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January 2007


Trial Chronology

Considering that Lou's 1922 arrest is the the only reason anyone knows anything about Lou Blonger at all, we haven't dealt with it in a lot of detail on this site. We have the news articles that spell it out in reasonable detail, but of course it's Philip Van Cise's book Fighting the Underworld that gives the authoritative account.

That said, here's a trial timeline published by the Denver Post once the verdict came in:

Aug 24, 1922-Sensational roundup by District Attorney Van Cise, and thirty-three men arrested as members of an alleged $1,000,000 ring.
Aug. 27-After careful investigation, Van Cise declares he has caught master minds of the confidence ring.
Aug 28-First hints that Denver police may be involved in collusion-Van Cise asks $30,000 from city council to prosecute the gang.
Aug 29-Mayor Bailey flays the district attorney as extravagant. Van Cise is praised by federal agent, who says no bunko ring can operate without collusion of police and bankers. Van Cise lands on Attorney WA Bryant in open court when latter hints district attorney a liar.
Aug 31-Plans of "con" ring raid discovered on AW Duff, alleged field lieutenant of the ring. Prosecutor's letter asking arrest of Duff also found in the latter's desk. Mayor Bailey flays citizens who helped Van Cise in raids.
Sept. 7-Probe committee of Law Enforcement league announces "Official Denver" is rotten. Armed guards posted at district attorney's vaults, where "con" ring evidence is held.
Sept. 12-City council votes $15,000 for prosecution of gang. Conspiracy to defraud charged against alleged ring, in information filed in west side court. City Detective Sanders makes secret statement to Van Cise.
Sept. 19-Gang is reported raising a fund of $500,000 for defense.
Sept. 22-Judge CC Butler refuses to reduce bonds.
Sept. 28-Nineteen of thirty-three arrested freed on bail. Fifty Denver printers called before county grand jury in connection with the flood of fake bonds printed here and sent over the country.
Oct. 1-District Attorney Van Cise removed as prosecutor by Judge Butler-court says it is no reflection on honor or integrity of prosecutor, but that his name was linked with that of an attorney who appeared for one of the bunco victims in a civil suit.
Oct. 4-S. Harrison White and Harry C. Riddle named by court to prosecute "bunco" cases.
Oct. 13-Denver "con" ring netted over $500,000 in three years, Van Cise announces.
Oct. 27-In arguments on motion to quash the indictments, defense attorneys charge Van Cise is using dummy witnesses to swear to the informations. Andrew Koehn later appears in person as the "dummy."
Nov. 11-Judge Butler overrules motion to quash and says defendants must go to trial.
Nov. 28-Van Cise condemns city administration for "con" raid policy.
Dec. 3-Bitter clash between White and Horace N. Hawkins, chief of defense council, marks court hearing. Open war declared.
Dec. 5-White charges "Vampire squad" is going about country inducing "lambs" not to appear against defendants.
Dec. 8-"Bunco ring should have shot Van Cise in his tracks during raid," shouts Hawkins in open court.
Dec. 10-White challenges Hawkins to duel during court arguments.
Dec. 28-Judge Butler upholds Van Cise in manner of arrest of bunco suspects. "It was the only way." Chief Deputy Sheriff Tom Clarke and Detective George Sanders named bunco ring aides by White.
Dec. 29-Manager of Safety Downer and Health Commissioner Sharpley accused of favoring bunco suspects.
Jan. 4, 1923-Downer barred from serving any legal papers in cases.
Jan. 10-Bunco defendants sue Van Cise and his aides for a total of $190,000.
Jan. 15-Raids held legal and Van Cise justified by Butler ruling.
Jan. 17-Blonger and Duff drop suits against Van Cise to avoid cross-questioning.
Jan. 23-Coroner Sharpley names Floyd Fairhurst and Fred Boyer as special deputies to serve process in bunco cases, after Manager of Safety Downer has been deposed as unqualified.
Jan. 25-Selection of jury begins.
Feb. 5-6-Opening statements of counsel for prosecution and defense.
Feb. 7-First witness-$25,000 bank president "lamb" from Michigan-takes witness stand.
Mar. 22-Prosecution rests; defense rests without having introduced a word of testimony and offers to submit case to jury without argument.
Mar. 23-Instructions to jury prepared.
Mar. 24-Judge Dunklee instructs jury and case is submitted without argument. Jurors begin deliberations at 10:45 am. Defendants' bonds, totaling $98,000, expire and they are remanded to custody of Chief Deputy Sheriff Tom Clarke. Drunken debauch staged in grand jury room where Blonger, Duff, French are in custody of Clarke. Other defendants had been locked in jail.
Mar. 25-District Attorney Van Cise orders grand jury investigation of "bunco" drunk scandal. Manager of Safety Downer suspends Clarke.
Mar. 26-Clarke forced to resign as grand jury probe begins.
Mar. 27-Judge Dunklee gives "third degree" instruction to "bunco" jury, advising minority to give in to majority.
Mar. 28-Jury, which, at its own request, had been allowed to remain in the west side court building dormitory, is put in the regular jury room to deliberate. Grand jury indicts Clarke, Blonger, Duff and French for their alleged part in drunken orgy. Grand jury launches probe of alleged attempts to bribe "bunco" jury. At 4:45 pm "bunco" jury announces it has agreed. Blanket verdict of conviction returned against all twenty defendants. Jurors summoned to appear before garnd jury in bribery probe.
Mar. 29-Grand jury questions "bunco" jurors concerning alleged bribery attempts.




Just throwin' this out there. In 1907, a year before his supposed death in Bolivia, Harry Longabaugh — the Sundance Kid — brought an ailing Etta Place to Denver. Who knows?



Elfego Baca and Billy The Kid

Elfego Baca

Mr. Baca is a true New Mexico legend. At 19, Baca appointed himself a deputy sheriff of Socorro County and took it upon himself to clean up Frisco, New Mexico. After the arrest of a rowdy, drunken cowboy, Baca found himself pinned down in the house of Geronimo Armijo, facing 80 angry cowboys. He is said to have killed four, wounded eight, and walked out himself unscathed thirty-six hours later. He became a lawyer at 29, and later a Deputy United States Marshal. He was an assistant district attorney, the mayor of Socorro, and sheriff of Socorro County. He died in 1945. He was immortalized in Disney's The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca, starring Robert Loggia, with Annette Funicello, James Coburn and Allan "Skipper" Hale.

I mention him because of a story he used to tell, wherein he, at 17, found himself carousing in Albuquerque, accompanied by an equally youthful Billy The Kid. As he told the story, he arrived in town just in time to see Milt Yarberry, town marshal, gun a man down in the street. Later, Baca and The Kid went into the Martinez saloon, had a few drinks, then went back into the street, where Billy shot off his "Bulldog Repeater." Deputy Cornelio Murphy accosted the boys, and searched them, finding no firearm. They went back into the saloon, and Billy fired again, and shot out the lights. Murphy searched them again, but again found no gun. When Baca asked him where he hid the gun, Billy raised his derby and smiled. The gun was atop his head.

Milt Yarberry was the first marshal of Albuquerque, jailed a few months before Sam's term, and hung a few months after. He was making a habit of shooting unarmed men. Cornelio Murphy was one of Sam's deputies — though he was probably a deputy before Sam's arrival, and he continued as such afterward.

