March 30, 2020

Felix B. Mulgrew: newspaper man, entrepreneur, Klondiker, friend of Soapy Smith

Felix B. Mulgrew
7/30/1854 - 5/30/1915
Karen Hendricks collection

(Click image to enlarge)

friend or victim of Soapy Smith's?

Karen Hendricks is the great-great-granddaughter of Felix B. Mulgrew. Mulgrew was a newspaper man, entrepreneur, Klondiker, and had some running correspondence with his friend, Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith. Through Karen we learn a little more about one of Soapy's many associates, or was he a victim? On February 16, 2008 Karen wrote.
     I wrote a few days ago regarding my gg-grandfather Felix B. Mulgrew and his correspondence with Soapy Smith. I would still like to know where this correspondence could be found or microfilmed or photocopies or anything! I am more than willing to pay for them!
     I also misquoted my information on his champagne sale. That should have been to Swiftwater (not Wild) Bill Gates!
Karen Hendricks
I responded immediately,
Hi Karen,
     Here is what we have right now. We know that the two men knew one another, but the only existing correspondence is between May and November 1897. Soapy had just returned to St Louis to be with his family when on May 13, 1897 he wrote a letter to Felix B. Mulgrew in San Francisco. There is no record of that first letter Soapy had sent.
     It is believed that Soapy had contacted Mulgrew for some financial assistance in his quest to build an empire in Alaska during the start of the Klondike gold rush which he knew was coming. Two months after writing Mulgrew, the steamer Excelsior arrived in San Francisco and the steamer Portland arrived in Seattle, each with over a ton of Klondike gold on-board. Soapy was financing an empire building trip to Alaska, which was not going to be cheap. In order to set up his operations correctly and as fast as possible, Soapy was looking to borrow money, taking on partners in his venture. I believe Soapy sent word out to potential financiers regarding his intentions of profiting from the stampede. Mulgrew had some money and was more than willing to financially back Soapy's plans. From San Francisco, Mulgrew took a trip up to Spokane, Washington and loaned Soapy $3,500. But within a couple of months Mulgrew got into an economic bind and needed his loan paid back.
Mulgrew writes,
82 Haight St.
May 27, 1897

Friend Jeff:
     Your letter dated 13th inst., reached S. F., where myself and wife were temporarily out of town, so I did not get it until yesterday. I fear this may not reach you in St. Louis but trust it will be forwarded O.K. We were both glad to hear from you, but sorry you were sick. Possibly too much Tennessee, Virginia Scedlers and other Spokane beverages was the cause of your undoing. Hope you are well again and have regained your cherry laugh.
     I hope for our mutual sake you will strike oil soon. I am getting close to cases. I’ve dealt out $6000 since I met you. If I was able I would lease a building on Third st., just off Market, for a term of years for a saloon. Capt. White had his faro game on the 3rd floor for years. It is a small 3-story building, adjoining the old Nucleus Bldg., now being demolished for the new Examiner office. It will thus adjoin the Examiner building, and across Third St. will be the Call building, while across Market will be the Chronicle building. An all right place, with hot lunch from 2 to 4 a.m., will catch the printers (if the right people have the place), and there are two floors above for club rooms and games. It is a great opportunity and I only wish you and I could grab it.
     I can get police indulgence if anybody can; but it is not necessary for me to tell you that, as you know it already.
     This is one of the best opportunities I have had for some time and if we can pull it through we would find the money coming pretty easy.
     Best regards for you and hopes for your prosperity, I remain
     Yours truly,
F. B. Mulgrew
Little is known of their association, but the fact that Mulgrew started off his letter with "Friend Jeff" indicates they knew one another pretty well, as close associate confidence men and members of the Soap Gang addressed Soapy as "Friend." Soapy was just starting to set up his empire at Skagway, Alaska and visited Seattle to spend the winter of 1897. One newspaper account reported that Jeff had returned from Skagway with around $15,000. Mulgrew sent his last known letter to Soapy after hearing of his return.

