January 31, 2011

Soapy Smith's life insurance policy, 1888-1889: Artifact #26

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In Denver April 2, 1889 S. A. Sheppard, the local agent for the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company of California wrote out a Life and Accident policy receipt to Soapy.

The overcrowded, under-staffed Denver courts also worked to Jeff’s advantage. Most businessmen and travelers could not afford to wait around for a hearing. More often than not, they accepted their losses and left the city. Occasionally, however, victims would become enraged over their loss and react violently. Jeff and his men were always alert for this possibility and kept “strong arms” at the ready. On Wednesday July 8, 1888, Jeff swindled two men who reacted with their fists. “A ‘soap’ man and two grangers [farmers] got into trouble yesterday morning, in which the grangers, as usual, got the worst of it.” Jeff always operated with steerers and boosters who were capable of physically handling unruly victims. In this instance, though, it appears Jeff alone battled the two grangers. Jeff no doubt learned early on about the inflammatory danger of bunco work. To protect himself, everywhere he went he carried concealed weapons. Once married, he also protected himself and his new family with life and accident insurance. One policy from the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company of San Francisco dates from November 29, 1888, to November 29, 1889. –Alias Soapy Smith, p. 118.
The document reads as follows.

To whom it may concern:

This certifies that general accident policy No. 9510 was issued to Jeff R. Smith for $5,000 Death Insurance and $25 weekly indemnity. That on the 29th day of November 1889-item was issued. Renewal receipt number 4292 renewing said policy from Nov 29, 1888 to Nov 29, 1889.

That this policy and renewal receipt was issued by the Pacific Mutual Insurance Co of California and is now in full force and effect until Nov 29, 89 in favor of Jeff R. Smith.
S. A. Sheppard

I have to wonder why Soapy wanted a receipt for the remaining 7 months of the policy. Did he lose the original receipt? Did he fear for his life or was he just making sure his new family was cared for in the event of his death? Did he get hurt and wanted coverage? Could it be that he was planning on defrauding the California based insurance company? There is still documents within the family that remain uncovered so perhaps one day soon we will have the answers.  

Life insurance policy: page 118.


January 29, 2011

Soapy Smith's lot on Main Street, Creede, Colorado 1892, Artifact #25

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Another artifact from my personal collection (#25). I hope you enjoy it. Please remember that all my artifacts are numbered and I am posting them in order of number and not by date or excitement, so although you might possibly not find this particular item of great interest, know that there are over 100 more coming that are very exciting.

On January 30, 1892 Soapy purchased his first lot of land in Creede, Colorado, the new silver-boom camp. The seller was a man named W. J. Kurt. of Saguache county, located southwest of Creede. Soapy also claimed Saguache county as his residence. The document is a Quit Claim Deed filled out by Notary Public, S. E. Vanhordeen or possibly "Van Orden."

The following comes from Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel.

One lot located and being on what is now known and designated as the school section. And being twenty-five (fronting, feet in, ?) on what is now known as Main Street by the depth that is arranged for lots in the block in which it is situated. The (crossed out word) possession of said lot being transferred together with the delivery of said lot.

From Denver in early 1892, when Jeff first decided Creede was a good relocation bet, he sent a man there to reconnoiter a potential invasion of the Soap Gang. A few gambling house proprietor friends were also dispatched. Back came a hand-drawn map of the Creede area on Denver and Rio Grande Co. railroad stationary. It consists of a crude layout of the land, mines, and owners. At the top is written, “Last chance / every thing / takin and Develope / more or leasse.” [see artifact 16 – link this] The map seemed to show little possibility of obtaining real estate in Creede, but looks could be deceiving.

Jeff and his men arrived in Creede sometime after October 4, 1891 and before February 2, 1892. On January 30, Jeff purchased a town lot from a W. J. Kurt for $100. Five days earlier, on January 25, 80 acres of state land in Creede, leased to a V. B. Wason as “school land,”  was reported subleased illegally to squatters. Not known is where Jeff was when he purchased the lot, but 3 days later on February 2, 1892, Jeff was in Creede to file a non-payment action on a check for $750.   –Alias Soapy Smith, p. 201.

"School land": “The 1875 Enabling Act for the Territory of Colorado authorizing the admission of Colorado as a state upon adoption of a state constitution, provided that two sections of every township would be ‘granted for the support of common schools.’ The Act provided that the lands be sold ‘only at public sale’ with ‘the proceeds to constitute a permanent school fund’ the ‘interest of which to be expended in the support of common schools.”

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Creede, Colorado flood of 1892

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Creede Lease: page 201.


January 27, 2011

King Con: The Story of Soapy Smith, by Jane Haigh. A book review.

