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March 2008


Sam's Obit

Amigo Rick Van Tassel came across Sam's 1914 obituary from the Albuquerque Morning Journal.


It says, in part, "Samuel H. Blonger is well remembered by older residents of Albuquerque as a prominent and influential citizen of the earlier days when the city was in the making."

More of Sam's obits


The Blonger Shaft

A 1919 article from the Pueblo Chieftain tells us a bit about a new strike in the Blonger shaft. Ore was coming in at one hundred ounces of silver to the ton, but it was 40% sulphur. Leadvillians were displeased.

The article states that the Blonger is, in fact, the "original old Pittsburg claim on Fryer Hill, which in early days was regarded as the greatest silver mine in the west, containing rich silver cloride and lead carbonate at grass roots." The new lessees were said to have just tapped a tremendous new vein.

Blonger Shaft



Neil Dennision

More names to drop:

Did you know that William Neil Dennison (1841.1904) was a cousin of Daniel Carter Beard (1850.1941) who was one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America? I don't think Dennison attended any of the scout meetings, or if he did, he didn't take to the codes of behavior. Dennison's grandmother was Polly Mary Carter Dennison. Her niece was Caroline Carter Beard, wife of the artist James Beard and mother of Daniel Carter Beard. There would have been some interesting family reunions.

.Rebecca Williams, a relative of William Neil Dennison



Antietam On The Web

Mike Belonger

Here's an interesting site on the battle, with a profile page on the 3rd Wisconsin, including a short history of the regiment's role in the battle.

Mike Belonger volunteered for the 3rd in May of 1861. As part of the campaign into the Shenandoah Valley, Mike's unit was for a time cut off from their supply train during the subsequent Union retreat. Men and supplies were being pulled back to protect Washington, but as a result Mike and many others found themselves struggling to make it out of the valley alive. The locals, who had been nearly hospitable on the Federal's arrival, were now firing down on them from houses and barns as they fell back.

It was during this time that Mike, in his own words, "incurred disease of heart and rheumatic affection of the entire left side."

His regiment went on to fight at Cedar Mountain, and Second Manassas, but Mike's direct participation is inferred, not documented. The same is true of Antietam. We can't say with certainty that he fought that day, and we know he wasn't feeling well. But he wasn't hospitalized, apparently, until September 20.

Any way you slice it, he was one of the lucky ones. His affliction tormented him the rest of his days, but he lived a long life, and had ten kids, including great.grandma Braley. Others were less fortunate — over half of the 3rd's 340 men were killed or injured on that day. From

"'The Third Wisconsin was in a very exposed position,' wrote Lieutenant Bryant, 'and it's lines thinned rapidly. It stood on higher ground than the Confederates, the sky behind it, in good musket range and close line .. a good target.'"
A short time later, as Hood's attack receded, "General Hooker was seen galloping up, blood dripping from his boot. He ordered the Wisconsin men to fix bayonets and pursue. There are only 60 men left! Joining them was the Twenty.Seventh Indiana, which increased the number to about 150. 'With a whoop and hurrah, our regiment and the Twenty.Seventh Indiana started down through the cornfield,' [wrote Captain] Hinkley. 'General Hooker himself leading like a captain.'"
"At charge.bayonets, the two western units advanced across the cornfield. The flags of Indiana and Wisconsin flapped wildly in the breeze. The ground was strewn with the bodies of the Confederates. Towards the woods, at the edge of the cornfield, they marched. Suddenly a staff officer gallopped up and ordered the small attacking line of blue to halt and get out of the way. A division was advancing towards that position from the east. 'This was all that prevented us from assaulting a position with about a hundred and fifty men,' reported Hinkley, 'which a few minutes later Sedgwick's division, with five or six thousand, failed to carry.' "
(quoted from Wozny)

This map shows the 3rd in the thick of things, heading straight for the Hood's men in the Miller cornfield at 8:20 on September 17, 1862.

Maybe Mike told stories of the battle that we've never heard; maybe he never spoke of it. He hasn't been mentioned in any accounts of the battle we've read, though their is a great book about the 3rd, With the 3rd Wisconsin Badgers: The Living Experience of the Civil War Through the Journals of Van R. Willard, edited by Steven S. Raab, which is a first.hand account. I guess Mike didn't really stand out. But until we know better we will assume he fought.



