Showing posts with label My history trips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label My history trips. Show all posts

September 13, 2014

2016 REUNION in Skagway, Alaska!

Opening 2016
(Click image to enlarge)

et's get two dupes with one bar of soap!

July 4-8, 2016

The restoration of Soapy Smith's saloon in Skagway, Alaska is set for completion in 2016. My source at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park tells me that they are shooting for a July 4 grand opening but there is always the chance that the date may be postponed due to unforeseen delays. What more of a perfect time to have a Soapy Smith family/fan reunion in Skagway! The park service says they can arrange a private tour if the grand-opening is delayed. The last time the family was there in force was in 1998 for the 100th anniversary of Soapy's demise

This idea is in the planning stages and I am creating a site devoted to this reunion trip. It is an expensive and time consuming trip so we need to plan early. Start saving your money! This will be a trip you will not want to miss!

Personally, I have an idea of my trip schedule, and I invite anyone to tag along. My trip includes a day trip to Seattle, Washington where McGinty (Soapy's petrified man) resides. There are also interesting places to visit, such as the building which held the Owl Saloon where Soapy has an altercation. This location also holds the famed "underground tour" and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park - Seattle Branch museum. Next is a stop in Juneau, Alaska where Soapy was arrested for selling his prize package soap. The state museum holds a few interesting Soapy related items, including a lock of his hair, and the only two known to exist, handbills of the famed vigilante Committee of 101, and Soapy's response handbill from the Law And Order Society of 317.

Skagway has lots to do! We will be there for the July 4th parade and on July 8 for the Soapy Smith wake (held there since 1977).


"I never knew anything about Jeff Smith only what my husband had said [about] his being the king of the gamblers, and that naturally made me afraid of him. Well, you remember that night when Parson Uzzell was giving out loaves of bread to all the hungry people? I went to the [People’s] Tabernacle one night, but I got there too late. Every loaf of bread was gone, and not a penny in the house. I don’t know what I was doing only standing alone when a gentleman came close up to me and … pushed a piece of paper in my hand, and before I could even talk, he said: Take that, lady, it will get you all the bread you want.

I turned to say thank you, sir, but he was gone…. I am only a woman, but I have got a vote and so has my husband, and anybody who does an act like that for us shows that they have hearts that are in the right place, and I think that they are better than the people who abuse them.
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 329.


1878: Outlaw, James “Frank” Towle, of the Sam Bass Gang is shot dead during a stagecoach robbery. His body was hidden by the other unknown accomplices, and was found 3 months later by stage driver, Boone May, who cut off Towle’s head for evidence in order to claim an outstanding reward. Bad man Soapy Smith had witnessed the death of Sam Bass 2 months previous.
1884: Soapy Smith purchases a street venders license in Del Norte, Colorado to hawk his cash prize package soap.

May 6, 2014

Soapy Smith's shoulder holster

Jeff Smith Collection
(Click image to enlarge)

oapy Smith's shoulder holster is another artifact that I plan to take to the Wild West History Association Denver roundup in July. The story of this holster and how I came to possess it, is a story in of itself.

After the Klondike gold rush had passed and Skagway settled down, some of the residents started collecting up some of the early artifacts. Hotel entrepreneur, Harriet Pullen, collected and displayed artifacts in her Pullen House. When there were enough people lodged in the hotel she would give a talk in the hotel parlor amongst some of her treasured artifacts and tell the story of Skagway, Soapy Smith, and the gold rush.

Shoulder holster close-up
Note the nice stamp-work
Jeff Smith Collection
(Click image to enlarge)

The pictured holster was most likely given to Harriet Pullen. for her gold rush museum, by J. M. Tanner, one of the vigilantes who was on the wharf the night Soapy was shot dead. Tanner became a deputy U.S. marshal, handling Soapy's belongings so it makes sense that he would have this, although he was supposed to have logged it with Soapy's estate for auction. He also donated other artifacts to the Pullen collection which will be discussed at a later date.

