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December 2004

12/5/2004

Michael's Homestead Scott recently tracked down the location of the Shullsburg farm where Michael spent his adult years. Not too big, just twenty acres. It's a farm field now.

Michael's Homestead

Pet Cigarettes ad


12/10/2004

War of the Fixers, Part III Scott found another article about the Hughes Assault that gives a slightly different perspective — here Chief Goulding is said to have happened along after the row began.

Still no name for the Blonger Bros. saloon on Larimer. Why never a name?


12/23/2004

The City Hall War, Bull Hill, and General Tarsney In 1892, Sam and Lou filed a claim on the Forest Queen Mine, near Cripple Creek. The mine would make them rich men for many years to come.

Cripple Creek Mining District

In March of 1894, 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 and politicos resisting the idea that the governor could 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.

A few months after the confrontation at City Hall, workers at many Cripple Creek mines went on strike, demanding 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, his men, and a raft of 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.

Now the Rocky Mountain News, August 7, 1894 informs us that detectives Eales and Duffield were assigned by Chief of Police Armstrong of Denver to extract a confession from one of the accused tar-and-featherers, Joe Wilson, who eventually implicated the sheriff's department in El Paso County.

In the same issue, we are told that Tarsney had since returned to Colorado Springs, where he was to face charges of contempt of court. He was guarded on his journey by the highest officers of the National Guard, the attorney general, and six Denver city detectives: Eales, Duffield, Connors, Peterson, Cross and Parker.

The piece of the puzzle that interests us most comes from an August 16, 1894 article in the Colorado Springs Weekly Gazette:

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.

So was "Lew" also a city detective? Or does the sentence merely seem to imply that Lou was also a detective?

For his part, Eales was a former marshal of Cripple Creek, and later absconded to Alaska with $6000 he had been sent to retrieve in an official capacity.

Bottom line, the story is becoming clearer, and all the strands would suggest that the larger situation was one that should have concerned Lou and Sam greatly, on several levels — as mine owners, as players on the Denver political scene, and perhaps as "law enforcement professionals" of some kind. There may be an important chapter here.

There is almost certainly more to know. Unfortunately for us, the brothers also had a cozy relationship with the local papers, and rarely saw their name in print where others would not have the luxury.


12/24/2004

War of the Fixers, Part IV Yet another article on the Hughes Assault comes to Chief Goulding's defense, stating that he was in the whorehouse on city business. Soapy and Bascomb's rampage is here described in general terms as plain old belligerance, including an altercation with some gamblers in "Lew Blonger's saloon."

Still no name for the Blonger Bros. saloon on Larimer. Maybe it was just called "Blonger's Saloon."


12/26/2004

Detective Lou? A Reassessment Based on new evidence, and a re-reading of a sentence quoted here several times, Scott and I are forced to admit that Lou may not have continued in law enforcement/detective work after his brief stint as marshal/deputy in Albuquerque.

For a while now, we have understood this excerpt from an August 16, 1894 article in the Colorado Springs Weekly Gazette to mean that Lou was a detective, perhaps from a private agency, and that he was assisting in the investigation of the "Tarsney Outrage."

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.

The new evidence, recounted here on the 23rd, mentions the involvement of Denver city detectives in the case, including Eales and Duffield. So — if they were city detectives, working for Chief of Police Armstrong, should we then consider Lou, who joined the party several days later, also to be a city detective?

That's where it gets sticky. Had Lou actually been a member of the Denver police department at some time, it would be hard to imagine this fact being ignored by Van Cise and others over the years. Had the longtime boss of Denver's underworld been an ex-cop, someone probably would have noted the irony. Had he been a private dick, it would have been easier for Van Cise to ignore.

So, we return to the original quote: "Peter Eales and Detectives Duffield, Harris and Lew Blonger came down..." The sentence structure here is a bit messy. The meaning, frankly could go either way — Duffield, Harris and Lew Blonger were detectives, or perhaps Duffield and Harris were detectives, and that fellow Lew Blonger accompanied them. The only person mentioned by more than his surname, perhaps Lou was well-known enough in the Springs to mention in this way, assuming readers would understand Lew's identity and that he was along for the ride. But why?

Either way, it's an interesting quote, linking Lou to both the Denver city police, and to the investigation of the Tarsney incident (and by extension, the City Hall War and the labor violence at Cripple Creek).

Unfortunately, however, I feel like I must retract a number of comments regarding Lou's long career in law enforcement. We do know that Lou claimed to have been a sheriff in Texas, but there is no evidence to support the claim. Lou was known to have been marshal for a few days in Albuquerque — during the Earp posse's stay in that town, in fact — and was deputized by Sam, on occasion, to run down a miscreant or two. We were informed that Lou was a member of the Rocky Mountain Detective Association in 1882, implying that he was a working investigator at the time, probably tagging along with Sam. Beyond that, however, we can no longer infer with confidence that Lou spent years in the detective biz.


12/29/2004

Doc Baggs and his Safe In 1882, a prominent Albuquerque businessman named Miguel Otero took a trip to Denver, where he had the misfortune of running into one of Lou's alleged acquaintances, the infamous confidence man Doc Baggs. Doc used a fake lottery shop to extract $2400 from Otero.

An interesting side note, indicative of the psychology at work in the con man's trade, concerns the safe in Doc's shop. The imposing mass of iron had one purpose, not to keep huge sums of cash secure, but to gain the sucker's faith. It was meant to unfailingly inspire a sense of solidity, permanence, and plenty of black ink.

Unfortunately for Otero, the safe was made of wood, and folded to the size of a suitcase.

December 2004


 

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