The problem, we are told, is that Billy was not supposed to be in the area in June of 1881, when Yarberry shot Charles Campbell. He also shot Harry Brown earlier in the year, maybe it was then. More likely, Baca was confused about who he thought he was with. Maybe Texas Kid or Slim Kid, two contemporary Kids known to be in the vicinity. There were a lot of kids.


Albuquerque Tri-Centennial

That would be last year. Found this page with Albuquerque trivia, and put it through the wringer:

Albuquerque's second marshal, Robert McGuire, was killed while apprehending two criminals. By our count, McGuire was tenth, serving from March 1886 to November 1886, according to the department's 2003 yearbook.

Aviation began in Albuquerque when Frank Speakman and W. Langford Franklin built two runways on East Mesa in 1928. I think we would vote for Van Tassel's gas balloon ascension in July of 1882 — which they do mention later. Balloons are aviation, no?

Perfecto Armijo and Santiago Baca took turns serving as Sheriff. Elections consisted of ritualized fights between the two men and their gangs. They would "meet in a vacant lot and do battle with sticks, rocks, gun butts and fists. Judge William Heacock was referee. A crowd gathered to watch, and they voted for the winner." Judge Heacock may date this previous to Sam's arrival, when Dan Sullivan was judge. Armijo was the sheriff who appointed Sam, and dismissed Sam and Lou. Lou supported Baca for sheriff in late 1882.

Albuquerque's Baseball Teams: The Dons, the Cardinals, the Dukes, the Dodgers and the Isotopes. They omit printer McReight's team, the Browns, who played on July 4th, 1882. The Browns are mentioned later as having been eventually renamed the Dons.

Albuquerque's first fire station was built in 1882, following a fire in March. Sam was marshal at that time.

The Montezuma saloon had the first electric lights in town, in 1883.

In the 1880's, the police were not government employees. They were paid by the town businessmen, and referred to as the Merchant Police Force.

Vivian Vance, a townie, had perhaps the first weight clause in her contract. She had to weigh at least ten pounds more than Lucy.

Tickets were sold to Milt Yarberry's hanging.



Soapy and the Clanton Gang

Sorry Soapy, I'm slackin'. Soapy informs us he's appearing as a guest tonight at 7 pm PST on the first webcast.



Mike Kinch, E.C. Hawkins and Cathy Koch

Busy day. Today we heard from two relatives, Cathy Koch, a cousin, and Mike Kinch, Carolyn Salsman's cousin's son, a third cousin to us, a descendant of Mike's daughter Bridget Belonger.

Mike, lucky son of a gun, grew up hearing the stories we know as the Armstrong account, Joe's supposed exploits among the Indians of the SouthWest, and the Plains, Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse... I'm jealous. Really.

We also heard from E.C. Hawkins, who is researching Charlie Zeiger, who owned the Metropolitan saloon in Albuquerque in 1882.

This morning about half-past one o'clock a man named Jones, who is in the employ of Wells-Fargo's express company in this city, was in Zeiger's saloon quarrelling and flourishing his revolver about in a dangerous way. The man was drunk, and Marshal Blonger, who came into the saloon about that time, took the revolver away from him. Jones is a man of family and Marshal Blonger therefore took him out of the saloon and started him on his way to his home, which is in the Highland addition. The marshal left him when they got near the railroad track, and just after Jones moved on toward his house he turned toward Blonger and said, "I will have my revenge upon you," or words to that effect. Marshal Blonger paid but little attention to this, considering it only the remark of a drunken man, and returned to Zeiger's. He had been there but a few minutes when he saw Jones come into the room with a shot gun in his hands. The marshal concluded at once that the man was going to shoot him, and so, stooping down, he ran toward him and, catching the gun by the barrel, threw it up out of range of himself. Just as he did this the gun was discharged, and the charge passed over his head and lodged into the wall of the club room, near the upper southwest corner of the saloon. The marshal then arrested Jones and took him to the lockup.


Soapy and the Clanton Gang

Last night was the premier of The Haunted Saloon webcast at It was pretty good. It was an hour show, hosted by Terry "Ike" Clanton. I'm not sure if he's related to the elder Ike, I imagine so. Soapy spoke a bit about his namesake, and showed a few photos, and a good time was had by all. The show will be webcast Tuesday of every week at 7 pm PST. Check it out. They even take calls on the air.


Detective Mike Delaney

Putting together two and two, I think we have a new candidate for the Grafters Club.

First this from Fighting The Underworld, explaining how Lou met Iola Readon and began their affair:

Lou also liked the ladies. In his early days he had married a successful variety actress, who was a high-class woman, but as he grew older they drifted apart. They were never divorced and he spent some of his time with her. But his real romance arose out of an arrest. Two of the city detectives were not in the good graces of Mike Delaney, Chief of Police in 1904. So, one evening, when they were having dinner with two girls, the patrol wagon backed up to the door, and under Delaney's orders all four were arrested and thrown into jail. The officers made bond and got out at once, but Mike refused to release the women.
One of the men then went to Blonger and told him about the girls, and Lou at once telephoned Delaney and ordered him to let them go. He did, and the next day they called on Blonger to thank him for his help. Immediately he was attracted to the younger one. She was only about nineteen. He gave her a musical education and lavished money on her until her marriage a few years later.
Shortly afterwards, however, she divorced her husband, and from then on was Blonger's mistress. She called for him in the evening, drove him out to his farm, and was constant subject to his beck and call. Her name in this book is Berna Rames.
In 1921, Blonger built a beautiful bungalow for Berna on Capitol Hill, at [—] Williams Street, right across the alley from the fashionable Ascension Episcopal Church. It cost thirty thousand dollars. Nothing was spared in its construction, and only the best material was used.
A large garage was in the high-ceilinged basement, with a covered roof over a walled-in entrance way. Small windows enabled the occupants of the house to see what visitor was calling before opening the door for his car. And at night prominent politicians, with side curtains drawn to hide the occupants, drove to the garage entrance, there to be identified and admitted for their private business. An adjacent large billiard room, with cozy fireplace and comfortable chairs, was the setting for the conferences.

The house still stands.

We now put this together with this reference from a 1922 article about Lou's history with the Denver police:

On July 1, 1901, Lou Blonger was arrested on a charge of obtaining money by gambling devices. He admitted that he had won $250 from G. Ritter and F. Breckner, the complainants, in a room in the Good block. Blonger, however, supplemented his admission with the statement that the money was won on the square and that the foreigners should have no complaint.
Millionaire Caused Arrest.
Blonger immediately gave bonds for his appearance and was released. Ritter, it later developed, was a millionaire hotel man, and as soon as Blonger returned the money to him he took a train for San Francisco, bound for Japan. When the case came to trial there were no complaining witnesses and Blonger was free.
Fifteen days later, July 16, 1901, Detective Delaney charged Blonger with bilking an English tourist, also named Ritter - Henry Ritter - of $375 in a game of brace poker. The case was dismissed.

