Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Soapy Smith On Western Wednesday...!

Many professions came out of the Old West. Gunfighters, lawmen, thieves, and let's not forget the infamous con men!

There was one of these early con men probably stands out a little more than the others. He went by the name of Soapy Smith! I'd say he was one of the better known scam artist of his day. Here is a little of Soapy's history!

Soapy Smith killed in Skagway, Alaska

A disgruntled city engineer in Skagway, Alaska, murders "Soapy" Smith, one of the most notorious con men in the history of the West.

Born in Georgia in 1860, Jefferson Randolph Smith went west while still a young man, finding work as a cowboy in Texas. Smith eventually tired of the hard work and low wages offered by the cowboy life, though, and discovered that he could make more money with less effort by convincing gullible westerners to part with their cash in clever confidence games.

One of Smith's earliest swindles was the "prehistoric man" of Creede, Colorado. Smith somehow obtained a 10-foot statue of a primitive looking human that he secretly buried near the town of Creede. A short time later, he uncovered the statue with much fanfare and publicity and began charging exorbitant fees to see it. Wisely, he left town before the curious turned suspicious.

Smith earned his nickname "Soapy" with a more conventional confidence game. Traveling around the Southwest, Smith would briefly set up shop in the street selling bars of soap wrapped in blue tissue paper. He promised the credulous crowds that a few lucky purchasers would find a $100 bill wrapped inside a few of the $5 bars of soap. Inevitably, one of the first to buy a bar would shout with pleasure and happily display a genuine $100 bill. Sales were generally brisk afterwards. The lucky purchaser, of course, was a plant.

In 1897, Smith joined the Alaskan gold rush and eventually landed in the rough frontier town of Skagway. Short on law and long on gold dust, Skagway was the perfect place for Smith to perfect his con games. He soon became the head of an ambitious criminal underworld, and he and his partners fleeced thousands of gullible miners.

Smith's success eventually angered the honest citizens of Skagway, who were trying to build an upstanding community. They formed a vigilante "Committee of 101" in an attempt to bring law and order to the town. Undaunted, Smith formed his own gang into a "Committee of 303" to oppose them.

In 1898, Smith tried to crash a vigilante meeting on the Skagway wharf, apparently hoping to use his con-man skills to persuade them that he posed no threat to the community. Smith, however, had failed to realize just how angry the vigilantes were. When he tried to break through the crowd, a Skagway city engineer named Frank Reid confronted him. The men exchanged harsh words and then bullets. Reid shot Smith dead on the spot, but not before Smith had badly wounded him. The engineer died 12 days later.

The funeral services for Soapy Smith were held in a Skagway church he had donated funds to help build. The minister chose as the text for his sermon a line from Proverbs XIII: "The way of transgressors is hard."

I'm thinking that if he were alive today, ol' Soapy would fit right in with some of the crowd in Washington. I believe he was slick enough, ya know?

Sometimes it just doesn't pay to make the folks angry, especially when nearly everyone was carrying a gun!

Once again we are having coffee in the kitchen. More rain is on the way!


texasann said...

Bubba -
I think some of Soapy's descendants are in DC today, and pulling some of the same cons. After all, "What difference does it make?" Makes a heck of a lot, lady, and wish someone could dispatch a few of the current slicksters, in whatever way is the quickest! Wow, did I just say that??
Big hugs -

linda m said...

I know some of Soapy's descendants are in D.C. Just look at the "dribble" that comes out of there and you know we are being "conned". Rainy here again today also.

Rob said...

In the back of my mind Soapy Smith was not a nice criminal... I don't recall the details.

I do wonder about the use of the word "murder" with the killing of Smith.

Thanks for sharing that story!

Dizzy-Dick said...

Well, at least he helped some people keep clean with all the soap he sold, even though they didn't find the hundred dollar bill. What happened to his 303 followes (gang) after he got shot?

JO said...

What a story like I always say crime does not pay at least not for long.

Sorry I'm late needed to run to the grocery store before the 105 temps hit.

HermitJim said...

Hey Sis...
Could certainly be that some of the descendants are in DC.

Getting tough on the con men? Cool!

Thanks for dropping in today!

Hey Linda M...
A lot of it sure sounds like "snake oil", doesn't it?

Rain is good in small quantities, just not all at once!

Thanks for dropping by today!

Hey Rob...
Sounds to me like he was anything but a nice person! Must have been pretty good at what he did, though.

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Dizzy...
Guess we can certainly give him credit for that!

I can't find any history of what became of his troops after his death. They might have taken the hint and faded away!

Thanks for stopping by!

Hey Jo...
Getting hit early with the really high temps? Gonna be a long Summer, I reckon!

Thanks, sweetie, for coming over this morning!

Mamahen said...

Late again but interesting post as always :))