March 21, 2019

More on the October 1, 1897 saloon brawl in Seattle.

Horseshoe Saloon
circa 1900-1910
(Click image to enlarge)

More details of the October 1, 1897 Horseshoe Saloon brawl.

Up until this post, the details of this saloon free-for-all, what had actually occurred, and why, have been largely unknown. An article dated October 2, 1897 in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer gives a much better picture of the altercation from the previous day.


Knives and Pistols Drawn and Fierce Oaths Used.


“Soapy” Smith said to Have Used the Knife – Eddie Gaffney Gets Mixed Up in It Accidentally and Whips Smith’s Partner, Dugan – Mayberry Had Just Returned From St. Michael on North Fork.

The Horseshoe saloon was the scene of a bloody fight last night. Knives and pistols were drawn, glasses and spittoons thrown and fierce oaths used.

It was a fight such as might be expected in a mining camp, and the wonder is that no lives were lost, as death lay in the deadly thrust of the knife which entered the arm of Elmer Mayberry, a well-known sporting man, and also tore open the coat of Eddie Gaffney, the well-known athlete.
Horseshoe saloon
March 14, 1899
note the large horseshoe sign
University Washington Digital collection
Click image to enlarge
Only for the interference of Gaffney Mayberry would probably have been killed and either Jeff Smith, a Denver sporting man, or his companion, Jimmy Dugan, also of Denver, would now be in the city jail charged with murder.

The role was divided into two acts. During the first Mayberry gave Smith a good beating and Gaffney saved Mayberry from being ripped open with a knife, alleged to have been carried by Dugan. The second act took place after everyone supposed the trouble was quieted, and ended in Dugan being whipped by Gaffney. A cut in Gaffney’s coat near the shoulder tells the story of why he used his athletic ability on Dugan, as Gaffney says he would have been a fit subject for a doctor if he had not seen Dugan’s uplifted hand with a long and murderous looking knife.

The row started over a grudge Smith has for Mayberry, and was ushered in by a few oaths and a throwing of glasses. Smith claims that Mayberry was the aggressor, and Mayberry says that Smith insulted him and then threw the first glass, which he caught and threw back. The glass missed Smith and struck a young man named Foote, nephew of Judge Foote, of San Francisco, squarely in the back, but did not injure him.

Click image to enlarge
Mayberry has been up the Yukon River as far as Fort Yukon. He left Seattle two months ago and returned last evening on the North Fork. After reaching the city Mayberry commenced renewing acquaintances with his friends in Seattle and eventually found himself in the horseshoe saloon, on pioneer place. While he was standing at the bar Jeff Smith and Jimmy Dugan came in. Smith is known all over the country as “Soapy” Smith, and has recently arrived in Seattle from Skaguay, where he has been recognized as the king pin gambler and “smooth man.” Dugan is especially well known in Denver, and is said to have been a deputy sheriff. Smith looks more like a farmer than a clever sport, and Dugan is an honest appearing fellow with black curly hair. Smith achieved notoriety as a “gun man” by killing the editor of the Denver newspaper. He always carries a “gun.”

Mayberry, who used to live in Denver and is well acquainted with Smith, asked him to step up and take a drink. Mayberry says that Smith refused, adding an insulting remark. Mayberry supposed that Smith was joking and did not give the matter any attention. Smith and Dugan passed along to the other end of the bar, and a moment later Eddie Gaffney and a friend walked into the saloon. Mayberry greeted Gaffney and asked him to take a drink. Gaffney said he was only drinking “light stuff.”

“Everybody come up and have a drink,” said Mayberry. “It is Klondike money.”

Smith stood at the bar and a glass of beer was placed in front of him. According to Mayberry’s account, Smith suddenly picked up his glass and threw it at Mayberry, who caught it and threw it back. Smith dodged and the class struck a young fellow named Foote in the back. No sooner had he thrown the glass than Mayberry let go his right at Smith’s face and caught him under the eye. Smith was not slow in getting to work, and in a minute there was a hot fight in progress. The saloon was in an uproar and business was suspended. Mayberry was giving Smith more than the law allowed and Dugan rushed in to help out his friend. Mayberry realized that something had happened when he felt the point of a cold steel inter his left arm, on a level with his heart. Again the knife ripped his clothes over his bowels.
The entrance to the Horseshoe
 Click image to enlarge
Gaffney saw that Mayberry’s wife was in danger and went at Dugan. He grabbed him with all the strength he has acquired in bicycle riding and wrestling, forcing his heavier antagonist back and away from Mayberry and Smith. Mayberry being left alone with the notorious “Soapy,” got him down on the floor and, according to the best obtainable version, made him give up. Mayberry allowed Smith to get up and Gaffney released Dugan. The men were bloody and in places the floor was sprinkled with red stuff. Broken glass was sprinkled around, and one of the big glass doors on the side of the room opposite the bar was smashed into splinters.

Mayberry’s friends Saw that blood was trickling from his left arm, and a casual investigation showed that he had been stabbed. Someone looked at his trousers near the waistband and found that the cloth was ripped open in three or four places. While the crowd was discussing the merits of the “scrap,” and one was telling the other. “Well, you see it was this way.” Gaffney walked into the toilet room to wash himself. Something told him that a person was behind him and he glanced up just in time, he says, to see a man at his back with his hand upraised. In that hand was a long, dangerous and knife. The man who held the knife had curly hair. It was Dugan. Quick as a flash Gaffney turned, and as he did so the knife came down. Gaffney thought it was all day with him, but he dodged as best he could, and the murderous blade only ripped open his coat from the back of the shoulder downward a short distance.