Sure, Delaney busted him. Then he handled it thus:

Bunco Man Who Returned His Victim's Money Discharged.
"Insufficient Evidence to convict," is the reason advanced by the police and district attorney's office for the discharge of "Lou" Blonger, who was tried yesterday in Magistrate Rice's court on a charge of obtaining money fraudulently by means of a confidence game.
When the case was called yesterday forenoon Blonger was in court smiling contentedly. Deputy District Attorney Sanborn called Captain of Detectives Michael Delaney to the stand to testify to statements George Ritter, who was Blonger's victim, had made charging Blonger with robbing him. Delaney's evasive and evident unwilling testimony satisfactorily whitewashed Blonger and gave him a character for philanthropy which the district attorney passively accepted.

The fixer does his thing. So let's give a shout out to Chief of Detectives/Chief of Police Mike Delaney. You deserve a fix today! Your table is waiting...



Murder at the Bottom Dollar

Cerrillos mining expert Bill Baxter is wondering about those who ponied up bail for Joe after he was charged with the murder of Alex Allan:

Having now had the chance to view and review your latest Blonger episodes, the curiosity I can't quite figure is the trio who went Joe's bail. John Andrews, C. A. Schenrich, and J. H. Blain. What a strange group!

John Andrews and 2 others were Joe's partners on the Badger silver-lead claim of 1880, which claim was about half way between the nearby silver-lead Bottom Dollar and the Castilian/Tiffany/Consul turquoise claims. Except the Badger, all these digs existed before 1880. The Badger never amounted to anything, but Andrews and Alex Allen (!) turn up later in the same item set in the same area. Turquoise is near its peak value at this time.

1896; "The turquoise mines north of Cerrillos are the scene of much activity at present. The New York Company, owning the Story mine, is working fifteen men regularly and taking out turquoise of a very superior quality. One magnificent stone recently obtained is represented to have been sold in New York for $8,600. Four men are at work developing the Consul claim belonging to Bennett & Andrews, near the Old Castilian. Alex Allen is enthusiastic over the prospects of the mine which he is now developing west of Carbonateville, near the mouth of the tunnel." [New Mexican; cited in The Mines of NM, p.39]

It is unclear whether "west of Carbonateville, near the mouth of the tunnel" means the old Bottom Dollar or something else. Given the timing, it's probably the Bottom Dollar.

Charles A. Scheurich was a third-level would-be politico. Charles, a political toady, was not at all involved in mines and mining. This hilariously interesting courtroom bit on him -- he apparently 'adjusted' the contents of some ballot boxes -- dates from 5 1/2 years before Joe needed bailing:

1892 January 12; "In the case of [C] A. Scheurich, of Taos county, charged with violation of the U.S. election laws, the jury brought in a verdict of not guilty, the indictment, which was drawn by Geo C. Preston, then assistant U.S. district attorney, having made such a grievous botch of spelling defendant's name as to make it impossible to discover whether or not the accused party was Scheurich." [SFDNM]

J.H. Blain had been sort of making a living at mining in the Cerrillos Hills and northern New Mexico for almost 20 years by the time he contributed to Joe's bail, but to read the records you wouldn't know it. He was a stealth miner, appearing in a few records as a witness to someone else's claims and never anything more significant. He never owned or operated anything under his name. The Barney Fife of miners? Hiding from something, maybe?

The fun puzzle is trying to see how these 3 fit together, and how they were able and willing to help Joe raise his bail. At this point I don't have that answer. If I were to guess I would say that between the 3 (4?) of them they couldn't come up with 1/10th the $2500 cash Joe needed. No bondsmen then; Joe needed the full amount. The remarkable thing is that Joe, when he was in dire need of cash, did not turn to the usual wealthy local godfathers and robber-barons as, say, Sam Blonger clearly would've done. What's going on here? After nearly 20 years does Joe have no Santa Fe contacts?

Remember, that for a brief period at the end of 1891 Joe worked as a guard at the NM State Penitentiary.

1891 November 6; (State Pen breakout) "Every man in any way connected with the escape of White and his companions, were ordered discharged from the service. Frank Rankin, Wm. Cole, W.L. Evans, Joe Blonger and Barney Spee[?], experienced men, were ordered put on in the place of those dismissed." [The Rustler v.IV n.27]

-Bill Baxter

I believe some additions to the Grafters Club may be in order, including Joe's longtime partner C.M. Purdin, partner John Andrews, would-be pol Charles A. Scheurich, and J.H. Blain, the ghost miner.


Nothing in particular... except that through the Blongers you've come into such a fascinating menagerie of unsavory characters. Here's one I ran across in the Santa Fe New Mexican of March 30, 1893. A professional parachute jumper and sham miner? Even though this has no obvious link to the inimitable Lou and his entourage, the peculiar flavor is there. This one even has a poor orphan girl who moved down to the camp in order to make a living.

"Dateline Santa Fe - On the charge of using the U.S. mail to defraud, James Ricker, of Cerrillos, had a hearing before U.S. Commissioner W.D. Sloan yesterday afternoon, and was committed to jail, in default of $3,000 bail to await the action of the grand jury. Ricker reached Cerrillos about six weeks ago and after working a few days at the mines began sending letters to various residents offering to sell bogus money. He represented that the green goods he dealt in was equal to Uncle Sam's best make of greenbacks and he sent several genuine crisp one dollar bills to the people to prove it. He offered $500 of the bogus stuff for $25 in currency, and larger amounts in proportion, the buyers to receive the goods by express C.O.D. Marshall Brown and Tony Neis got hold of his letters and carried on a correspondence with Ricker until they developed his scheme and then they notified Secret Service Agent J.H. Walker, of Denver, who was soon on hand and nabbed Ricker, with the result that he is now in jail under bonds. Mr. Walker says the prisoner is an old offender. He is a parachute jumper in the summer, and during the winter he pretends to earn a living as a miner. He formerly resided at Burke City, Idaho, and later at Durango, Colo. He is an old sharper, and Mr. Walker seems gratified over his lodgment behind bars. Ricker is a smooth looking fellow, about 30 years of age. One of the witnesses brought up from Cerrillos to appear in the case was Maggie Lovell, quite a pretty orphan girl who formerly resided here, and who since going to Cerrillos, has fallen into evil ways."

-Bill Baxter

A couple of interesting things here: this our third parachute jumper — there's also Park Van Tassel and his amazon wife Jenny. It's also nice to see our old buddy Tony Neis, who in 1882 persuaded Sam and Lou to join the Rocky Mountain Detective Association in Albuquqerque.



The Kingston Trio

One thing we've come to realize in our research is that even con men usually tell the truth. Take, for example, Lou's military pension file. Though we have suspicions about the severity of his varicose vein condition, basically every item that we have been able to verify has proven true. In particular, Lou gave a long accounting of his whereabouts from his birth to the time of his application for a disability pension in 1888. Let's see how it stacks up to the evidence:

In the year 1866, after leaving the Hospital I was with my Father at his residence in Shullsburgh Wis in 1867 was at 222 Park Avenue Chicago where I was sent by my Bro to Bryants Station (?) Business College, in 1868 was with my brother at Mt Carroll Ill. In 1869 went with my Bro to Red Oak, Iowa.

Of course, Shullsburg. Chicago, Mt. Carroll, and Red Oak are all confirmed.

In 1870 went with my Brother to Utah was with him until 1875 resided at Dry Canon, Stockton and Salt Lake. During those years, at Salt Lake was treated by Dr. Hamilton for varicose veins and ulcers in left leg.

