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February 2006


International Fame

Here are, evidently, machine translations of Lou's wikipedia entry, in French and Russian. Oui, oui!

The Tarsney Outrage

Castle Rock Journal, June 27, 1894

Adjutant General Tarsney Tarred and Feathered at Colorado Springs.
Adjutant General Tarsney was kidnaped from the Alamo Hotel a few minutes after midnight Saturday morning, by masked men, taken to the suburbs in a hack, and there tarred and feathered.
General Tarsney has been in the city for several days past attending the examination of the arrested Bull Hill miners. Tarsney, together with Colonel B. F. Montgomery of Cripple Creek, appeared as attorneys for the miners.
At midnight the general, having just gone to his room, was called to answer a summons to the telephone purporting to come from Cripple Creek. While at the telephone two masked men entered and one of them ordered Tarsney to go with them. He objected, and they hit him over the head with a revolver. The clerk was guarded by another man while Tarsney was forced out of doors and put into a hack. The drivers of the two hacks when they saw the struggle in the hotel started to drive away but were forced to remain by armed men. The party went to the foot of Austin Bluffs, nearly three miles from town. The hotel clerk gave notice to the police and a party soon started in pursuit.
Three of the officers arrived before the miscreants had finished their rascally act, but the seven masked men were too much for them and they could not prevent them from escaping.
After the ordeal General Tarsney was left lying on the prairie. He was found to be not badly hurt, but was suffering from bruises caused by his rough handling and was in great mental anguish.
The kidnapping caused the greatest sensation and excitement at Colorado Springs as soon as the facts became public, and also at Cripple Creek, to which place the telephone immediately carried the news.
Governor Waite was notified of the outrage by a reporter of the Denver Republican and expressed strong indignation. He said he would offer a reward of $1,000 out of his own pocket for the arrest of the men who did it.

Another article a few days later lifts the above description in its entirety, but refutes the italicized above with a more detailed description of the incident, beginning with the party's arrival at Austin Bluffs:

Littleton Independent, June 29, 1894

Here the party found a large number of men waiting for them. General Tarsney was stripped of all his clothing and a coat of hot tar and feathers applied to his body, even his face and neck not escaping. During all this time he had been abused and cursed in unmeasured terms. After helping the general to dress, the men ordered him to go north and never show himself in El Paso county again. The men then disappeared. His condition was pitiable in the extreme. As a result of the severe handling to which he had been subjected and the drying of the tar, he could make but slow progress. Toward daylight, however, he reached the house of Andrew T. Malloy, a ranchman, who had been a deputy at Cripple Creek. Mr. Malloy, after giving General Tarsney his breakfast, hitched up and drove him to Palmer Lake. Here the station men cleaned the tar from his face. He was taken to Denver on a special train in the afternoon.
The greatest apprehension had been felt by his family and friends, as they feared that he had been killed. Indignation was expressed by all classes of people. The Republican Redemption League offered a reward for the apprehension of the criminals. Commissioner Boynton of El Paso offered to do all in his power to arrest them, and messages of sympathy were received from all sides. General Tarsney, on his return home, was well cared for and on Sunday it appeared that the results would not prove serious. He said that he had no idea as to who the men were that had so abused him.

So, it seems, no party of police found Tarsney and came to his defense. Were they even looking? Instead, Tarsney, caked in tar and feathers, stumbled across the plains to the home of one of the deputies, who gave him assistance.

A couple of weeks later, Lou would arrive in the Springs with the Denver detective investigating the affair, Peter Eales.


Big Ed Chase and the Policy Shop War

In Wildest of the West, Forbes Parkhill states that Lou was "king of the policy racket in Denver." He seems to be talking about 1890 or so, as he goes on to state that Ed Chase was then president of the Colorado Policy Association, and that twelve policy shops were listed in the city directory that year.

Nathaniel Hill had been a U.S. Senator from Colorado in the mid Eighties, and was running for the post again in 1890. He was a mining man, who had at one time perfected a method of smelting gold ore. He was also the publisher of the Denver Republican.

Here we see "Spider" Hill enticing "Boss Fly" Chase and his "Lottery Gang" to work their election magic in the primaries. One could reasonably assume that Lou's in the crowd somewhere. But Chase is out front.

