said to have done. The prisoner denies that he is Gilmore, and says the case is one of mistaken identity." Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois).
- November 8, 1886: Old acquaintances of Gilmore identify the man being held at Central Station in Chicago as Gilmore. The newspaper identifies him as a three-card monte tosser. Details of Gilmore's escape after the 1881 murder are published. Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois).
- December 4, 1886: Gilmore is arrested in Chicago on five charges of larceny, falsely representing himself as an inspector for an insurance company, in which he stole four watches and gold jewelry. Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois).
December 10, 1886: Pleads not guilty for the 1881 murder of George McBride. Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois).
- January 22, 1887: Gilmore is sentenced to 3 years in prison for larceny (see Dec 4, 1886). Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois).
- January 26, 1887: Trial begins for the murder of George McBride (1881). Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois).
- January 28, 1887: Gilmore is convicted of murdering George McBride (1881) and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Evening Star (Washington, D.C.).
- July 10, 1892: The governor of Illinois pardons Gilmore for the murder of George McBride as Gilmore is reported to be dying of consumption. Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois).
- Unknown date: Harry Gilmore is first reported using the alias of "Jim Jordan."
- October 11, 1892: Gilmore, alias "Jim Jordan," is a key suspect in the shooting death of gambler Cliff Sparks, along with Soapy Smith and Thomas Cady. All are acquitted of the murder. Rocky Mountain News, (Denver, Colorado). See blog post of August 3, 2011.
- January 3, 1893: In San Francisco Gilmore, Horace Black, "Kid" McCoy and William Edwards rob Wachhorst's jewelry store of a "large quantity of diamonds" valued at $7,000. April 19, 1894, Rocky Mountain News, (Denver, Colorado).
- February 11, 1894: Gilmore is arrested in Denver along with con man Frank Salter alias "Plunk." The capture of a local criminal who had letters on his person leads to the fact that Harry Gilmore, alias "Jim Jordan," is the leader of a gang of robbers in Denver. Police corruption is suspected as Jordan is released for no apparent reason. Orders are given to rearrest Jordan on vagrancy and suspicion. By the time Gilmore was arrested, a bond for his release had been made out. Gilmore is believed to be a "go-between for the holdups" that have been occurring in Denver for several months. Rocky Mountain News, (Denver, Colorado).
- March 12, 1894: A Chicago newspaper publishes an article stating that "Thomas Jordan, who is under sentence of death in Colorado for killing a watchman at the Grant smelter and whom Governor Waite has refused to pardon, is said to be Harry Gilmore, ..." [could this be just a simple mistake, or could it be an attempt to pass on Gilmore's identity to a convicted man awaiting execution?] Rocky Mountain News, (Denver, Colorado).
- April 1, 1894: A San Francisco sheriff wires Denver police to hold Gilmore until they can arrive and take him back to California for defrauding Len Foster out of $4,000 in the summer of 1893. Gilmore's accomplice is Corteze “Cort” Thomson but there is not enough evidence to charge Thomson with being a co-conspirator in the crime. At some point while in California, Gilmore is also arrested on a burglary charge. Rocky Mountain News, (Denver, Colorado).
- April 15, 1894: In San Francisco, Gilmore partner Horace Black, who is in jail, informs on Gilmore and confesses their Wachhorst diamond robbery. Gilmore is in jail in Denver awaiting the arrival of San Francisco police officers to arrest and return him to California to stand trial. San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California).
- April 19, 1894: A snag in Gilmore's extradition occurs. Denver police had arrested and held Gilmore at the request of Sheriff O'Neil of San Francisco for the diamond robbery in that city, and a private detective was sent to collect Gilmore. However, upon arriving to take charge of his prisoner, the detective was told that Gilmore had been released. California Governor Markham was notified by wire, and a war of words ignited between him and Colorado Governor Waite. The detective was ordered to remain in Denver and follow Gilmore until the tangled legal mess could be unraveled. Rocky Mountain News, (Denver, Colorado).