The Early Days of Denver

This article has the Blonger's in trouble as early as May of '89, after settling in to town permanently in 1888.

Aspen Weekly Chronicle, June 3, 1889

Gambling Houses Closed
Special to the Chronicle.
DENVER, May 29.—Blonger brothers and Bob Austin, who have run what were said to be booked as gambling houses for years past, were ordered by Chief Farley yesterday to not start up. It was reported to Farley that the houses were about to start, and as such houses were forbidden by the mayor, the chief ordered them to keep closed.


Mike and the 3rd Wisconsin

According to this listing of LaFayette County Civil War companies, the 3rd Wisconsin was called the Shullsburg Light Guard — and had the honor of being Lafayette County's first company to volunteer for service.

Here's the muster.roll of Company I:

Officers and musicians: Captain, Howard Vandergrift; First Lieutenant, John E. Ross; Second Lieutenant, John W. Blackstone, Jr.; Ensign, John H. Gowen; First Sergeant, A.T.E. Blessing; Second Sergeant, Sylvester Brannan; Third Sergeant, Charles M. Wyman; Fourth Sergeant, Clarles L. Dering; First Corporal, James E. Roberts; Second Corporal, George B. Bennett; Third Corporal, William A. Leitch; Fourth Corporal, John Jarvies; fifer, Orsemus Lakin; Drummer, Jacob Purcel.

Privates: Edward Southwick, George Knickerbocker, Christian Kivibner, John R.Amidon, William Moon, Francis Brannan, James Whalen, Hiram Southwick, Martin Washington, James S. Looney, Thomas Harper, Hugh Williams, Henry Baldwin, Alexander Wiley, A.N. Reed, Theodore Brannan, W.H. Thurston, R.M. Johnston, William S.Scisson, William C. Million, Charles A. Hawley, Robert R. Ferguson, Alfred Million, James P. Corbin, Maylon P. Smith, Joseph M. Burton, C.H. Dibble, Elijah Jenks, Henry A.W. Gillett,M.D. Gilson, Rufus Harriman, James Negus, John Dougherty, William J. Bushby, Thomas A. White, Thomas Bushby, George White, Charles Knott, John Madison, David A, Bush, Richard Williams, George A. Rueckerman, Charles H. Wescott, Wilson Warford, James Hill, John H. Cooper, Robert McCormick, Charles Vandergrift, James Peebless, Thomas H. Bright, Michael Belonger, Frederick Willey, John T. Harrison, George N. Wagoner, C.B. Chipman,William Freeburn, Eugene James, Nicholas Wallace, Charles Hall, O.S. Horage, James B. Knapp, John Schofield,William Douglass, Cyrus E. Dering.



Colorado Matters

Reporter Alan Prendergast was on Colorado Public Radio yesterday, interviewed about Col. Van Cise, Lou Blonger and the Klan on Colorado Matters. It's really good.



Christopher Wilson and Frank Turner

For all the hoopla about Lou being a gangster, and wielding such power in Denver, there are no murders directly associated with either Sam or Lou Blonger or their gang — except for the shooting of Frank Turner by Christopher Wilson.

In June of 1916, several Denver bunco men and their women retreated up the South Platte to their rented cabins at Gill's Resort, to relax, play poker, and enjoy the mountain air. During a crap game one evening in one of the cabins, Wilson allegedly entered the room, summarily shot Turner in the head, then mounted a horse and made good his escape.

Four years later, tired of life on the run, he gave himself up to Denver authorities. Bond was set at $5000. According the the Colorado Transcript of January 15, 1920:

C. L. Blonger, well known farmer of this county, went on Wilson's bond.

Just goes to show how short memory's can be. Twenty years earlier Colorado papers made no bones about Lou and his connections to gambling, bunco games, bail bonds and other tawdry affairs. Now they couldn't even get his name right. Or was there more to it? If they were "protecting" Lou's reputation, they surely could have done a more thorough job of it.

Wilson told Sheriff Jones that he was giving himself up because he was tired of being hounded from one place to another. However, it is believed that in the time since the shooting he has fixed up a defense which he believes will result in an acquittal.

All but.




According to the Butte Weekly Miner, a Blonger, apparently Marvin's son Edward, broke his arm in September of 1889. Coming down Granite Hill in a wagon with another boy named Wright, the harness on their rig broke, and the boys were thrown when the horse became frightened.