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I created a new page located in the tabs at the top of the blog. It's a book review of Jane Haigh's book about Soapy Smith. Below is the page in its entireity.


King Con: The Story of Soapy Smith. Jane Haigh. Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada: Friday501, 2006. 120 pages, 5⅝X9". Photographs, footnotes, appendixes, index. $9.95 (paper)

Book Review by Jeff Smith

I decided to write this review because it's about an ancestor of mine and because it concerns research I have conducted in a serious way for thirty years.

Jane Haigh, the author, is about as nice a person as you are going to meet, down to earth and polite. She first contacted me while working on her version of a Soapy Smith biography to ask for some of my research. Still working on my own comprehensive book about Soapy, I declined, but I did lead her to some of the usual starting points. A specific help provided, however, was my pointing out that she was proposing to publish the wrong man's face on the cover of her book.

The copyright page contains a disclaimer: "Extreme care has been taken to ensure that all information presented in this book is accurate and up to date. Neither the author nor the publisher can be held responsible for any errors." Perhaps it was known that there were errors and repetitions of fabrications because this slim volume contains many. For example, in documenting the story that Soapy was a cowboy, a footnote reads, "There is no actual documentation of this cowboying story…" (p. 105). But the story is retold anyway. Many other details from other accounts are presented without qualification or even documentation. These instances number far more than readers, not to mention historians, should be asked to accept. The unexplained disclaimer cannot excuse repeating all the old errors, fictions, and falsehoods from other sources.

For a relatively new biography, surprisingly, there is no new information about Jefferson Randolph Smith II, and there was quite a bit to be had that is in plain sight. For example, the biographer repeats the "rumors that Soapy's gang robbed the bodies" of men who died in the terrible avalanche of April 3, 1898, in a makeshift morgue set up for that purpose (King Con, p. 78). A little research reveals the actual story, which lays that canard to rest (see Alias Soapy Smith, pp. 495-97). Another example is the old story of Soapy's having planned to intercept and rob a Canadian shipment of gold coming through Skagway. This supposed event is told in slightly varying forms in other publications and is briefly retold in this book. The story is so preposterous on its face that it calls for interpretation. Fortunately, of supporting assistance is a newspaper account of the time, which helps reveal the probable nature of that event, which is far from that of an attempted robbery. (For analysis, see Alias Soapy Smith, pp. 514-16.)

In addition to no new information, also missing is some key old information. For example, there is Jeff's venture in 1896 up to Juneau (where he was arrested), on across the Gulf of Alaska to Homer Spit and Seldovia, and up Cook Inlet to the gold rush communities of Hope and Sunrise. That was a difficult and interesting journey for which there is fairly easily available and credible documentation (see Alias Soapy Smith, pp. 408-16). Another example of important historical information is the shooting of Cliff Sparks in Denver, for which Soapy was a primary suspect for a long time. This event is connected over years to a sensational situation in Skagway involving Denver Madam Mattie Silks. This incident and related happenings appear in this book but they are told upside down and with no attempt to reveal connections or nuances. (In Alias Soapy Smith, see pp. 507-13.)

The 101 footnotes mostly consist of quotes from previous biographies. Unfortunately, the footnote numbers become misaligned with the endnotes starting with #77. There are two footnotes marked #102, but it doesn't matter because the actual notes are missing from the endnotes, as is #103.

Readers looking for a quick, mostly undocumented distillation of the old, mostly erroneous details and stories about Soapy Smith may find this book worth the price. A majority of the foremost events are related and make for interesting reading—and some of them are even all true. Many, however, are in error or are outright fictions. Readers looking for a biography based in fact and that offers considered analysis would do well to look elsewhere.

Jeff Smith
January 2011
Corona, California

Here are links to other posts on this blog pertaining to this topic:
December 13, 2010
April 14, 2009


January 22, 2011

The fancy Soapy Smith cocktail at Euclid Hall in Denver

The Tivoli Club
Denver, Colorado
(far left)
copyright Jeff Smith
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The Denver Omelette blog published a story that includes a fancy cocktail called The Soapy Smith. Next time you are in Denver you need to have one. Below is the story. 

Seduced by $12 cocktails at Euclid Hall

Last night Sleepy and I went to Euclid Hall (on 14th between Market and Larimer, in the old Martini Ranch-thank god that's over) for our first time. I've been hearing about it a lot on the ol' twitter and was SO HAPPY when I was on their website and saw their kitchen is open until midnight! Best news ever.

We got there around 10:30 and the Hubs was to meet us there shortly. I have to say the place is super amazing-great ambiance, huge beer menu and the most strange and interesting food menu I've seen in a long time.

