December 31, 2019

John Henry "The Kid" Foster, arrested in 1925

John H. "The Kid" Foster
Fort Collins Courier
(Fort Collins, Colorado)
May 18, 1923

(Click image to enlarge)

he "Kid" Foster

In the past I mistook "John Henry Foster" and "W. E. Foster," as being one and the same. Both were members of the Soap Gang, and so many of the confidence men used alias,' some having numerous, some whose real names have yet to be discovered. Luckily, I figured out the puzzle before Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel was published. [1]
      John Henry Foster, alias "the Kid" (later using the alias of "J. W. Reed"), did belong to the Soap Gang, but his history previous to 1898 in Skagway, Alaska is not known. Was he a member of the Denver bunco brotherhood? Time may reveal the answer.
      In Skagway, Foster ran the Grotto Saloon, one of four saloons opened by August 1898.[2] Soapy Smith arrived in Skagway on August 20, 1897 and naturally gravitated towards the saloons, so it is likely that if the two men did not know each other previously, then they would have met on or around August 20th. It is known that Soapy, with the help of Frank Clancy, aided Foster's election to become a city counsel member, assisting Soapy's reign in Skagway.

The Grotto Saloon
Holly Street
Skagway, Alaska
(circled in red)
Pre-spring 1898
Courtesy of KGNHP

(Click image to enlarge)

      The above photo shows Holly Street (later changed to 6th Avenue). If Cathy Spude's location map in Archeological Investigations in Skagway, Alaska: Mascot Saloon is correct, then Foster's Grotto Saloon was located in the approximate location shown within the red circle. It is not known if this was the original location from August 1897 when it was opened. Soapy's saloon, Jeff Smith's Parlor, will occupy the First Bank of Skaguay shown in the blue circle, opening in the spring of 1898. In the meantime, Soapy and the gang worked out of numerous saloons, including the Grotto.

The Grotto Saloon
6th Avenue
Skagway, Alaska
Post-spring 1898
Courtesy of University of Washington Library

(Click image to enlarge)

      The above photo shows 6th Avenue (previously Holly Street). Foster's Grotto Saloon, the approximate location, is pointed out, as is Jeff Smith's Parlor (Clancy's in this photo).
      After Soapy was killed, it was first revealed to the town that Foster and others were actually working with the bunco men. Some either fled or were arrested by the vigilantes that took Soapy's empire down.
... two thirds of the city council of six was also under Jeff’s control. At a special meeting, tendered were the resignations of J. H. Foster, Frank E. Burns, and W. F. Lokowitz. Council member J. Allen Hornsby was not there because he was being fired from his position as editor of the Daily Alaskan for complicity with Jeff Smith and was being “asked” to leave town. As Counsel member Spencer could not attend the meeting, the single remaining “member, Chairman Sperry,” had by himself “to make, second, put before the house and vote on a motion to adjourn.” Even “The new school board” that day reported it was “now ‘shy’ a member.” The Citizens’ Committee soon replaced the four counsel members with men of its own and then had control of the city.[3]
      It is not known if Foster fled, or was detained and forced to leave. Foster went (returned?) to Denver, Colorado where at some point between 1898 and 1922 he became a member of the Blonger Gang, the successors of Soapy's reign in Denver.
      Foster was working with con men, J. K. Ross and Arthur Cooper in extracting $50,000 from C. H. Hubbell, who was arranging to hand over the entire sum when the three con men were arrested [4] on August 24, 1922, Foster was arrested during a monumental raid that netted 33 of the main Blonger gangsters, shutting down Blonger's empire permanently. In 1923, during one of the most publicized trials to that time, the Lou Blonger and his cohorts were convicted and sentenced to prison at Cañon City Penitentiary. Lou Blonger died there just six months after he arrived.
      Foster was released on a $5,000 bond, dropped down from $11,000. He returned to the court on time, one month later (October 28, 1922) and had his trial. Upon being found guilty, Foster attempted to escape hiding in a locker. That information is included in a story on Foster published seven months later, on May 17, 1923 when it was feared that Foster might once again attempt to escape prison by gaining access to a dentist, outside the prison wall. The Fort Collins Courier published the story the following day.

Bunko Man, Heavily Guarded, to Visit Dentist-Teeth Hurt

DENVER. May 17.—False teeth and jail victuals, according to the officials of the district attorney’s office, are the responsible for a court order issued today permitting J. H. Foster, convicted bunko man, to leave his cell at the county jail.
      Foster is to start visiting a dentist to have a new plate made. He will be the first of the twenty convicted men to appear on the city’s streets since the trial.
      “I’ve got to have a better fit, if I’m going to chew this jail grub,” is Foster’s complaint.
      Foster, alias the Kid, according to Deputy Sheriff Jim Marshall, will be accompanied to the office of a dental specialist in the Metropolis building by an armed guard.
      Special precautions are necessary, according to Marshall, because it was Foster who hid in a small closet the day the twenty bunko men were being led to their cells after the jury verdict had been returned.
      Foster was missed from the line and a search was made for him immediately. He was found hiding in the locker, possibly intending to make a break for freedom before he was missed. Marshall declares that he is determined to keep close watch on the man to prevent any possible attempts at escape in the future.[5]

      On September 15, 1925 Foster was released from the Colorado state prison at Cañon City. He walked right into the hands of federal officers waiting to arrest him for another crime he had committed, and surely believed he had gotten away with. The Ogden Standard Examiner reported the event the following day.