We know Sam and Lou spent several years in the Salt Lake City area, though we don't know exactly where they lived during that time.

In the fall of 75 went with my Brother to Virginia City, Nevada. In 76, went with my Bro to Cornucopia Nev, in 77 to Tuscarora Nev where I was treated by Dr. Deal for varicose vein. Have been unable to find present residence of Dr Deal

Even before we received the pension file, we knew that Sam and Lou had lived in Cornucopia and Tuscarora. Virginia City has not yet been confirmed.

In 78 went with my Bro to Silver Reef, Utah and same year back to Salt Lake where I was again treated for same trouble by Dr. Hambelton [sic]. Was in Salt Lake until 79. Then I went to Leadville Colo where I resided with my Bro until 81. And was treated by Dr. Gumbess (?) who is since deceased

We've got no evidence yet for Silver Reef or the return to Salt Lake City. Leadville is a given. Interestingly, there's no mention in Lou's account of Georgetown, Colorado, where we believe he ran a theatre for a few months.

Novelty Theater

In 81 went to Albuquerque New Mexico I resided with my Bro until 1883 was treated by Dr Kimbell for varicose vein in left leg Dr Kimbell address Colridge Kansas.

Albuquerque - yes!

Since 83 until the present time here resided with Frank Thurmond at Silver City, Deming and Kingston New Mexico. And here been treated in that time by Dr. Innes, Kingston New Mexico and by Dr. McGuire, of same place present Post Office address Kingston Sierra Co New Mexico

Here's where it gets dicey. Try as we might, we haven't been able to track Lou through any of these outposts - until today. Idly passing the afternoon by glancing again at Google Books, it occurred to me to try the misspelling "Blanger." Up popped a reference to Black Range Tales, a first-hand account of life on the southwestern New Mexico frontier, written in 1936 by a retired prospector named James A. McKenna.

According to an introduction that accompanies the 2002 edition, McKenna wrote his account on scraps of paper while working in a Silver City blacksmith shop. Many years later, while living in a sanatorium in Deming, a nun typed them for publication.

McKenna was blessed with a marvelous memory and spun some wonderful yarns. Among his stories was a footrace incident he placed on July 4, 1882, when Kingston was a boomtown full of miners and flush with cash and good times. According to McKenna:

Among the big gamblers of Kingston were the two Bradley brothers, the two Thurman brothers, and Lou Blanger. (p. 132)

The reference to the gamblers is inserted into the middle of the footrace story, but it does not necessarily place them there on that particular date. That's good, because we know, with a fair degree of certainty, that on that Independence Day Lou was in Albuquerque watching Park Van Tassel fly into the air attached to a bag of coal gas.

But if the date is wrong, the other details are all right. Here is eyewitness evidence that Lou lived in Kingston and sat at the green felt tables alongside Frank Thurmond, another famous Western gambler.

Our efforts to find Lou in the 1885 state census have turned up no clues. With this new information, a review of the nearby newspapers (which are sparse) is worth a whirl.


Kingston, Silver City and Deming

Till now, we thought maybe Lou might be telling the truth about his stay in southern New Mexico, but had nothing but Lou's word to back it up. This new evidence opens up a whole new chapter — Just what happened in the Kingston area 1883-87? My hunch is that there's good stuff here. How to find it? What, exactly, were Thurmond and Carlotta Thompkins doing at the time? Did Lou have a business? Any mines? Surely...


Pulp Fiction

But there's more.

When using search engines, you don't need to restrict yourself to simple misspellings like "Blanger." You can also try really bad misspellings like "Blomger." And if you try "Blomger," you will discover the fantastic world of Western fiction writer Matt Braun, who's written 56 books in his long career, at least four of which include Sam and Lou Blomger, yes Blomger, as minor characters.

Shadow Killers

Based on the Google Books search, it appears Braun's 2000 release Shadow Killers gives Lou his biggest role since his star turn in Fighting the Underworld. Let's open to Chapter Three take a peek:

Lou Blomger sat behind a massive walnut desk. He was a man of considerable bulk, with a rounded paunch and sagging jowls. His hair was flecked with gray and his eyes were deceptively humorous. His handshake was perfunctory, but he seemed genuinely pleased by the unexpected visit. He motioned Braddock to a chair.
"Have a seat, Cole. You ought to drop around more often."
"Well, you know how it is, Lou. No rest for the weary."
Blomger chuckled. "I know the feeling all too well. What can I do for you?"
"It's personal."
"Pay no mind to Slats. He's deaf and dumb where my affairs are concerned."
"No offense, but this time..." Braddock shrugged.
Blomger regarded him thoughtfully. After a moment, he glanced across to Drago. "Wait outside, Slats. I'll call if I need you."
Drago shot Braddock a dirty look. Then he opened the door and stepped into the hallway. When the latch clicked, Blomger slowly shook his head. "I think you hurt Slats's feelings. He considers himself a professional."

(Oddly, Shadow Killers is not listed on Braun's Web site - an oversight, no doubt, and not a reflection of Lou's scenery-eating performance.)

Not being a big reader of fiction, or for that matter of Western history until our discovery of Lou Blonger in 2003, I was unfamiliar with Mr. Braun. His site notes that:

"His novels are written with a passion for historical authenticity and realism, and based on actual incidents. Dee Brown, the noted historian and author, commented on his work: 'Matt Braun has a genius for taking real characters out of the Old West and giving them flesh-and-blood immediacy.'"

Which we have no reason to doubt. We've ordered the books for a closer look.

What's uncertain is why Braun misspelled the Blonger surname in creating his characters. He's got an e-mail address listed on his Web site, however, so maybe we'll be able to find out.


More Matt Braun

In Shadow Killers, PI Cole Braddock goes to Lou for a favor, seeking a connection to the "Santa Fe Gang."

Whores and crooked gambling dens, even bunco games, were condoned by Blomger. Still, he drew the line at spilling citizens' blood or forcibly separating them from their wallets. He declared that any man who stepped over that line would be judged an outlaw even among his own kind. With his rise to power, peace had settled over Denver. The public viewed the Tenderloin as a tawdry playground, and the rackets operated with blissful tranquility. Gunslingers, highwaymen, and thieves were welcome for as long as they had cared to sample the delights of Denver's heady atmosphere. But only if they minded their manners and weren't tempted to molest the local residents. Otherwise they were found floating facedown in Cherry Creek.

He earlier says of "Blomger's enforcers" that they were "skilled at performing neat, workmanlike executions."

We have heard that Lou had goons. We have heard insinuations of murder, threats of murder, and documented instances of beatings. But not even his nemesis, Col. Van Cise, has ever, to our knowledge accused Lou Blonger of complicity in a particular murder.

When I first began thinking about Lou and his so-called influence, I wondered if a man could be king of the underworld — any underworld — without the capacity, and demonstrably so, for mortal violence. Has it ever been otherwise? But the evidence hasn't shown up. Consider that at the time of Lou's arrest in 1922, there were no bodyguards to hamper Van Cise or his agents in their investigation. On the other hand, If Lou needed something done, he could surely command the muscle to do it.

Braun goes on to describe Lou's hold on Denver, noting that "Blomger owned city hall and the courthouse, and his name was spoken with reverence in the halls of the state capitol. His influence, however insidiously, extended to every level of government." I do believe Mr. Braun has done his homework. Maybe he can teach us a thing or two.


