The Famous Blonger Bros.
Here's a groovy postcard depicting Denver's American Bank building. Lou's office for many years was in the front corner office, upstairs.
Jeff Smith may have found a connection between Soapy and James Veatch. Veatch is known to us as a former Denver chief of police (prior to 1894), a saloon owner, and commander of the special deputies when they engaged the strikers at Bull Hill.
A business card among Soapy's effects has written upon it the name "Veach".
Tellingly, perhaps, the business card is for a company manufacturing tamper-proof ballot boxes. Oh, and you can buy shares.
Scott snooped a bit for Veatch, and came up with a RootsWeb page.
In short, Veatch was a two-timer from the Civil War, enlisting in the 11th Indiana in 1861 and the Navy in 1863.
He was an innkeeper in Kansas about the time Sam and Lou were doing likewise in Iowa.
In 1880, he owned the Red Lion Inn, 204 Sixteenth street.
We may have a new member of the Grafters Club though the membership committee is a bit behind. I have about twenty inductees waiting, including the likes of Mattie Silks, Jim Masterson, and Baby Doe Tabor.
Vada Larson was kind enough to forward an article on Veatch, found in the family scrapbook, brought back to Indiana, perhaps, by Veatch's mother after an 1880 visit to Denver. Thanks, Vada.
THE RED LION INN
When travelors arrive in the ciy, tired and dusty, after a long and wearisome ride, they desire to find some hotel where they will find good soft beds and a well laden table. Such they will find at the Red Lion inn, 204 Sixteenth street. This favorite house has just been refitted and refurnished throughout in find style, and is well arranged. The table is in charge of a first-class caterer. This house is convenient to the depots, and a very pleasant place to stop.
Veatch's experience at Bull Hill was heretofore unknown to family researchers, as was his stint as Denver CoP though I should add that the latter detail is based on a single mention in the news.
Being an old housepainter, I thought I'd give the old saloon at 1728 Larimer a facelift. Here's the before:
And here she is, spruced up a bit:
To complete the picture, here's my latest attempt at regressing Lou's mugshot, to, say, 45, as he would have been in the 1890s. The only known photos were taken after his arrest, in his mid-seventies.
Once again from Vada:
Well, hearing again from Vada I get the feeling she really wants to know, so I took a look around Colorado Historic Newspapers for Veatch. She has her work cut out for her; there are Veatches out the wazee.
Hope she has some time on her hands. But there's something for us, too. In March of 1893, populist James Veatch was appointed chief of police, replacing Chief Farley. He is described as having been an assistant engineer to Admirals Farragut and Porter during the Civil War. He came to Denver in 1877.
Later, the Boulder Daily Camera states that the Denver News is out for the scalps of Veatch and President Stone of the Fire and Folice board. The News claims they were "partners of Charley Coryell in his successful holding up of the gamblers of the city. If these charges are true, Governor Waite owes it to himself and the state to bounce the entire outfit and purge the newly elected stables that already smell as rank as the more ancient barns of the Republican outfit in Denver."
Ah, so. Veatch was part of the wave that rode in on Waite's election as a reformer. Two years later, he would lead many of those gamblers and other Denver hoodlums in battle against the striking miners at Bull Hill, at the behest of the Cripple Creek mine owners, who were at loggerheads with Waite and the state militia, who were sent by Waite to protect the strikers from Veatch and the Denver deputies, as well as the El Paso county sheriff's department. A tangled web.
In May of 1893, the Aspen Weekly Times reported that the "Colorady Policy associated [sic], No. 1833 Fifteenth street, conducted by Edward Chase," was raided under Veatch's orders. Chase and another were arrested.
They were realeased on $1000 bail, paid by Jeff R. Smith. Chase was to be tried the next day for keeping a gambling house.
Lou is said to have been the king of Denver policy at the time, but his name never figures in the news. We figure that although Chase was president of the association, Lou had several such shops and must have at least been a major player.
In June of 1893, the Camera reported that Waite had fired President Stone and Phelps of the police board, for shielding Veatch's role in the Coryell scandal. This bears looking in to.
Two days later, the 1st of July, the Aspen Weekly Times reported that new commissioners Orr and Trimble attempted to take their seats on the police and fire board, but Stone and Phelps would not yield. Remaining board member Martin recognized Orr and Trimble, and the three adjourned to Mayor Van Horn's office to conduct business.
