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Alias Soapy Smith

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The Famous Blonger Bros.


June 2007


April 7, 1892

Let's talk about 1892, and this particular day, curious as its turning out to be.

Populist Davis H. Waite had just taken office as governor. Soon he would take aim at "the gang" down at Denver's City Hall, police department and courthouse, and the lords of the tenderloin, with whom they did business. Rarely was a man convicted, and those that were walked in short order.

About this time the Blongers had a saloon on Market between Sixteenth and Seventeenth, about two blocks from Mattie Silks' brothel, and a gambling house at 1744 Larimer. They also had the Tourists Club at 1740.

Come April 7, there's Judge T. Stuart, suing the Republican for linking him in print with Soapy Smith and the gang, the controversy attending the article having allegedly blown his bid for reelection in 1889.

The same day, the police board agrees on heroic action:

Shut Like Clams

Nice to know that, in going over their list of saloons, no other crookedness was discovered.

There was no time involved, of course. Lou never served a day until 1923. And such closings seem to have no net effect. The Blongers certainly hadn't reached their prime yet — Smith was still calling the shots — but this kind of trouble never seemed to slow them down.

Soapy says:

From what I can see, looking at all the newspapers day by day, it has been an ongoing battle of reforms to get rid of the saloons and gaming dens. The first major hit in 1891 was the Sunday closings. Any saloon open on Sunday was heavily fined. Then they limited hours of operation during the week, then location. In April-May the Rocky Mountain News is demanding that the gambling houses start paying more money for city repairs, etc. Attorneys say it is illegal so the RMN suggests more fines and that is just what the city is planning to do according to the recent pages I am reading.

It seems that when the Rocky Mountain News demands something, the city government soon follows suit. My guess is that the officials are running scared. Several corruption trials have already taken place, with hefty convictions, and more are promised. Soapy and some of the gamblers that went to Creede are now back in Denver, so things can't be that bad or he would have not come back yet. And it was my guess that he went to Creede to get away from the problems in Denver in the first place.

-Jeff Smith

And then came the Queen. Actually located on March 4, by whom we don't know, Sam and Lou, along with W. Neil Denison, John E. Phillips, W.H. Gibson, and M. McNallay, filed the claim on April 7. While they surely had their resources before, they were now undeniably wealthy men.

It was reported that a quarter interest in the mine, which produced for decades, was sold at one time for a case of whiskey.

A four-foot vein of gold was discovered in the Queen only a day after Lou's arrest in 1923. Ownership passed to Lou's wife Cora at the time of Lou's incarceration.

But the cops still occasionally did their duty. Later that year, Sam and Lou would be arrested for complicity in a swindle — though it sounds more like a schoolyard gang's crude thuggery.

Rocky Mountain News, August 26, 1922

...Both Lou and Sam, together with men named Walker and Phour, were captured and charged with the robbery of C. I. Tolly, a mining engineer and assayer of Longmont, Colo. Tolly had complained to the police that he had come to Denver and had been discussing a money transaction with a friend in the Markham hotel, when two men, who had been listening, approached him and began talking of mining. On the pretense of showing him some ore from Creede, they invited Tolly to walk with them to Larimer Street.
As they passed the Tourists club, the story goes, one of the men asked Tolly if he would mind stepping in for a few minutes. Tolly stood behind one of the men as they engaged with a some others in a friendly game of poker. One of the men drew three aces and a king and turning to Tolly asked him what he would bet on it. Tolly reluctantly replied that if he were playing he would put $100 on it.
The man on the other side of the table made a pretense of taking the bet. Of course, the aces and the king lost. The men then insisted that he pay, and when Tolly attempted to escape they threatened his life if he did not sign over the money. Tolly made out a check for $100 and went back to Longmont. Friends urged him to return to Denver and complain to the police. His complaint resulted in the raid.

On the way out of the mountains, through Georgetown, where the Novelty Thaeatre was run by Day and Blonger in 1879, then Nederland, where Lou mined tungsten in the 'teens, and briefly had a hotel. Both picturesque, truly nestled into the mountains.