Scott also points out that the Braun books predate our research.

In Braun's Mattie Silks, Sam evidently has a cameo — his only appearance in fiction to our knowledge (which is extremely limited).

Lou also makes appearances in two of the Luke Starbuck mysteries, Deadwood and The Judas Tree, as always, the King of the Tenderloin.

Would it be unfair to add fictional characters to the Grafters Club? I nominate Lou Blomger's bodyguard Slats Drago. While we're at it, how about fictional detectives Cole Braddock and Luke Starbuck?

I would also like to nominate Blonger as the Most Misspelled Name in the History of the Wild West.

Try Bloger, Blanger, Boulanger, Blomger, Blenger, Belongee, Belonge, Blonge, Blongee, Belonz, Belonjah, Blonzer and more.


Soapy Smith and Frank H. Reid

Reid was Soapy's opponent in the gun battle that took Soapy's life. See his site for more on that subject. This item refers to a tradition engaged in some years ago by some men of the Smith family, on the ocassion of Soapy's annual wake in Skagway.

To the descendants of Frank H. Reid, and the residents of Skagway, Alaska.

This overdue apology below is on my website at and will remain permanently here I am also asking that Jeff Brady of the Skagway News please print this, with an additional apology to the residents of Skagway.


An Apology

I am one of the two remaining family members who were present at the first annual Soapy Wake in 1974. Though but sixteen, I remember that the Smith family knew of no surviving relatives of Frank Reid. Over the next thirty years, I was introduced to several members of the his family and have come to realize how upset the Reids must be with my family and me for the tradition that began over a generation ago. I know how upset I would be were I to find that people were doing to Soapy's grave what we had begun doing to Frank Reid's in 1974. So it is, without expectation of being forgiven, that I apologize to the descendants of Frank Reid and express most humbly my deep regret that the horrid tradition of "sprinkling" his memorial was ever started.

Jeff Smith, President
The Soapy Smith Preservation Trust

Soapy Smith's Wake

Hello, Gang.

Here is a seven minute video from this year's Soapy Smith Wake that is on the Net. I did not know it even existed! LOL. Enjoy...


The Beat Goes On

Still a few minutes left in the day, so I went back to Google Books and tried "blooger." This time came up with a Mining and Engineering Journal that listed the 1882 Hibernian lode in Leadville that we uncovered just a few months ago -- by trying the misspelling "Blouger" in the Patent Office database.



Notorious Lives

Notorious Lives

Notorious Lives, the 1575-page anthology from Salem Press, comes out this month. Lou Blonger is one of 640 infamous personalities (and one of 277 such Americans) included in the massive tome. As we noted a few months ago, its price tag ($252) is a little steep for us to secure a 2- or 3-page biographical summary, so we'll wait until it appears in our local library to get a glance at Lou's first encyclopedic entry (Who's Who never printed a con man edition), unless you're including Wikipedia.

We don't expect to find any new infomation in the bio. What will be interesting to see is who wrote the article and whether he or she used any of the information on this Web site as background. A quick Google search already turns up several historians who list articles written for this publication in their resumes, but so far no one has claimed Lou. We await the unveiling.



About That Name...

Western writer Matt Braun answered our inquiry about his use of Sam and Lou Blonger -- er, Blomger - in some of his novels. He says he first encountered the duo while researching Mattie Silks, a Denver madam who supposedly engaged in an 1877 duel with a rival named Katie Fulton. The story has long since been debunked as a concoction of journalist Forbes Parkhill, and it is in Parkhill's memoir Wildest of the West, where the story originated, that Braun undoubtedly encountered Sam and Lou. Mr. Braun tells us that he changed the surname from Blonger to Blomger because it rang better in print. We beg to differ, but that's a writer's prerogative, one that we hope to exercise someday. In the meantime, we've got word that our copy of Mattie Silks (retitled The Gamblers in subsequent editions) is in the mail.


There won't be much, surely, but I imagine there could be. Denver's most celebrated madame, she had a few joints on Market St. — and the Tenderloin was a small world indeed. She was a gambler, too. She is said to have gotten into the business after the Civil War and kept at it until prostitution was finally outlawed in Denver in 1915.


A Blonger Goes Down to Texas

Not much has been written about Simon Blonger, oldest of the six brothers, since we first opened this lonely outpost in 2003. As you may recall, Simon was already married with children in Shullsburg before landing in Leadville around 1880, heading west well after Sam and Lou had done so. Simon was the superintendent of a mine in Leadville - an important position - and was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 1882 for a brief term (about a month's work of work). He was listed in the Denver city directory for a few years in the 1890s, but he may we have been mining somewhere else. In 1900, he was listed among the miners at Victor, Colorado, perhaps working at the Forest Queen, Sam and Lou's mine. After that point, we lose track of Simon until he is living with his daughter Laura in Washington, well past his productive years.

New clippings have surfaced in the past few weeks that place Simon, in 1891, in completely new territory — outside the field of hard-rock mining and beyond all of the Western states heretofore known to have been populated by Blongers.

The first clue shows up in the Santa Fe Daily New Mexican of May 15, 1891.

DENVER, May 15. - The Colorado-Texas Oil, Gas & Mineral company have completed their organization, fixing the capital at $1,500,000. It is one of the largest concerns formed in Denver for operating in a foreign field. The objects of the company are to drill for oil and gas, build railroads, lay pipe lines, street railways and electric lines, and to buy and sell mineral and agricultural lands.
The officers are W. H. James, president; H. S. Prentice, vice-president; A. C. Dake, treasurer; F. C. Slaughter, secretary; S. R. Blonger, superintendent. The first operations of the company will be confined to Brownwood, Brown county, Texas, where they have secured 50,000 acres of land, upon which wells will be sunk. Several of the wells have already tapped flows of oil, which was exhibited yesterday.
New machinery has been shipped to the fields.

Simon's surname is misspelled "Blouger" (typical), but there's no doubt this is our Simon. Remember W. H. James? He's the guy who beat Sam in the 1879 race for mayor of Leadville.

An long article in the Dallas Morning News of November 11, 1891 sheds more light on Simon's doings:

For some months past there has been a great deal said about petroleum at Brownwood. S. R. Blonger has been boring here for some time, and from him the following facts were learned.

There follows a detailed description of the geological conditions and the drilling that has taken place.

In a well that was cased with iron too light to withstand the enormous pressure from above (and which collapsed in consequence), crude petroleum was found at a depth of 1580 feet[!], which distils 90 per cent of illumination oil. It is believed that large quantities of this petroleum will be found at about 100 feet lower, or say 1750 feet from the surface.
It is from this collapsed well that a steady and brilliant gaslight is kept burning, the gas forcing its way up through 250 feet of caved sand and 1500 feet of water, showing that there is a tremendous pressure below. With heavier casing, which is now being put into his new well, Mr. Blonger hopes soon to reap the reward of his long and patient labor by a copious flow of oil.

Simon's name is again misspelled as "Blouger" (argh).

Black gold somehow isn't as romantic as the real thing, but proved to be just as valuable. Simon, at age 55, comes across as a patient, hard-working, intelligent man whose talents were flexible enough to shift from one type of mining to another without missing a beat. Which leads one to wonder what might have happened between 1891, when he was riding high during the oil boom, and 1900, when he was listed simply as a "miner" in the 1900 census of Victor, Colorado. Or maybe nothing should be read into this at all.