San Francisco,
Nov. 29, 1897
Jeff R. Smith, Esq.:

     Dear Sir – “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” I’m busted- up a stump, and about as desperate as you were when we first met. That Spokane trip cost me about $4,000, in all, including $3,500 I advanced you. When I got back and paid some debts, helped along some poor people, I soon found myself down to cases, or within a few hundred of being so. It was a case of “dig up,” again, so I started for the Klondike. A party here agreed to pay my wife and children $50 a month for a year, in consideration of a half-interest in what I located. Well, I didn’t get there. Our river boat broke down and we were frozen in at the mouth of the Yukon. I had to borrow money to get back to Frisco.
     I don’t know which way to turn. As I had about $7,000 only a few months ago, those who knew me naturally think I ought to have money now. I don’t know anybody I can borrow of, and I must raise at least $200, but actually need $300. Hell is to pay all around. If I had $200 to $300 I would get on my feet and pull out. I have a chance to book 100 people for Dawson at $300 each, including 1,000 lbs. of provisions, besides transportation. That would give me $30,000. I can get a 150 ton boat, to carry 100 passengers, delivered at St. Michael, for $20,000. Such a boat would give 100 tons freight capacity, aside from the 50 tons allotment to passengers, and at 5 cents per lbs. I can take in $10,000 from freight. Thus I would take in about $40,000, while $30,000 would pay for the boat, grub, etc. That would clear the boat and give about $10,000 in cash, and to that could be added what the boat would earn next year on the river. I would let her freeze up somewhere near Dawson and use her for a hotel for 8 or 9 months. I have two or three capitalists on the string for this plan, but that is for the future. I’m dead broke now, and I want you to be my friend if it breaks a leg – or breaks somebody else.
     My wife often speaks of “Dr.” Smith and always says: “Jeff will pay you when he prospers.” I feel sure you will too, but a little now is an absolute need.
     In Seattle recently I heard you had been in town and was flush. I met Mr. Thompson, who told me you had gone to Nashvill (sic). I wired you there, to the track. I am sending this letter to Mr. Thompson to forward, as he probably knows your address. For the gods’ sake do not disappoint me. My wife sends best wishes for your happiness.
     Yours truly,
H. B. [F. B.] Mulgrew
Soapy's response to Mulgrew's plea for help is unknown, as there are no further (known) letters between the two men. As Soapy was well-known for paying off his debts, it is hoped that he paid this one.
     In Mulgrew's last letter there are detailed plans to head to the Klondike. It has to be wondered if he stopped in Skagway to see Soapy? His name does not appear on the list of names from the Skagway Historical Society, but the list is lacking.

     The above letters by Mulgrew were found in Soapy's personal effects after his death in 1898. They were published, along with a number of other letters in an article entitled, "Correspondence of a Crook," January 1907 and February 1908. It was later republished in Alaska-Yukon Magazine, October 1908. p. 385-386. The spelling of Mulgrew was published in the magazine as "H. B. Mulgrew" but Karen Hendricks showed me Mulgrew’s signature and it is clear that the “F” could easily be mistaken for an “H.”
     Famed Canadian historian, Pierre Berton mentions the letters in his book, Klondike Fever, listing Mulgrew as a "political fixer" because of the comment, "I can get police indulgence if anybody can." Mulgrew does write to Soapy about saloons and gambling operations so it does appear that there was more to her great-great-grandfather than Karen Hendricks realized, as seen in her description of Mulgrew.
     My gg-grandfather was born in San Francisco in 1854. About 1856 the family moved to Healdsburg, but did live for a time in San Francisco after that. In 1876 he and his brother John F. Mulgrew started the "Healdsburg Enterprise." They sold the newspaper a few years later and Felix went on to dabble in real estate, being a newspaper reporter and served a term as a representative for Sonoma county. He and his brother John didn't seem to be able to settle down in one town or job, they were always on the go! We know that Felix was involved in the Klondike gold rush as his name appears on the Klondike rolls and on the 1900 census, his name appears on board ship in Alaska. After 1900 though, it is hard to track him. We know he was involved in the Alaska Transportation Company from the article about his dealings with Swiftwater Bill Gates. In 1906 he was touring the gold mines of Nevada and was involved in the sale of the Esmeralda mine. He died in 1915 at one of his daughter's home.
     He had two daughters, Flora and Louise and one son, Martin. Flora is my great-grandmother. The wife referred to in one letter, would be his second wife, Blanche.
     I have attached a few files. One is of a letter written to one of Flora's sons. As you can see from the signature, it is very easy to mistake his "F" as an "H." So I whole-heartedly believe the H. B. Mulgrew is really F. B. Mulgrew. There is no one in California with the surname Mulgrew at that time that has a first name that begins with the letter "H."
     I look forward to your replies and will look over the Friends of Soapy Smith info. I have been to Skagway a couple of times and have friends who live in Alaska so have always felt a connection to that area.