The Blonger Ponies

Upon leaving Albuquerque early in 1883, Lou headed south, to Deming, where he claims to have hooked up with gamblers Frank Thurmond and Carlotta Thompkins, aka Lottie Deno.

For his part, Sam went up Colorado way, but we know little else about his movements over the next five years, until he and Lou joined forces again in 1888 or '89, ready to take on Denver.

We don't know if Sam continued in "official work" during the mid.1880's — family lore suggests he was involved in a Denver shootout during this period, losing an eye to a bullet glancing off an iron stove. He reportedly wore dark blue glasses thereafter. But that's all hearsay and conjecture at this point.

We do know, however, that Sam was a fixture on the racing circuit of the 1880's. Lou was probably there too, at times, but it was Sam they later remembered for the horses he ran.

We've known for a while about a few of Sam's ponies — Sorrel Dan, Comanche Boy, King Lion. Now some recent finds are starting to round out the picture. Here's the new synopsis:

March 12, 1883, Sam sells Brown Dick to Johnny Behan for $300.

April 24, 1883, Sam Blonger has four horses entered in races to be held in May at Denver. Entering a horse, in this sense, doesn't necessarily imply ownership.

May 3, 1883, Sam Blonger runs Sorrel Dan at Pueblo.

May 5, 1883, Sam Blonger runs a horse at Pueblo.

May 7, 1883, "Hon. S.H. Blonger, of Leadville, has six horses on the grounds, Brown Dick (huh?), King Lion, Little Nell, Comanche Boy, Pilot, and Calamity.

May 11, 1883, Sam Blonger's horses, Sorrel Dan, King Lion, and Comanche Boy, run at Denver.

Rocky Mountain News, May 12, 1883

A Large Attendance at Yesterday's Races.
King Lion Wins the Mile Dash Hands Down.
Sorrel Dan Allowed to Take the half-mile Dash.
The 2:40 Trotting Race the Event of the Day.
An Unfortunate Decision of the Judges.

The article recounts at length the day's three races, the mile, half-mile, and the trot. Some 2500 attended.

The Running Races.

Going into the half-mile, the betting was two to one on Sorrel Dan against the field, "without a great deal of money being put up or there being any apparent reason why Sorrel Dan should be favorite at all." After several false starts, particularly by Mart Boren:

Lucy Walker took the lead, with Sorrel Dan close behind; turning into the back stretch the two came even and a very pretty race down the stretch ensued, the two keeping as even as they well could until the quarter pole was reached, when Dan pulled away from the mare, gaining a length. Boren had not yet recovered any of his loss and hung five lengths behind with Alletta at his heels. In the homestretch Boren began making play for the lead and all came in being whipped heavily. Boren gained with remarkable rapidity and posted under the wire only a nose behind Sorrel Dan, the winner, with Alletta four lengths behind, third, and Lucy Walker unplaced. Time, 53½.

But, surprise, Sorrel Dan was being run by Johhny Behan, not Sam.

Could this be our pony? Courier & Ives immortalized this champion pacer of the same name in 1881, with a record of 2:14.

Sorrel Dan

The Mile Dash.

King Lion is the favorite going in, at $50 to $15. More false starts, some twelve in all, but King Lion takes it by half a dozen lengths. "Effortless." Time, 1:52¼. The purse is Sam's — the $25 entrance fees, plus $400, and a "racing vase" worth $100.

The 2:40 Trotting Race.
Eight of the nine horses came to the string, Luella alone having been drawn. The betting before the race was on four of the horses, Blue Cloud, Comanche Boy, Creepy and Baby. These sold for $15 each to $15 for the field.

Creepy took the first of four heats, and Comanche Boy was unplaced.

Comanche Boy had an early lead in the second heat, but lost it to Creepy.

In the third heat, Creepy was even against the field.