I was curious about the genesis of the Texas oil biz; 1891 sounds so early. It was, according to this Texas timeline.

10 January 1901 -- The discovery of "black gold" at the Spindletop oil field near Beaumont launched Texas into a century of oil exploration, electronics, and manned space travel.

This Petroleum Technology Timeline states this:

When retired railroad conductor Edwin Drake struck oil in 1859 in Titusville, Pennsylvania, he touched off the modern oil industry. For the next 40 years the primary interest in oil was as a source of kerosene, used for lighting lamps. Then came the automobile and the realization that the internal combustion engine ran best on gasoline, a byproduct of the process of extracting kerosene from crude oil.
1901 North America's first oil gusher
North America's first oil gusher blows at the Spindletop field near Beaumont in southeastern Texas, spraying more than 800,000 barrels of crude into the air before it can be brought under control. The strike boosts the yearly oil output in the United States from 2,000 barrels in 1859 to more than 65 million barrels by 1901.

I guess Simon should have kept looking...



Yellow Kid Weil

I'm now reading Joe Weil's auto biography, written with William T. Brannon, titled Con Man: A Master Swindler's Own Story. Scott's already done so. The Kid, of course, is one the most famous con men of all time, a true innovator and inveterate scoundrel.

Yellow Kid

He grew up in Chicago, and worked there, mostly, but he also claimed to have known a sharper in Denver by the name of John Blonger. The book was written in 1948, well past Lou's time, so we must assume that his memory was not what it seemed. "Old John" supposedly had a corporation selling worthless stock in a mine called the Copper Queen, and Weil at one point bought some of the shares from Blonger for use in a scheme back in the windy city. Could he have meant anyone other than Lou?

Weil started out with short cons in the 1890s, working with Doc Merriwether as he sold his elixir, "good for the ills of man or beast" — but a sure cure for tapeworms above all. At the time, everybody who felt under the weather thought they had a tapeworm, and the elixir, which contained a laxative, was an easy sell in the hinterlands. Weil acted as barker and shill. Those willing to pay a little extra for the full treatment were led to a darkened room, and after the laxative had done its work, Weil would produce a bowl containing a long, curly potato peel, and the sucker would leave feeling that his money had been well-spent.

"The desire to get something for nothing has been very costly to many people who have dealt with me and with other con men," Weil writes. "But I have found that this is the way it works. The average person, in my estimation, is ninety-nine per cent animal and one per cent human. The ninety-nine per cent that is animal causes very little trouble. But the one per cent that is human causes all our woes. When people learn -- as I doubt they will -- that they can't get something for nothing, crime will diminish and we shall live in greater harmony."

More to come.



Trial Article from The Post

I posted a chronology of Lou's trial a few days back, taken from the Denver Post, March 29, 1923. Brother Jeff sent several page scans to us a few months ago, but we never transcribed much of it, so I'd like to remedy that. That day, three entire pages (except for two unrelated articles) were devoted to the verdict.

First, for those of us who prefer the comics page:

Bunc Street Market

Here the prosecutors get a pat on the back:

The Men Who Smashed The Bunco Ring

Van Cise puts in his two cents:

(The People's Attorney, "Bugaboo of the Buncs.")
It was the only verdict an honest jury could return.
Lou Blonger has been a sinister influence in the political life of this city for thirty-five years. He has been caught and branded at last.
It just goes to prove that no man can lead a life of crime without being caught before he dies.

Jackie French was singled out for a little gleeful ridicule. French was part of Lou's inner circle, a bookmaker, and headmaster of the College of Crime, a short course in the long con for which graduates reportedly received a diploma.

J. Homer French Surely Will Miss His Dainty Lingerie
Jackie French
As a humanitarian, Andrew Koehn, special investigator of District Attorney Van Cise's office, has but one regret in connection with the conviction of the twenty bunco defendants.
He fears that for a considerable time, J. Homer French, "the flapper's delight," Cannot wear his silken and satin underthings, sufficiently beautiful to delight any feminine heart.
When French's quarters at the El Tovar Hotel were raided on the occasion of the bunco roundup last August, the investigators found a vast quantity of wearing apparel deserving of nothing less than the name of lingerie. Dozens of suits of underwear were found, some of brocaded silk, others of peach-colored satin worked with rosettes, some with dainty ribbons, and all exquisitely delicate.
"Dear, dear," remarked Koehn, "you have no idea how pretty they were. And to think how out of place they would be in prison."
Koehn said he and other investigators found the seamstress who fashioned the charming garments. French, she said, ordered them in lots of a half dozen and was satisfied with only the most expensive, sometimes placing an order from Florida and other sections of the country.



Mattie Silks I

Let's have some fun. Been waiting for this for a long time.

The other day, when I stated that Lou could, feasibly, be a major character in a book about Mattie Silks, I didn't expect to be right.

Scott just received Mattie Silks, a novel published by Matt Braun in 1972, and he graciously handed it off to me for a first look. I got home, stuck my thumb in the middle, and there he was, Lou "Blomger," on the first try. I started back toward the front of the book; more, more, on every page. Finally I just went to the beginning, and there he is on page 8. He's a major character, the first time we've run across such a thing. Interestingly, the citation we found on Google Books indicated Sam was a character (a first, to our knowledge), but now we see Lou is in there too, a lot.

Mattie remains a Denver favorite, alongside Baby Doe and Big Ed Chase. She ran the ritziest whorehouse in town for many years, and always prided herself on never having been a prostitute herself. Her house was fancy, the girls well-treated, well-paid, and well-dressed. Through the years her various houses were all downtown, in the Tenderloin, and to think she was unacquainted with Mighty Lou would be foolhardy.

Now, granted, this is fiction. Fiction. I want to make that clear, so no one mistakes the summaries to follow for history. Braun is recognized for his authenticity and historical accuracy, but let's be clear: nothing in Mattie Silks can be taken at face value.

But it might lead us somewhere, somehow. After we get the lay of land, perhaps we'll ask Mr. Braun how much he considers to be historical fact.

That said...

Mattie Silks

Chapter One: 1865

Mattie Silks, a young farm girl, is kicked out of the house by her daddy for an indiscretion with a drummer. He doesn't even know about the various farmhands...

She makes her way to Springfield, Missouri, where she immediately goes to work in the town's fanciest restaurant, the Delmonico, owned and run by portly, affable Lou Blomger.

About the same time, gambler and gunfighter Bill Hickok shows up in town. He makes a habit of eating at the Delmonico, where Mattie serves him. She sets her sights on Wild Bill, and they flirt. Lou advises her to take care, Hickok is a dangerous man...

Meanwhile, gambler Dave Tutt has lured away Hickok's female companion, and then arranges to cheat Wild Bill at poker. Calling him on it, Hickok smacks Tutt across the face.

The next day, Tutt plans his revenge, intending to shoot him as he leaves the restaurant at sundown, the light in his eyes, backed up from across the street by three associates.

Hickok takes to the street after dinner, and Tutt fires on him out of the glare. Hickok crouches, rests his long pistol on his folded arm, tips down the brim of his hat to shade his eyes, and drops Tutt with a bullet to the heart.