I accidentally ordered a $21 beer and even though the waiter told me I'd be drinking it all night I downgraded to a $9 bottle of organic cider that was served in a champagne flute-y type glass which made me feel very swanky. After we were able to flag down a waiter (the theme of the night and the only real downside to the place) we ordered a plate of Duck Gravy Poutine and a Cheesesteak "sandwich" for Sleepy. I had no idea what poutine was. Turns out this one was french fries slathered in duck, duck gravy and cheese curds. That's right! I said cheese curds! It was really super however it was served in a tin bowl type thing and the leftover pieces of duck in the tin bowl sort of reminded me of dog food. Just saying. Sleepy's "sandwich" gets the quotes because it was a bun, with sliced steak pieces on top and the cheese sauce, onions and peppers were all delicately strewn about the plate. He said after he got over the fact it was so untraditional he really enjoyed it.

Now here's where things get crazy. First of all, the Hubs eats some crazy fucked up stuff. Which they just happen to have on the menu at Euclid Hall. So last night I ate BLOOD SAUSAGE without knowing what it was! Sleepy and the Hubs tricked me, those bastards! The strangest part was that yes, I was major grossed out after I found out that's what I ate, but it really wasn't horrible. It was like sausage cake. I also sampled some of the Hubs pigs ears but I drew the line at the bone marrow. Maybe next time?

AND THEN! The craziest thing of all happened. I ordered fancy cocktails. Two of them! I never do that. I'm super cheap! However, the ingredients list sang to me and I just had to try them. First I had the Soapy Smith which was bourbon and ginger beer and some lemon-SO F****** GOOD. Then I had Maude's Maple which is made with Stranahan's Whiskey and maple extract (which Sleepy blames as the reason this particular cocktail was $12.50) and some orange. ALSO SO F****** GOOD!

All in all, I know I'll be back to Euclid Hall. Many things on the menu I still want to try and I have to have another Soapy Smith!

Thank you Euclid Hall proprietors for helping keep the name of Soapy Smith alive and well in Denver!



January 20, 2011

Dr. Fenton Blackmore Whiting

Dr. Fenton Blackmore Whiting
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 The photo above is the father of Dr. Fenton Whiting.
More new information can be had at June 19, 2011

Our wonderful neighbor, the Skagway Historical Society blog, posted new (to me) information and a nice portrait pertaining to Dr. Fenton B. Whiting who co-performed the authopsy on Soapy. 

Dr. Whiting is not to be confused with Superintendent Whiting of White Pass. Dr. Whiting worked for White Pass also, and was assistant to Mike Heney. He had a Saloon also, on the side.

He helped to quell the workers strike in 1898 by hitting White on the head with a shovel (see blog on John Robert White from October 13, 2009) and he helped in the autopsy of Soapy Smith (see blog on Sept 16, 2010 on Dr. Cornelius).

Fenton was born in 1866 in Quincy, Plumas County, California. He attended Stanford University and graduated in 1891. He died on this day, January 16, 1936 in Richmond Beach, Seattle, Washington.

In 1933 he wrote: Grit, Grief and Gold: A true narrative of an Alaska Pathfinder. (Peacock Pub. Seattle); 1900 census; familysearch; Plumas County history online.

Here are links to other posts on this blog pertaining to this topic:

Fenton B. Whiting: pages 80, 521, 537, 542, 564, 567-70, 595.


Watch for new Soapy Smith photograph.

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Watch for a newly discovered photograph of Soapy Smith to be released to the public soon! It promises to have answers to past mysteries located within.


The Ballad of Soapy Smith

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If you never had the chance to see the Michael Weller play, The Ballad of Soapy Smith, the Twentieth Century North American Drama website has several scenes from several acts to read.



January 19, 2011

Bradley Cooper should play Soapy Smith?

Clark Gable as Soapy
Honky Tonk, 1941

The tabs at the top contain a page called Who Should Star As Soapy. Buck Grizzly over at the True West Forum sent me the following.

Jeff a while back you were asking who should play Soapy in a movie in the works and I suggested this guy Bradley Cooper. Well over the weekend I saw him in the A-team. It was alright but 10 times better than the series. Anyway, he played the con artist Faceman, and in the movie he did a version of the three-card monte when he was laying out a plan for the team. I had to chuckle, since I suggested using this guy and here he is playing a great con artist in a movie.

He still has my vote if it matters. ;-)

Thank you very much Buck for your great contribution to the page on who should play Soapy. I had not originally planned to see the A-Team, but have changed my mind thanks to you. Fans will note that three-card monte is the short con that indirectly caused Soapy's death.


January 15, 2011

Readers will remember the updated information about Soap Gang member Shoot-Your-Eye-Out Jack, also known as Texas Jack Vermillion. I have seen fit to take down that information because it seemed the right thing to do.