There was a great deal of time wasted before this heat in scoring, there being apparently a desire to settle the race by wearing out some of the horses. Comanche Boy's driver repeatedly disobeyed the orders of the judges without being punished in any way.
The horses finally got away to a fairly good start, with Creepy slightly in the lead. Comanche Boy broke at the turn into the back stretch and tried to head Creepy off on the turn, but failed in this. The two, Creepy and Comanche, soon pulled out from among the others, and after passing into the back stretch for the second time a pretty race between the two succeeded. Creepy appeared to quit going, as though pumped out, at the third quarter, and Comanche Boy passed here and soon had a lead of at least seven lengths. Comanche Boy came down the home stretch in fine style, apparently an easy winner. His owner appeared to be alarmed lest the horse gain too low a record and he signaled to the driver to slow up. The latter obeyed with a will and slowed the horse into an easy jog. The driver of Creepy did not appear to be so much afraid of low record and he brought his horse up to a magnificent spurt in which he gained at least seven lengths in a distance of less than twenty and came in winner of the heat by a clear length. A howl of indignation went up from the quarter stretch against the pulling of Comanche Boy. The judges took the matter under consideration, and doubtless with the best intentions in the world gave a very unjust and erroneous decision. They decided the heat off, which was not so much out of the way, although it was likely to destroy the chances of the mare Creepy, which it was supposed would be unable to trot out a fourth heat, and they distanced Comanche Boy and ruled his driver off the track. The distancing of the horse did away with the chances of all of those having money up on the horse, while his owner was left unpunished. The proper action of the judges, in the opinion of all the horsemen on the grounds whose opinions were worth consulting, would have been to have declared the heat no heat and changed the driver of Comanche Boy. The decision of the judges was applauded by the crowd in the quarter stretch, who did not seem to discriminate very closely, and was satisfied in the belief that revenge had been taken in some way for the pulling of Comanche Boy.

In the final heat, Creepy was generally thought to be spent, but he pulled it off. So was Sam throwing the heat?

Scott interjects:


There would be a reason why you wouldn't want your horse to run too fast: he has another race to run.

I can infer from the scoring summary and from the text that when a horse was "distanced" (finished far back in the field) it was not allowed to run in the later heats. As punishment for pulling up, Comanche was apparently "distanced" by the judges.

Also, see the last paragraph. If you run too fast, you are no longer eligible for races in a certain class. So I don't think Sam was necessarily trying to throw a race.


Finally, this, at the end of the article, listed under "Hoof Prints" — noting the notables in attendance:

Baron Von Richthofen was out again yesterday.

No, not the Red Baron. According to wikipedia:

Baron Walter von Richthofen, an uncle of Manfred von Richthofen, emigrated from Silesia to the United States in 1877. He founded the Denver Chamber of Commerce, and was celebrated locally as the founder of Montclair, Colorado. [citation needed] His Richthofen Castle was one of the most sumptuous mansions in the American West. Begun in 1883 and completed in 1887, it was modeled on the original Richthofen Castle in Germany. Located immediately around the Castle are the Baron's mistress's house and his sanitarium/dairy.

May 14, 1883, Sam runs Comanche Boy in Denver.

May 15, 1883, Behan runs Sorrel Dan and Sam runs King Lion, who comes in second to Clifton Bell in Denver.

June 29, 1883, Sam Blonger ships his racing horses to Santa Fe.

October 10, 1883, Sam ran Hardwood, on behalf of "Green Morris, the noted eastern horseman," against "the great colt" King Lion, who ran away with it against a strong field.

On October 18, 1883 — surprise — Joe Blonger is running Hardwood. Behan is running Sorrel Dan.

October 25, 1883, Sorrel Dan runs at Pueblo.

The May 13, 1885 NY Times had this headline:


September 5, 1889, Sam runs Uncle Jack in Denver.

September 23, 1889, Uncle Jack runs away with it in Denver.

June 27, 1890, Uncle Jack runs in Denver.

July 12, 1890, the Chicago Tribune reports that "Blonger Bros.' Uncle Jack" ran in a harness race at St. Paul, MN.

October 9, 1890, Sam runs Uncle Jack in Denver.

Coincidentally, above these racing results was an article about a rifle skirmish conducted back east by the Wisconsin 3rd InfantryMike's old outfit. What's more, the champion of Company I — with 43 points out of 200 — was named French.

Fast foward twenty years, to Salt Lake City

Ogden Evening Standard, Sept. 22, 1910

List of Owners and Horses.
Deeming that it would prove of interest to the racing public the Standard has compiled the full list of owners who have horses at the track together with the names of their horses, the same being herewith appended:
Blonger and Millsap, John H. SnowballSilver Stocking, Oberon, Jupiter.

Blonger and Milsap bought Silver Stocking in Salt Lake City for $700.

Finally, Lou's obituary stated he had owned several ranches near Denver, but no specifics were forthcoming.


March 2008



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