- May 13, 1897: In Columbus, Ohio, along with other men, Harry Gilmore is arrested, using the alias "Murnan Creet," while defrauding numerous bicycle dealers throughout the state. Cleveland Leader (Cleveland, Ohio).
The plan is a new one and brilliant in its simplicity. One of the men called up Schoedinger & Fearn by telephone, gave the name of a retail dealer, ordered a few pairs of bicycle tires, and said he would send a boy for the tires and the bill. In a few minutes the boy appeared and got the tires. The trio, of course, skipped before the monthly bills were rendered.
From the extensiveness with which the men had operated it is believed that they bagged at least $10,000.
- June 13, 1899: Denver police receive information from Seattle, Washington, that Gilmore is "wanted for working the gold brick swindle." Gilmore, J. R. Green and J. F. Gray "bilked a farmer at Walla Walla, Washington out of $8,000 recently." Rocky Mountain News, (Denver, Colorado). See blog post of December 3, 2017.
- February 4, 1901: In Denver, Gilmore, alias "Jim Jordan," is identified as the "chief bunco man" among the gang being financed by Kittie Fitzgibbons. Others in the gang living at the Belmont hotel are Kid Cunningham, alias Thorne, Annie Piggott, May Sloan, George Barrett, Chris and Charlie, known as "the Swedes," "Sleepy" Jake and Ike Cohen. Rocky Mountain News, (Denver, Colorado).
- December 21, 1902: Gilmore, alias "James Carlisle," is arrested at a race track in New Orleans as a "dangerous and suspicious character." The newspaper makes mention that he had been arrested in Salt Lake City, Utah, and El Paso, Texas (winter of 1901). Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana). According to the December 22, 1902, San Francisco Chronicle, Gilmore was convicted and sentenced to five years in San Quentin for a swindle in Stockton, California.
- February 3, 1905: Gilmore, alias "J. C. Martin," is arrested in Dayton, Ohio. Denver Post (Denver, Colorado).
- August 19, 1905: Gilmore, alias "Jim Jordan," is a key witness in the Pollock diamond robbery in Iowa. Daily Nonpareil (Council Bluffs, Iowa).
- February 1, 1907: Gilmore is identified and sought for check forgery. Morning Star (Washington, D.C.).
- May 5, 1908: In Denver Gilmore and a young female are arrested for larceny and burglarizing $600 worth of furs from the store owned by J. Neilsen. Gilmore was working as a waiter in the Mining Exchange saloon so he was released on personal recognizance. Denver Post (Denver, Colorado).
- June 7, 1908: Gilmore is rearrested in Denver and held pending instructions from several law police departments in the East. In St. Joseph, Missouri, the inspector of detectives recognized Gilmore as "Charles O'Hara," brother of "Cat" O'Hara, serving a life sentence for the murder of a saloon proprietor. Authorities in Omaha, Nebraska, are seeking Gilmore on a charge of forging or passing a U.S. postal order. Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Colorado).
- January 4, 1909: In New Jersey Gilmore is charged with four counts of grand larceny as a boarding house thief working what the newspaper calls the "furnished room game." He enters a plea of non vult, or "no contest," and at age 70 is sentenced to 8 years in prison. The newspaper writes, "The aged offender, now a cripple and forced to use a heavy cane." Jersey Journal (Jersey City, New Jersey).
- April 13, 1911: A Harry Gilmore is given six months in the San Francisco county jail for petty larceny in the hold up of G. F. Fillippi. San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco).
- April 11, 1918: Harry Gilmore dies. Morning Star (Washington, D.C.).