Shoulder holster close-up
Note the inked signature (center) "HSP" [Harriet S. Pullen]
Jeff Smith Collection
(Click image to enlarge)
In 1954 the threat of losing an important historic jewel galvanized the community as residents rallied together to save the endangered Pullen Collection. Harriet Pullen had run her grand hotel until her death in 1947, and in more than 40 years of operation she had collected an enormous treasure trove of gold rush artifacts. Pullen's granddaughter reopened the hotel in 1950 but the collection had already begun to deteriorate. Bruce Black, park naturalist at Glacier Bay National Monument (GLBA), visited the Pullen House and found the hotel in a state of disrepair - he was particularly concerned with the artifact collection. Since the NPS had no official role in the city, all he could do was urge the Territory of Alaska or some other entity to take possession of the collection and care for it properly. His plea and those of many other concerned citizens were unheeded - the Pullen House closed for the last time in 1959 and the collection went to Lynnwood, Washington with its owner. Pullen's treasures were eventually sold piecemeal at auction, and the collection was lost to posterity.
- Legacy of the Gold Rush pages 53-55.

From 1959 until the early 1970s, the Pullen collection was on display in a building adjacent to a food pavilion. The owners of the property wanted to do some improvements and so evicted the Pullen collection. The owner of the collection at this time was Mary Kopanski, a great-niece of Harriet Pullen. Knowing the importance of the collection to Alaska, she gave the state the first option to purchase it for $200,000. They turned down the offer, which upset a whole lot of people in Alaska. The price was very fair. In fact, Mary made more than the $200,000 she offered to sell it for. In July 1973 a five day auction in Seattle, Washington sold off the collection piece-by-piece.

Shoulder holster
Jeff Smith Collection
(Click image to enlarge)

My uncle Joesph Jefferson Smith, was the first in my family to learn of the action plans. He contacted his brother, my father, John Randolph ("Randy") Smith about it, and my father, my mother, and I made the trip to Seattle and attended all five days. The adventures I had attending that auction are a story in itself. My father passed on the shoulder holster as he had spent $6,000 already, just for the roulette table and there was the grave marker still awaiting sale. The holster, handcuffs, saps, and a few other Soapy Smith related items went to one high bidder, and that was the last time anyone had seen those items since. Who would guess that these items would once again surface for auction, and that the Smith family would be given a second chance to obtain them? In case the thought may have crossed your mind, yes, these items are the very same items that sold in 1973. The auction house tags and catalog numbers all match up with the ones I have in my collection.   

Shoulder holster
Jeff Smith Collection
(Click image to enlarge)

I still need donations to cover the costs of my trip to Denver to put this item, and many other items, on display. You can read the story of this planned trip, as well as donate if you choose.

At scheduled intervals the Guards would exercise a neat maneuver and fire a volley into the air as Jeff would lift his hat and acknowledge the plaudits of the crowd. It was Soapy’s greatest hour.
— Rev. John Sinclair (Alias Soapy Smith), p. 522


1835: James Bennett begins publishing the New York Herald.
1851: The mechanical refrigerator is patented by Dr. John Gorrie.
1851: Linus Yale patents the clock-type lock.
1856: The Army from Fort Tejon and Fort Miller ride out to protect Keyesville, California from attacks by Yokut Indians.
1859: John Gregory discovers gold (Gregory's Gulch), “the richest square mile on earth,” near the city of Denver, Colorado.
1861: Arkansas is the ninth state to secede from the Union during the Civil War.
1868: The U.S. begins paying annuities to the Crow Indian tribes of Montana Territory.
1877: After defeating General Custer’s 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Indian Chief Crazy Horse surrenders his people to the U.S. at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, whereas, Sioux Chief Sitting Bull leads 1,500 of his followers into Saskatchewan, Canada to ask protection from the Queen.
1882: Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act, which bars Chinese immigrants from the U.S. for 10 years.

April 18, 2014

lease donate.
(Click to donate)

April 5, 2014

There are so many in business here … who are involved with Jeff Smith and are coining money from the sporting element, that they willingly tolerate Smith’s influence in civic affairs. His word is the law!
Thomas Whitten, Skagway hotel proprietor
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 514


1676: Sudbury, Massachusetts is attacked by Indians.
1775: American revolutionaries Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott, ride though the towns of Massachusetts giving the warning that "the British are coming."
1818: A regiment of Indians and blacks are defeated at the Battle of Suwann, in Florida, ending the first Seminole War.
1846: The telegraph ticker is patented by R. E. House.
1847: U.S. troops defeat almost 17,000 Mexican soldiers commanded by Santa Anna at Cerro Gordo, during the Mexican-American War.
1861: Colonel Robert E. Lee turns down an offer to command the Union armies during the Civil War, instead, joining the Confederacy.
1877: Charles Cros writes a paper that described the process of recording and reproducing sound. In France, Cros is regarded as the inventor of the phonograph. In the U.S., Thomas Edison gets the credit.
1895: New York State establishes free public baths.

