October 31, 2010

The Soap Gang at McNeil Island prison.





Thanks to the McNeil Island Penitentiary records on microfilm at the National Archives I was able to find some of the members of the Soap Gang sent there after Soapy was killed. There were over 800 mugshots I had to sort through and unfortunately none were of the gang. The written records upon being received into the prison are revealing and well worth the effort. Several mysteries remain, such as what became of the prison records for John L. "Reverend" Bowers, W. E. "Slim Jim" Foster and Van B. "Old Man" Triplett?


(Click image to enlarge)
1898 Part 1

 (Click image to enlarge)
 1898 Part 2

The records above show the following information for

Edward Fay: Although not known as a member of the Soap Gang, his shooting of Deputy U.S. Marshal Rowan in Skagway, Alaska and the subsequent protection he received from Soapy make him an interesting study. his name is believed to have been John Fay and under his name listed in the record is the underlined words "true name" which appears to be pointing at his last name. There also appears to be possibly a question mark there. Hopefully future records found will clear up the name issue.
Number of Commitment: 821
Number: 104488
Conviction when: November term 1898
Where: District of Alaska
Offense: Manslaughter
Sentence: 8 years and $100 fine
Date of Sentence: Jan. 6, 1899
Expires When With "Good Time Counted": Sept. 13, 1905
Born: Boston, Mass.
Single or Married: Single
Reads: Yes
Writes: Yes
Age: 33
Height: 5'-9-1/2"
Weight: 155 ["148-1/2" written underneath]
Hair: D Brown [dark brown]
Complexion: Fair
Eyes: Very light blue
Occupation: Bartender
Religion: [missing]
Where Arrested: Surrendered himself at Sitka, Alaska
When Arrested: Feb. 3, 1898
How Long in Jail Before Trial: Since arrest
First or Second Offense: 1st
Temperate or Intemperate: Temperate [Merriam-Webster: "Absence or avoidance of extravagance, violence or extreme partisanship." Also "Moderate in the use of alcoholic beverages."]
Plea of Guilty or Not Guilty: Not Guilty
Residence: Spokane, Wash
Attorney for Plaintiff: N/A
Attorney for Defense: Leddy & Pratt
Judge: C. S. Johnson
Remarks: Received at Pen Jan. 13, 1899. Dis'd 8:30 a.m. 10/5/05
[additional notes]: Large scar under chin, ___ finger right hand crooked. Beard black, mustache redish [sic]

It is interesting to finally learn that Fay was convicted of manslaughter, and not murder. Although he was sentenced to 8 years he only served 6 years - 9 months.



W. H. "Professor" Jackson: All my records and newspaper archives from 1894 onward show his first and middle initials were W. H. However after his capture in Skagway his first name is listed as Turner. As official court records are not reliable I am not going to make a stand on his name issue, but rather use both names with an explanation just as I have done in my book.

Number of Commitment: 1014
Number: 104589
Conviction when: November term 1898
Where: District of Alaska
Offense: Assault with dangerous weapon
Sentence: 10 years
Date of Sentence: Jan. 6, 1899
Expires When With "Good Time Counted": May 23, 1907
Born: New York
Single or Married: Single
Reads: Yes
Writes: Yes
Age: 45
Height: 5'-9"
Weight: 190
Hair: Black
Complexion: Light
Eyes: Reddish Hazel
Occupation: Cattleman
Religion: [missing]
Where Arrested: Skagway, Alaska
When Arrested: June 10, 1898 [Should read July]
How Long in Jail Before Trial: Since arrest
First or Second Offense: 1st
Temperate or Intemperate: Temperate [Merriam-Webster: "Absence or avoidance of extravagance, violence or extreme partisanship." Also "Moderate in the use of alcoholic beverages."]
Plea of Guilty or Not Guilty: Not Guilty
Residence: Buffalo, New York
Attorney for Plaintiff: Fredricks
Attorney for Defense: Hawes and Cruze [sic: Hume and Crews]
Judge: C. S. Johnson
Remarks: [quote marks indicate that it is a repeat of the information from Fay's comments] "Received at Pen Jan. 13, 1899," with the addition of, "Release out on ____ habeas corpus 9/20/05 - 12 noon."
[additional notes]: Scar under right jaw. Small scar in forehead over left eye. Slightly lame in right leg.



George Wilder: The records I was able to find before publication show that Wilder did not serve time in prison but obviously this is not the case having been sentenced to 7 years.
Number of Commitment: 1013
Number: 104490
Conviction when: November term 1898
Where: District of Alaska
Offense: Assault with dangerous weapon
Sentence: 7 years and $100 fine
Date of Sentence: Jan. 6, 1899
Expires When With "Good Time Counted": Nov. 13, 1904
Born: Ohio
Single or Married: Single
Reads: Yes
Writes: Yes
Age: 52
Height: 5'-9"
Weight: 170 ["168-1/2" written underneath]
Hair: D Brown [dark brown]
Complexion: Fair
Eyes: Very light blue
Occupation: Miner
Religion: [missing]
Where Arrested: Skagway, Alaska
When Arrested: July 11, 1898
How Long in Jail Before Trial: Since arrest
First or Second Offense: 1st
Temperate or Intemperate: Temperate [Merriam-Webster: "Absence or avoidance of extravagance, violence or extreme partisanship." Also "Moderate in the use of alcoholic beverages."]
Plea of Guilty or Not Guilty: Not Guilty
Residence: N/A
Attorney for Plaintiff: Fredricks
Attorney for Defense: W. T. Hume and Cruze [sic: W. T. Hume and W.E. Crews]
Judge: C. S. Johnson
Remarks: [quote marks indicate that it is a repeat of the information from Fay's comments] "Received at Pen Jan. 13, 1899," with the addition of, "Release out on ____ habeas corpus 9/20/05 - 12 noon."
[additional notes]: Right ____ under to __________. Bald from forehead to back of center. Sandy Mustache

Interesting that Wilder was sentence to 7 years when previously he was thought to have escaped conviction. When he "assaulted with a dangerous weapon" was probably the night of Soapy's death, being one of the gang members who pulled a gun along with Jackson.

 Sources
McNeil Island Penitentiary Records of Prisoners Received, 1887-1951; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1619, 4 rolls); Records of the Bureau of Prisons, Record Group 129; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

McNeil Island Penitentiary Prisoner Identification Photographs 1875-ca. 1923 (ARC # 608846); Bureau of Prisons, Record Group Number 129; National Archives Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle).














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5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Superb find Jeff! This is very interesting data.
    We can get a better feel for what the individuals were actually like with this information.

    I am hoping similar records can someday be discovered for the other members of the gang...especially Bowers, and Triplett.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you Rich. I agree that by studying records like the ones above, the members of the gang become far more than just a name. They become more human, whether they be better or worse human beings.

    Jeff Smith

    ReplyDelete
  4. does anybody know if the o'donnells' ancestors were from ulster (Donegal)in Ireland or from the Munster(Clare, Limerick) region? Yours Simon O'Donnell

    ReplyDelete
  5. I hope you find your answer.

    Jeff Smith

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for leaving your comment and/or question on my blog. I always read, and will answer all questions left here. Please know that they are greatly appreciated. -Jeff Smith