CANON CITY. Colo., Sept 16.
– (AP) – As he stepped from the state penitentiary here Tuesday at the completion of a sentence imposed following his conviction as a member of the Denver “bunco ring.” John H. Foster was arrested by federal officers on a warrant charging him with using the males to defraud, issued at Jacksonville, Fla.

      He will be taken to Denver to await officials from Jacksonville. New, foster entered the prison in June, 1923. To serve a sentence of from three to 10 years.[6]

John Henry Foster arrested again
Ogden Standard Examiner
September 16, 1925

(Click image to enlarge)

1. Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel can be purchased HERE.
2. Archeological Investigations in Skagway, Alaska: Mascot Saloon, by Catherine Holder Spude, p. 18.
3. Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, p. 563.
4. Denver Post, September 6, 1922.
5. Fort Collins Courier (Fort Collins, Colorado) May 18, 1923.
6. Ogden Standard Examiner, September 16, 1925.

For information regarding John H. Foster's time and trial with the Blonger Brothers: Visit

December 22, 2014,

John H. Foster: page 80, 518, 563.

"They shot all night. You could hear the shooting and see the flashes in the hills when they were shooting. They weren’t shooting at anything, they were just shooting. The gang was hiding in the hills. One guy hid under our house, until dark, and then he tore out. Mother wouldn’t tell on him. We didn’t want the guy to get shot. He stayed under there until it got dark and then he beat it."
—Royal Pullen, Alias Soapy Smith, p. 563.


1775: The British repulse an attack by Continental Army generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold at Quebec. Montgomery is killed in the battle.
1841: The state of Alabama enacts the first dental legislation in the U.S.
1852: The richest year of the California gold rush produces $81.3 million in gold.
1862: U.S. President Lincoln signs an act admitting West Virginia to the Union.
1873: Four soldiers of Company B, 25th Infantry are attacked by Indians at Eagle Spring Texas. One Indian is wounded.
1877: U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes is the first to celebrate his silver (25th) wedding anniversary in the White House.
1879: Thomas Edison gives his first public demonstration of incandescent lighting in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
1891: New York's new Immigration Depot is opened at Ellis Island, to provide improved facilities for the massive numbers of arrivals.
1897: The city of Brooklyn, New York, is absorbed by the city of New York.

December 29, 2019

Creede Colorado's first piano, 1892

The Illustrated Police News
April 9, 1892

(Click image to enlarge)

reed's first piano

Soapy Smith saved many newspaper articles, which still remain in the Smith family collections. In my personal collection is an issue of the Police Illustrated News, April 9, 1892. In that issue is a story on Creede, Colorado and their first piano. Obviously from the drawing above this was big news in the new camp.
      Below is the accompanying article.


      A piano came into the new Colorado boom city of Creede a fortnight ago, the "advance courier," as the Daily Crusher declared in a column article on the subject the next day, "of a long line of musical instruments which will make these mountain fastnesses ring with melody, and create a symphonous accompaniment to the everlasting music of the resonant steel discs of the saw mill up Poverty Gulch. The piano has come to stay. It is set up in a dance hall, where its tired strings are nightly hammered by a long-haired virtouso, who sweeps out the corks in the early dawn, places the ''dead drunks' tenderly under the wooden bunks in the retiring rooms, and acts as tout for his rendezvous when the stage whirls in in the afternoon."
      There is much of open violation of law in Creede, and as the Crusher's rival, the Prospector, stated in its issue, "the midnight air is rasped by the assassin's bullet. Shootings are common enough, and there is not much of police protection. There is, however, an association of bearded, reputable, determined men, who never fail to receive respect from desperadoes when they find themselves compelled to resort to the vigilantes' ultimatum. Invitations to leave the camp are promptly compelled with. 'you have twenty-four hours in which to leave town,' wrote a committee of this kind once in Cheyenne's active days. 'Gentlemen,' came the brief and scholarly response, in fine Italian hand, 'gentlemen, if my mule doesn't buck I'll not need more than tweenty-four minutes.' An intimation of a public desire here is sufficient to meet with prompt obedience."


November 9, 2016,

Creede: pages 11, 63, 73, 75, 77, 79, 82-84, 87-89, 90, 94, 131, 137, 183, 197-235, 236-42.

"We put armed guards on all the wharves,” Graves continued, with orders to shoot on sight if anyone tried to escape in a boat. Thus escape by land or water was cut off…. Some tried to get away in boats and were caught by our guards. Some tried the Pass, and Heney and Hawkins got them, and the rest we got by an organized search of the town…, except a few who took to the mountains where we shall starve them out. But we got more than we could find jail room for, so we selected thirty-one of the leaders, and let the rest go with a warning to get out of town, and keep out. Now our job is to save the men we have in jail from the infuriated mob, which is clamoring for their blood."
— Samuel H. Graves, president of the White Pass & Yukon Railway
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 562.