In my book, Texas Jack is presented as John Wilson Vermillion. More recently, I posted here that author Peter Brand discovered his name was John O. Vermillion. The new information I posted, though, revealed more of the background to this person and brought him into sharper focus. Not known to me or my source at the time I posted the entry about him was that others were also working with the same information, presumably with an eye toward publication. So I thought it best to pull the new information and wait for it to appear in print before sharing it.

So, Followers of the Soap Gang, rest assured that when that information appears in a form that may be shared at large, you'll also learn of it here.


January 10, 2011

The real "Texas Jack" Vermillion.

Sorry, due to problems Linda Wildman is going through with her family for sharing her research with me, I opted to remove the John Oberland Vermillion post. Unknown to Linda, other family members were involved with another person (Peter Brand?) in writing an article on John Vermillion. It is a big disappointment not being able to share all the new information on such a mysterious Soap Gang member, however, I must respect Linda's plight. There is good that has come from this. Two families that have historical descendants who once worked together, have met.

Linda,  I look forward to hearing and learning more.

Here are links to other posts on this blog pertaining to this topic: [links]
September 11, 2010

John Vermillion: pages 75, 88, 91-92, 162-63, 165, 170, 175.


Questions about Soapy Smith's guns.

Mark Weller sent me the following email.


Just a note to say you have a very informative and interesting site.

I thought I would put my two cents in as it were regarding some of Soapy’s artifacts.

The Colt SAA and the 92 Winchester would make sense to both be Soapy’s especially if the SAA was chambered in 44WCF.

However the Colt 1889 shown in the morgue photo might have been the weapon used by Frank Reid?

(The model 1889 was know as the Navy model regardless if it were 38 or 41 and wasn’t until the model 1892 that is was known as the new Navy/Army model)

Food for thought.

Don’t you just love history?


I believe Mark is referring to the website page, Soapy's Weapons. I sent him the following response.

Hello, Mark.

Yes, I do love history! Thank you for the kind words. I assume you are referring to the website. Be sure to check out the blog (link below) which covers more detail about known stories, as well as announcing brand new information recently discovered. For instance, very soon I will be posting new information on Soap Gang member, John O. "Texas Jack" Vermillion.

Thank you for adding your "two cents." I have always believed that we learn best when more heads are put together and all thoughts are thrown into the mix for discussion and comparison.

Regarding the Colt single action army (armies) on display. You will note that I graded them very low in terms of actually having been Soapy Smith's. It is highly unlikely that any of the ones shown were actually his. Like most famous characters of the old west, guns "once owned by them" come out of the woodwork. The more well known the person is, the more guns there are.

Regarding the Winchester rifle, model 1892, it has clear paperwork provenance and has stayed in the family since August 1898. It was given to the widow by the new Deputy U.S. Marshal.

You are right in regards to the double action shown in the morgue photo, it could be Frank Reid's gun, however, Frank Reid was in the hospital at the time so I have to ask the question, why would Reid's gun be with Soapy in the Morgue? The gun could belong to the photographer or one of the men who might have been in the room at the time. This can be said about every deceased character in the old west in which a photograph was taken where a weapon appears with the deceased. Until ownership paperwork pops up we will never know for certain.

You wrote "The model 1889 was know as the Navy model regardless if it were 38 or 41 and wasn’t until the model 1892 that is was known as the new Navy/Army model" John Culligan, our historical weapons analyst, was the person who shared his immense knowledge of old west armory. Unfortunately he is deceased so I looked up my original research records and found that I had used two post 1892 store catalogs for information. I am certain you know what you are talking about so I promise to look into the facts more thoroughly, but presently I found that the catalogs still list the Navy/Army examples as model 1889s. I will change the information as soon as I find information to the contrary.

I hope you will continue to join us and help uncover the many mysteries we encounter.

Jeff Smith


January 6, 2011

A home in Creede: Artifact #24

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In 1889 Soapy moved his new family to St. Louis so that they would be safe from his world of crime in Denver. He visited them often but had always hoped they would be able to return so that they could once again be a family under one roof. That opportunity presented itself in 1892 when Soapy moved his core operation to Creede, Colorado during the silver boom there.  

Jeff also leased a lot just above the one on which he was living “to be used for a dwelling house.” Presumably this location would be for a family home. Mary and son Jefferson did visit Creede but never resided there. Jeff’s lease of this dwelling one week before the commercial property indicates his confidence of success.

Jeff obtained enough lots in Creede’s business district for himself and some of his Denver friends. The problem was that some of these properties were on “school land.” The state contested these leases and cancelled V. B. Wason’s lease, intending itself to auction lots from the land to the highest bidder. The 102 “squatters” who had leased “school land” from Wason and who had already made improvements were ordered to vacate without reimbursement. They chose to stay and fight if necessary.

