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March 2005

3/3/2005

Scott found this neat little graph on Ancestry.com

Top Occupations for blonger in 1880

Blonger Occupation

Compiled by Ancestry.com for head of households from the 1880 US Federal Census records

I would imagine this represents one of the few instances where 3 people make up the total sample for a given surname.


3/4/2005

Deadwood, Part II Just saw the episode where saloonman "Tom" Nuttall arranges for gambler Con "Stapleton" to be appointed sheriff.


The Otero/Baggs Affair In 1882, Miguel Otero, Sr., a prominent Albuquerque businessman, was duped by Doc Baggs while on a trip to Denver. We've compiled the news articles we have on the subject, and it makes a fun read. I find a few things about it interesting:

  • Despite the fact that this particular swindle drew immediate media attention, Baggs appeared to be unconcerned. Which is to say that these gents generally considered fraud a perfectly legitimate vocation, and they didn't really care who knew about it as long as the law wasn't going to arrest them. The sheep bore the blame for their own sheering.
  • Again, despite the fact that this particular swindle drew immediate media attention, Otero Sr. would not pursue the matter, presumably out of shame — even though there was no longer any point in hiding his lapse in judgment.
  • Otero's son, however, was intent on getting the money back, and the newspapers heartily followed his attempts to retrieve the funds. He made his first attempt to recover the money by staging a trade with Baggs' confederate, Pliny Rice. A check for $1000 would be traded for the original check written for $2400. Facing each other, both with checks held aloft, Otero snatched the $2400 check from Rice, then had him arrested. But the $2400 check was a fake.
  • Soon thereafter, Rice sued Otero, Jr. — for not executing the check trade as agreed!

  • 3/13/2005

    Big Brother There were six Blonger Bros.: Simon, Sam, Mike, Joe, Lou, and Marvin. We don't know a great deal about Simon, the eldest, or Marvin, the youngest, but we know a bit, so let's have a look. First Simon.

    We don't talk much about Simon, of course, because we don't have a lot of information on him, but the interesting corollary to that fact is that we therefore assume he led a fairly honest and upstanding life. After all, Lou's misdeeds, despite his storied influence, did occasionally make it to print. There seems to be no such bad press regarding Simon.

    It appears that Simon followed his younger siblings West. His wife gave birth to twins in Wisconsin in 1876 or 1877, so we tentatively assume that he was in the region too. We place him next in Colorado in 1881, where he is superintendent of the Robert E. Lee mine.

    In late 1882, around the time Sam lost an election for constable in Albuquerque to Con Caddigan, Simon was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. He had a short, uneventful career as a legislator — from January 3 to February 7, 1883, when the House was in session that year. Pretty short.

    In 1885, Simon and Sam were listed in the state census at Pitkin County, Colorado (probably at or near Aspen). At that time, Simon's wife and four kids were still living in Shullsburg. They would evidently join him in Colorado within a few years.

    By 1910 he was in Washington. He died ten years later in Seattle, where he was living with daughters.

    Here's the question: What kind of relationship did he have with brothers Lou and Sam?

    We have absolutely no reason to associate Simon with any occupation outside the mining industry. No gambling or mulcting, no saloons, no military service.

    We do know the following (according to "Excerpts of Vital Statistics Notices, Lists And Selected General News Excerpts Appearing In Denver And Surrounding Areas"):

    • In 1895, Blonger Bros. had offices for their mining enterprises at 1644 Larimer, listed in the city directory under Lou's name. The office was also, evidently, a convenient front for Lou's extracurricular activities.

    • The Blonger's first Denver saloon, in the Croff and Collins Building, the same Larimer address as the mining office, is listed under Sam's name.

    • Simon is noted as being at the same address. What to make of this? Was Simon a partner in Blonger Bros. mining? Or an employee, overseeing mining operations perhaps? What did he think of Sam and Lou's big store shenanigans? Was he complicit? Unconcerned? Or even a party to the proceedings? It is almost inconceivable that he would have been unaware.

    3/18/2005

    WOLA/NOLA

    Should it be of any interest, Scott and I will be in New Mexico in July, to attend both the WOLA and NOLA conferences.