Chief Veatch was then called before the new board, but did not appear, instead inviting them to come to his office. Lt. Perry Clay was Veatch's replacement.
As we have noted here before, the vice crackdown of 1894 began when Gov. Waite attempted to remove Orr and Martin and they refused to step down, leading Waite to send the militia into downtown Denver in an effort to remove the current occupants by force.
This next article was published following the Battle of Bull Hill. The ragtag army of deputies and fired policemen and firemen recruited to take on the striking miners later found themselves jobless in Colorado Springs rather than jobless in Denver.
Boulder Daily Camera, June 11, 1894
It will be noted that since "Col." Veatch left Denver with several hundred deputies sworn to the defense of property at Cripple Creek, there as not been a single case of hold-up or buglary reported in Denver. It is true that "Soapy" Smith was left behind and that a policeman was terribly slugged by this infamous desperado but we have scanned the Denver papers in vain for reports of any other outrages, notwithstanding ther of several hundred of the Coxey Reserve. It has been asserted by the News, Republican and Times that the deputies sent to invade the rights of citizens of El Paso county were the worst of the "bum" and "hobo" element of Denver. The fact that they have been temporarily out of the city, coupled with the fact that crime has been at a minimum at Denver during their absence, attests the truth of the editorial utterances of these journals.
Hah! The reference to Soapy, of course, refers to the night Soapy and brother Bascomb were arrested for the assault on Johnny Hughes. This incident led eventually to Soapy's departure for Alaska. It is also the night Lou almost smoked Soapy by the time the brothers made their way to Blonger's place that night, Lou was lying in wait with a shotgun behind the bar (or so it has been said), and Soapy was saved only by the a policeman who managed to talk Soapy and Bascomb into leaving.
My biggest problem with all of this is figuring out whether to grant Veatch membership to the Grafters Club, or put him on the blacklist...
Who'da Thunk It?
Just a couple of phrases I was surprised to find in newspapers prior to 1900:
- 1888: the Santa Fe New Mexican had a column of tidbits called Albuquerque Atoms
- 1892: a local Denver news column entitled SNAP SHOT
- 1895: a character in a show described the action onstage as "out of sight"
So, in 1893, Chief Veatch, who is part of the reformist administration of Populist Gov. Davis H. Waite, is accused of complicity in the collection of protection money from owners of Denver's gambling clubs on behalf of the police board.
Boulder Daily Camera, April 29, 1893
Denver is all torn up over the fact that Charley Coryell has induced the leading gamblers to "pony up" to him at the rate of $85 a month. Charley states the matter simply enough. The police authorities had removed the special policemen from the gambling houses, who were paid by these houses exactly $85 a month. This money Charley exacted was to maintain the equillibrium of the gamblers' expense accounts. He gave receipts to the men and told them it would be all right at headquarters. Doubtless such would have been the case had some one not squealed. Now the whole matter will have to be gone all over and the police will be obliged to find some other man like Coryell to go around among the "perfesh" and levy the tribute which pertains to authority. It is no new thing for the Denver police to levy black mail and just because it happens that the police board is Populist affords no occasion for this hue and cry. A regular, every day Colorado Populist knows a full hand from a bob-tail flush just as well as an experienced old party man, for they formerly belonged to the old parties, you see, and the contagion is not easily nor soon eradicated.
In May, Coryell is indicted for embezzlement. Stone and Phelps of the police board are replaced for shielding Chief Veatch, but refuse to vacate the same tactic their replacements would use a year later leading directly to the Governor calling in the militia, and City Hall being turned into an armed fortress in response.
The third member of the board, Martin, had called vigorously for Coryell's punishment, and was spared the axe.
Vada says there are ads from 1880 showing the Red Lion Inn at 16th and Wazee, and 210 16th St. about a mile away. Huh?
Bunk with a Heart of Gold
For my part, it has been an unexpected pleasure to meet several relations of the folks we're studying. Being able to help each other out is the icing on the cake. What a great endeavor.
As for the custom, I don't recall this in particular, though he was known as a generous man in this fashion. The story usually told of Lou is that he sent a bushel of cherries each to a long list that got much longer as the years went by. At the end of his life Lou owned the Beehive cherry orchard, and he supposedly gave away the entire crop every year.
Vada sent an article from the period following the City Hall War stating that, upon Veatch's firing as Denver police chief, he was replaced by the man he himself replaced, John R. Farley.
Furthermore, "The mayor ordered all dynamite removed from the building, and the order was complied with."