April 5, 2014

Save Soapy Smith's historical integrity.


harity covereth a multitude of sins

                                                                            1 Peter 4:8

Take this important opportunity to cleanse yourself of all evil! Ok, truth be told, this is going to help Soapy more than it will help you, but helping Soapy is always a good thing, right?

I don't like to talk too much about my personal health or economic issues too often, but in this case I don't see any other way around it. I need assistance for a "good cause," in a historical sense. I'm on social security, meaning I live on a very tight budget. Many people these days live on tight budgets, but if you are a fan of Soapy's and you feel you can help him out, I'm hoping you will. Let me explain what I'm talking about.

If you've been a fan for a while then you may recall reading about my adventures with author Cathy Spude. She's the one who wants to see J. M. Tanner become more famous. Tanner was the vigilante turned deputy U.S. Marshal, after Soapy was shot dead on Juneau Wharf. Over the years, Cathy has told me several times that "Soapy is in the way," of Tanner's climb up the ladder of fame. I believe that Cathy believes that if she could knock Soapy off the "ladder," Tanner will take his place. Cathy has published the anti-Soapy book, "That Fiend In Hell": Soapy Smith in Legend. She tried her best but did not convince Skagway as many of them already know the real story, some even read my book, Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, which is for sale in some of the stores there. Cathy could give talks all over Alaska and I would hardly flinch, but at the end of July 2014 she is scheduled to give a presentation on Soapy in his beloved Denver. As many of you know, Soapy ran the underworld of Denver for as long as 16-years. Over the decades, Denver has, for the most part, largely forgotten about Soapy Smith, and not one store carries my book! They say first impressions are lasting, and the last thing we Soapy fans need is a lasting impression that states that Soapy was "nothing more than a small-time crook," whose history is largely fiction.

Do you think Cathy Spude can hurt Soapy's history?

Cathy has already did some damage, in the way of at least one National Park Service book and recently, in an episode of Mysteries At The Museum. The answer is yes, she can hurt Soapy's history. A long term example, but not associated with Cathy, is the old story that Soapy was a cowboy. This has been proven not to be true, yet, I personally have had authors refuse to change their pre-published writings to correct the error.

I need to attend the Roundup of the Wild West History Association where Cathy Spude is speaking. I need to counter her mistakes and misleads. I cannot express to you how important this is. I need donations to be able to go. Please donate!

For more details please visit the Save Soapy Smith Fund page.
(Click to donate)

Thank you!

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.
— Maya Angelou

August 9, 2013

A treasure trove of new photographs!

Carte de visite of
Wife of Soapy Smith
Shelagh Moriarty collection

n 1998 I met my 2nd cousin, Shelagh Moriarty, for the first time, in Skagway, Alaska during the 100th anniversary of Soapy Smith's demise. I met her again in 2012 at the ninth annual Soapy wake at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California. She brought with her a few early family photographs that very much interested me. We promised to get together as she said she had more to share with me, but it was not until August 8, 2013 that we finally kept our commitment.

To say that it was a great visit would be an understatement. I did not know exactly what to expect, but I hoped there would be a few more early photographs of the family that she would share with us. What I found was in the neighborhood of 150 early photographs of the Smith, Little, Moriarty, and possibly the Dalton families dating from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries.

It will take a while, but eventually, I would like to have these photographs posted for the family and friends to enjoy.

Carte de visite (rear)
Wife of Soapy Smith
Shelagh Moriarty collection

The rear of the carte de visite shows that it was photographed in St. Louis where Mary's mother lived. Someone wrote Mammy?? in pencil. Mammy was the name the grandchildren called Mary. Someone questioned if it is Mammy, but Shelagh had other numerous photographs of Mary, and between us there is no doubt that it is her. I am guessing that this photo was taken after Soapy and Mary were married, possibly taken about 1889 when Soapy sent Mary to live with her parents, due to the "war" declared on Soapy by the Rocky Mountain News.

