The Famous Blonger Bros.
Did Sam go to war? Information on Sam's military service almost a total mystery should be arriving very soon.
Jury duty is slowing me down...
Jeff Smith was going through the site, and a reference to Marshal Sam kicking Ed Burns out of town brought to mind that Ed and Soapy later teamed up a fact that may bolster the idea that the Blongers and the soap gang were at odds in Denver.
More about the slippery Mr. Eales later. Mentioned as one of Lou's fellow detectives in the Tarsney case, Mr. Eales has a history of his own...
That Slippery Eales The plot thickens! The topic of labor strife at Bull Hill, near Cripple Creek, originally came up in an article in the Colorado Springs Weekly Gazette, August 16, 1894:
Yesterday Peter Eales and Detectives Duffield, Harris and Lew Blonger came down and as usual landed in Oldtown. The usual batch of warrants that usually follows Eales's advent to this county have failed to materialize, up to date.
Insofar as Sam and Lou were mine owners in the Cripple Creek District, we find it more than reasonable to assume they were involved in the furor surrounding strikes called by the Western Federation of Miners in 1893 and 1903.
The first strike saw Governor Waite send the militia, under Tarsney's command, to protect the strikers. Evidently, Tarsney did a poor job. Sympathetic to the mine owners, the sheriff's police, with dozens of hired thugs retired cops and firefighters from Denver who were none too fond of Governor Waite managed to cause plenty of trouble for the striking miners, who had taken refuge atop Bull Hill. The unionists later showed their appreciation to Tarsney with the help of some tar and feathers. Lots of politics at play here, and lots of players too. Enter Eales, Lou, and others, "investigating" the case.
We still know nothing about Lou's involvement. As a mine owner, would he be acting as an officer of the law? Might he have been one of the imported Denver "thugs" referred to? Who specifically was he supposedly working for? The Mine Owners Association? The Pinkertons? The Rocky Mountain Detective Association? Had he been a US Marshal or deputy, I imagine such a title would have been used in the article.
Mr. Eales is another story, but a confusing one at that. More coming...
Battle of Winchester Michael, in his pension claim, tells us that he suffered from a heart ailment first developed during a forced retreat while under the command of General Nathaniel P. Banks. At the tail end of the retreat from Winchester to Martinsburg, trying to avoid being surrounded, the 3rd and others were forced to cede the Shenedoah Valley back to Stonewall Jackson. Troops had been withdrawn to protect the Capitol, and Banks no longer had the men to hold Jackson off. Michael's account:
The command in which [I] was, was cut off from communication with its base of supplies, and for want of food & nourishment [I] was for several days nearly starved, by reason of which [I] incurred disease of heart and rheumatic affection of the entire left side.
This condition apparently plagued him till his death, making him unfit for labor (unless he was as full of it as his brothers).
I have been reading Van Willard's Civil War journals, With the 3rd Wisconsin Badgers. He served in Company G (the Neenah Guards) for most of the war, while Michael, in Company I, was hospitalized after Antietam and never returned to service. Willard's journals would closely reflect Michael's experience.
He is deliberately vague about the details of the fight at Antietam, but he does say this about the retreat from Winchester:
Thus we found ourselves to be surrounded, with an overwhelming force on all sides, leaving no other alternative but retreat or all be lost. Hence we fell back rapidly through the city [Winchester], the enemy close upon us, firing and yelling like very fiends, while from almost every window shots were fired by the inhabitants.
After this rest we pushed on towards Williamsport, still thirteen miles distant. It was a long march but was at last accomplished, and that night we lay down to rest upon the banks of the Potomac. The enemy did not press us closely from Martinsburg to the river, for it seems that the main body had taken the road to Harpers Ferry. We had been now two days with hardly a mouthful to eat and traveled a distance of over sixty miles, and some of us had fought in two pitched battles. It can hardly be wondered at that we were glad that Sabbath night when the sun went down and darkness came on to hide us from our cruel pursuers. Never was there a band of men more crippled than we.