Meanwhile, Mattie sees the others, sober, unlike the other men in the street, fingering their pistols. She runs into the street and jumps on the back of one of the other men and wrestles with him, screaming, effectively preventing the others from backing up Tutt. Hickok is suitably impressed. Could romance be far behind?

Outstanding. The duel with Tutt seems to be real enough:

Hickok's reputation as a gunfighter began when he killed David Tutt in the public square of Springfield on 21st July, 1865. The two men had quarrelled over cards and decided to have a gunfight. At 6pm Hickok and Tutt arranged to walk towards each other. When they were about 50 yards apart both men drew his gun. Tutt fired first but missed. Hickok's shot hit Tutt in the heart. This was the first recorded example of two men taking part in a quick-draw duel. The following month Hickok was acquitted after pleading self-defence.

How cool. Of course, Lou would have been all of fifteen or sixteen at the time, fresh out of the Union Army, with a gamey leg. In 1866 he was at home in Shullsburg, in 1867 he was in Chicago. In 1868 he was in Illinois, enrolled in high school at the age of twenty. So maybe Lou wasn't there, then. It's still way cool.

But the story continues, eventually to Lou's Denver days, and how he set her up in the fanciest house in town. Stay tuned...



The Fixer Lives

Mattie Silks II

Mattie Silks

Now, I don't necessarily want to relate the entire plot of Mattie Silks, but I just can't resist laying some of this out. Let's continue with chapter two:

After Mattie saves Wild Bill from being bushwhacked, they become lovers. Soon the plucky young Mattie decides a whorehouse could be a real money maker — Lou convinces her that, goods times or bad, men always have money to spend on their vices — and the three of them go into business together, with Lou supplying the girls.

Later, when the other madames and bosses in town start grumbling, Hickok wants to make a show of force to head off trouble, but Mattie and Lou talk him out of it. Lou assures him he can get the boys at city hall to keep a lid on things. Hickok threatens him, making clear what will happen if Mattie is hurt.

Lou is taken aback, but not easily intimidated.

"As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport."
Hickok frowned, and his brow wrinkled ominously. "Now just what the hell does that mean?"
"Nothing, Bill. Nothing at all. Merely a pungent observation on life from the immortal bard. Something to the effect that we survive solely on the whim of the Good Lord's sense of humor."

Mattie either was or wasn't involved in the only known classic gun duel between two women of the West. One account held that the women were topless. But one writer says:

"The fabled duel between Mattie Silks & Katie Fulton is the fabrication of Forbes Parkhill in his book "The Wildest of the West" (1951). The true story can be found in "The Rocky Mountain News" August 26, 1877 & "The Denver Times" August 25, 1877. I have found this tale repeated in at least three other western history books & in numerous magazines. THERE WAS NO DUEL, it could have been Denver's first drive-by shooting."



Mattie Silks III

Next, the story follows Hickok as he scouts for Custer, and with Bill Cody. Hickok guns down Phil Coe. Then Custer dies, and Wild Bill. Mattie goes on to run houses in Hays City, Abilene, and Wichita, where she befriends James Earp, and then his brother Wyatt, and they become lovers for a short time. At one point, Mattie goes to Lou's "closest crony," Mike Donahue, political boss of Chicago, when she needs a new source for girls to be shipped west.

By 1878, Mattie has a parlor house in Dodge, and hooks up with Wyatt again, sometimes playing host to Luke Short, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday. But soon, Wyatt moves on again, and Mattie hears tales of the boom in Georgetown, Colorado, near Leadville, and moves her business there. She hooks up with Handsome Jack Ready.

One day, an old friend comes to visit, rounder now, his nose more bulbous. The reformers had shut him down in Springfield, so he scouted around for a few months, finally deciding Denver was the future. He moved his operation there, and now he was about to make his play for control of the city — and Mattie was to set up the finest whorehouse the West has ever seen, money no object.

She takes him up on it, of course, and moves to Holladay Street, using Lou's blank check to outfit her new house with only the finest of everything.

Meanwhile, Lou goes to the Progressive Club to talk to Denver's political boss, Big Ed "Case" — accompanied by his pint-size weasel of a bodyguard, Slats Drago. Case is a practical man, and despite his gambling joints, and his control over city hall, Lou's offer is persuasive, and now they're in bed. But Lou has been playing rough with the competition.

...a man had to be pragmatic about business deals, even with a fat scorpion like Blomger. And if he read the sign right, it was too late to shed the murdering bastard anyway.

It seems the underlings of Denver's underworld kingpin, Barney Boyle, were disappearing one by one. Lou feigned innocence — but everyone, even Boyle, and especially Big Ed, was getting nervous. Lou was muscling in, demanding payoffs from the smaller joints to start. And those who pulled the strings for Boyle were all on notice that they might be next to disappear.

Okay, so let's assess. Joe spent time in Abilene, and scouted with Cody, and for Custer — though that's all by his own account, and no other.

Who was the boss of Chicago in the 1870s and 1880s? Mike Donahue?

There's a sucker born every minute."
Irish immigrant Michael ("King Mike") Cassius McDonald, who ran Chicago's first crime syndicate, is said to have coined this phrase. According to legend, it was his explanation for how he planned to get enough customers for his gigantic, four-story gambling house. This casino-like palace, "the Store," was located close to City Hall, and it provided a gathering place for Democratic politicians as well as unsuspecting gamblers. McDonald obtained the cooperation of the police force, politicians, and an army of skilled confidence men to run his rigged games.
McDonald's criminal activities prefigured those of Al Capone and other Chicago gangsters.
King Mike is also credited with saying, "Never give a sucker an even break."

McDonald is also known for his interest in boxing, including his support for John L. Sullivan.

In Dodge, Mattie might well have known the Blonger Bros., who supposedly spent the summer there, with Masterson, Earp, Holliday, Luke Short.

And then again in Georgetown, where a Blonger, probably Lou, had the Novelty Theater. Sam ran for mayor. By 1879, Lou and Sam were probably constantly traveling between Leadville, Denver and Georgetown.

More to the point, Lou did not leave Missouri for a short tour of the West, seeking the most likely place to dig in. Rather, around 1871 Sam and Lou took off from Red Oak, Iowa, where they first worked in the "hospitality industry," and would then own a series of saloons, gambling houses and other businesses from Salt Lake City, to Tuscarora, Cornucopia, Virginia City, Silver Reef and more that finally led them to the Denver area. Then, after spending two or three years in this area around 1880, they both went south, perhaps to Texas, and certainly to Albuquerque. Lou would then spend several years near the Mexican border, in the Kingston area, before finally going back to Denver around 1888.

Did Lou help finance Mattie Silks? Could be; we don't know.

But what about Chase? This has always been an interesting question. Chase is today remembered as the boss of Denver. Yet so much evidence points to Lou as boss, at least by the mid-1890s. Were they both bosses in different senses? Did Lou wrest control from Chase? Did Chase run gambling, and Lou bunco? Did Chase cede some control to Lou in exchange for a price? We don't know the specific answers to any of these questions, so it's interesting to see Braun's take. We do know that the Progressive was upstairs from one of Lou's joints.

And what about Boyle? We think of Soapy Smith as the bunco kingpin, at least in the early 1890s. Does this Boyle have an historical counterpart? Was there violence involved in his downfall?