1812: The USS Constitution wins a sea battle with the British HMS Java 30 miles off the coast of Brazil. Before Commodore William Bainbridge orders the sinking of the Java he had her wheel removed to replace the one the Constitution lost during the battle.
1813: The British burn Buffalo, New York during the War of 1812.
1837: Canadian militiamen destroyed the Caroline, a U.S. steamboat docked at Buffalo, New York.
1845: U.S. President James Polk signs legislation making Texas (comprised of the present state of Texas and part of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming) the 28th state of the Union, with the provision that the area (389,166 square miles) should be divided into no more than five states "of convenient size."
1848: U.S. President James Polk turns on the first gas light at the White House.
1851: The first American Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) is organized, in Boston, Massachusetts.
1879: Charlie Parkhurst, a stage driver in the rough trails of the California Sierra Nevada Mountains, is found dead of natural causes. More astonishing to those who knew Charlie, is the after death discovery that Charley was a woman.
1883: Soapy Smith operates the prize package soap racket along Congress Street in Tucson, Arizona.
1890: The “Wounded Knee Creek massacre” takes place on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, when Colonel James Forsyth of the U.S. 7th Cavalry attempts to disarm Chief Big Foot and his followers. At least 128 men, women, and children of the Lakota Sioux had been killed and 33 wounded. 25 soldiers were killed, and 39 wounded. It is believed that some of the soldiers were the victims of friendly fire, as the shooting took place at close range in chaotic conditions, but there were deaths by arrows. At least twenty troopers were awarded the coveted Medal of Honor in this, the last battle of the Indian Wars.

December 28, 2019

Soapy Smith first arrives in Skagway, Alaska August 20, 1897, 5 p.m.

The Utopia
Circa November 17, 1898
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

oapy's first arrival in Skagway: August 20, 1897, 5 p.m.

On November 6, 2017, I published a newspaper clipping, from the Seattle Post Intelligencer, August 14, 1897 which was of importance as it was significant evidence of when Soapy had first arrived in Skagway, Alaska onboard the steamer Utopia. Soapy is listed as a passenger, as is "L. W. Tozier" (Leroy Tozier), who's letter is written on August 20th, the day the Utopia arrived in Skagway, and published on September 1, 1897. From the previous posts I was certain that the Utopia had arrived between August 18-22, in the late afternoon, and now, with this published letter, I know that the Utopia, with Soapy on board, arrived on August 20, 1897 at 5 p.m. finally ending decades of debate as to the definitive date and time of his first arrival.
      Of importance, is the name Jesse Murphy, mentioned at the start of paragraph 3. Could this be the same Jesse Murphy who shot and killed Soapy on July 8, 1898?
      The remainder of the article pertains to an interesting look at the earliest days of Skagway. 

Seattle Daily Times
Wednesday, September 1, 1897
Seattle Washington
Page 5


 ̄ ̄ ̄
Well-known Seattle Man Writes From Skaguay.

 ̄ ̄ ̄

 ̄ ̄ ̄
Tells About Various Seattle Argonauts and 
What They Are Doing – All Have Hopes of 
Getting Over the Back-Breaking Divide.

 ̄ ̄ ̄
Capt. E. J. Powers has received the following interesting letter from Leroy Tozier. Everybody in Seattle knows Tozier and will be interested in what he has to say:

Skaguay Bay, August 20, 1897.
      We dropped anchor here at 5 p.m. midway between the British steamers Bristol and Islander, they both having arrived today some three and five hours before us respectively. The three vessels, Utopia, Islander and Bristol, added just 650 persons to the population of Skaguay, which the city, if it may be so-called, is indeed a wonder. 3000 and 800 people are in camp between the water and the summit of White Pass waiting to cross. After a visit on shore, during which time I interviewed men who had been here for from 3 to 4 weeks, I will say that not 10% of the 3800 will cross this season. Seven horses have been killed on the trail by falling from the narrow path during the two days just past, and it is simply hire animals or men to pack goods. Many are preparing to go into winter quarters, and if I mistake not Skagway will be a lively camp during the fall and winter, but not a few have sold their outfits and will return to their home disgusted and without funds. Jack Levy and Frank and Dan Egan are going through, but have met many obstacles that would have defeated those of less courage: Jack Scurry, and Terry and party are in camp a short distance of the trail with fair prospects for getting through. Mr. Green, the undertaker, and party are camped near the beach and so far have made no onward move, except to get under way by Monday. Trennuman sold his Indian steed and intends to do a Yankee trading business until able to go in over the snow. George Noble will move toward the promised lands tomorrow. He was detained by sickness, having been abed for five days, but is now in good condition and has a chance to get through. Charles Cole abandoned part of his outfit and will start in tomorrow by way of Dyea. To my surprise I learned that J. D. Thaggard is among the few who have crossed and is now well on his way to Dawson city. Capt. Barrington and party profited by the captain’s knowledge of the festive red man’s ways and language and went in via Dyea.
      Advise friends to wait until spring, as a blockade is on and with those here and coming five thousand men will be compelled to remain in Skaguay until spring or return home. Several have horses and wagons. They are making from $80 to $100 per day with each team hauling freight from scows to parts of the camp. There is ample room for a city and it is not true that the town is on a barren and rocky beach or that the campers are suffering for shelter. One hundred yards from high tide water there is a grove where a majority are in camp many in tents, some in frame buildings and a very few in the open. Each steamer having space brings lumber from Juneau and before severe weather comes this place will present a comfortable and substantial appearance. The weather is delightful, with the exception of a breeze which comes up Lynn Canal about 3 p. m. and lasts till 7 or 8 p. m. The wind does not inconvenience campers, but makes unloading vessels at anchor somewhat slow and difficult, but not necessarily dangerous. A large piledriver now at anchor in the harbor will soon be used in constructing a wharf 1000 feet in length from high tide to deep water. C. Sperry and F. Clancy have filed upon a water route leading from the flat or city proper up the mountain side to a beautiful lake situated in a basin at an altitude of 800 feet, from which water can be piped at a small expense. When Skaguay becomes a railway terminus they will have a bonanza.
      Ex-Register Jesse Murphy of Olympia, who assisted in surveying the town site, has a general merchandise store and is making big money. R. O. Lasier and party have their tent pitched in an ideal camping spot, where they will remain until winter: then go inside over the ice and snow. Jack D is teaming and doing a rushing and remunerative business. Ex-Collector Andrew Wasson and party are pushing onward and may get through, but like others who have abandoned their boats will have serious trouble at the Lakes in getting afloat. Robert Morgan and Barney McGee are at Lake Bennett awaiting the arrival of small outfits from this side, intending to go inside on receipt of same. Joe and I will go to Dyea Sunday and start for Dawson with our 350 pounds on Monday. Have not the slightest doubt as to our ability to get in as we can get over the Chilkoot Pass in six days and will do all are packing ourselves. We will encounter difficulties in getting our boat over, but will get there just the same. Joe Slenthus has recovered from his tumbled down the stairway and is now out with his pic examining a mountain back of the town. He got his optics on a quarts [quartz] formation by looking through Mariner’s glasses and would give me no rest until I got a ship’s boat and rowed him to the mountain. Expect to go after him soon and will not be surprised to find him with a ton of rock ready for shipment by return steamer. So many have requested personal letters that in order to reply I would have to write all the while; therefore kindly read this and let it act as a circular letter to my friends in Seattle. If you desire to be brief to all not to go to the Klondike until they can travel over the ice and snow or until spring. Tell Archie Hayes that he missed it by not coming, as the packing rate is from 35 to 50 cents, and any old thing in the shape of a horse sells on sight for $150 or $200. Further tell him that if he intends coming in the spring to bring mules or small horses, as the mules are heartier and small horses have a decided advantage over large animals owning to the narrow path and numerous blogs. Town “Uncle” Abner Gilmore and “Uncle” George B. Walker that the seductive game of faro is not in favor here as yet, but all who desire to get “action” upon spare change can find a place and time in any of the five “clubs” now open. Will do my best to send a line from Dyea, but may not have time. With best regards to yourself and my inquiring friends, yours in F. C. and B., Leroy Tozier.
      Just learned that a sawmill plant [Built and operated by Captain William Moore] is here and is now being placed in position and within a few days will be in operation. The company is loaded with orders and cannot fill them for two months.

November 6, 2017

"I found an Italian bootblack and made a contract with him to black my boots for twenty-five cents, which seems high unless you saw the boots. But he hardly got himself into action when I felt a light touch on my shoulder and saw Hislop apparently deprecating the performance. ‘It is hardly wise just now’ he said…. I thought he meant that it was a poor investment in view of the fact that the boots would soon be bad as ever. But he explained that the public feeling was very excited and ran high, and that while it did not necessarily follow course that a man was honest because he had dirty boots, on the other hand there was an irresistible presumption that if his boots shone, he must earn his living by questionable methods."
— Samuel H. Graves, president of the White Pass and Yukon Railway
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 556.


1732: The Pennsylvania Gazette, owned by Benjamin Franklin, runs an ad for the first issue of Poor Richard’s Almanack.
1832: John C. Calhoun steps down as vice president over differences with President Jackson. He is the first vice president to resign.
1846: Iowa is the 29th state to be admitted to the Union.
1869: William E. Semple, of Mt. Vernon, Ohio, patents an acceptable chewing gum. The previous “gums” were not very tasty to put into ones mouth.
1872: Dodge City, Kansas saloon employee, Matthew Sullivan, is shot and killed by an unknown assailant who fired through the window of the saloon. Rumor and accusation point at Bully Brooks as the likely suspect.
1875: Charles Earl “Black Bart” Bowles robs the North San Juan-Marysville stage in California. At the conclusion of the robbery he leaves behind an unusual calling card: a poem.
1877: John Stevens applies and receives a patent for his flour-rolling mill, which boosts production by 70%.
1881: City Marshal Virgil Walter Earp of Tombstone, Arizona Territory is ambushed and shot from behind as he walked from the Oriental saloon to his room at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. He is hit in the back and left arm by three loads of double-barreled buckshot. He survives the attack but is crippled. The ambushers are never revealed although there are numerous suspects.
1882: Henry Brown, assistant marshal, is appointed city marshal of Caldwell, Kansas.
1895: Soapy Smith, Edward Keeley, William “Holland” White, and Charles “Major” Meary, swindled J. R. Landry of out of $34 in a rigged poker game in New Orleans, Louisiana.
1902: The first professional indoor football game is played at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Syracuse defeats the Philadelphia Nationals 6-0.