Karen Hendricks

Grave marker
Felix B. Mulgrew

(Click image to enlarge)

Karen sent me a photograph of Mulgrew (at top), and also included another photograph (at below) found among the belongings of Felix Mulgrew, by his daughter Louise. For some unknown reason and proveance, it is believed to be a member of the Smith family from Sheridan, Missouri. Soapy's wife lived in St. Louis, Missouri, so it is, at the very least, possible to be a family member.  

Attention Smith family members!
Do you recognize this Smith?
Please notify us here if you have any information

Unknown Smith?
Sheridan, Missouri

Karen Hendricks collection
(Click image to enlarge)

(1) Karen Hendricks, great-great grand-daughter of Felix B. Mulgrew.
(2) Find-A-Grave: Felix B. Mulgrew

Felix B. Mulgrew: pages 432-433.

"I consider bunco steering more honorable than the life led by the average politician"
The Road (Denver newspaper), February 29,1896


1822: Florida becomes a U.S. territory.
1842: Dr. Crawford W. Long performs the first operation using ether for surgical anesthesia.
1848: Niagara Falls stops flowing for one day due to an ice jam.
1854: Sixty Dragoon soldiers are tricked into an ambush by several hundred Jicarilla and Ute Indians in a canyon near Taos, New Mexico. Called the Battle of Cieneguilla, 22 soldiers are killed, and more wounded, before they were able to retreat.
1855: Thousands of "Border Ruffians" from western Missouri invade the territory of Kansas to force the election of a pro-slavery legislature.
1858: Hyman L. Lipman of Philadelphia patents the pencil.
1860: John Rooker shoots and kills Jack O’Neil in ambush while hiding inside the Western Saloon in Denver, Colorado. O’Neil escaped justice on a fast horse.
1867: U.S. Secretary of State William Seward reaches an agreement with Russia to purchase the district of Alaska for $7.2 million (two cents an acre), a deal ridiculed at the time as “Seward's Folly,” and “Seward’s icebox.” It would be the final resting place for outlaw "Soapy" Smith.
1870: Texas is the last Confederate state readmitted to the Union. Six years later it will be the new home state for the parents of Soapy Smith.
1870: The 15th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing the right to vote regardless of race, is passed by Congress.
1889: Robert Leroy “Butch Cassidy” Parker, Tom and Bill McCarty, and Matt Warner rob the First National Bank of Denver, Colorado of $20,000. According to one account, Tom McCarty approached the bank president and stated, "Excuse me, sir, but I just overheard a plot to rob this bank." Obviously upset, the bank president asked, "How did you learn of this plot?" To which McCarty replied, "I planned it." Pulling out his revolver he exclaimed, "Put up your hands!" Four men, Cassidy, Tom and Bill McCarty, and Matt Warner rode out of Denver with $5,000 each from the robbery. Soapy Smith has an account there.
1890: Fire destroys a major portion of the business district in Flagstaff, Arizona Territory.
1903: U.S. troops are sent to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic to protect American interests during a revolution.
1905: President Theodore Roosevelt is chosen to mediate in the Russo-Japanese peace talks.
1909: The Queensboro Bridge in New York opens, linking Manhattan and Queens. It is the first double decker bridge.
1909: Seminole Indians in Oklahoma revolt against meager pay for government jobs.
1909: The Army abandons Fort Washakie in Wyoming. The fort was built in 1871 and originally named Camp Brown, but its name was changed in 1878 to Fort Washakie to honor Shoshone Indian Chief Washakie, who had made peace with the white people. The Shoshone were given tracts of land in the Wind River Reservation. The fort was established not for protection against Indians but for the protection of the Shoshone Indians from the Sioux, Cheyenne, Crow, and Arapahoe Indians. The fort was a military outpost for almost 40 years and never saw any battles. The fort and many of the original buildings are still in use today by the Shoshone tribal government.

