October 23, 2022

Soapy Smith's son, James Luther Smith (James Joseph Smith)

James Luther Smith (James Joseph Smith)
Cabinet card of James
"J. Collier, 1643 Larimer Street Denver Colo,"
Evidence that James was born in Denver.

Courtesy of Sarah Moriarty

(Click image to enlarge)


James Luther Smith or James Joseph Smith
11/27/1893 – 02/24/1969

OK, James wasn't actually "lost," but rather his where-abouts became unknown, probably after Soapy’s widow, James’ mother, Mary passed away in 1947. A name change may have played a part in it. My side of the family didn't know where he went, and James’ family didn't know where the siblings went. 1998 witnessed the 100th anniversary of Soapy's death in Skagway, Alaska. This event brought the family back together again, and by complete coincidence! Members of my side of the Smith family arrived in Skagway, including yours truly, without knowing that one of James’ grandchildren (Jim Caraway) was also attending! Thanks to Jim Caraway, Mike Moriarty, his daughter Tia and Gay Mathis, James’ story continues to develop nicely. Upon meeting James’ grandson, Jim Caraway in Skagway, one of the first issues he brought up was James’ name.


Jefferson Randolph ("Soapy") Smith II and Mary Eva (Noonan) Smith had three children; Jefferson Randolph III, Mary Eva and James "Jimmie" Smith. The early family trees, mostly produced by my uncle Joseph Jefferson Smith, indicate that he was born James Luther Smith, however, Jim Caraway stated that his middle name was Joseph, which created a mystery in the family. When I got back home I did some research and although most of the family genealogists on my side of the family stated that the birth name was “James Luther Smith,” I could not find any solid provenance of “Luther” as the middle name. The earliest record is an 1893 baptism in St. Louis for “James L. Smith.” The next earliest record being the 1900 federal census, when James was 7 or 8 years old, only shows his name as “James Smith.” He is “missing” from the 1910 and 1920 census, and by the 1930 census’ he listed his name as “James J. Smith” (James Joseph Smith) He died in 1969 as “J. Joseph Smith.”

It is believed that at some point he changed his name, which is not uncommon in my family. When James Caraway got back home he also did some research, writing, “I believe that at some point my grandfather became a Christian Brother and, perhaps due to his strong Catholic faith, changed his name from James Luther to James Joseph. Thereafter, he was known as ‘JJ’ or ‘Joe,’ and never James.”
James Joseph Smith
May 20, 1918

 (Click image to enlarge)

Mike Moriarty stated that it was while James Smith was attending St. Viator College, that "this was the point in James' life in which he changed his name to Joseph James Smith."


Best as I can determine, James’ date of birth is November 27, 1892. Some early family trees show James being born in 1889, however, the census’ of 1900, 1930 and 1940 state he was born in 1893, however, James’ military enlistment record, that comes direct from the enlistee, shows he was born November 27, 1892.

The 1900 census for St. Louis shows that James was born in November of 1893. It is common for census records to be mistaken as they are copied by hand from the census takers original notes. For instance, the 1900 census shows that James’ father (“Soapy), was born in Kentucky, though records clearly show he was born in Coweta County, Georgia. The dates of the other children, Jefferson and Mary Eva are wrong as well. Was this the fault of the family or the census taker?


Another mystery is James’ birth place. In 1889 Soapy had some troublesome events occur. The Logan Park brawl, Soapy’s attack on Rocky Mountain News editor/manager John Arkins, and the shootout at Pocatello, Idaho, convinced Soapy to move his wife and son (Jefferson III) to St. Louis, Missouri for their safety. Mary is not known to have lived with Soapy in Denver ever again, but enough records, including his own word, show that James was born in Denver, Colorado at the end of 1892. A cabinet card of James that reads, "J. Collier, 1643 Larimer Street Denver Colo," is a pretty good piece of evidence that James was indeed born in Denver. So, the question remains, did Mary move back to Denver for a time?
James Joseph Smith
1942 Draft registration
National Archives and Records Admin.