Besides the amazing photographs, there were a couple more interesting discoveries during my visit.
  • FIRST, is the new information that Soapy's daughter grew up used to the finer things, nice clothing, money, etc. This tells us that Soapy obviously pampered his family with lots of money and gifts, which are hinted at in the surviving personal letters in my own collection. 
  • SECOND, is the discovery of possible photographs and identifications of several Dalton family members. It has been passed down through the generations in my family that Soapy's wife, Mary, is a relation to the Dalton outlaw gang. It will be interesting to compare notes with the current Dalton family historians.

Thank you Shelagh!

"I became acutely aware of the need to take old-timers' recollections of long past events with much salt when I attended conventions of my old WWII infantry company forty or fifty years after the war. When discussions arose about certain actions in which several of us were directly involved, none of us could agree on exactly how it went down. And these were important events, life and death matters, that one would expect to become embedded - accurately - in our memories the rest of our lives. I've taken this knowledge into my writing of western history. While often quoting the written or reported recollections of frontier veterans, I do not say or imply that what is said is gospel truth, but leave it up to the reader to accept or reject. "
— Robert DeArment


1678: Indians sell the Bronx to Jonas Bronck for 400 beads.
1790: The Columbia returns to Boston Harbor after a three-year voyage. It was the first ship to carry the American flag around the world.
1820: Robert C. Adams and James Bowe Boisseau duel with pistols over the honor for Ellen Stimpson Peniston, Soapy Smith’s grandmother. Both duelists are killed.
1831: The first steam locomotive begins its first trip between Schenectady and Albany, New York.
1842: The U.S. and Canada sign the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, solving the border dispute.
1848: Martin Van Buren is nominated for president by the Free-Soil Party in Buffalo, New York.
1854: Walden is published by Henry David Thoreau.
1859: The escalator is patented by Nathan Ames.
1865: The Civil War officially ends.
1878: One soldier is wounded in a battle with Bannock Indians in Bennett Creek, Idaho.
1887: Harry “the Sundance Kid” Longabaugh is convicted of grand larceny in Wyoming.
1892: Thomas Edison receives a patent for the two-way telegraph.
1893: Gut Holz, the first bowling magazine in the U.S. is published.
1910: A. Fisher receives a patent for the electric washing machine.

August 16, 2011

Georgia reunion, Family graves, research and a presentation, part 1.

Geri Murphy, Jeff Smith and Jeanie Schaffner
at the graves of Soapy Smith's grandparents
Dr. Ira Ellis Smith and Ellen Stimpson Peniston
(Click image to enlarge)

In 2007 I went to Coweta County, Georgia to give a presentation on Soapy Smith for the Newnan/Coweta County Historical Society. Plans soon evolved into a small family reunion and a grand tour of family research. Starting March 23, 2007 I had 1-1/2 days to do and see everything I wanted. When I got back home I remember that I was in great back pain and that I slept for 13 hours straight.

Besides the presentation and seeing and meeting family members I had a places I really wanted to see. One was the Dr. Ira Ellis Smith mansion where Soapy was born. More on the mansion in the next post. It seems that the hardest place in the world for me to get answers from, let alone a response, is from Coweta County, Georgia. Before my planned trip there I could never get a response from anyone there in the county or the historical society. Once my presentation was scheduled I had plenty of free flowing correspondence. The trip opened a whole new world of family information while I was there, but once I returned home that flowing well closed up tight as a snare drum once again. Since 2007, although I have written many times, I have not received a single response, just as before.

One of the main places I really wanted to see was the Oak Hill cemetery where most of the early Smith's are buried, however, for decades my family searched unsuccessfully for the Smith graves known to be there. We knew they were located at the Oak Hill cemetery but the cemetery records were wrong as to the location. Long ago sections of the cemetery were renamed and numbered but the changes were apparently never properly recorded and the old location information was discarded. Generations of family members, including my aunt and uncle searched the cemetery grounds in vain. I could only hope that I might be more successful.

Before I arrived, Dan Dietz, vice president of the historical society, and his wife Donna began compiling a history of the Smith's in Coweta for me. They knew I wanted to try to locate the graves while I was there so Dan and Donna went hunting on their own. They found that the Peniston family of Coweta was connected to the Smith's so they at least located those graves for me. While looking around the Peniston plots Dan happen to look on the other side of some bushes and completely by accident he stumbled onto the "lost" Smith plots. The graves were found while I was on my way to Georgia from California so I was unaware of the find until I arrived. As per our conversations once I settled into my hotel room I called Dan for the planned visit to the Oak Hill cemetery before dinner to see if we could locate some of my descendants. I had already been up since 3 am and was very tired but I knew having only 1-1/2 days I could not afford to waste a minute. Within fifteen minutes of getting into my hotel room Dan was driving me to the cemetery in a nice two seat topless sports car.