The boast is openly made that the state may sell at auction and give title which may be good at some time, but that nothing less than Winchesters carried by militiamen can give possession.

The state auction was scheduled for Friday, February 26, 1892. In the days prior to the sale, Creede was filled with investors wanting to capitalize on the misfortune of Creede’s early settlers. Governor John L. Routt and other state officials arrived in the private car of Rio Grande and Denver Railroad Co. Treasurer J. W. Gilluly. He had brought two surgeons and medical supplies in the event of trouble as threats of violence were being made if the state proceeded as planned. The engine pulled “seventeen cars, with every available seat occupied and standing room at a premium….” Numerous Denver real estate firms were among the new arrivals seeking to invest in the land sale. In the meantime, the governor remained locked in his sleeping car.

Two days before the auction, eight or nine hundred men met on behalf of the Wason leasers in a large tent at the center of the school land. The plan was to discourage, verbally—or physically if need be—outside bidding so that current lot holders could buy their properties from the state. At one point during the meeting, heard were gun shots and cries of “lot jumping” and “he is jumped.” In meetings with state officials, representatives of the “squatters” argued that current leasers should be given a fair chance to purchase the land from the state, but state law prohibited such action. Trouble looked probable.

The public sale on Friday morning, February 26, 1892, took place in a 40-foot circus tent. A stand was erected in front of the state auctioneer, occupied by E. H. Watson, chairman of the citizens’ committee. He was ready to contest the sale of any squatters’ lots. With him were 25 men of the committee all wearing red badges. Jeff had leased some of these lots, but his involvement with the citizens’ committee, if any, is not known. However, the fact that men marched in wearing red badges fits Jeff’s mode of operation. Some of Jeff’s associates, however, were definitely involved. On March 2, the following Wednesday, while the auction proceedings were still ironing out differences, a committee was appointed consisting of S. T. Harvey, A. T. Jones, Clinton T. Brainard, John Kinneavy, E. C. Burton, John Lord, G. R. Miller, Louis Kerwin, and W. J. Allen. Kinneavy, of course, was one of Jeff’s allies, and G. Miller could be George Miller and W. J. Allen could be J. W. Allen, both of the Soap Gang.

Meanwhile, on the previous Friday, violence was expected, so the governor remained in the private car and received reports. State officials warned those present that if any problems hindered progress, the sale would be adjourned to Denver. No violence occurred, but plenty of “committee” member direction did. Its coaching strategy had a desired effect, and the bidding was without rancor. A News correspondent described how excitement was high and

the crowd was enormous. When a lot was called upon which was a squatter’s cabin, the improvements and the name of the claimant were read by the chairman of the committee of twenty-five and there were loud cries of “Let him have it!” “Throw out the man who bids over him!”

The cries were hoarse with anger, but as one or two lots had been knocked down to squatters at the minimum price fixed by the state appraiser, good nature … reasserted itself. There were calls of “They will do the square thing!” and “The speculators are all right!” The sale ran along for some time without particular incident, the lots bringing a price from $200 to $300.

… Lot 14, in block 28, was claimed by a woman. When the minimum price was called, cries of “Give it to the woman,” went up.

“Let her have it.”

“Do not bid over her.”

The first bid was made in the woman’s behalf at $50. Martin Froody then raised the bid to $51, loud cries of “Put him out,” were heard, and there was a rush in the direction of the auctioneer’s stand where Martin stood. The confusion and noise was quieted with the utmost difficulty.

Stretching his hand as high as possible, Martin with the gallantry which he averred every man from Denver should possess, announced that his bid was for the woman and Rev. Mr. Brodhead called lot 14, in block 28, for the “woman.” At $51. Martin was loudly cheered and Denver friends pressed forward to take his hand…. …

A livery man with a leather coat and rubber boots mounted the platform of the belligerents and claimed a lot because upon it he had kept a few overworked mules. A woman in a plush sack took a position back of him and shouted that she had her children on the same lot and that there she made bread for them.

“Down with the livery stable; let the woman have it: she came here early, she makes bread,” were the cries that lifted the tent. The cries in favor of the woman who made bread prevailed, and she received the lot…. …

Women mounted the stand with babies in their arms and the kids took the real estate. For half an hour a woman in a fiery red dress held her position at the corner of the squatters’ stand and cast her most seductive glances at the auctioneer. When the golden opportunity came she plead to be permitted to buy lot 12 in block 12, to carry on a small mercantile business. She gave her name as Louise C. Grebor and amid wild cheers took in the perpendicular patch of ground 25 feet by 125 at $105. …

No sooner was it knocked down than she asked for the adjoining lot for her sister. Five hundred voices in the crowd asked as many questions.