Policy Shop War

I would have to say the Policy Shop War bears looking into.


Bascomb Smith

Rocky Mountain News, May 12, 1894

His Badge Didn't Go.
Bascom Smith, a brother of Jeff Smith, recklessly discharged his pistol at Thirteenth and Market last night, and when Officer Shuck attempted to arrest him he resisted with tooth and nail, finally flashing a deputy sheriff's badge. The policeman was never phased, however, and Smith was gathered in.

Simon and the Robert E. Lee

Scott found this new link to a short history of the Leadville mine called the Robert E. Lee, confirming that Simon was superintendent around 1880.

The richest and most productive mine in the camp is the famous Robert E. Lee, located on the east end of Fryer Hill, and comprising only six acres of territory. The Lee is located over a deposit of chloride ores, which, for extent and richness, has never been surpassed.


Big Ed Chase, King of the Policy Men

The recent cartoon was from 1890, and this next article from 1894. So far, our only evidence that the Blongers were major players in the policy game is Forbes Parkhill.

This would follow the closing of Denver's gambling joints in April, including Blonger's and the Tivoli.

Rocky Mountain News, May 8, 1894

Ed Chase, King of the Policy Men, and Half a Dozen of His Writers Are Unceremoniously Pulled—His Place at 1333 Fifteenth Street Searched and the Freshly Oiled Wheel Found in the Dusty Attic—A Seductive Game Where the Chances Are Tremendously Against the Players.
The police are after the policy players. Yesterday the first blow was struck by the arrest of Ed Chase and half a dozen of his writers. Since the organization of the new fire and police board the proprietors of the local policy associations have been saying little, but have continued to diminish the woodpile without betraying any regard for the order of the board.
The game of policy is to the poor man the most seductive of all forms of gambling, for he sees in it the possibility of making a big winning from a small investment. He may win once in a thousand plays, and if he does he gets back an amount equal to that he lost on previous guesses. The policy fiend thinks by day and dreams by night of "gigs" and "saddles" and "horses" and "spiders," and any number impressed on his mind in an unusual way is invariably played for all it is worth.
Magnitude of the Game.
Ed Chase, who has amassed a fortune at the business, is the recognized power behind the wheels which revolve in Colorado. When a winner occasionally turns up he is sure of his cash, because there is a mint of money behind the association. For a long time he has been allowed to work among a class of people who can ill afford to invest even a trifle in such a snap game. Hundreds of dollars are paid in at each policy shop by these unfortunates who are controlled by the gambling mania.
At a central place the numbers are drawn from a small brass wheel at 12 o'clock noon and 5 o'clock in the afternoon of each day of the week. In the parlance of the legitimate gamblers the game is a "sure thing." The percentage against the policy fiend is enormous, but as he is usually unable to figure it out he plays on in ignorance. In order to lure on the superstitious a dream book has been published, so that if an inveterate gambler dreams of something unusual he consults the book. If his teeth fall out while he is asleep he plays the 7-11-44 gig. For a ten-cent investment he stands a show to win $11.80. If he dreams that he is falling over a precipice the book tells him that his lucky gig is 3-17-27.
When Sergeant Tarbox visited Ed Chase's main office yesterday at 5 o'clock he found a dozen men inside and on each face was written the expectant look of the policy fiend. A drawing was interrupted by the unwelcome presence of the police.
"You are under arrest," was the greeting Ed Chase got when he was arrested a few minutes later.
"What for?" was his query.
"For running a gambling house and carrying on a policy business," replied the sergeant.
"But we do not run a gambling house and the policy numbers are drawn from a hat," retorted Chase.
Finding the Elusive Wheel.
Upon his refusal to show the officers through the building at 1333 Fifteenth street, the officers decided to forego any formality. They found no wheel on the first floor, and the same ill-luck attended them in their visit to the second story; but away up near the roof in a dark room in the rear of the building they found a brass wheel. Every other article in the room was covered with dust. The wheel was innocent of such neglect and the bearings had been freshly oiled. The prospective "gigs" and "saddles" and "spiders" and "horses" were still in the cylinder. The fortune maker was confiscated and taken to city headquarters along with Chase, whose fortune it had helped to make. Gus Brohm, a partner of Chase's, was also arrested at 1333 Fifteenth street, Jacob Carr from 1216 the prime mover in the raid on the shops.
Later on the policy writers were brought in from 1218 Seventeenth street. H. J. Domidian responded in the ambulance. C. J. Pierson was arrested at 920 Seventeenth street. Jacob Carr from 1216 Nineteenth street and Hank Anderson from Twenty-third and Larimer.