March 18, 2020

"Pistol balls sped in all directions." Soapy Smith's brother, Bascomb Smith

Denver Post, November 11, 1896
The contents of the article
can be read below

(Click image to enlarge)

istol balls sped in all directions

      When Soapy Smith left Denver, Colorado for the final time, Bascomb remained in Denver and thereafter in the West, never again to work with with his older brother. He continued to find trouble as revealed in a November 18, 1896, letter to Soapy from friend William “Bat” Masterson. He begins gently with salutations, commiseration over hard times, and works up to news of deep concern over Bascomb’s doings:
... I have not seen Bascomb since he was released after completing the year’s sentence. I hear of him, however, and always in some kind of trouble. He has been arrested twice of late for disturbance and discharging firearms down in the neighborhood of 20th and Market streets, and you know the kind of people who frequent that locality. If I were you I would advise him to leave here, as it is only a question of time until he will get a “settler” and every time the papers speak of him they generally say the brother of “Soapy” Smith, who was last heard of skinning suckers in Alaska. So you see you are not getting any the best of it. ... [1]
Masterson was not exaggerating Bascomb’s troubles. The Denver Evening Post lists five charges against him, including vagrancy, drunkenness, disturbing the peace, carrying concealed weapons, and discharging firearms. He was fined a total of $153 and had his “elegant, silver-plated, highly engraved revolver confiscated.” [2] On November 5, 1896, he was in court for stealing a woman’s expensive diamond-encrusted jewelry. [3] According to the Post, Bascomb still had some friends in the current administration and received an order to leave town rather than face fines still owed from his October melee. [4] Bascomb left for an unidentified destination.

Following is the Denver Post, November 11, 1896 article in it's entirety.



— He Was Not Obliged to Pay $125 Fine Nor Was He Made to Serve a Term In Jail – Rosa Lee had a “pull” and Said So and Then Proved It – The Disgraceful Condition of City Hall Affairs.

     Bascom Smith has made a record for paying $125 in fines to the police court as easily as any “bad man” ever arraigned in that tribunal. He is the brother of the celebrated and smooth fingered “Soapy” Smith, said to be now working the verdant population in the Northwest. Bascom, to some extent, banks on his more astute relative’s reputation and apparently retained the influence which that peculiar Smith family always had on Denver politicians, and he worked the old “pull” to get out of the clutches of the law as recently as November 1.
     A few days preceding the recent election he filled up with Larimer street whiskey, and failing to discover enemies on the thoroughfare he repaired to his apartments. He there commenced a warfare that aroused the neighboring roomers. Pistol balls sped in all directions and some narrowly missed occupants of adjoining apartments. Bascom enjoyed the fight for a while, but was finally arrested by the officers who had been called in by frightened roomers. When the arraigned for trial (illegible) charges continuance was easily secured for several days, while the Smith powers were working with the political machine that controls the police department to settle the affair at small cost and in a manner that would not compel Bascom to pay for his fun like other men. The machine worked in the desired manner after the necessary oil had been applied.
     After several continuances, Bascom stood trial and pleaded guilty and was assessed $25 each for vagrancy, drunk, disturbance, concealed weapons and discharging firearms within the city limits. Men without a “pull” would likely have served the full term required to liquidate the aggregate punishment in the city jail or paid the money over to the police clerk. At best the ordinary lowly carouser who stood convicted on so many charges would have been compelled to do penance to some degree. But Bascom did nothing of the kind. He secured suspension of all the sentences on condition that he would leave town. Before departing if he has gone, he waited until election day arrived and put in on that occasion yeoman service for the Adams ticket. He earned in the one day perhaps $150 for himself, whatever he did with the other fellows.