    This year, WOLA is in Santa Fe, July 17 through 20. NOLA is July 20 through 24 in Taos.

    We expect to be around for most of WOLA, and the first half of NOLA. That gives us a chance to meet some of the folks we've been corresponding with lately, including Mark Dworkin, Marcus Gottschalk, Chuck Hornung, Bob DeArment and others. We'll also get the chance to visit Albuquerque and Las Vegas (NM). I'm excited to see Albuquerque. I've read so many news accounts, I can't wait to walk some of the same streets as Marshal Sam, gambler Lou, and the rest of the gang.


    Little Brother And what about Silent Marvin, the youngest Blonger brother?

    He's a bit of a mystery. In 1875, his first daughter was born in Illinois. By 1883, Marvin is in Leadville. In 1891, his daughter Ollie is born in Montana, and he dies in California in 1927.

    That's what we know. A few more facts round the picture out a bit.

    Eldest brother Simon seemed to be making a home in Leadville by 1879. In 1881, he becomes superintendent of the Robert E. Lee Mine, and appears to have remained in the region until at least 1895 when his address in the Denver city directory is the same as Sam and Lou's businesses on Larimer.

    Sam and Lou were in Leadville in 1879, then perhaps Sam returned to the area after leaving Albuquerque at the end of 1882. By 1888, Sam and Lou were both Denver residents. They would establish the Forest Queen mine, near Cripple Creek, in 1892.

    As such, it's not surprising to find miner Marvin joining his brothers along the Front Range during a time when Simon, Sam and Lou were all very involved in mining ventures.

    Marvin is in Phillipsburg, Montana — again, mining country — by the early 1890s. Sam and Lou's Auraria Mining had mines in the Phillipsburg area. Might Marvin have helped develop these properties?

    Joe was also a miner, of course. We know he worked in mines in Cerrillos, New Mexico for several years, and he claimed to have prospected in the Dakotas, Montana, Arizona and California. Yet we have no evidence he worked with his brothers at any point.


    3/20/2005

    Murphy Through much of Sam's short tenure as marshal of New Albuquerque, he was assisted by an able deputy mentioned only as Deputy Murphy. One example:

    Albuquerque Morning Journal March 28, 1882

    A party of roughs rose up on their muscle at the dance hall last night and started up a general row. Marshal Blonger and his assistant, Murphy, entered into the fight and after a short battle placed the men under control and placed them safely in the jail in old town. There were four of them and they were pretty hard citizens. They will receive a trial in Sullivan's court to-day.

    Looking a little closer, I see that Cornelio Murphy was one of those remaining on the police force after Sam's departure. A quick Google finds him, perhaps, marrying Juana García in Albuquerque in July of 1883.

    Murphy appears to have lived till 1916, still in the Albuquerque area.


    3/22/2005

    Back to Albuquerque In preparation for our upcoming sojourn to the Southwest, we have created one long page containing all of our posted Albuquerque newspaper articles, organized chronologically. This is the first time we have actually compiled the various articles into one source, and it gives an interesting — though admittedly focused — overview of life on the streets of New Albuquerque in the year 1882. The articles are transcribed from the Albuquerque Morning Journal, the Albuquerque Evening Review, and a few others.

    It would be difficult to overestimate how important these accounts have been to our research. We easily know more about Sam and Lou in 1882 than all the rest of their lives combined — with the singular exception of Lou's final year of freedom as detailed in Fighting The Underworld.

    And yet these articles are equally interesting in the questions they raise, the things left unwritten. Coming up, I'll be going through some of the relevant topics in detail, to see what we might deduce.


    3/23/2005

    Albuquerque, 1882, The Question of the Marshalship, Part I

    Feb. 1: Sam is appointed city marshal — chief of police — of New Albuquerque by county sheriff Perfecto Armijo. The post also conferred upon him the county title of deputy sheriff. In such a case, fulfilling the wishes of local businessmen was paramount, and the police were paid by subscriptions collected from these merchants.

    New Albuquerque was the section of town that had recently sprung up around the railroad, a rough neighborhood made up of industrial areas related to shipping and railroad construction, saloons and stores, brothels and worker housing. Things were more genteel across the tracks in Old Town, with its stately old haciendas and villas.