“Where is your sister?” “What is the matter with one lot?” “You are overdoing it.” “Come off!”

“Well,” said Louise, “I have a business on one and she on the other and we straddle across.”

Hats were thrown high in the canvas, shrieks of laughter split the air, the auctioneer leaned back and took an observation through the bottom of a beer bottle … the crowd howled, “Let them straddle it.”

“They need it,” and accordingly Mrs. William Hoyt of New York straddled the second lot at the same figure. Louise went around back of the state auctioneer and from a black silk handkerchief, pulled a roll of bills, which was smilingly received by Register France and handed over to Bill Smith, who deposited them in his tin box….

During the excitement General Adams of Colorado Springs had his pocket picked and lost about $700. He had invested heavily in lots and was known to have money, by the toughs, who were lounging around for plunder. Money began to pile up upon the table of the land board, which was surrounded only by a rude railing.

Warden Bill Smith had charge of the cash box, and toward evening reports were sent in that a gang of thugs were organizing to make a rush for the box. There was a movement in the crowd and Bill Smith, who has the reputation of being one of the coolest men in the frontier, was somewhat worried…. For this reason and on account of the rush of business the sale was adjourned at 6:30 p.m., and a hasty exit was made from the side of the tent. Warden Smith took the precaution to stuff the rolls of bills into his outside pockets and to carry the box so that it might be taken, if anything….

… The names of those who planned the robbery are known, and they will be hunted down by the indignant settlers.

Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, pp. 202-04

Here are links to other posts on this blog pertaining to this topic:
September 16, 2010
December 30, 2010

Creede Leases: pages 201-06.


January 5, 2011

Young Soapy Smith, the hunter

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As  young boys growing up in post war Georgia in the late 1860s, early 1870s, Jefferson Randolph Smith II and his cousin, Edwin, loved to hunt. On one expedition, with their parents blessing, they traveled  nearly 240 miles between their home in Coweta County to the coastal shipping town of Brunswick, where they came very close to becoming sailors on an outgoing ship. 

Edwin Bobo Smith was eighteen months older than his Cousin Jeff. The boys were double first cousins as their fathers were brothers and their mothers were sisters. Cousin Ed’s family lived “within a stone’s throw” of Cousin Jeff’s. Growing up together, the boys referred to one another as “brother.” In their youth, they planned to stay together for the rest of their lives. Here is how Edwin characterized his boyhood relationship with Jeff:

There was a natural affinity besides the tie of close blood relationship, and the inseparable companionship endured for many years. Our ages were nearly the same but his superior daring and adventurous spirit made me a satellite. Hunting and fishing were mutual passions, and we quickly learned to handle guns expertly, ruthlessly decimating the small game in our area. One winter, after agreeing that we were weary of this petty sport of quail and squirrel slaughter, we got a reluctant assent of our elders to go on an extended trip for the bagging of bigger stuff. We headed for the big pinelands of the coastal region south of Savannah, and we got there partly by rail and partly afoot, helped occasionally by riding in the wagon of a friendly farmer. Our minds were set on bringing down the red deer and maybe a bear in the cane breaks, to say nothing of the waterfowl along the streams. The expedition was a triumph and we wrote home of getting seven good-sized bucks, quite a few wild turkeys and no end of marsh hens, but the score took in no bear. On Saint Simon Island we encountered a novelty, something utterly unexpected from which we were enabled to make money; from a native who got a living that way we learned to be trappers of mink that abound along the reedy shores of that beautiful domain. The skins brought a dollar apiece in the Savannah market and we were in the fair way to become capitalists when a peremptory message summoned the young trappers home. It was a bitter pill to go back when fortune was smiling and Jeff, surveying the fleet of sailing ships that came from all ports of the world into the harbor at Brunswick for lumber and resin and turpentine, said,

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“Let’s go away on one of them, Ed, and see the world.” He must have read my thoughts for the same notion had been fluttering through my mind. Landlubbers as we were we had been mingling with the captains and crews of full-rigged ships, barques and schooners from distant ports and the master of one seeing our quickness to learn the ways of vessels and celerity in skinning up the rope ladders offered to let us work our passage with him to Buenos Aires. If I had only said the word, away we would have sailed on the next tide, but the vision of a sad mother interposed and so the dreams of a pair of embryo sea rovers were frustrated as one wouldn’t embark without the other. I have often speculated whether our whole lives would not have been altered had we made that voyage; if we might not have become wedded to the deep and sailed the seven seas to the end of our days.

