The Famous Blonger Bros.
From the Real Estate File
October 24, 1879 - Sam's first wife Ella takes possession of lot 20, block 93 in East Denver from Edward Pisko for $2000.
March 6, 1880 - Ella sells lot 20, block 93 to Arthur Rousel[?], $2500.
January 16, 1881 - Ella sells lot 31 and 32, block 101 to A.P. Norton, $3500.
September 25, 1888 - Ella sells lot 7, Perco addition to T.J. Riley, $3500.
Sam divorced Ella in October of 1889, and married Sadie Wilson days later.
February 13, 1890 - Sadie buys lot 10, block 1, Santa Fe addition, for $650.
In 1893 Sadie sued for divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty, Sam having beaten her on numerous ocassions.
August 3, 1898 - Lou sells lots 4 and 5, block 18, Park Avenue addition, to Marion Wilson for $3000.
Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center
Finally Denver gathers to dedicate the Van Cise-Simonet Dentention Center in Denver. Read all about it:
Lou Rises from the Grave
Sounds like Lou made an appearance last Sunday at Fairmount Cemetery during Tom Noel's gravesite tour.
News from researcher Amy Reading calls into question a long-standing accusation against Lou.
As noted in articles in both the Rocky Mountain News and the Los Angeles Times, Lou was implicated in a nefarious bunco scheme in 1915 in a decade otherwise nearly devoid of news on the Blonger gang when workers renovating deserted office space on Welton Street in Denver discovered evidence of a hastily abondoned setup for the notorious wire con.
The workmen found numerous slips of paper detailing transactions in the thousands of dollars, and telegraph wiring intended to fool prospective bettors. The scene was right out of "The Sting:"
The paraphernalia was simple in some ways and complex in others. The electrical wiring was quite complex. The victims apparently sat about in the east room of the suite of three and listened to the "returns" upon which they had been slipped "sure thing" tips by outside "steerers."
The telegraph instruments clattered merrily, while an employe referred to as the "boardman" kept things humming with excitement by writing down the "results" on the blackboard, which was suspended from the east wall between rooms No. 1 and No. 2. Pieces of red and white chalk and splashes of color showing where the "boardman" wiped the wall below the blackboard with his eraser, told a plain story.
But the arrangement in electrical wiring would delight a connoisseur. It was elaborate and painstaking as to effect. Any bona fide player who was out to beat the "bookies" on "inside" tips would be deceived by just such ultra-obvious wiring. The tout ensemble gave the impression of a real poolroom, "run on the quiet, because the authorities wouldn't stand for it if they got wise, of course," as the victim is invariably informed.
But was it on the up and up?
Reading, in town to attend the opening of the new jail, did some research as well, and has the following to say on the Welton Street affair:
...did you know that the 1915 expose of Blonger's fake betting parlor was itself a frame-up that, at least on the surface, had nothing to do with Blonger? Apparently, a man named Glen Duffield, Undersheriff and warden of the county jail, staged the dismantled swindlers' lair along with a bunc named Isidore "Kid" Warner, so that Duffield could "discover" it, oust the Chief of Police (a man named O'Neill who was a good friend of Blonger's), and get himself appointed Chief. It worked, even though his association with Warner and the rumor that he'd faked the fake betting parlor were plastered all over the papers. Let me know if you want any of the newspaper articles on this one.
Do we ever. Duffield is not unknown to us. He was one of the detectives who accompanied Lou to Colorado Springs in 1894 to investigate the tar and feathering of Col. Tarsney following the so-called Battle of Bull Hill. Duffield had been assigned by Denver police chief Armstrong to extract a confession from a "special deputy" implicated in the affair. Lou's presence on the trip is unexplained, but extracting confessions is noted as one of his talents.
Reading also researched the "Maiden scrapbook," compiled by a Denver cop over many years on the force. In it she found an article detailing a deposition given by Lou after his conviction in response to a suit filed by a man named Peck. He was deposed by Henry May, whom Van Cise defeated in the Republican primary on his way to becoming District Attorney:
Blonger Swears Duff Led Million-Dollar Bunco Ring That Operated in Denver
Dealings With Ring Are Denied in Deposition Taken For Defense of $17,000
Suit Filed By Victim of Confidence Game
Lou Blonger, testifying under oath for the first time, placed the leadership
of the million-dollar Denver bunco ring on the shoulders of A.W. Duff, in a
deposition taken Saturday at the Canon City penitentiary.