    Feb. 3: An itinerant peddler named Tom Henry goes to the Albuquerque Morning Journal (AMJ) office and complains that Marshal Blonger shook him down for $4.25. The peddler had a valid license to do business in the area, but Marshal Blonger had disagreed, and demanded the small sum to settle the matter. There was even a receipt for the money, supposedly, signed by Sam.

    This action of Marshal Blonger has a bad look on its face and he will do well to clear it up. Not for a single moment will the people of this town stand any such crooked action on the part of its officers, as this would indicate.

    Feb. 4: Mr Henry delivers the following to the AMJ:

    In examining the article in your paper of yesterday, I find that I perverted the facts. Mr. Blonger, the efficient marshal, never received a cent from me, nor do I hold it receipt from him as stated in your paper, and am very sorry that the whole matter was misunderstood.
    Very resp't
    WILLIAM HENRI.

    The AMJ chalks it up to Henry being a liar. But then, the AMJ was consistently generous to Sam throughout his tenure; it appears their relationship was good from the start. Having a "working relationship" with the local publishers became a key part of the Blonger Bros. success. The Evening Review (AER)would not debut until mid April.

    So how can we ignore the likelihood that Henry was pressured into thinking it just wasn't worth his while? It was only $4.25, for pete's sake. How much pressure would it take? Am I wrong?

    Feb. 8: Eighth day in office, and a petition is being circulated to replace Sam. Not necessarily a diss. Could be some just wanted somebody else more. Still, not a good sign. What was the word on the street? We aren't told.

    Feb. 9: The AMJ tells us a lot about nothing. Everybody's talking about "the marshal question," and the petition. Of this discussion, the reporter only tells us some are opposed to Sam. The paper's solution is to hire both men, as the other fellow, Jacob Brennan, seems to be a good man. Marshal Blonger, we are told, "has done nothing in his official capacity deserving of censure, and it is but right that he be given a trial." For what?!

    Feb. 10: Armijo tells the AMJ of his intention to appoint Celso Gutierres to do duty as marshal in New Albuquerque — alongside Sam — and to also appoint Brennan when he receives the petition from the Board of Trade.

    Marshal Blonger is to be retained, contrary to the expectations and wishes of quite a number of citizens. The sheriff takes a practical common sense view of the whole question and will try to satisfy all concerned, and if he can't accomplish this by the appointment of one man he will appoint more. He has everything to say in the matter, and as long as he entertains the views he holds at present the best citizens will endorse anything he may do.

    Gutierres would be let go March 19, with no regrets. Brennan seems to disappear from view after these statements.

    Feb. 15: Lou arrives, saying he came from West Texas. He was last known to be in Leadville, June of 1880. Lou would later claim to have been sheriff of San Angelo, Texas, though no evidence has been uncovered to confirm this.

    Mar. 16: After an illustrious six weeks as marshal, Sam is given a surprise party at the White House saloon, where he is presented with a custom made gold badge, inscribed with his name, and presented by his grateful friends.

    By this time, Sam has run some vagrants and trouble makers out of town, chased a few horse thieves, made a few minor arrests, and been threatened and shot at a few times.


    The Weregambler Just got Cold Deck, the comic book series featuring Doc Holliday, Frank Thurmond and Lottie Deno. I think it's fairly historical, though I'm not sure about the part where Frank turns into a werewolf. I'll have to do further research.


    3/25/2005

    Albuquerque, 1882, The Question of the Marshalship, Part II

    May 8: The AER declares that Marshal Blonger has vowed to cease giving them police news. We are told that this decision stems from the paper's dismissal of a particular reporter, "formerly weak enough and fond enough of liquid and nicotan [sic] stimulants to espouse the cause of the officer whenever a dark-looking case came before the public." That same reporter, E. M. Bernard, was then promptly hired by the AMJ.

    THE REVIEW is published as a newspaper, and any of its reporters who suppress the news will be promptly scut over to the Journal office with a letter of recommendation.

    So what stories did he skew? What secrets did he keep? And why wouldn't the Review, now in opposition to Sam, give us the straight skinny?