Shortly thereafter, Veatch would travel to Cripple Creek with a trainload of thugs sorry, make that "special deputies" to break the miners strike at Alton.
Aha...looks like 1887, from this sample:
He also bought her a fine Victorian mansion. It was an elegant residence at 327 Welton Street, on the corner Fourteenth Street, in the heart of Denver. The address was renumbered in 1887 and remained 1355 Welton thereafter.
It appears that the Denver streets were indeed renumbered in 1887
Vada found this:
Colorado Springs Gazette, May 29, 1894
The A. P. A.
There is no doubt but the A. P. A. movement cuts quite a figure in the fight, and it is not an unusual thing to hear one of the deputies express his sentiments that American miners will work in the Cripple Creek mines before they are through. Over Commander Veatch's headquarters floats the American flag, and every once in a while some pent-up spirit breaks fourth with the shout, 'America for Americans!'
This quote comes at the very end of the strike on Bull Hill, called by the Western Federation of Miners. The deputies, of course, are the ex-policemen and firefighters from Denver, recent victims of the showdown at City Hall, plus a sizable contingent of gamblers and other layabouts and thugs, sent to break the strike on behalf of the region's mine owners many of whom resided in the Springs and Denver. Lou was one such. Cripple Creek and environs, on the other hand, was working man's territory, and attitudes on both sides were long on the boil. Many Springians viewed those in the mining camps as ignorant socialist pissants, while those in the camps often thought of the denizens of Colorado Springs as self-righteous, moralizing prigs.
After militia commander and miners union attorney Tarsney, sent to Bull Hill to protect the miners from the deputies, was tarred and feathered but prior to the revelation that deputies were to blame, the Daily Mining World, a mouthpiece for the owners, had this to say:
Business on the street today was practically suspended. Everything had 'tar' in it and 'feathers' were floating everywhere. If the extreme goody goody people had circulated among the brokers this morning they would have been shocked to death with the numerous 'served him rights.' There was not one man who volunteered anything else. The sentiment was so universal that it became really prosy.
The Puelo Herald, on the other hand:
That tar and feather party given at Colorado Springs last night would have been anarchistic had it been committed by populists or laboring men. But since it occurred in the highly cultured precincts of "little England" it must be all right as a matter of course. But decency and law can not always be thus violated with impunity even in that thieving bailiwick.
But what about this APA? An essay titled The Swedish American Press and the American Protective Association, by Fritiof Ander, describes the American Protective Association as an anti-immigrant organization, specializing in hatred of Catholics.
The implication, it seems, is that many who went to Cripple Creek to oppose the strikers had been fed a strong diet of anti-immigration propaganda. Many of the miners were Eastern European, and many Irish as well, and between the growth in the Catholic population and the increasing incidence of labor unrest in mining camps across the region, pope-bashing was becoming all the rage.
Which makes me wonder how Lou would feel about it. He was born Catholic, and half Irish (mother's side, a Kennedy). But as long as the strike continued, the Forest Queen would sit idle, one assumes to our knowledge, the Queen has not been directly mentioned in regard to the strike, but the area affected by the strike does encompass the mine.
But would he pistol-whip the sonofabitch unwise enough to slam the Pope within earshot? Or complain about the Micks? We don't really know. They were sent to get his workers back on the job, after all. They were, to the extent we can tell, his kind of people, the men who took his bribes, played his games of chance, covered up his crimes or would be, in time. Nevertheless.
This does call to mind that, following Lou's arrest in 1921, and the passing of the Old Guard vice merchants, cops and politicians who'd take your cash no matter what your religion it was the KKK that came to power in Colorado, for a time. And their pitch was one of reform, of morality, purity, xenophobia and bigotry of the most virulent kind. To this day, Mayor Stapleton is inevitably described parenthetically as having been a KKK supporter.
For his part, DA Philip Van Cise was stalwart in his opposition to both the old guard grafters like Lou, and the Klan. What a stand-up guy.
We know very little about Peter McLean except that he was born in Canada (according to the census). Laura Blonger probably already lived in Washington when they were married, so the McLean connection to Denver seems unlikely.
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Copyright Notice: Original material copyright 2003-12 Scott Johnson and Craig Johnson. Other copyrights may apply to materials found herein. Our primary goal is to reintroduce the Blonger Bros. to the lexicon of the Wild West. We therefore encourage the use of our research, provided due credit is given.