The facts concerning the escape of Gilmore at the time he murdered McBride have never been made public. The crime, which was a most cold-blooded one, was committed in the Wabash Avenue Pavilion, at Nos 542 and 546 of that thoroughfare. After Gilmore shot his victim through the head, he fled to the disreputable house kept by Mav Willard, a block north of the resort. There he had a woman named “Monte,” who was so called because of her relation to Gilmore, who was himself a three-card monte man. He remained there but a few hours, when he was taken on the West Side in a cab and “planted” in the house of a friend of his on Monroe street. There he remained about two weeks, when some of the police “stoolies” betrayed his hiding place, and Captain Buckley and four detectives went over to the house to get him. The officers went to the house next door to that in which Gilmore was hiding, and he was made aware of their presence. When they found their mistake, Gilmore was ready to make a desperate resistance; but a delay at the door gave him a chance to open a window and jump to a shed twenty feet below. As he stood on the sill, one of the officers caught sight of him, and as the murderer jumped a bullet was sent after him. It missed. Gilmore escaped around to Peoria street, thence north to Madison street, where he was lost sight of by the Chicago detectives until yesterday. When he disappeared from sight on Madison street, Gilmore took a car, rode to the Washingtonian Home, and there entered himself as a patient suffering from alcoholism. As such he remained for three weeks, when he sees an opportunity offered of leaving town.Since leaving here he has had some adventures. He has been in every State in the Union, almost, and did a two year’s sentence in Fairfield, Iowa for some three-card monte business. Two years ago his wife was in Chicago trying to make arrangements with the friends of the murdered man to drop the prosecution. Gilmore was then in California, and everything was about completed, when a [illegible word] occurred, and the negotiations fell through.
likely age 63-69
January 7, 1909
OLD JIM JORDAN DIES.
BALTIMORE, Md., April 10.—"Old Jim" Jordan, international confidence man, died in Baltimore today at the age of 78. Jordan was a "de luxe" card sharper, working especially the big transatlantic liners. He had killed two men in his day and was generally feared by the police. His real name was Harry Gilmore.
So ends the recently collected, chronological data for Harry Gilmore, aka "Jim Jordan," and a host of other alias.' No stories are known about what kind of a "card sharper" he was except that he was considered to be of the "deluxe" variety. He probably did not have the polished manner, guile, and nerve of a Soapy Smith, but Gilmore approached being like Soapy in at least a couple of ways: his inveterate pursuit of criminal enterprise and his ability to evade law enforcement and short change the justice system. These are not qualities to be praised. In fact, they're not even qualities, except in how they express a wildness of spirit that refused to submit.
Harry Gilmore, alias "Jim Jordan:" December 3, 2017
Cliff Sparks: August 3, 2011
Harry Gilmore, alias "Jim Jordan:" pages 250-55, 257-58, 507, 520.
Cliff Sparks: pages 79, 250-59, 263, 268, 289, 291-92, 502, 507, 529.
"There are two types of people in this world, good and bad. The good sleep better, but the bad seem to enjoy the waking hours much more."
1787: Delaware is the first state to ratify the U.S. constitution.
1796: John Adams is elected the second president of the U.S.
1836: Martin Van Buren is elected the eighth president of the U.S.
1863: George Ives, a member of the “innocents” outlaw gang, robs and kills Nick Thiebalt in Ruby Valley, Montana Territory.
1869: The James-Younger gang robs the Gallatin, Missouri bank. John W. Sheets, a former captain in the Union Army, is shot and killed by Jesse James. The robbers ride away with about $700.
1871: The town of Kit Carson, Colorado Territory is surrounded by thousands of buffalo, who are ranging 200 miles farther west than usual. The Indians of the region say that it is a prediction of a bad winter.
1874: Twenty-six Indians surrender to Captain Keyes and the 10th Cavalry at Kingfisher Creek, Indian Territory.
1874: Four men rob the Tishomingo Bank in Cornith, Mississippi. Newspapers and some historians say it is the work of the James-Younger gang.
1875: John Clark brings the first flock of sheep into Arizona Territory.
1878: The first train to enter New Mexico Territory comes from Colorado via the Raton Pass.
1888: Buffalo Bill Cody visits Cheyenne, Wyoming.