Jeff during his Soapy Smith presentation

We spent about 1-1/2 hours talking and looking over the Smith family graves in the cemetery. I think I took about 50 photographs I was so excited. Dr. Ira Ellis and Ellen Peniston Smith were there, along with several of their children, their wives and grandchildren. That time spent in the cemetery was golden. I would have gone home happy if I was forced to cancel the rest of my trip. There are photographs of graves in the links to other posts pertaining to this blog at the bottom.

l to r: Jeff, Jeanie, Danny, Christina and Geri.

At 7 pm that night the historical society set up a dinner meeting at one of the local restaurants in Newnan, which turned into a family reunion. It was there that I had the pleasure of meeting my cousin, Geri Murphy, the vice president of the Soapy Smith Family Trust for the very first time. I also got reacquainted with Jeanie Schaffner, another cousin, whom I had not seen in several decades. With Jeanie were her children, Danny and Christina ("Tinni"), who I had never met before. At the time Jeanie lived in Newnan and Christina  was offered a position at the Male Academy Museum. The only one missing at the dinner that I was looking forward to meeting was Ellen Rafeedie, a family member who has done great work in the genealogy department. After dinner I was driven back to the hotel and finally got some greatly needed sleep.

Jeff swindles family member Christina during the presentation

My family and I made plans for the following morning to meet at the cemetery so they could see the Smith plots. I was too excited and drove out  a little early to the cemetery to have some time alone with our rediscovered ancestors. Dan, from the historical society decided to join us and we spent 1-1/2 hours researching and admiring the graves.

Jeanie studies the artifacts in the Smith Room
Male Academy Museum
(Click image to enlarge)

At around 10 am we all traveled over to the Male Academy Museum where Dan gave a personalized tour of the city's prized collections. The museum is housed in a 19th century school house. Each room is devoted to a particular section of Newnan's history, dating from 1828 to the 1950's. The main attraction for us was the Smith room which contained artifacts brought to Newnan by covered wagon from Virginia by Dr. and Mrs. Ira Ellis Smith. There were also artifacts and belongings from Ira's children who made their homes in Newnan and Coweta County. Unfortunately, my medication made my hands shake and most of the photographs I took in the museum came out very blurry.

Family heirloom at the museum.

Lunchtime we held court at the Redneck Cafe' where family member, Ellen Rafeedie met up with us. Ellen brought several copies of her latest version of the family tree and we spent the better part of 2 hours talking. Ellen is a great historian and story teller and has my full admiring respect as a historian.

We left the restaurant with a 2 pm appointment at the Smith plantation house where Soapy was born.  I'll talk about that in an upcoming post.

That night I gave my presentation at the Depot History Center to around 100 attendees. I was well received and met several more distant relatives I did not know existed. Afterwards Geri, Jeanie and I went out to eat and then over to Jeanie's loft. I never did slept well that night. I had maybe an hours worth before I had to make my way back to Atlanta for my flight home. I surely hope I have the opportunity to return one day.

August 8, 2011, June 3, 2011, May 29, 2010, April 16, 2010, April 6, 2010

Early Smith family in Coweta County: pp 19-27.

1923: 20 members of the Denver Blonger gang are arrested in a raid that ends Blonger rule in the city.

Jeff Smith


June 14, 2011

A time capsule in Skagway

(Click image to enlarge)

In 1998 I had a custom ink stamp made for the 100th anniversary of Soapy Smith's death. You can see the stamp on the postcard above. I bought a few of the Soapy postcards from Dedman's Photo Shop in Skagway, stamped them and then on July 8 I went to the Skagway post office and had them postmarked.

Front of postcard
(Click image to enlarge)

We were having a family reunion so I took one of the postcards and had all the family members sign it. This card was given to Jeff Brady of the Skagway News who in turn gave it to the Skagway Centennial Committee for a time capsule. The capsule was buried in July 1999 inside a stainless steel vault in Centennial Park. It will be dug up in 2099. We will report on that.

Story and list of items in capsule
(Click image to enlarge)

Jeff Smith