    By this time, Sam has had a few interesting days as marshal:

    • Evicted numerous "vags" from town, including notorious "Top and Bottom" scam artist Ed Burns
    • Put several men on the town chain gang
    • Been threatened with a gun by J. M. Kinneman
    • Chased horse thieves through town
    • Been shot at by two drunken bartenders
    • Broken up bar fights
    • Faced down a fugitive dance-hall owner with three pistols — and no nerve
    • Almost had his head blown off by a drunken resident with a shotgun

    Of this final incident, the AER (Bernard, we assume), says:

    Marshal Blonger's conduct Saturday night proved that he is a brave man and no wanton killer. Had he shot Jones, he would have been promptly acquitted.
    Blonger is a good one. It takes nerve to jump straight at a cocked shot gun loaded with buckshot. Dallas Studenmire or Joe Eaton would have shot Jones.

    Even assuming a biased press, it's evident by this time that Sam is a bold man, apparently cool in the face of drunken gunplay, and yet restrained enough to avoid the use of deadly force himself. We have no evidence Sam ever took a life, though Joe's stories indicate he killed in his early days in California. Others have suggested that Sam and Lou dispatched, or had dispatched, a member or two of Soapy's Denver gang in the Nineties. But Sam's tenure as marshal was untainted by murder on anyone's part.

    So what are the whispers about, the innuendo, the bad feelings?

    May 10: The AMJ decries an undescribed "exhibition of wantoness" on the street the day before, and calls for Marshal Blonger to have assistance, as he is the only officer in town and unable to be on duty at all times.

    There is an element in this city which, if given an inch, would ride over all rules of decency and law. They must be made to feel that the law has a powerful hole [sic] upon them or they will take it upon themselves to trample upon the right of respectable people. The present city marshal is deserving of praise for his efforts to preserve order in the city and enforce the law, but as we before remarked, it is requiring too much of one man.

    May 11: The AMJ states that the United States marshal for New Mexico will be opening a branch office in town, and that Sam Blonger will be the local agent.

    Meanwhile, the AER takes exception to their rival's call for more police:

    What is Mr. Blonger's arduous duty and how is it performed? Everybody knows that it is not hunting for dangerous characters or criminals. The Journal states that the people of Albuquerque appreciates this deputy sheriff's services. So they do, but they do not appreciate them as the Journal does. There is a wide difference between what the Journal says and what the people think.

    The AER goes on to state:

    The statement which appeared in this morning's Journal that Marshal Morrison had appointed Sam Blonger deputy marshal for New Albuquerque, is denied by Mr. Morrison, who states that he has not given the subject a moment's thought and that he is not even acquainted with Mr. Blonger... Evidently there is a falsehood somewhere, and it isn't with Marshal Morisson either.

    So, to some, Sam is a problem. Just too friendly with the town's bad element, perhaps. And unwilling to enforce certain laws, as well? Was Lou part of the problem?

    Lest we forget, Sam's predecessor, Milt Yarberry, was at the time awaiting the hangman. He made a habit of shooting unarmed men, then planting a weapon on the victim.


    3/26/2005

    Albuquerque, 1882, The Question of the Marshalship, Part III

    May 12: Though no specific charges have been made in print, Sam publishes an open letter, or "card," in the AMJ. The Journal expresses the opinion that Sam is doing a fine job and he should just ignore his critics.

    A Card.
    Inasmuch as the dirty quill driver on the twilight sees fit to attack me in my official character, I take this occasion to make a statement. I know that a refutation of any charge which may emanate from that source would not be accredited by the old residents of this city, who are familiar with the reputation of the writer, but there are others, not acquainted with him, who might be induced to believe what he says, and for that reason only I appear in this card. He charges me with non-performance of duty as marshal of this city. If there is one respectable man out of a hundred in Albuquerque who says that I have neglected my duty, then let him come forward and I will resign the office. In my recollection there is only one instance where I have omitted to carry out the requirements of my position, and that was when I failed to arrest Saunders, local of the evening sheet, on one of his drunken sprees, when he drew his pistol, indulged in indecent language and otherwise made himself obnoxious to the community. During that same spree he visited one of the houses of ill fame in this city and conducted himself in such a way that the proprietress of the place had him put out of the door.
    A short time ago an item appeared in the JOURNAL stating that I had, in performance of my official duty, closed up the "Gem," a notorious house of ill fame. On the face of this the sundown sheet attacks me, and has kept it up ever since. But, anterior to this, on March 16, on mentioning the presentation of a badge to me, by the citizens of Albuquerque, he said:
    "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."
    This is the last time I shall take notice of anything that may appear in that obscure sheet, and if any man of standing will prefer and substantiate the charge of non performance of duty as a city official, then I will step down and out. Respectfully,
    SAM BLONGER
    City Marshal

    The AER responds by pronouncing that the card was surely written by Bernard, the former Review reporter now working for the Journal, and Sam's toadie.