As it was, we went home, entirely by rail this time by virtue of our mink-gained coin, and though we didn’t know what halos were, they had accrued to us as the home folks turned out to hear the wondrous details of the intrepid explorers’ exploits in far off spaces. As a consequence, the explorers felt their importance considerably, and as traveled men deemed themselves much superior to the juveniles who had never crossed the county boundaries. It is true they had been away only six weeks, but it seemed six years so much had happened….
Alias Soapy Smith, pp. 24-25

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Another Wyatt Earp - Soapy Smith connection?

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Wyatt Earp historian, Jeff Morey sent me some information a while back in hopes that I might have the answer. Unfortunately, I did not.

On page 37 of Howard Clifford's "Alaska Adventures: Wyatt Earp and Friends," Sourdough Enterprises, 2000  it is stated:

"Another letter in Smith's collection which tied Soapy and Wyatt together was from Jack H.H. Thompson who was active in Alaska and Klondike development. He sent his regards to Wyatt via a letter to Soapy."

I can't find any mention of a "Jack H.H. Thompson" in your biography of Soapy. Likewise, no letter from Thompson to Soapy mentioning Wyatt Earp seems to be presented in your book. So, what is Howard Clifford talking about? He provides no source for the alleged Thompson to Soapy Smith letter. Let me know your thoughts on this.

As Always - My Best,

Jeff Morey
[p.s.] All Howard Clifford does is claim that the "Jack H.H. Thompson letter" is or was in Soapy Smith's personal collection of letters. He fails to give any indication in his booklet and bibliography where this alleged letter can currently be accessed.

I do not have my past response to Mr. Morey in front of me so I can't quote from it but I personally knew Mr. Clifford since first meeting him in 1974. The last time I saw him was in 1998 in Skagway, Alaska where we both participated on a panel regarding Soapy's death and who actually shot him. Sometime after 2000 Howard Clifford passed away. I studied his research in his various publications and my experience is that he loved history, true history. Like most of us, he had his own theories on how events occurred. However, I never knew him to outright lie or fake documents and facts.

I personally have not read the book, Alaska Adventures: Wyatt Earp and Friends. The only write-up I could locate outside of book sellers comes from a blog by Heidi Olson. Below is the post in its entirety.

For one of my last biography readings in my Alaska history class I was taking, this was a fun read, Wyatt Earp and Friends, by Howard Clifford. The Novel, The Winter Wolf, by Richard Parry, seemed to follow along with the Clifford book and was also fun to read.

Born 1848 Illinois into a longtime American family, he was the 6th generation. His father was town Marshall so Wyatt grew up in law enforcement environment. At 13, he ran away to join in the Civil War (north) and the first officer he found to report for duty, happened to be his father and he was sent home.

As a young adult he had many jobs: constable, railroad crew – caring for horses and supplying food, buffalo hunting, and as bartender and gambler which became a constant and favorite source of income. Throughout his travels he met many frontiersmen, those in law enforcement, wranglers, and gunman.

The most important lesson I learned from those proficient gunfighters was that the winner of the gun play was usually the man that took his time. The second was that, if I hoped to live long on the frontier I would shun flashy trick shooting—grandstand play— as I would poison. pg 12

He is most famous for the shootout at the OK Corral – there is no record that he actually killed anyone and it was really his brother and good friend Doc Holliday who had the feud with the Clanton gang. In fact – he wasn’t even initially mentioned in any of the news accounts.

After the incident, Wyatt traveled around with west with his second wife, Josie. They went to ID, CO, WY, TX.

1895 Shaky-Fitzsimmons boxing match in San Francisco was much advertised as the match of the season. Wyatt had become involved in the boxing circle, mostly as a respected referee. In the end it was said that Wyatt awarded the fight to the wrong man and there were accusations of giving the fight away for $$. Time to pack up and leave town for awhile until things settled down! This was one of the biggest scandals in the boxing world until Mike Tyson and the ear biting. (or so said the author)

1897 departed Seattle for Alaska to meet up with Soapy Smith. They had crossed paths in CO where their wives had gotten acquainted. When Soapy started taking over Skagway, a mutual friend knew they would need someone to keep “law and order” and they both thought of Wyatt.

By this time Wyatt may have had warrants out for his arrest for various financial misdealings. Even though he had been in law enforcement, this didn’t mean he wasn’t always on the right side of the law. He often used it to his advantage. When the ship pulled into Wrangell, he saw the Marshall standing on the dock and thought he was in for it. It turned out to be an acquaintance he new in the SW (who had also done jail time). The Marshall asked Wyatt to help him out as deputy while waiting for the next passage to Skagway. When the ship finally came they had a stop over in Juneau and here is where they heard that Soapy wasn’t in Skagway at the time AND that Josie was pregnant so they decided to go back to SF until the baby was born and travel was easier. This might also have been when he left his pistol in Juneau locked up at the Marshall's office while he was in town. It is supposedly at the Red Dog Saloon but I haven't verified that.