The Rocky Mountain News website, by the way, identifies a recent subject, like so:

Nathaniel Hill (1832-1900). Brown University chemistry professor developed smelting process that extracted gold from ore. Mining made Hill one of Colorado's first millionaires. Founded Boston and Colorado Smelting Co, better known as Argo Smelter, in 1868. Owned the Denver Republican newspaper. Elected U.S. senator for one term beginning in 1879.


Vice Crackdown of 1894

After Gov. Waite replaced the police board, gambling was shut down in Denver, but many gambling house owners moved to suburbs ready and willing to host these cash cows.

Rocky Mountain News, May 11, 1894

Hayseeds from Kansas and Missouri Are Shaken Down by the Gentle Bunco Man Operating from His New Lair in Colfax.
A jayhawker and a Missourian wandered down Larimer street yesterday and each fell among thieves. The Kansan was foxy and escaped with his experience but the Missourian visited the Whitechapel district in Colfax and, although he was not robbed of his raiment, he is shy $28 and the prospect of a job.
L. H. Cosebrier of Topeka, Kan. is a bookkeeper who arrived in the city a few days ago, seeking health and a position. He deposited his money in the Denver Savings bank and while waiting for it to open on Wednesday a well dressed young fellow engaged him in a conversation which has whiskers on it. He was also a bookkeeper and a native of Kansas and said that he worked for a mining outfit for $80 a month. It was weary waiting and he suggested a visit to the Windsor, where he would like to show his friend some magnificent samples of ore. On the way to the Windsor they dropped into Noonan & Dillon's saloon and found there that the man with the ore had just stepped out. "Be back in a minute," said the genial drink mixer.
Together they had several drinks, afterwards moving to the back of the saloon, where they found several "stalls" engaged in the fascinating game of stud poker. The bunco steerer took a hand and gave his friend some chips. In time he got a hand that his partner thought would beat four aces. He had no money, but said he would over to the bank and get his money. By this time he was "on," and he never came back. He told his troubles to a policeman. Yesterday he visited the same saloon and intended to make the road rocky for the owners and for his Abilene, Kan. friend. Before he got out he was smashed on the jaw and otherwise disfigured. At headquarters he told his story and the arrest of the fakir followed. Later on Noonan & Dillon, the proprietors of the saloon, were arrested, charged with gambling.
Noonan was formerly proprietor of the Ruby in which Jack Devine killed his man some years ago. Dillon has got a bad record, ill health having driven him from the plumbing into the saloon business.

Miles and Cosebrier

John Miles of Carl county, Missouri, is a young farmer who came to Colorado to visit a brother. Yesterday after breakfast he -- a Seventeenth street -- the story of his life. A few minutes after another gentlemanly looking fellow appeared with the Carl county name of Hicks and some recollection of the Miles family. He invited the youth to go car riding and later led him to Colfax, where they put up at Farmers Headqarters. Hicks promised to get Miles a job on a dairy farm and while waiting for the ranchman he was inveigled into a game. When he quit he was out $28 and left with a threat from Hicks that if he (Miles) ever recognized him on the street he would beat him to death.
The powers of the sheriff's office and justice courts were utilized to make trouble for Miles. It was claimed that a warrant on some charge was sworn out and a couple of deputy sheriffs proceeded to lay in wait for him. The proceeding was observed and Miles was given the protection of the police in the basement of city hall. The spectacle was presented of a man having to conceal himself in order that he might not be seized by alleged officers and prevented from testifying against those who robbed him.
Another and more flagrant case occurred last night. Sol Correll, a young man suffering from both consumption and asthma, came to police headquarters and complained that as he was passing the Midway saloon at Seventeenth and Larimer streets shortly before, Jeff Smith came out and suddenly struck him in the face, knocking him down. Correll said that three weeks ago he was buncoed out of $40 at the Royal bar on Larimer street, and supposes that Smith connected him with the arrest of Noonan & Dillon. Special Officer Bowie soon after arrested Smith, who was taken to the city hall, where he gave bonds for his appearance in court to-day.
Correll had the temerity to go out on the street and had not proceeded 100 yards from the city hall when he was arrested by deputy sheriffs and taken to the county jail on a charge of disturbance—probably because he was first robbed and then knocked down. Later he was released on a bond secured by the police authorities and sought his doctor. He is on the way to Akron, where he hopes to find health.