[Bascomb's birth name did not have the last "b" as most newspaper reported]. 
[1] "Correspondence of a Crook," Alaska-Yukon Magazine (Jan 1908) p. 330-331.
[2] Rocky Mountain News, November 3, 1896, p. 8, and Denver Evening Post, November 2, 1896, p. 10.
[3] Denver Evening Post, November 5, 1896, p. 8.
[4] Denver Evening Post, November 11, 1896.

Bascomb Smith 
October 4, 2009
August 1, 2011 
May 4, 2012
September 20, 2015
September 22, 2015
March 23, 2019

Bascomb Smith: pp 22, 41-42, 67, 75-76, 88-89, 92, 120-22, 139, 143, 162-63, 165, 167, 169, 176, 178, 182, 214, 247, 264, 273-75, 336, 340, 352, 355, 361, 363, 367, 370-77, 381-86, 391-99, 403-05, 408-09, 412, 420-23, 519, 554-55, 584, 588-89, 594.

“I will cast as many fraudulent votes as I want to.” Said he, “and there is no — — law can prevent me.”
—(Rocky Mountain News)
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 264.


1541: Hernando de Soto observed the first recorded flood of the Mississippi River.
1673: Lord Berkley sold his half of New Jersey to the Quakers.
1692: William Penn is deprived of his governing powers.
1766: Britain repeals the Stamp Act.
1813: David Melville patents the gas streetlight.
1818: Congress approves the first pension for government service.
1834: The first railroad tunnel in the U.S. (Pennsylvania) is completed.
1842: Nashville Franklyn Leslie, more well known as Frank “Buckskin” Leslie, is born near San Antonio, Texas. medical student, Confederate soldier, scout, Indian fighter, barkeeper, shootist, saloon proprietor.
1850: Henry Wells and William Fargo founded The American Express.
1852: Wells Fargo, a subsidiary of American Express, begins operations in the California gold fields.
1859: Cadet George A. Custer receives two demerits for throwing food in the West Point mess hall.
1863: Mexican outlaw Felipe Nerio Espinosa brutally murders prospector Henry Harkens with bullets and an ax. He claims to be seeking revenge for the deaths of relatives killed during the Mexican-American War. Other family members join him, becoming known as “the axe-men of Colorado.” They killed about 32 individuals. Espinosa’s brother is shot and killed by the Colorado Cavalry on April 27, 1863 but Espinosa escapes. On October 15, 1863 Espinosa and a nephew are tracked and shot dead, their heads cut off as proof.
1865: The Congress of the Confederate States of America adjourns for the last time.
1874: Hawaii signs a treaty giving exclusive trading rights with the islands to the U.S.
1878: The outlaw Sam Bass gang robs the Houston and Texas at Hutchins, Texas. Henry “Heck” Thomas, a noted lawman, serving as the express agent at the time, managed to hide $4,000. The robbers got away with a total of $232.80. Soapy Smith later witnessed the shooting death of Sam Bass in Round Rock, Texas.
1879: Lincoln County War combatants, William Campbell and Jesse Evans escape from Fort Sutton, New Mexico Territory.
1880: The Southern Pacific Railroad of Arizona and New Mexico is completed to Tucson, where it connects with the San Francisco and Pacific systems.
1881: Barnum and Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth opens in Madison Square Gardens.
1882: Morgan Earp is murdered, shot in the back, while playing billiards a few minutes before midnight on the 17th.
1882: Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett, finally collects the $500 reward for killing outlaw Billy the Kid in New Mexico Territory.
1883: The Cheyenne Daily Leader (Cheyenne, Wyoming) reports the total number of executions is 37 by the "gunny-sack brigade" and 2 by legal authorities.
1892: Soap Gang member and manager of the Orleans Club, Joe “Gambler Joe” Simmons, dies of pneumonia in Creede, Colorado. The saloons and gaming halls in town close for the funeral.
1898: Formation of Soapy Smith’s private militia, the Skagway Military Company in Skagway, Alaska.
1901: Outlaw Ben Cravens and Bert Welty robbed the B. F. Swartz and Company store at Red Rock Oklahoma. During the robbery postmaster Alvin Bateman is killed. While escaping, Welty is shot and killed by Cravens, whether by accident or on purpose is unknown. Cravens is tracked to the home of Isom Cunningham, northeast of Pawnee, and when a posse confronts him, he shoots and kills Deputy Tom Johnson, then escapes.
1910: The first opera by a U.S. composer is performed at the New York Met.