More to come...



Mattie Silks IV

Mattie's lover, a gambler named Cort Thomson, has started to hang out with a group of grifters and cutthroats recently run out of San Francisco, known as the California gang, at Murphy's Exchange, known as The Slaughterhouse.

Meanwhile, Lou's bid to usurp Barney Boyle "spills into the street" when three of Boyle's lieutenants are found dead in the gutter. With the addition of madame Sallie Purple, found stuffed in a barrel with a pig's foot in her mouth after openly defying Lou, the count was eleven dead, by some counts.

Sallie's death has Mattie wanting out, but Lou talks her out of it, quoting more Shakespeare. He assures her "Case" won't be a problem — Lou now controls the Tenderloin vote, and so the city. Case would have no choice but to go along.

Then Boyle makes his last mistake, going to a whorehouse with just two bodyguards. Lou's guys lay in wait outside, and cut them down with shotguns when the step back into the street. The King is dead, Long live the King.

With Boyle out of the way, the fat man's word became law, his rule absolute, and few sovereigns wielded the degree of power he now held over Denver. Ed Case capitulated, humbling himself before the tenderloin's new monarch. As Blomger had predicted, they made an exchange. Quid pro quo. Case was allowed to go on living, and in return he became Blomger's mouthpiece with the uptown crowd and the politicos on Capitol Hill.

Now, this all is supposed to take place around 1881, 1882. We know Lou had gone south by this time, not to return in earnest until 1888. In 1890, Sam and Lou were still minor players in town, ushering ghost voters to the polls in the service of greater powers.

Ripping, tale, though.

It's also interesting to see mention of the California gang. This enigmatic group, known to us only from Parkhill's Wildest of the West, was said by Parkhill to control bunco operations — along with Soapy Smith and his crowd — prior to Lou's rise to power. Contemporary papers said there were many more gangs. We have yet to find another mention of the California gang.

Next, the boys from Tombstone come to Denver.



Lyman L. Woods

A little something to cleanse the palete.

In 1865, Private Lyman L. Woods, a Mormon patriarch from Utah, obtained from the government a plot of Feather River bottom land about 20 miles north of Sacramento, California. He then transferred ownership of the land to Sam Blonger.

The land was obtained under the Bounty Land Act of 1855, payment for Woods' service in the Utah Indian Disturbance of 1851-56. This act of Congress promised that all "commissioned, non-commissioned officers, Chaplains, musicians, privates, wagon masters and teamsters of the regular Army, militia and volunteers, as well as all commissioned, non-commissioned officers, seamen, marines, clerks, landsmen of the Navy who had served in any war since 1790 were entitled to 160 acres of land."

But why the transfer? We don't know. Sam must have sold it quickly, as he soon left California for the Midwest. Even after coming west again with Lou, we don't believe he ever lived on the coast again. So did he swindle Woods? Was it repayment for a debt? A favor? Or just business? The stakes of a poker game, perhaps.

We don't know. But thanks to Google, we do know what the land looks like today...


These coordinates mark the middle of the square of Sam's claim.

Latitude: 38.870 N
Longitude: 121.520 W

Sam's Plot

Very flat land, 15 miles north of downtown Sacramento, about 40 feet above sea level. Google Earth shows what may be rice paddies on the north half of the claim. There are levees along the canal and slough that surround the land, meaning that this area was prone to flooding from runoff of the nearby Feather River.


Mattie Silks V

After the OK Corral, Earp and his cronies have been run out of Arizona. Doc "Holiday" is arrested in Ed Case's Interocean Club, an attempt by Bat Masterson to forestall Doc's extradition to Arizona. Bat, sent from Gunnison by Wyatt Earp, approaches Mattie in an effort to influence Lou to pull strings in the State House. Lou decides to use the case to test Big Ed's usefulness...

Wyatt comes to Mattie on the sly. He calls Lou a he-wolf, and questions if Lou is really doing anything about Doc's predicament.

"Wyatt, I don't know why you came here tonight, but let me give you some good advice. Don't brace Lou Blomger. This isn't Tombstone, or Dodge, it's the big city. And the only game they play here is dirty pool."
"You're sayin' he'd sooner shoot me in the back then argue about it. What makes you think I wouldn't do it to him first?"
"Not a thing. Except you'd never get the chance. You're in his bailiwick now, and I'd lay odds he's had you covered since the minute you hit town."

Wyatt threatens to kill Lou if he doen't come through — but Mattie gets him to reconsider.

We know now that Lou did, in fact, have a connection to the Earp posse. In 1882, after leaving Arizona, the Earp posse paused in Albuquerque for several days while the process of sorting out their legal status got under way. And who was marshal of New Albuquerque at the time of their visit? Lou, of course, who was appointed acting marshal by his brother Sam while he traveled to Denver, seeking to sell the Star Mine.

Sam was ultimately successful, as was Lou's tenure as marshal, if the papers' are an accurate indication. Lou dealt with mostly petty crimes — broken windows, rowdy Mexicans, vagrant smallpox victims, etc. The Earp posse apparently minded themselves. The Evening Review later said:

The party, while in Albuquerque, deported themselves very sensibly, performing no acts of rowdyism, and this way gained not a few friends for their side of the fight.

Did the posse stop in Albuquerque because they knew that fellow travelers ran the place? Could be. The Blongers undoubtedly knew Bat Masterson by then, and Doc Holliday, who spent time in Leadville, and possibly the whole gang from Dodge City. Masterson associate Charlie Ronan was one of Sam's deputies. But we don't really know.



Mattie Silks VI

Cort falls in with the California gang, and they run a footrace scam in the outlying camps — Aspen, Cripple Creek, Creede. Meanwhile, the gang war is over, peace prevails, and Lou Blomger reigns supreme. Lou's edict is simple, and is violated on pain of death, swift and sure: No crimes of violence within city limits.

What they did outside city limits was their business. They could rob, kill and hijack, torture, maim and murder, and Blomger wouldn't bat an eye. But those reckless enough to practice the deadly arts in Denver proper would be dealt a swift, brutal lesson in obeying the law. Not the everyday, garden variety law, but Blomger's law. The kind that demanded an eye for an eye, absolute, final, without appeal or clemency—or even a second chance. And as the underworld had reason to recall, Slats and his mercenaries were chillingly skilled at performing neat, workmanlike executions.

This new era of peace was not about civic duty, of course, but the rackets. Murder put fear in the hearts of customers; it was bad for business. But everyone reaped the benefits of Lou's control over the criminal element — cops, pols, bunco gangs, petty thieves, the rounders, the general public, everybody. Lou is hailed as the savior of the city. By the next election, Lou had bought himself a mayor, a police department, a district attorney...

Enter Sam.

Where Lou was a man of perception and stealth, Sam was a strong-armed bully, only one step above a common thug. Still, they made a good team since each set off the other's weaknesses. Lou was cold and calculating, but physically a defenseless tub of lard. Sam was dimwitted, obtuse as a pound of lead, but a man of huge stature, fiery temper, and an absolute passion for beating the bejesus out of anyone who disagreed with his kid brother.

There are twelve policy shops in town, owned by six men. They constitute the Denver Policy Association, and Lou aims to have a piece of every game.



January 2007



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