    When Deputy Sheriff Blonger takes snuff now, the Journal sneezes. This, for a paper which a month ago had an opinion on the Chinese question, is something of a fall.

    So, the only time Sam didn't do his duty, in his opinion, was in declining to arrest Saunders, of the Review, when he had recently gone on a bender, had brandished a pistol in a public place, and caused a row at a whorehouse. The Review, for its part, seems to have some objection to Sam closing down the Gem.

    May 13: Tony Neis informs the AMJ that Sam will be working with the newly-opened local branch of the Rocky Mountain Detective Association, not as Deputy United States Marshal as reported, but as "agent of the detective force for this precinct." The RMDA was an affiliation of various law enforcement officers and detectives trying to coordinate their crime-fighting activities across the region.

    May 20: W.F. Saunders of the AER swears out a warrant for local justice Judge Sullivan, after Sullivan called him into the street to demand a retraction of various articles concerning the judge. The case is thrown out.

    May 21: Lou arrests a man who burglarized Tony Neis. The man confesses.

    Lou and Sam Blonger deserve credit for their quick work in this case, and their capture of this man proves they are in earnest in suppressing crime. They are now members of the Rocky Mountain Detective association at this place.

    May 27: Sam presents Tony Neis with a custom gold badge of his own.

    June 8: Sam goes to Santa Fe with an eye on the deputy United States marshalship for the region.

    July 8: Sam goes to Kansas City for ten days.

    July 10: In Sam's absence, he is relieved of duty, and deputy Lou with him. Lou hands over the keys to the jail. The AMJ states no charge was given, then continues with this backhanded compliment:

    Whatever else may be said of Sam Blonger, he has made the best marshal Albuquerque has ever had.

    July 18: Sam returns to town.

    The Marshalship.
    S. H. Blonger returned from Kansas City Sunday night, having stopped off at La Junta, and visited Pueblo on his way back. Immediately after his arrival he sought Sheriff Armijo and had a talk with him, regarding the marshalship. The sheriff told him of the turn affairs had taken as soon as he left for the east, and he said that he took the course he did only as a temporary measure and to quite the complaints which were being made against the absent marshal.
    The sheriff authorized the JOURNAL to state that he offered to reinstate Mr. Blonger in his old position, but that offer was declined with thanks by that gentleman. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Blonger does not care to have the place while there is any opposition to him. It is supported by voluntary subscriptions and unless every one contributes the place is not worth having.

    July 28: The AMJ states that "quite a number of prominent business men and others" think Sam should be reinstated.

    Aug 3: A petition is circulated on Sam's behalf.

    Aug 6: The petition is submitted to Sheriff Armijo, but he rejects it. The next day's AER goes on:

    The sheriff stated that he had considered the whole matter of Blonger's connection with the police force before he removed that officer, and that as no reason had been presented to him to change the conclusion at which he had then arrived, he could not grant the request.

    After this, the Blongers linger in town for a few months. That winter, Sam runs for constable against Tony Neis and Con Caddigan, and loses to the latter.

    All in all, the discussion in the local papers of Sam Blonger's political career is incomplete. Obviously, the man committed no heinous transgression, as Yarberry did, or to a lesser extent, the gold-brick artist Con Caddigan after him, who was later run out of town.

    And yet, it appears he was a polarizing figure, for reasons not fully explained. But there is more to know. Sam had his place in the order of things, and Lou had his, and their interests would always be intertwined. Next we'll look at the sporting fraternity of Albuquerque.