Buda, Buda

Yesterday we heard from Bill Godman, a relative of Buda Godman, con woman extraordinaire and paramour of Lou's dapper bookmaker, Jackie French.

Buda Godman


Six Degrees of Lou Blonger

Inevitable that it should come up, so let's jusr do it.

When our search for the brothers Belonger began, we figured our connecion at 4 degrees: our mother, her dad, who likely knew his grandfather Mike, who knew Lou.

Earlier this summer we met a Denver attorney who knew Philip Van Cise, who knew Lou, which put us at 3 degrees. Figuring the odds of meeting someone who knew Lou personally, we figure that's all she wrote.

The City Hall War

The whole thing started when Waite began publicly wondering why so many criminals were being prematurely transferred from Cañon City Penitentiary to the county jailhouse, and then quickly paroled.

Which is to say that gambling interests and the protectors of the local con men — virtually one and the same thing — were directing the actions of the county and state justice system. He understood this influence to extend to the Denver police board as well, not to mention city hall, and he therefore resolved to replace the board with his own appointees, even if the militia was needed to make it happen. And that's exactly what he did.

This 1894 cartoon from Denver's Rocky Mountain News adds a twist to the story. It seems the man best qualified to be the new warden of Cañon City just happened to be his son-in-law (the little dog named Bruce).



Vice Crackdown of 1894

When it was all said and done — the armed confrontation at city hall, the Supreme Court decision, the replacement of the police board and a good chunk of the police department — Waite's effect on gambling and political corruption in Denver was a bit like a stone thrown into a pond. Many of the tactics we associate with Prohibition were developed in just such circumstances, things like peepholes, lookouts and clever ways of stashing paraphernalia on a moment's notice. In such cases, a little forethought went a long way when defending yourself in court.

Rocky Mountain News, 1894

Private Poker Players Very Hard to Convict.
The men arrested in the old Charplot hotel for gambling were discharged by Judge Frost yesterday because actual play for money was not proven. Under a strict interpretation of the law it is evident the police will hardly be able to make a case against private gambling rooms. J. McGavis was fined $10 for carrying concealed weapons and $2 for drunkenness. Gus Peterson was fined $10 for fast driving and $10 for cruelty. A big batch of drunk and disturbance cases was put through.


Bascomb Smith

Today we heard from Geri Murphy, great-granddaughter of Soapy Smith. She mentions a letter in her possession — of which we will learn more, I hope — in which Bascomb, writing from the county jail in the mid-1890s, complains of having to make payments to the Blongers.

Though such a circumstance has been suggested and surmised, this would seem to lay to rest the question as to whether the former king of the Denver fixers eventually had to pay the new boss his due.

Have to say, though, sounds like Bascomb wasn't getting his money's worth.


Denver's Gangs

A nice mention yesterday — for this page and — in the Denver Post, in an article on Denver's "mob history."


Mr. Mayor

Wolfe Londoner

Wolfe Londoner 1889-91

Welcome, Wolfe, to the Grafters Club. Your table is waiting.

Born in 1839 in New York City, Londoner was the son of a prosperous merchant, and would himself come to be a prominent and wealthy businessman with interests in Denver, Leadville, Kansas, New Mexico and Wyoming. He made good money in Leadville during the period the Blongers were there, 1879-81. He was a stakeholder in the Denver & Rio Grande. A newspaper correspondent as well, he served as Vice-President of the Denver Press Club.