Bad News Scott received Sam Belonger's military records, but it's not our Sam. Well, that explains how he could be in California when the 25th Michigan mustered out. And that closes the book on Sam's military career, and on military records in general. We have found pretty much what there is to find in this regard for all five brothers. Looks like Sam's bio will need to be updated...
About that Mr. Eales As previously mentioned, it is easy to assume that Lou would fall squarely on the side of the mine owners in the strikes that struck and crippled the Cripple Creek mining district in 1893. He was, after all part owner of two mines in the area.
And yet, here he is in Colorado Springs, investigating the case with Peter Eales, former marshal of Cripple Creek, who was at the time a special agent for Governor Waite who had sided with the unionists, sending in the militia to keep the sheriff's police and their hired thugs at bay. The crime they were investigating, the tar-and-feathering of the militia's commander, General Tarsney, by unionists, was evidently payback for the inept job done by Tarsney in protecting the strikers.
What makes it doubly interesting? Eales was a swindler and a bunk, of course. Among other crimes, he absconded to the Klondike in 1898 with $6000 he was sent to retrieve from an embezzler.
It's in the genes On my birthday, a bit of Blonger trivia. Below is a stock certificate, issued in 1976, I believe, for the casino I used to run. In Jr. High.
I had 200 of these made at an offset print shop, and sold 100 to friends at 50 cents apiece. I kept the other 100 myself. Wouldn't want a hostile takeover, now would I?
The money raised would bankroll the house and since the money wasn't all mine, I could gamble too, without simply trying to take my own money. Smart, eh?
A handful of friends were my trusty croupiers; sometimes the casino was set up at my house, sometimes at theirs. We had a big roulette table, craps table, blackjack, chuck-a-luck. The parents were usually out of town.
My inspiration was the movie Casino Royale, and the purpose, originally, was to give me and my buddies something to do at night on Boy Scout campouts. It grew into a rather classy affair, a show we put on for friends for several years.
For the record, I never made a dime at it I was more interested in a good party than taking my classmates cash and I ended up buying the shares back at their original value. Sam and Lou would have been disappointed, ultimately.
Eureka Some of you may remember the gold badge presented to Marshal Sam in March of 1882, by his friends:
For some time past the friends of Marshal Blonger, who are many and appreciative, have been talking over a little scheme whereby he might be shown that his worth was acknowledged. Their consultation resulted in an invitation being extended to the marshal "to meet a party of his friends in the White House dining room on police business," and nothing suspecting, he walked in last night at the appointed time, finding himself surrounded by friends.
As spokesman for the party, Charley Montaldo then advanced and presented the surprised officer, in the name of his friends there assembled, a beautiful gold badge in the form of a shield, suspended from a scroll, on the latter being engraved the words: "Presented to Sam Blonger," and on the shield, "Marshal New Albuquerque."
The recipient accepted the badge, and in a few feeling words expressed his thanks, after which the party sat down to an appetizing lunch, accompanied by frequent libations of Mumm's Extra Dry, furnished by Charley Montaldo.
The badge is one of the handsomest the reporter has ever seen, and there is probably no one who better deserves such a token of esteem from our citizens than Marshal Sam Blonger, who is one of the most efficient officers in the territory, and certainly the best marshal New Albuquerque ever had.
Marshal Blonger found out to-day that badge was a birth-day present. He was thirty-five years old yesterday [He was, in fact, 43].
Well, I heard today from Chuck Hornung, noted Earpologist and western historian, who tells me that the badge, along with one of Sam's pistols, is in a private collection in Albuquerque! Here's hoping we can track it down and perhaps get a photo or two.
Additionally, Mr. Hornung informs me there is a chapter that discusses the Earp-Blonger relationship in his new book Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday:
The New Mexico Adventures. Can't wait to see it!
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Copyright Notice: Original material copyright 2003-12 Scott Johnson and Craig Johnson. Other copyrights may apply to materials found herein. Our primary goal is to reintroduce the Blonger Bros. to the lexicon of the Wild West. We therefore encourage the use of our research, provided due credit is given.