A new item comes our way via the Schellens Collection of the San Mateo County (Calif.) Genealogical Society. According to the organization's Web site:

Richard Schellens, one of the founding members of the Redwood City Archives Committee, was an accountant by trade and a historian by obsession. His love of the history of San Mateo County and San Francisco has left us with a collection of abstractions that have been organized into binders by the Redwood City Archives Committee. Schellens gathered not only current day information, but he systematically went back through old directories, county histories, great registers, county record books and newspapers, extracting, abstracting, photocopying and indexing the lives of the residents of San Mateo County.

Schellens indexed information from other counties as well. One item that drew his attention was an 1878 business directory that included Tuscarora, Nevada, which was described in the publication as "a new mining town, with a population estimated at from 1500 to 2000."

One page of Schellens' typed transcription arrived in the mail today, listing the first 50 persons or business establishments in alphabetical order (A through M). One entry is for "L. H. Blonger, liquors." This is the third piece of evidence placing Lou Blonger in Tuscarora in 1878.

Among the 50 listings were eight other gentlemen involved in the liquor trade, two newspapers (the Daily Mining Review and the Tuscarora Times) and just two men in the mining industry (both superintendents). None of the other names rings a bell.


Violent Sam

Soapy comes through again, with this, Rocky Mountain News, dated June 23, 1892:

Sam Blonger was arrested by Constable Colby yesterday for assaulting and threatening his wife.

We have actually heard about this incident, in an article from 1893 about his wife Sadie suing for divorce. They had been married four years.

The complaint charges a system of extreme cruelty toward his wife practiced by Blonger for the past three years. They were married October 30, 1889, in Denver, and she charges that on February 10, 1890, while they were residing at 1524 Lawrence street, her husband, who is a powerful man, weighing two hundred pounds, without provocation assaulted her, and so inhumanly maltreated her that she was under the care of a physician until the following April.
Again, in January, 1891, while living at 1744 Larimer street, she charges that he came home at 3 o'clock in the morning in an "advanced state of intoxication." She was in bed at the time, and she declares that he seized her by the hair, dragged her from her bed and kicked and beat her into a state of insensibility.
Assaults of an equally brutal character are charged against the defendant in March, October, May, and June, 1892.
She states that after the assault in 1892 she left him and began a suit for divorce, but, upon his earnest professions of reformation and promises to treat her kindly in the future, she dismissed the suit and returned to him. They continued to live together at 835 Eighteenth street until April 30, 1893, and on that evening, while entertaining a party of friends and in their presence, she charges that in a fit of rage, without any provocation, he committed an inhuman and brutal assault upon her, striking her down and leaving her in a maimed and disfigured condition, so much so that she is still under the care of a physician. After this assault she left him finally.

The article mentions Sam stint as marshal of Albuquerque, and how his wife Ella was in Denver at that time.

The other curious thing: though by April of 1892 the Forest Queen had been located, the suit for divorce puts Sam's estate at $15,000 — a hefty chunk of change at the time, to be sure, but struck-it-rich-in-a-gold-mine hefty? But then large veins were discovered in later years. Maybe ore production in the first few years was more modest.



Park Van Tassell

Today we heard from Mo Palmer, Albuquerque's Doctor of Trivia. She's going to give a talk on Van Tassell's pioneer balloon flight on July 4, 1882. Good for her, good for Albuquerque!

Van Tassel's ascent on July 4th, 1882, below. Albuquerque now calls itself the balloon capital of the world.

Van Tassel's ascent on July 4th, 1882

Here I am standing near the spot where Park's balloon took off in 1882, on 2nd between Gold and Central. So where's the plaque?

Place of Park's ascencion

A few months later, after a night of drinking, Park would accompany Lou Blonger to the 4th St. brothel run by Lou's "woman." Here, after an indiscrete remark, Lou clubbed the Professor, whacked him the business end of a long revolver, cocked the hammer, and threw it to the mixologist's chest, bellowing "You s- of a b-, you can't talk to my woman in that way."

That would have been right about here.

RR and 4th


June 2007



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