(Click image to enlarge)

On the draft registration (WW II) card filled out and signed by James in 1942 he lists himself as,

  • James Joseph Smith.
  • Born November 27, 1889 in Denver, Colorado. 
  • Married to Eulaila A. Breen. 
  • Residing working as a teacher in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

James Joseph Smith
with daughter, Mary Jean Smith
Courtesy of Mike Moriarty

(Click image to enlarge)
* Many many thanks to Jim Caraway for all his expertise on his grandfather James. To Mike and Tia Moriarty, and Sarah Moriarty for the use of their wonderful family photographs and their family history. And last, but never least, to good friend and top-notch researcher and genealogist, Gay Mathis for the wonderful and fact filled documents.


James Luther (Joseph) Smith

James Luther (Joseph) Smith: pages 108, 418.

"Whether he likes it or not, a man’s character is stripped at the poker table; if the other players read him better than he does, he has only himself to blame. Unless he is both able and prepared to see himself as others do, flaws and all, he will be a loser in cards, as in life."
—Anthony Holden

October 16, 2022

The Schooner Janus: Soapy Smith Escape Ship.


The Janus.

On the morning of July 8, 1898, the day “Soapy” was killed in the shootout on Juneau Company wharf, Soapy may have sensed the possible end of his reign in Skagway, Alaska, possibly preparing for an exit route, when he purchased the schooner Janus from Captain S. E. Bright. My first introduction to the boat was in the probate paperwork, on the sale of ship, on display at the Skagway Museum. After Soapy’s demise Bright claimed that Soapy had not paid him for the boat, although he had given Jeff a bill of sale. The Janus was returned to Bright on July 23, 1898.
     The Janus was a twenty-ton schooner, “is but little larger than a fishboat,” but large enough for Soapy and the Soap Gang to escape in. According to the dictionary a schooner is “a sailing ship with two or more masts, typically with the foremast smaller than the mainmast, and having gaff-rigged lower masts.”
     The first known newspaper account of the Janus came from my friend, Gay Mathis, published in the Oregonian, August 27, 1897.
Contents of article below

The Little Schooner Janus to start for Alaska.
ASTORIA, Aug. 28. ― A party of 11 San Franciscans has purchased the little schooner Janus, and is fitting her out for a trip to Alaska. The adventurers expect to start within a few days. Some of the party will sale from here on the little vessel, but the majority will go on board of her at Port Townsend. The Janus will be taken as far as Dyea and there sold. E. C. Merwin will have charge. The Janus is but little larger than a fishboat, and the trip will be an extremely hazardous one.
The next newspaper account was reported in the Delta Atlas (Delta, Ohio) on September 24, 1897.
Seek Gold in Copper River
Delta Atlas
(Atlas Ohio)
September, 24, 1897
Contents of article below
Click to enlarge
Seek Gold in Copper River.
     One of the most interesting expeditions that have yet gone to the gold fields of Alaska or the Northwest territory left Port Townsend last week in a twenty ton schooner called the Janus, headed direct for the Copper River country. The party is in charge of a man named George I. Rinnacks, who has spent all of five years in the Copper River country and has brought out large sums of money at different times, aggregating fully $200,000. The other members of the expedition are mostly Californians. The party is incorporated as the “Oakland Mining and Trading Company” and starts out under a copartnership agreement that binds them to remain together for two years. Their schooner was purchased at a cost of $1,500, and they put on board $2,000 worth of provisions and supplies. In addition to this each man is supplied with two repeating rifles and 500 rounds of ammunition; also two revolvers.
     The schooner Janus is headed direct for Port Hidalgo lagoon, which is a new route for entering Alaska, the Janus party being the first to go in this way. A landing will be made at a point called Turnigar, at the head of the lagoon, a place where no boat has yet landed, and which in reality has no official name. In order to reach this lagoon it is necessary to sail through the narrow passage between Seal rocks and Cape Hinchumbrook-a dangerous undertaking, on account of the shoals and treacherous currents. This passage leads into Prince William sound, with open-sea sailing until Snug Corner cove is reached, when another narrow body of water must be sailed through, with Bligh’s Island on the left. Here the lagoon is entered and the journey to Turnigar is continued. This lagoon is a narrow neck of water, at places very shallow, which makes it difficult of navigation.
     The Janus party expects to reach Turnigar within thirty days. On the way north the schooner will call at Juneau and Sitka to take on board thirty dogs that will be used to transport the supplies overland from Turnigar to the Copper River, which will be reached at a point just above Beaver River. From this place the general direction of the river will be followed northward, and it will be crossed three times, the final destination of the expedition being Tonsina creek. Six members of the party will be left on Tonsina creek, where Rinnack’s partner, Michael O’Donnell, is now holding their claims and mining some work, and the others will be sent eastward to the tributary of the White River, where it is claimed that location can be made that will not only rival but surpass the famous Klondike.
     Almost four weeks later the Janus was thought to have been sighted by the schooner Pilot, and appeared to be “wanting assistance.” The story was published in the Sacramento Daily Union, November 2, 1897.
Unlucky Voyage of a schooner
Sacramento Daily Union
November 2, 1897