December 26, 2019

Artifact #60: Japanese cryptomeria ad sent to Mary Noonan, 1910

"Mrs. J. Smith"
cryptomeria envelope
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

apanese cryptomeria ad

      For years this ad has been part of my personal collection, but all I knew of it was that it was from Japan or China, appears to be made of bamboo, and is addressed to "Mrs J. Smith." I found it dull and almost decided to skip it, moving on to artifact #61. I decided to see what I could find out about it. When I realized that it exposed a new home local for Mary (Soapy's widow) I decided to publish it. 
      The envelop is addressed to "Mrs. J. Smith, 5348 North Market, St. Louis, Mo. USA." This is Mary Eva Noonan, widow of Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith. The date on the postmark reads "8-11-10" which is either August 11, 1910 or November 8, 1910. Either way in 1910 Mary is Mrs. John P. Little, whom she married on April 20, 1904.

5348 North Market
St. Louis, Missouri
Not positive of this location
Google maps

(Click image to enlarge)

      Google Maps was not the best help for locating "5348 North Market, St. Louis, Missouri." Changes in street addresses were common in the past. It is not known when Mary and John moved here, but by 1910 they were living at 5583 Wells Avenue, St. Louis, where they lived through 1920.

Home of Mary and John Little
5583 Wells Avenue
Google Maps

(Click image to enlarge)

Cryptomeria ad

(Click image to enlarge)

      Both the envelope and ad are made of cryptomeria or balsa wood paper, the ad being backed by paper, for added strength I would guess. The ad contains a printed picture and what appears to be a typed personal message, but I located another near identical ad from the same company, with the same exact "typed" text. The only difference being the picture used. The bottom signature is of the same name, and does differ, meaning it was probably not printed.  I found one cryptomeria collectors group to find out whatever else they could tell me about it, but as of yet, no one replied.
      Stix, Baer and Fuller (sometimes called "Stix" or SBF or the Grand-Leader) was a department store chain in St. Louis, Missouri that operated from 1892 to 1984. The store was founded in 1892 by Charles Stix, brothers Julius Baer and Sigmond Baer, and Aaron Fuller. It was a public company, with its stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange. For many years the company was known as the leading high-end fashion store in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. They also had store branches in Yokohama, Kobe Shanghai, Canton, Manila and Hong Kong. They imported and handled goods from China, French Indo-China, including ceramics, embroideries [old and new], art ware, antiques, hand made items, garments, baby clothes, etc.

Store interior as Mary saw it.

(Click image to enlarge)

Stix, Baer and Fuller -USA (Wikipedia)
Stix, Baer and Fuller -JAPAN

"The citizens have called a mass meeting to consider what steps are to be taken, and it means a fight, and they look to us to lead them."
— Samuel H. Graves, president of the White Pass and Yukon Railway
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 556.


1620: The Mayflower, with 102 passengers, arrives at New Plymouth, Massachusetts to create the Plymouth Colony, with John Carver as Governor.
1776: The British suffer a major defeat against the Colonial Army in the Battle of Trenton during the American Revolution.
1859: 173 Texas Rangers and 165 U.S. regulars attack the outlaw position held by Juan Cortina in Rio Grande City. Hand-to-hand combat forces Cortina's retreat.
1861: Confederate irregulars defeat pro-Union Indians at Chustenahlah, Indian Territory.
1862: 38 Dakota Indians are hung in Mankato, Minnesota for their part in an uprising. The mass execution is the largest in U.S. history.
1863: A Denver brothel, the Highland “Aunt Betsy’s” House, is burnt down by a mob of soldiers. Bill Duffield, a soldier is shot and killed by Joseph Kittery when told they could not enter. The following day a mob of soldiers obtained the deceased from inside and then burnt down the brothel.
1865: The coffee percolator is patented by James H. Mason.
1866: Lieutenant Colonel George Crook leads a company of the 1st Cavalry against Indians at Owyhee Creek, Idaho Territory, killing 30 and taking 7 prisoners while losing only one soldier.
1867: A detachment of Company K, 9th Cavalry, near Ft Lancaster, Texas, is attacked by Indians. Three soldiers are killed during the two days of fighting.
1869: Lieutenant Howard B. Cushing with Company F, 3rd Cavalry, from Ft Stanton, New Mexico, along with 28 citizen volunteers, attack a Mescalero Apache Indian village at the old stage stop of Pine Spring in the Guadalupe Mountains of Texas. One officer is severely wounded.
1874: The first commercial buffalo hunt is conducted in Texas by Joe McComb.
1880: Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garret deposits his prisoners, including Billy the Kid, in the Las Vegas, New Mexico, Territory jail.
1883: Soapy Smith purchases a street vendors license in Phoenix, Arizona for selling his prize package soap.
1909: Western artist Frederic Remington dies at age 48 in Connecticut.