In 1887, his Denver grocery business moved to the Londoner Block on Arapahoe. The Blongers would settle in to the same neighborhood a year later.

He had political ambitions as well, having served as a county clerk and treasurer. In 1889, he ran for mayor of Denver, won by 77 votes — and with the "assistance" of Masterson, Smith, the Blongers and others, ended up being the only Denver mayor to resign over charges of voter fraud.

Our first connection to Londoner came with the following article, detailing voter fraud during the election. Lou and Sam were apparently paid to oversee the voting habits of dead Denverites in one precinct. Bat Masterson and Soapy had theirs as well.

Rocky Mountain News, March 20, 1890

Voters in Spring Election Handled Like Herds of Hogs.
The court was next treated to a genuine surprise when the name of the witness was called.
Charles Conner took the stand. The witness was in town on last April election day, and was at the Eighteenth precinct polling place. He kept a saloon at the corner of Eighteenth and Lawrence then. Mr. Pence then drew a plan of the neighborhood and asked the witness how far his saloon was from the polling place. He did not know. Connor was in the saloon on election day. The witness was asked what he was doing there. He hesitated a long while and then said he refused to answer for fear it might incriminate him.
Judge Allen instructed the witness to answer under the protection of the law. He also told the lawyer to confine his questions solely to what was material in this case.
Witness was doing something in connection with the April election. With others he was furnishing slips with names and residences to men who voted on them. The witness thought Sam Emrich had written them. Sheeney Sam had delivered him forty-five at one time, forty-six at another and ninety-five at another in cigar boxes. That number they had when the polls opened in the morning.
Connor then drew on a piece of pad-paper a plan of his saloon with considerable care. He explained this to the jury. The front door was not ajar while the polls were open. The side entrance he knew had been open on election day. During the course of the day he was in the back room of the saloon and sometimes in the parlor. Men were furnished with slips of paper of this kind to vote on. Sam Emrich and a man named Jackson were inside furnishing names with him. There was a doorkeeper inside. They had a couple of doorkeepers. The men who were to vote came in sometimes three and sometimes five at a time. The doorkeepers acted under his direction some of the time. A man named Anheirer was the doorkeeper and this man stood up in the court room for identification. The man who attended to the other door was called Red Town, he did not know his proper name. Sam Emrich sometimes gave orders to the doorkeeper and other times he and Jackson did. There might have been 400 or 500 names furnished voters that day by him and others. There were more than 300 furnished. They were given straight Republican ballots and led out by men whom they had employed for this purpose. These men were Sue and Lon Blenger [sic], Jerry Guyon, a man by the name of Allen and a man by the name of Hamm, and there were others whose names he had forgotten. He had begun this work before the polls opened. The witness quit at 6 o'clock. Then he had gone to the polls in the Seventh ward to vote. At times he was out in the hall where plenty other men were. The witness did not know the names on the slips. He had used the larger batch of names first. Connor had used copies of the registry book made by Sam Emrich.

2/25/2006 Dakota Johnson
Dakota Johnson — 1994-2006

Mr. Mayor

Speaking of Denver mayors — much has been made of Lou's influence over mayor's office, and how much of his control over police affairs was exercised through the mayor. But which mayors? Lou was doing good business in Denver for over twenty-five years. Turns out that's a lot of mayors. Let the digging begin!

Mayors during Lou's residence in Denver, from the city website:

  • William Scott Lee -- 1887-1889
  • Wolfe Londoner -- 1889-1891
  • Platt Rogers -- 1891-1893
  • M. D. VanHom -- 1893-1895
  • Thomas S. McMurry -- 1895-1899
  • Henry V. Johnson -- 1899-1901
  • Robert R. Wright -- 1901-1904
  • Robert W. Speer -- 1904-1912
  • Henry J. Arnold -- 1912-1913
  • J. M. Perkins -- 1913-1915
  • William H. Sharpley -- 1915-1916
  • Robert W. Speer -- 1916-1918
  • W. F. R. Mills -- 1918-1919
  • Dewey C. Bailey -- 1919-1923

If you've got anything to say about these gentlemen, pass it on.

February 2006



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