March 12, 2020

Artifact #65: "You stood your ground in Skagway and now have the people’s confidence and respect."

Letter to Soapy Smith
From John J. Shay
June 28, 1898
artifact #65-A
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

ou stood your ground in Skagway and now have the people’s confidence and respect."

      Artifact #65 is a letter written on June 28, 1898 by confidence man and friend, John J. Shay, from Los Angeles, California, to Soapy Smith in Skagway, Alaska. The letter concerns a batch of bunco men heading towards Skagway. The letter is written ten days before Soapy's death, so there is a possibility that Soapy never saw it, though the letter was among the thousands of others in his estate.

The current correspondence between John and Soapy may have been ongoing, but the known letters start three months prior, in March 1898.

March 10, 1898

I received a letter from Daily (Old Bill), he is in Tacoma. You will no doubt see him up your way. Jeff, with all his faults, the old man loves the very ground you walk on. “Treat him kindly.” Kid Collins left for Seattle last night. Thence to Skagway. There is none of the gang here now but Link Howard, and I think Davis, alias Poker Davis, will be in Alaska ere long. Billy Cardwell (Senator Whit’s clerk), says [to me] “Who are you writing to, Jeff…?” I said yes. “Well then,” said he…, “give him my kind regards, for he is a good fellow.” By the way, Jeff, Frank Cole blowed the mineral and got not a quarter from same, and is on the hog train. He is trying hard for someone to stake him for Alaska, and owing to his being a good rustler, you might have the pleasure of seeing him in the near future, and … [let’s not forget] to mention Mr. Coy Kendall, who worked for me so long, and then went to work for Cole, is now on his way to Alaska and will no doubt call on you, and Jeff, I wish to state he is a perfect and good man, honest as the day, and no better man lives, and kindly do what you can for him, use your influence in getting him something to do, tending bar or anything else, for he is most worthy. Please give my regards to Kempter (Dutch) and to all the boys, and not forgetting yourself. I remain, Very truly yours,
John J. Shay (1)

Jeff replied to Shay, who again responded with news about mutual friends. This is artifact #65 the subject of today's post.

Los Angeles June 28, 1898

Dear old friend Jeff:
      First of all I want to thank you many thousand times for the number of papers you have sent me. Not alone myself, who takes an interest in reading the valuable and clean little sheet that it is, but many businessmen and miners as well. They seem to take a great interest in reading same and express their great surprise in learning the enterprise of the people of Skagway. Am sure the paper being here does your town no harm. Henderson just came back, and states that Capt. Jack Lamey had left for … North Spokane, but a letter to Republic, Wash., would reach him. Jack made no money with Henderson on his staff. Ed is a good man. “No better,” but out of his line of business and C. H. Davis is out at some springs. And not a grafter in town. Burk has gone back to the city. Will enclose old Bill’s [Bill Banks] letter. Kid Collins was here short time ago— stayed but a few days and left again. Was sorry to see him leave, a good fellow he is. Cole was in yesterday, the first time in many weeks. He is broke and has been for a long-long time. He would make a good booster, and more than willing to join the band. However, he should go mining again. King Warren is in San Francisco. I had a letter last week from him. He tells me he is going to Alaska. Jeff, as always I am glad indeed to know of your doing well, and as I told the boys here, … you had more brains than them all put together. You stood your ground in Skagway and now have the people’s confidence and respect. Success to you is my earnest wish. My business still continues to be good. Am perfectly satisfied and happy, and hope this will find you the same, and any of my friends who might be there. I wish best wishes. I remain forever your friend
John Shay

Stateside members of the bunco brotherhood were gravitating north. How many actually arrived in Skagway and went to work under Soapy probably will never be known as the key to the success of his operations was secrecy.