Wyatt later described Wrangell as “just like Hell-On-Wheels,” which in the old days was the term used to describe the unruly camps at the en of the rack as the Union Pacific rails headed West.

Wyatt was more into business – looking for his big opportunity in gambling, liquor, horse racing, boxing, transportation – whatever would make a buck!

Josie lost the child and they soon after decided to head to Dawson for the rush, as Skagway was already starting to see a decline in travelers. They decided this time to take the all-water route. They arrived in St Michael in last summer and took their chances heading up the Yukon river. Due to approaching winter and ice in the river they only make it as far as Rampart.

1898 Rampart was a temporary settlement of from 1-2000 during the gold rush and became home to many who were making their way to Dawson. Home to Rex Beach, Jack London, Robert Service, Joaquin Miller, Elmer Stroller White (known as the Mark Twain of the North and eventual member of house of representatives of Alaska Territorial Leg), Sid Grauman – Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre, Tex Rickert (built Madison Square Gardens).

I know that our Uncle Gus Conradt also made Rampart his home about this same time period, also being stranded by the river freezing up. I know he talks about Rex Beach but i don't think he mentioned Wyatt. And from what I've been told, I'm pretty sure that they would have gotten along really well as they seemed to have shared similar attitudes and morals. The Earp’s rented Beach’s cabin as he was out trapping and wasn’t in town very much. Wyatt became a bartender for the winter.

So here is something interesting and reinforced what I read in another biography about the teacher in the 1910s who was in Fort Yukon. Dogs knew that the paddlewheeler was coming before the people did – the cooks saved the table scraps for the dogs and fed them when they pulled into town. There is a similar story in A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska (Hannah Breece).

During that winter, a young couple wanted to get married. There was no satin material for a dress so the women got together and sewed up burlap and added hundreds of “Sparklers” by cutting tin cans into small bits and sewing them on the dress accompanied with a mosquito netting veil.

When the river started to flow again, Wyatt was approached about going to St Michael to run a canteen for a good percentage of the profits. The rush to Dawson was starting to dwindle so they decided to spend a year running the canteen. But the next year the lure of Nome and the newest, biggest, gold rush was too much and they headed up the Bering sea.

July 1897 – arrived in Nome to miles of tents strewn up on the beaches. Decided to build a wood structure and in the following year the had the first 2-story building called the Dexter. Profits must have been good because they decided to spend the next winter in SF and along the way they opened up a saloon in Seattle.

During these times, local option often pre-empted US law and here is one example: The sale of liquor was supposed to be prohibited since Alaska was considered Indian Territory, but if a majority of the men AND women in the area approved the sale of liquor then you could go ahead and did it. This was the first known record of American women being allowed an equal vote of men.

In general there are numerous accounts of misbehavior by Earp in the newspapers that can’t be confirmed – too many conflicting dates and reports in the various newspapers (San Francisco, Seattle, Alask) that don’t seem to jive. But all reports seem to agree on the incidents:
jumping claims, interfering with arrests, getting into fights. Reports were also mixed when describing Wyatt’s character: some say he was less than popular, others say he was well-respected. His reputation certainly prevented any gunfighter incidences from happening in the area.

He was as crooked as a three dollar bill. He and his brothers were racketeers, all of them. They shook people down, they did everything they could to get dough.

1901 – decided to leave Nome despite the rush still going on – came away with between $80 – 250,000 which would be well over a million dollars by today’s value.

Greatest Disappointments
Josie – not to have meet Soapy Smith
Wyatt – in 1900 a Deputy Marshall was to be chosen and Wyatt was the obvious choice, but another man was selected

After Alaska, they headed to Nevada and opened up another saloon/gambling joint. Retired to LA and was often called upon for special security jobs. Hung out at the studios and had a brief appearance in a Douglas Fairbanks movie in 1916. He came to know Marion Morrison (John Wayne) who has said that he based some of his western characters on Earp.

He died in 1929 at the age of 80. Josie died in 1944.

The search continues...


January 2, 2011

New replica of Jeff Smith's Parlor, part VI

Side and back walls rising.
(Click image to enlarge)

Our good friend "Wolfgang" was at the Whitehorse Ranch working on the replica of Jeff Smith's Parlor on NEW YEARS DAY! Now that's dedication...

There is an update link located in the side-bar at the right so that viewers can go there anytime they wish for weekly photographs of his progress. We need to do something special for "Wolfgang," any suggestions?