    3/27/2005

    Albuquerque, 1882, His Brother's Keeper, Part I

    Blonger Bros. was far more than the name of a company. Known from Dodge City to San Francisco, from Deadwood to Deming, their moniker may have been uttered to evoke the gambler, the saloonman, the showman, the confidence man, or even the hard-nosed lawman. Or any combination thereof. Surely the name also evoked, after a time, that mythical bond between brothers on the frontier that we find so appealing, watching each other's backs, taking on the challenges of the Wild West and being loyal to each other above all.

    Which is to say that Sam and Lou did nearly everything together for the better part of forty-eight years, and by everything I mean all those things a true sporting man would find time to undetake: gambling, mining, saloonkeeping, swindling, gunplay, whoring, drinking, police work, politics, graft, more gambling, and then just one more drink.

    And yet, a review of the evidence finds that Sam is never actually implicated in a crime, never arrested, never charged, to our knowledge. Lou left a trail of minor arrests along the way, but Sam, well, he was always guilty too, by association.

    So I have to wonder: did some in Albuquerque find Sam objectionable as marshal because he was protecting the activities of his brother Lou, and Lou's associates? We are told, after all, that Sam's greatest offense was inaction, "non-performance of duties." Might that inaction have been to the benefit of his brother, and ultimately, we would assume, Sam as well?


    3/28/2005

    Albuquerque, 1882, His Brother's Keeper, Part II

    The question at hand: What illegal activities might Lou have been involved in, and did his brother's position as marshal serve to protect his criminal enterprises?

    First I ask you to consider the policeman's postion — crooked or straight — when dealing with a bunco victim. To wit:

    A man walks into a police station, and tells the officer on duty that he is a visiting businessman, and that a group of men have robbed him of $5000.

    "Okay. They assault you?"

    "No."

    "Threaten you?"

    "No. See, they led me to believe that I had won $30,000 in a rigged horse race."

    "Okay. You illegally won $30,000."

    "But see, they wouldn't give me the money unless I came up with $5000 to prove I could have covered the bet."

    "So you won $30,000 without betting any actual money?"

    "Well, they thought I had an account. That is to say, they made me think they thought I had an account. Of course, I knew that I didn't, and so did they, but that didn't matter, because the race was fixed and we knew who was going to win."

    "And so you had to give them $5000?"

    "No, just show it to them."

    "And you had it with you?"

    "I went back to Boise to get it. Took out a second mortgage on my farm. I brought it back, showed it to the bookkeeper, and left it on his desk while we went to another room for a few minutes..."

    "You left the room..."

    "We decided to make another bet, everything we'd won. Hey, they said it was a sure thing."

    "But it wasn't."

    "This other guy screwed up when he made the big bet. Then there was a fight, and we all ran away — and when I went back everything was gone! The office was empty!"

    "Don't say."

    "Anyway, I just realized that I have been conned by criminals. So are you going to put somebody in jail, or what?"

    It's not hard to see why bunco operations were so successful, and so widespread. Most victims of such fraud knew how it would sound if they went to the police, and decided instead to avoid the embarrassment, chalking it up to experience. Of course, it's still true today, always has been. That's what really distinguishes a con: the victim gives up his money without a threat, without a fight, and often, enthusiastically.

    Bunco gangs operated, when possible, in towns where some influence over local law enforcement could be negotiated. Sometimes those in power were old friends of the bunco men, or new ones, or just easily bought. The bunco men themselves had sometimes served as lawmen at one time or another, or as "corporate" cops for banks, railroads, and other entities. These connections to power would often prove lucrative over time, and protection was but one way a grateful old friend might express gratitude for earlier services rendered. Plus an additional fee, of course.

    Taking care, as they refined their techniques, to prey only on visitors, not residents — a parasitic adaptation, meant to keep the host city healthy — a confidence gang with allies on the police force could operate with little to fear. Should an arrest be made, a friendly court might impose a token day in jail, and a small fine, no more than a fraction of the actual take. Does this describe Albuquerque in 1882?

    To set the stage, let's look ahead to an 1884 article about the arrest of Con Caddigan in St. Louis for selling a fake gold brick:

    He appeared as a confidence man first in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the gang had their trans-continental rendezvous. Albuquerque was then a new town and the bunco men ran it with a high hand, electing as Justice of the Peace Dan Sullivan, one of their friends, and as Marshal and Constable Milton Yarberry, who was hanged last year, and Con Caddigan.