Before Dugan could recover Gaffney hit him in the face and knocked him against the wall. Following up his advantage Gaffney got a half Nelson, and held Dugan so he could not use the knife. About this time Mayberry showed up on the scene and seeing Gaffney in trouble let a spittoon fly at Dugan’s head. It missed the mark and smashed up against the wall. According to Gaffney he and Dugan worked out of the toilet room during their struggle and were in front of the entrance to the cafĂ© when Gaffney caught sight of a man with a “gun” in his hand.

“Get into the room for your life,” said Gaffney to Dugan, forcing him back. Dugan, who had been forced to let the knife drop, allowed himself to be pushed through the door. Mayberry was with them and refused to allow the man with the revolver to enter. The man with the gun was Jack Thompson, and for a moment it looked as if there would be a wholesale shooting. One man who sold the trouble said that three guns were in sight when he came to the conclusion that it was time to step out.

But climax lasted for five seconds and closed by good judgment getting the better of hot temper. Gaffney let go of Dugan and left the saloon with friends. Mayberry was finally coaxed away and taken to Dr. H. D. Klein’s office in the Bailey building, where his wounds were dressed. They were not dangerous. Smith and Dugan remained at the saloon a while nursing the big bumps on their faces. Smith claimed that Mayberry started the row by throwing a glass at him and Dugan said he was washing his head when someone hit him with a spittoon.

The real cause of the trouble is said to be a dispute about money matters between Mayberry and Smith.

Mayberry refused to make any complaint, so detectives Cudihee and Meredith, who did not see any part of the trouble, did not make any arrests.


I knew "knives" were used, but this is the first account that specifically names "Soapy" as having a knife in his hands. The grudge between Soapy and Elmer Mayberry, a sporting man from Denver who apparently knew Soapy. That both Soapy and Jimmy Dugan were "whipped," losing this fight. The intensive details of the action as it took place, from start to finish. The details of the wounds obtained by each of the combatants. The details of Dugan's attempt to stab Gaffney in the restroom were especially interesting. Jack Thompson, the man who drew a gun on Gaffney as he was exiting the restroom, is very probably, James Thompson, a member of the Soap Gang from Denver.

Note that Soapy "achieved notoriety as a 'gun man' by killing the editor of the Denver newspaper." This is not accurate, as they speak of the 1889 beating Soapy gave John Arkins of the Rocky Mountain News (Denver).

Original clipping
Click image to enlarge

December 22, 2009
April 25, 2011 
December 3, 2015

Horse Shoe Saloon: page 443, 502.
Jimmy Dugan: page 443.
James Thompson (Jack Thompson): page 365.

"I don’t mind a man cheatin' at poker as long as he ain't cheatin' me."


1788: Most of New Orleans, Louisiana is destroyed by fire.
1790: Thomas Jefferson reports to U.S. President George Washington as the new secretary of state.
1826: The Rensselaer School in Troy, New York is incorporated. The school later becomes known as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is the first engineering college in the U.S.
1851: Yosemite Valley is discovered in California.
1859: The first Zoological Society is incorporated in Philadelphia.
1868: The Sorosos club for professional women is formed in New York City by Jennie June.
1879: Per the agreement with New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace, outlaws, Billy the Kid and Josiah "Doc" Skurlock surrender to Lincoln County Sheriff George Kimball.
1882: Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Warren Earp ambush and kill Frank Stilwell, member of the Clanton gang at Tucson, Arizona. Soapy Smith knew Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Members of the Earp gang later join the Soap Gang.
1883: Four settlers are reported killed in an Apache Indian raid led by Chato, Chihvahua, and Bonito, 12 miles southwest of Fort Huachuca, Arizona Territory.
1890: General George Crook dies of heart failure at age 61 while lifting weights. General William Sherman called him "the greatest Indian fighter and manager the Army of the United States ever had." Indian Chief, Red Cloud said, "He, at least, never lied to us." Crook had spent his last years campaigning for Indian rights.
1890: Bob and Emmett Dalton are arrested for selling liquor to the Indians of the Osage Nation at Pawhuska, Indian Territory. This is the first known criminal act of the outlaw Dalton Gang.
1891: A Hatfield marries a McCoy, ending the 20-year long family feud in West Virginia.
1898: A U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry finds that the battleship Maine was destroyed by a submarine mine. This is the cause of the Spanish-American War and the reason Soapy Smith created the Skaguay Military Company, his private militia. It’s real reason for creation is thought to be used as a legal force against Soapy’s enemies.
1902: Three Park Avenue mansions are destroyed when a New York subway tunnel roof caves in.
1905: Sterilization legislation is passed in Pennsylvania, but is vetoed by the governor.
1906: Ohio passes a law prohibiting hazing by fraternities after two fatalities.
1906: Creede, Colorado madame, Lillis Lovell dies, with an estate worth $40,500.
1907: U.S. Marines land in Honduras to protect American interests during a war with Nicaragua.
1910: The U.S. Senate grants ex-President Teddy Roosevelt a yearly pension of $10,000.
1916: Cole Younger, the last of the outlaw James-Younger gang, dies of a heart attack.

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