December 24, 2019

For years Soapy Smith was the only fakir allowed in Phoenix, Arizona.

A Phoenix man’s recollection
Arizona Republic
Phoenix Arizona
Wed., July 20, 1898
page 5

(Click image to enlarge)

or years he was the only fakir allowed in the city, and a more skillful one has never operated anywhere.

      On December 22, 2019 I posted a newspaper clipping that is a precursor to this newspaper clipping here. Published in the Arizona Republic (Phoenix Arizona) on Wed., July 20, 1898.


A Phoenix man’s recollection of the dead gambler

      Late advices from Dawson City give an account of the dead with his boots on of “Soapy” Smith, at one time the best known gambler on the great divide. A former Coloradoan who had known him since the early eighties, told a Republican reporter yesterday that “Soapy” Smith was directly responsible for the permanent closing of gambling in Denver. It came about in this wise: The Rocky Mountain News, under the talented and lamented [sic] John Arkins, took an occasional fall out of the gambling element, not for the purpose of suppressing gambling, but with the idea of showing its influence from time to time and keeping the gamblers from getting proud and arrogant. One morning in 1887 the News rounded up the local sporting world and included “Soapy” Smith. Mr. Smith had been sitting up the night before steadily losing money at faro and drinking bad whiskey as a counter irritant. He was not in a jovial mood when he read the News’ attack upon himself and his profession. Procuring a heavy cane he sought the places where Mr. Arkins was want to congregate. Within a minute after the meeting the editor of the News was bruised and senseless and that day there was an entry made in a book at the News office. “Gambling must cease in Denver.” It did cease, and though Arkins died long ago, antipathy to gambling is still a part of the policy of the News.
      Like all gamblers, “Soapy” Smith was not without a strong generous vein. One day a collector for Daniel and Frazer, a big dry goods firm, encountered Smith. The collector had lost all of his own money and began dipping into a sack which Smith knew contained the firm’s collections. When the collector had lost $100 of his employer’s cash, Smith quit playing. Wrapping a $100 bill within a $5, unobserved by the youth, he offered it to him for $10, then for $8, $5, $4 and $3. Bystanders wanted to buy the wad at the last named figure, but Smith would sell only to the collector. That young man had been disappointed so much within the preceding hour or two that he wouldn’t invest in golden eagles at a dollar apiece. Smith finally put the money in the collector’s vest pocket and lectured him upon the folly and danger of gambling with other people’s money.
      Smith’s last famous exploit in Denver was the defense of the city hall against Governor Waite when that sanguinary executive was trying to subvert police authority by the aid of the state militia. “Soapy” Smith got his name from selling soap on street corners. For years he was the only fakir allowed in the city, and a more skillful one has never operated anywhere.

The article is filled with errors. It would be interesting to find out if the "collector for  Daniel and Frazer" is true.

December 22, 2019

"Mrs. Smith,
Dear Friend, yours to hand and glad to hear from you. I know they will say that Jeff had nothing when you went up but I think the Saloon must be a part his [—] only way it looks like he would have paid for something and the 2,100 that they claim that they found in his trunk must belong to him for they claimed that the man lost 3,200 so I think you can get that. Did you get Jeff’s personal effects? I suppose they stole everything. I will be here for a week, so write to me here as I will get it. Let me hear all the news.
Yours as Ever
Bascom Smith,
Care of Tom Sanders Saloon"
— Bascomb Smith, Alias Soapy Smith, p. 554.


1814: The War of 1812 between the U.S. and England ends with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium.
1851: A fire in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, devastates 35,000 volumes.
1859: The entire population of Boulder, Colorado Territory equaling 200 men and 17 women attends the Christmas dance at Bill Barney's dance hall.
1864: Boise of Idaho becomes the capitol of the territory.
1865: the Ku Klux Klan is organized by veterans of the Confederate Army in Pulaski, Tennessee.
1866: A detachment of Company C, 4th Cavalry, from Ft Clark, Texas battle with Indians on Mud Creek near the post.
1877: Outlaw Henry Underwood, member of the Sam Bass Gang, is arrested for complicity in the Big Springs, Texas train robbery of September 18, 1877. He is jailed in Kearney, Nebraska, but will escape and be recaptured before being brought to trial.
1877: A. A. McSween and John Chisum are jailed on embezzlement charges in Las Vegas, New Mexico, Territory.
1880: Outlaw Billy the Kid is put in chains at Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory.
1881: Outlaw Jesse James dresses as Santa Claus in Missouri for his two children, Jesse Jr. Age 6 and Mary age 2. It is Jesse's last Christmas before being killed.
1888: The Solomon-Bowie stage is robbed of its mail in Arizona Territory.
1888: Outlaw brothers Harry and George Gordon rob the Eastern Overland Express train from above, repelling down rope ladders down the side of the train to enter the Express car. They made off with about $5,000. Harry Gordon was captured in February 1889 in Kansas City, tried and convicted. Brother George was never captured, but was killed during an armed robbery in the East.
1889: 23-year-old Robert Leroy “Butch Cassidy” Parker enters the life of an outlaw when he pulls his first holdup of the San Miguel Bank in Telluride, Colorado.
1893: Soapy Smith’s brother-in-law, William S. Light, accidentally shoots and kills himself when the train he is riding home for Christmas on suddenly breaks hard forcing Light’s revolver to the floor where it discharges a bullet into his groin, slicing an artery. He bleeds to death where he sits.
1894: Deputy Sheriff Pike Landusky confronts and attacks outlaw Harvey Logan alias Kid Curry believing Logan was involved romantically with his daughter. Landusky files assault charges against Logan and has him arrested and beaten. A bond is paid by friends of Logan and three days later Logan shoots Pike dead.
1906: Reginald A. Fessenden is the first person to broadcast a music program over radio, from Brant Rock, Massachusetts.