    Yarberry was marshal before Sam, hanged for murder. Caddigan served after Sam. Sullivan was judge. But no mention of Sam (typical).

    Assuming some accuracy on the part of the reporter (he is unaware that Caddigan's career began years before Albuquerque), it would be difficult to place Sam somehow outside of this arrangement, unblemished and pure — if indeed there was an Albuquerque gang. The article suggests things were going full swing by the time Sam and Lou arrived. With the arrival of the railroad only a year before, Albuquerque had became a bustling crossroad of the rails, and confidence men had good hunting. Hustlers were flocking to Albuquerque, and the Blongers were hardly out of place there.

    But that's not enough to indict Sam. This deserves a closer look.


    3/31/2005

    Albuquerque, 1882, His Brother's Keeper, Part III

    The Blonger Bros. were never publicly at odds over any issue, ever. But did Sam's position as town marshal put a crimp in Lou's style? Did Lou's shenanigans put Sam in a bind?

    I haven't been seen the evidence that details the common complaints against Sam, though there were complaints. Non-performance of duty, they said, which may simply have meant that Sam sat on his ass a lot, as the Review implied. Which is to say that there were characters about who needed rousting, and Sam wasn't getting around to it. Fair enough. Or maybe he was understaffed, as the Journal claimed.

    But if Lou was breaking the law, it's easy to see how people would talk. So what was Lou up to in 1882?

    Feb 15: Lou arrives in town, claiming to be visiting from Texas.

    Later in life, Lou loved to tell stories of his youth, and he was particularly fond of a tale from his days as sheriff of San Angelo, in West Texas. Jimmy Smith and Nels Anderson fought a duel over a roulette wheel, killing each other instantly. Not much of a story, really. Unfortunately, the folks in San Angelo who looked into Lou's claims came up dry. There was no newspaper there at the time, 1880-ish, so his stories may yet prove to be true. San Angelo was known at the time as a great party town, so it's not a long shot Lou was there.

    In any case, his "visit" lasted about a year.

    Feb 16: The next day, Sam kicks grifter Ed Burns out of town. Burns would later work with Soapy Smith in Denver, perhaps in opposition to the Blongers. The AMJ states that it would be happy to publish the names of several more deadbeats they think Sam should escort to the city limits.

    Mar 7: Two drunken bartenders, having too much fun, shoot at Sam, Lou and Charlie Ronan. Returning fire, the marshal and his men chase the "mixologists" into an adobe building, from which they continue to fire upon Sam and his deputies. The men escape under cover of darkness and high winds, but are arrested the next day.

    Apr 4: Lou assists Sam in arresting a dance-hall owner named Griffin from Winslow trying to run out on his creditors. The posse corners the showman on a train's baggage platorm, armed with three pistols, but he doesn't have the courage to use them. Sam takes him in.

    Apr 8: The AMJ gives us a first glimpse of Lou the swindler:

    A man named Ben Meyer, a country merchant doing business in one of the neighboring camps, has been in the city for several days seeing the sights. A couple of nights ago he received the cash for a check from Lou Blonger and then lost about half of the money in a game of stud-horse poker with somebody else. He claimed that he had been swindled out of his money and perhaps he was, and for this reason he went to the bank and ordered payment stopped on the check, claiming that it had been stolen. Blonger now brings suit against Meyer for the amount and will certainly get judgment.

    Here Lou assists by financing the sucker's losses. Innocent business on the face of it. On the other hand, a check is one obvious way to get at the funds a sucker might not have with him.

    Apr 19: Sam goes to Denver to have an ore sample assayed, and leaves Lou in charge as marshal. Visiting town, at the time, are Wyatt and Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, Sherman McMasters, James Johnson, John Tipton and Jack Vermillion, until recently of Tombstone. The newspapers are asked to refrain from mentioning the posse's presence until after their departure, and the papers oblige.

    More to come on Lou's term as marshal, Tony Neis and the Rocky Mountain Detectives, and the boys from Deadwood, Nuttall and Caddigan.


    March 2005


     

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