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Alias Soapy Smith

The City Hall War, Bull Hill,
& General Tarsney.

In 1894, the gambling interests were in control of Denver justice, and felons were going free by the boatload.

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Colorado Governor Davis H. Waite brought the state militia to downtown Denver, with their gatling guns, field artillery and mounted troops, to evict certain board members from City Hall.

The Siege of City Hall

A standoff ensued between the militia and the Denver municipal machine — policemen, firemen, politicians, and gamblers resisting the governor's attempt to control city politics. The confrontation was eagerly observed by thousands of spectators, seemingly oblivious to the explosive nature of the situation.

The Siege of City Hall

The state supreme court ended the conflict a few days later without bloodshed, ruling that the governor did have the right to replace commissioners at City Hall, but lacked the authority to have General Thomas Tarsney and the Colorado infantry do it for him.

The Supreme Court

Soapy Smith is said by some accounts to have played a highly visible role in the resistance at City Hall, but we don't know what Lou and Sam were doing. The good old boys of the Denver machine, however, were the same old friends Lou and Sam relied upon as they consolidated their power.

Soon after the confrontation at City Hall, striking miners at Cripple Creek clashed with the mine owners, the sheriff, and an army of hastily deputized "special officers" brought in from Denver by train. The miners wanted an eight-hour day. Waite again called up Tarsney and his infantry, this time to try keeping peace between the miners, barricaded atop Bull Hill (visible just below the Forest Queen on the map above), and the county sheriff and his strike breakers from Denver. Many of these were former cops and firemen, unhappy with the governor for his actions in Denver.

Bull Hill encampment

There was some violence, and Tarsney's handling of the affair was been characterized as inept. Many of the strikers ended up as irate with the general as the hired thugs from Denver. A few weeks after the standoff at Bull Hill, Tarsney was tarred and feathered outside Colorado Springs.

Lou Blonger subsequently accompanied a group of Denver detectives investigating the "Tarsney Outrage," perhaps as a detective himself. As a Denver sporting man and owner of gambling establishments, Lou would not have been happy with the governor or his man Tarsney. As a mine owner, he would have been prejudiced against the strikers cause. Neither of these factors was evidently enough to disqualify him from particiapting in the search for the guilty parties — sheriff's deputies, as it turned out, who eventually got off with a slap and a wink.


 

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