Contents of article below
Click to enlarge
Caught in a Terrible Storm in Northern Waters.
The Little Craft Comes Near Going to the Bottom of the Sea.
Her Crew of Four Men Compelled to Subsist on Quarter Rations for Many Days, the Vessel Not Being Able to Get Into Port Until Her Provisions Were Nearly Exhausted.
PORT TOWNSEND, Nov. 1. — The schooner Pilot returned to-day from an unlucky voyage to the halibut district of southeastern Alaska, her crew of four men having been on short rations for two weeks, and subsisting on quarter rations for the past eight days.
     The Pilot left Port Townsend eight weeks ago, but met with contrary winds from that time till she arrived home to-day.
     Passing out through Dixon's Entrance three weeks ago, a terrible storm was encountered. For twenty-eight hours Captain Johnson stood in the storm with bare poles, and the little craft was tossed about like a chip. When the storm was first broken he sighted a little schooner heading northward with the American flag flying. She appeared to be wanting assistance, but gave no further indications as the Pilot hove nearer, and Captain
Johnson again hove off. The schooner was finally lost sight of. At no time could her name be distinguished, but her description fits the schooner Janus, which left here September 5th with a party of twelve California men bound for Copper River.
     Eight days later a newspaper article in the San Francisco Call on November 10, 1897 clarifies that it was not the schooner Janus that Captain Johnson of the Pilot saw in distress and “wanting assistance.”
"All is well with the schooner"
San Francisco Call
November 10, 1897
Contents of article below

Click to enlarge
    PORT TOWNSEND, Nov. 9.- A letter has been received from one of the members of the schooner Janus’ crew bound for Copper River.
     The letter was dated October 10 and sent from Port Neville, off Vancouver Island, about forty miles from Alert Bay. At that time all was well with the schooner.
     This makes it improbable that it was the Janus in distress that was sighted in a storm in Dixon’s entrance by the schooner Pilot.
     The success of the expedition is unknown, as is the fate of the Janus, before and after the time Captain S. E. Bright took possession and sold it to Soapy Smith on July 8, 1898. The original probate document reads as follows.
Probate document
July 23, 1898
Contents of document below
Courtesy of Skagway Museum
 Click to enlarge
JEFFERSON R. SMITH, DECEASED. Affidavit of Capt. S. E. Bright.
S. E. Bright, being first duly sworn, says “I am the owner of the Schooner “JANUS” and other property, which I conveyed to Jefferson R. Smith on the 8th day of July, 1898; but the same was conveyed in trust only; and no consideration was passed from said Smith to me, although I gave said Smith a Bill of sale for the same.
The said property, although conveyed by me to said Smith was conveyed for the purpose of having said J. R. Smith to attend to and handle said property for me; and belongs entirely to me.
S. E. Bright
Subscibed and sworn to before me this 23rd day of July, 1898.
C. A. Sehlbrede U. S. Commissioner for Alaska.
     If only Soapy had not waited around in Skagway, escaping that same morning. A completely different story of Jefferson Randolph Smith II would be known.


Apr. 13, 2010
Apr. 13, 2010
Nov. 16, 2011

The Janus: pages 530, 545.

"There are few things that are so unpardonably neglected in our country as poker. The upper class knows very little about it. Now and then you find ambassadors who have sort of a general knowledge of the game, but the ignorance of the people is fearful. Why, I have known clergymen, good men, kind-hearted, liberal, sincere, and all that, who did not know the meaning of a 'flush.' It is enough to make one ashamed of the species."
—Mark Twain