December 23, 2019

Soapy Smith's fake telegraph office in Skagway, Alaska

Soapy Smith's fake telegraph office
Le Klondike
Lucky Luke Productions, 1996

(Click image to enlarge)

oapy Smith's fake telegraph office.

      Back in December 2007 I made one of my first online posts (on my original and now defunct website) regarding Soapy's infamous telegraph office.
      Skagway was just weeks old. Still a camp of tents, there were no newspapers, except for a hand-full of newspaper men who rushed to Skagway to obtain as much information as they could, and make it back to the states to submit their story before the deadline. The nearest law man was five miles away in Dyea, accessible only by boat, so crime was rampant. An early resident of Skagway wrote, "Skaguay was like an ant hill that had been stirred up by a stick welding child." Seeing an opportunity, Soapy opened a telegraph service that would send a message anywhere in the US for $5. There was just one thing missing; the telegraph wires. That little incidental fact didn't stop Soapy Smith from making money at it.

      Soapy's telegraph con was one of the more brazen scams he operated in Skagway. It is also perhaps his most comical one, if one can find humor in it. I say "comical" because the victims were truly unwary and gullible, compared to most that came through that town. The humor can be appreciated when one realizes that this took place in 1897-98 and telegraph lines did not reach Juneau until November 9, 1901 and Skagway at some point after that.
      There is humor in it due to the gullibility and ignorance of the victims, considering that Skagway was a brand new camp of tents at the time. A big part in understanding the humor, requires a little imagination. Getting to Skagway, Alaska in 1897 was not easy. The first ships leaving the docks of Seattle and cities were over-flowing with passengers, and the captains knew only the basics of the route and it's dangers. There were ships that actually got lost, run-aground, and worse. Passengers spent a week or more on a ships, some being nothing more than overloaded junk heaps refitted for service to capitalize on the gold rush, trying to get to Skagway as fast as they could. Once there, passengers and their gear were tossed ashore as quickly as possible, so that the captain could sail back to the states for more paying passengers.

Soapy Smith's fake telegraph office
Le Klondike
Lucky Luke Productions, 1996

(Click image to enlarge)

      A more thorough understanding of the "humor" also requires the experience of sailing through the Lynn Canal towards Skagway today, and seeing that the entire route is still nothing but wilderness. That wilderness keeps the planned building of a modern road along the 99 miles between Juneau and Skagway from becoming a reality. Now, imagine being a stampeder in 1897-98, taking that same route. How ignorant or gullible does one have to be, to not realize that the way needs to be cleared, telegraph poles erected, and lines strung for over a thousand miles of Alaskan wilderness, forest, mountains, and rivers? Construction would take great planning, cost, and years, which was prohibitive in 1897. You have to admit that tricking someone with a fake telegraph office, in the Alaskan wilderness of 1897, is kind of funny.
      Much of the early history of Skagway is based on eyewitnesses and personal accounts, which is all there is in regards to Soapy's telegraph office. That is, until we combine them with Soapy's standard method of operation, which remained consistent throughout his career. This means that there was likely more to the telegraph story than just tricking $5 from a "cheechako" (Chinook Indian jargon for "newcomer;" a tenderfoot, greenhorn).
Laying telegraph lines in Alaska
Colliers Weekly
November 9, 1901

(Click image to enlarge)