Letter to Soapy Smith
From John J. Shay
June 28, 1898
artifact #65-B
Jeff Smith collection

(Click image to enlarge)

      Unfortunately, I have yet to find anything on John J. Shay. He obviously knew Soapy and his peers well enough to assume that he too was a confidence man. Probably a working associate of Soapy's at one time.

 (Click image to enlarge)
The above unknown newspaper clipping (possibly Los Angeles) was found in Soapy's personal trunk after his death, contains drawings of several bunco men mentioned in Shay's letters to Soapy.
  • "King Warren," a bunco man whose name and face (drawing) are seen in the newspaper clipping above.
  • "Kid Collins," probably "J. Collins" pictured in the newspaper clipping above. A confidence man named  "Collins" is forced to flee Leadville, Colorado with con man, "Big Ed" Burns in November 1879. It may be the same individual.
  • "Old Bill," is Bill Daily who accompanied Soapy on their first trip to Skagway in August 1897. In the 19 days they were in the brand new camp they made about $30,000.
  • E. C. "Poker" Davis, of whom nothing is known. There are several confidence men associates of Soapy's name "Davis."   

(1) Letter to Jeff Smith II from John Shay, 03/10/1898. "Correspondence of a Crook," Alaska-Yukon Magazine (Jan 1908). Slightly edited for readability.

John J. Shay: page 504-05.

"Thieves fall out and we may find out some time what became of Jeff’s property. There are men in Skaguay now who claim to have killed my brother. I have been told that Reid did not kill him, but that another man in the crowd fired a bullet into his back while he was struggling with Reid."
—Bascomb Smith
Soapy's younger brother


1664: New Jersey becomes a British colony. King Charles II grants land in the New World to his brother James, The Duke of York.
1755: The steam engine is used for the first time in North Arlington, New Jersey.
1789: The U.S. Post Office is established.
1856: California outlaw, Tom Bell, and his gang rob a mule train laden with $21,000 in gold, and tie the five drivers to trees.
1863: President Jefferson Davis delivers his State of the Confederacy address.
1884: The State of Mississippi authorizes the first state-supported college for women, the Mississippi Industrial Institute and College.
1885: The Montana Territory legislature bans "pernicious hurdy-gurdy" houses.
1889: Outlaw Jefferson Jones kills and robs Henry Wilson of $12 in the Choctaw Nation. Jones was arrested and tried in Fort Smith, Arkansas by Judge Isaac Parker who sentenced him to death. Jones was hung on January 16, 1890.
1889: Almon Stowger applies for a patent for his automatic telephone system.
1891: William Oliver is swindled of $42 in a Denver, Colorado “brace” game by bunco man John Hayes.
1894: Coca-Cola is sold in bottles for the first time.
1894: Bill Dalton, Bill Doolin and six others rob the safe of the Woodward Depot of about $7,000 meant for the soldiers at Fort Supply. It is believed that the wife of bad man Soapy Smith (Mary Noonan) is related to the Dalton family.
1894: James Young is killed by a blow from a fist, at the Arcade Gambling rooms in Denver, Colorado.
1898: Soapy Smith posts the “answer to warning” handbills in Skagway for the vigilante Committee of 101. The handbills are signed from the Law and Order Society (“consisting of 317 citizens”), which coincidentally is the address of Soapy’s saloon.
1904: After 30 years of drilling, the tunnel under the Hudson River is completed. It links Jersey City, New Jersey and New York, New York.
1906: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that corporations must yield incriminating evidence in anti-trust suits.
1909: Three U.S. warships are ordered to Nicaragua to stem the conflict with El Salvador.
1912: Ben Kilpatrick, the "Tall Texan" of the outlaw Wild Bunch gang, and Ole Hobek, are shot and killed during the robbery of the Southern Pacific's Sunset Express in Texas. They were killed by guard, David Trousdale.