Blonger readily admitted ownership of the bank passbook which played such an
important part in the trail of the bunco ring. He admitted that the
memoranda of telephone numbers of "Dapper Jackie" French, bookmaker for the
ring; Len Reamey, confessed member of the gang, the 'Lookout', and various
other members of the ring, were in his handwriting. But-
Deposition Made to Defend Suit
He explained that he had written these memoranda, not for his own use, but
at the request of Duff.
'Those people would be calling for Duff,' he said in response to questions
by Attorney Henry May of Denver. 'Duff asked me to put them down so I could
tell him if they called or asked where they could find him.'
He insisted that he didn't know French or Reamey, and that he 'just knew
Duff' although he and Duff had occupied offices together for years.
Blonger's testimony was given in a deposition taken by the defense in the
suit filed by John S. Peck, Flemingsberg, Ky., to recover $17,000 which was
taken from him by confidence men in Denver. Blonger, Duff, French, and
others are defendants in the suit which is scheduled for trail Nov. 13.
Blonger Declares He is Farmer
On direct examination by Attorney Howard L. Honan, who with Tom Ward
represents the defendants, Blonger denied dealings with the members of the
bunco ring, declared he knew nothing of the 'trimming' of Peck, and said
that his occupation is that of a 'farmer.' He as cross-examined by Attorney
May, who with A.J. Gould, Jr., appeared as counsel for Peck. The direct
examination lasted on a few minutes but the cross-examination required two
and a half hours.
Peck was accompanied to church one Sunday morning in Denver by an escort of
'con men.' They had communion with him and his wife and daughter. The next
morning they 'blew him off' for $17,000, according to his testimony at the
Attorney May produced the receipt for the telephone in the bunco lookout for
the month in which Peck was fleeced, and asked Blonger how that receipt
happened to be in his desk.
'If it was found in my desk, Duff must have put it there,' he said. 'I
didn't. Duff sometimes puts some of his papers in my desk.'
Asked concerning his farming activities, he said that he formerly owned a
farm near Brighton which he sold ten years ago, one near Boulder which he
sold eight years ago and one in Jefferson county, part of which had been
Admits He Ran Gambling Business
'Blonger admitted tht he had been a gambler and that he was in the gambling
business as lon as gambling was permitted in Denver,' Attorney May said
Monday. 'He admitted receiving a telegram from Duff which read something
'Store closed. No sales today. Didn't make enough today to pay the nut.
'When I asked him what was meant by the store, he first said he thought it
meant what it said. But later when I inquired if store didn't refer to the
activities of the bunco men, he admitted that might be possible. He finally
admitted that 'no sales' might mean the boys hadn't been able to find any
suckers to trim, and that the reference to the 'nut' might mean that they
weren't getting enough to pay expenses.
Denies Opening Bank Box
'Blonger admitted that Duff had a safety deposit box at the American Bank
and Trust company to which he had access but he said he never opened the box
and had no idea of its contents. He denied he had had any dealings with
George Sanders, former city detective, but said he might have loaned Sanders
$10 some time just to help him out.
'When asked concerning the tapping of his telephone and the planting of a
dictaphone in his office, Blonger declared he knew of both. He said he asked
Billy Arnett, then department of justice agent, to check up on one of them.
He said Frank Milligan told him about the dictaphone being in his office.'
According to Attorney May, Blonger admitted that District Attorney Van
Cise's 'bunco list' was delivered to the Blonger-Duff office, but said it
was sent there to Duff. He denied that he looked at the list.
Testimony was introduced at the bunco trial to the effect that Sanders
obtained the list from the Colorado Springs police and gave it to Duff.
Poor Farmer Lou. framed by Duff...
Amy Reading also sent these pics of Cindy Van Cise at the dedication of the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center in Denver. Thanks, Amy!
Just had a most interesting exchange with Oby Tolman, whose daughter-in-law is descended from Edwin Gaylord.
Gaylord might be familiar to close readers of this site as the long-time partner, both in the gambling and bunco businesses, of Denver's gambling king, "Big Ed" Chase. According to Oby, Gaylord was a barkeep, then a cashier, then a proprietor of Chase's Palace Theatre. In 1889-1890, Edwin was manager of the Colorado Policy Association, a position also notably held by Chase. Lou was said to have numerous such shops at the time.
Chase and Gaylord were married to sisters, Frances Minerva Barbour and Adah S. "Addie" Barbour. Addie was an actress.