      Imagine your gullible self, disembarking from a horrid five days spent onboard a rusty and overcrowded steamer, not counting the time spent getting to the pacific coast where your ship awaited. So there you are, a weary traveler, soon to be miner, dropped off with your supplies and fellow passengers, in a new, little explored wilderness territory, perhaps, thousands of miles from home, eagerly wishing you could let your loved ones know that you were still unscathed and this far into your journey north. There in front of you is a small sign on a tent, "telegraph office." A message home for $5. It's pricey, but worth every penny.
      Upon entering the “office,” you learn that the key operator has stepped out for a moment but will soon return. Encouraged to wait, you are surrounded by newfound “friends” who chat with you, asking questions, that unbeknownst to you, will be used by the Soap Gang later on. They soon offer you the usual pastime games of chance, three shells and pea or perhaps a little three-card monte. When the key operator appears, if you still have the $5 fee, he will "send" your message, while offering information on the gold region as well as the best places to eat, drink and stay in Skagway. He tells you not to miss out on going to the Klondike Saloon [Soapy's place]. Making sure he answers all your questions, and in between gathering more information about you and your situation. Who are you traveling with? Where are you headed and when? Do you have enough cash to make it through the winter? He seems to genuinely care and at the conclusion, you leave the office satisfied, with new information and hope.
      Once leaving the tent, you don't notice that one of the gang is tailing you. After a time, the man tailing you approaches and informs you that a reply telegram has arrived and awaits you back at the office—for an additional $5. The friendly games of chance might be employed again to obtain even more of your money. Later, while taking in the sites of the new camp, you run into one or two of the new "friends" you had made in the office. He insists on showing you the town. The clerk happens along and invites you all to his hotel room to sample a shipment of cigars and whisky he just received from the ship anchored in the bay.
      Inside the room there are a few men sitting at a card table playing poker. Greetings are made as the clerk is informed by one of the men that his wife needs him at their tent immediately. You are eagerly invited to sit in on the game and play a few hands while you wait for the clerk to return. In conversation, you find out one of these men lives in your hometown, and apparently has met you before. He does, after-all, know a lot about you (information gathered from you earlier). They offer up a toast, and shove a glass of whisky into your hand. A few toasts and your head is swimming. You awaken in the early morning, behind a tent, and cannot remember the previous night, but before too long you realize that you out a large portion of your ready cash. Was it the whisky? Were you robbed? Or was it that because you were certain you held a "sure-thing" poker-hand, but lost to a better one? Even if the thought occurs to you later that you had been swindled, there is no time to complain to the law, if you could even find a lawman, and then wait until justice is served. Every hour you waste not getting on the trail to the gold fields, means more claims being staked out and that means less gold for you. chalking up the loss to experience and hoping you will make up the loss with a new found gold strike, you hit the trail out of Skagway.
      This does not mean I condone the crime, but it sure does make the victims look a little foolish. There are no records or accounts of anyone admitting they had been taken by the telegraph office, but then again, who would be willing to go home and admit that they fell for such a trick?

"It is popularly believed Reid killed Smith, but those claiming to know assert Murphy fired the fatal shots."
—Will Clayson, Alias Soapy Smith, p. 550.


1783: George Washington arrives home to Mount Vernon after the disbanding of the Continental Army following the Revolutionary War.
1788: Maryland cedes a 100-square-mile area for the seat of the national government. Two-thirds of the area becomes the District of Columbia.
1823: The poem A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore is published. It is also known by the names The Night before Christmas and 'Twas the Night before Christmas.
1844: George W. Arrington is born in Greensboro, Alabama. He is best known as a captain in the Texas Rangers in the 1870s. In the early 1880s he was sheriff for Wheeler County, for eight years before retiring. He died on his ranch, March 31, 1923.
1852: The Theatre of Celestial John opens on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, California. It is the first Chinese theatre in the U.S.
1863: A vigilante organization is formed inside John Lott's store in Bannack, Montana Territory. Their goal is to rid the territory of the outlaws calling themselves “the Innocents.”
1867: A treaty with Indians of the Senacas, Shawnees, Quapaw, and other tribes guarantees their removal from Kansas to Indian Territory.
1872: Bill Brooks, the former marshal of Newton, Kansas kills a man named Brown in a shootout in Dodge City, Kansas.
1874: The Gordon Party, a group of prospectors from Sioux City, Iowa reach the part of the Black Hills, Dakota Territory called Custer's Park, where gold had been discovered four months prior.
1880: Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett and his posse sneak up on Billy the Kid and his outlaw gang holed up in a deserted adobe near Stinking Springs. Inside are Billy, Charlie Bowdre, Dave Rudabaugh, Tom Pickett and Billy Wilson, who are unaware of the lawmen outside. In the morning Bowdre steps outside the door and the lawmen open fire hitting Bowdre in the chest. Bowdre screams out, "I'm killed, Billy, they killed me." Billy supposedly tells Bowdre, "They have murdered you, Charlie, but you can get revenge! Go out there and kill some of the s.o.b.'s before you go!" With that, Bowdre is led out the door to his death when the lawmen shoot him. Bowdre never fires his pistol. The siege lasts for two days before the outlaws surrender.
1880: Thomas Edison incorporates the Edison Electric Light Company of Europe.
1898: Members of Soapy Smith’s gang are sentenced for the robbery of John D. Stewart; John Bowers is given one year in prison for larceny and six months for assault and battery. “Slim Jim” Foster is sentenced to one year and fined $1,000 for larceny, and six months for assault and battery. Van B. “Old Man” Triplett is sentenced to one year for larceny.
1913: The Federal Reserve Bill is signed into law by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. The act establishes 12 Federal Reserve Banks.