March 3, 2020

Artifact #64: "I am captain of the 1st Co. of Alaska"

"I am captain of the 1st Co. of Alaska"
Artifact #64
Jeff Smith Collection
(Click image to enlarge)

 am captain of the 1st Co. of Alaska"
Artifact #64

      The coming of the Spanish-American War began with the U.S. battleship Maine blowing up in Havana harbor, Cuba on February 15, 1898. Over 200,000 “volunteers and National Guard troops … rushed to the colors.”[A]. Meetings were held in Skagway, and Soapy led the way for patriotic zeal. In one speech he gave, he said, "Spain will send her battleships to seize our ports, and they will try to capture our ships. But, be damned to them … we’ll stake our lives against their plots!" Soapy Smith's saloon (Jeff Smith's Parlor) became headquarters for the Skaguay Military Company, which he formed and commanded as its “elected” captain.
      The US declared war on April 25, but because Spain had declared war on the US the previous day, the US Congress backdated its declaration to April 21, 1898. The following day, April 26th, Soapy wrote to his wife, Mary. A month into spring, Soapy had grown concerned over not hearing from home. Moreover, the gathering war clouds were seen even from distant Skaguay. Writing on April 26, he could not yet have known that war had been declared just the day before.

Dear Mollie
      No word from you. What is wrong? I am captain of the 1st Co. of Alaska and will go to the war if there is any. I suppose it is on now. I expected to go to Dawson City. But now I will have to go to the front if called on. Write here. Love to all.
Your husband,

Soapy asked why he had not heard from Mary. The answer was that with the declaration of war, the mails had slowed even more than before. In writing this letter, Soapy had confirmed his commitment to the Skaguay Military Company and that if called, he would “go to the front.”

[A] Gilded Age Dictionary, Historical Dictionary of the Gilded Age, 2003

Skaguay Military Company:
Oct 21, 2008
Mar 4, 2010
Mar 20, 2010
Apr 1, 2010
Apr 10, 2010
Jun 3, 2010
Jun 30, 2010
May 4, 2011
Nov 24, 2017
Nov 27, 2017
Nov 28, 2017

Skaguay Military Company: pages 79, 471, 486-90, 494-95, 498-502, 505, 510, 514-15, 595.

"In times of trouble, though, he usually preferred to rely on his wits, smooth speech, and dexterity rather than on physical force."
Alias Soapy Smith, Introduction.


1791: Congress passes a resolution that creates the U.S. Mint.
1803: The first impeachment trial of a U.S. Judge, John Pickering, begins.
1812: The U.S. Congress passes the first foreign aid bill.
1817: The first commercial steamboat route from Louisville to New Orleans is opened.
1837: US president Andrew Jackson and Congress recognize Republic of Texas. Texas will later become a state, and home to the “Soapy” Smith family.
1845: Florida becomes the 27th state.
1845: Congress passes legislation that for the first time overrides a U.S. President’s veto.
1849: The U.S. Department of the Interior is established.
1849: The Gold Coinage Act, which allows the minting of gold coins, is passed by Congress.
1849: Congress creates the territory of Minnesota.
1851: Congress authorizes the 3-cent piece, the smallest U.S. silver coin.
1855: Congress approves $30,000 to test camels for military use.
1857: Congress authorizes the postmaster general to seek bids for an overland stagecoach service to carry mail between the Missouri River and San Francisco.
1857: Fort Abercrombie is established on the west bank of the Red River south of where present day Fargo, North Dakota is. It was named for the commander of the founding party, Lieutenant Colonel John Abercrombie.
1863: Congress authorizes a US mint at Carson City, Nevada.
1863: Idaho Territory is created by Congress. Over 20,000 miners had already arrived to gold fields there.
1863: Free city delivery of mail is authorized by the U.S. Postal Service.
1875: The U.S. Congress authorizes the 20-cent piece. It is only used for 3 years.
1877: Camp Huachuca, Arizona Territory is established to protect the border. 1885: The American Telephone and Telegraph (AT and T) is incorporated in New York as a subsidiary of the American Bell Telephone Company.
1885: The U.S. Post Office offers special delivery for first-class mail.
1894: The Atlantis, the first Greek newspaper in America, is published.
1903: Barney Gilmore, of St. Louis, Missouri, is arrested for spitting.
1903: The U.S. imposes a $2 head tax on immigrants.