The relationship between Chase, Gaylord and the Blongers was a rocky one. It's safe to assume that as Tenderloin proprietors they had much in common common goals, common friends and common enemies, with many opportunities to stand shoulder-to-shoulder but in the end the Denver Underworld could only have one master. For this position, there were three competitors in the 1890s: Chase-Gaylord, the Soap gang, and the Blonger Bros.
Chase was the old man, a Denver pioneer and pillar of society, head of the City Hall gang, ruler of the gambling houses, saloons and precincts. Upstart Soapy Smith and his brother Bascomb came to prominence in the early '90s, sharing the stage with Chase through several political scandals on the strength of their gambling establishments, the work of their many short con minions, and their burgeoning political influence.
Coming from behind were Sam and Lou, who finally settled in Denver around 1889, but who immediately gave the others a run for their money, establishing a fairly long succession of saloons, gambling rooms and policy shops. Bunco men under the Blonger sway proliferated, and the brothers did what they could to elect friendly politicians. Finally, in 1895, the winds of change gained in strength.
In April of 1895 Soapy and Bascomb Smith made a commotion at 1644 Larimer Street after roughing up the chief of police down the street. Lou was reportedly behind the cigar counter with a double-barreled shotgun. Bascomb Smith was arrested for assaulting bartender Johnny Hughes, and ended up serving a year.
October 17, the Rocky Mountain News described the Chase and Blonger gangs, their influence over municipal officials, some of the current gang members, and their methods.
November 1, gambling is declared open again after the City Hall War and the Crackdown of 1894. On the 11th the RMN insinuates Lou's men may have been paying voters at the polls simply to help Lou win his bets on Webb for sheriff.
On November 15 Sam is arrested, along with May Bigelow of the notorious California Gang — female pickpockets and blackmailers. Lou is their ever-ready bail bondsman.
Sam stands accused of obtaining stolen goods. Smith's men Bowers and Jackson had fleeced S.W. Wolcott of a $600 check, which went to Bascomb, who took it to Sam, who directed him to a cooperative bank teller for cashing — and took twenty bucks for his trouble.
November 18, Bascomb Smith writes a letter to his brother, Soapy Smith, from the county jail, mentioning Sam's predicament and that the DA was pressuring him to testify against Sam.
December 9, Walter Farragher loses over $1000 to some Denver con men. The next day a number of Chase and Gaylord's men, including former Smith man Jackson, are arrested in connection with the incident, but they claim they are in custody to make the guilty party impossible to identify — because the Blonger gang was actually responsible, and the city detectives were assisting Lou. Farragher is in hiding.
The Chase-Gaylord gang is dead sore on the Blonger crowd, and the soreness is intensified now that they have been arrested for an offense from the proceeds of which they have made nothing.
December 12, Ed Chase flexes his muscle and Sam is arrested again, this time to pressure him into ratting out the perpetrators of the Farragher swindle.
Come the 14th, and W. H. Carson is in jail over the Farragher incident, at $3000 bail. Also arrested is Owen Snider. Carson's attorney, fellow Forest Queen owner and assistant district attorney Neil Dennison successfully argues to Justice Cowell that the charge was in fact a misdeanor, not a felony, with a maximum fine of $100 or thirty days. Lou is ready with bail, but a new felony warrant is issued and Carson re-arrested. Lou posts the $2500 bail.
On the 16th the RMN finds Farragher sequestered in a hotel room by Chief Goulding. He expresses fear of the gang, and states he'd be happy with half his money back.
December 21, Farragher has skipped town, and the case against Sam falls apart.
January 27, Sam goes to court over the Wolcott swindle. Despite Bascomb's testimony, solicited by the DA in return for his freedom and a job on the force, the charges are easily overcome. Bascomb accuses the DA of welching.
It would seem that the whole affair gives Sam pause, and he seems to retreat into the world of horse racing after this. He is rarely heard from again until his death in 1914.
Early in 1896, unable to resolve the legal cloud left by his assault on Johnny Hughes, Soapy Smith leaves Colorado for good. The Blongers' influence even at the expense of heavy-hitters Chase, Gaylord and Smith seems to be on the rise. A few years later, with gambling now outlawed for good, Ed Chase transitions into real estate. He finally dies in California about the same time as Lou, in 1924.
With the new century, Lou, now out of the legal gambling business, turns increasingly to the development of the big store con for which his gang would become so famous. What's more, his influence over Denver's city hall, police and courts seems nearly complete, and for the next twenty-five years he will grow very wealthy posing as a kindly landowner, without losing a single soul under his protection to the penitentiary.
This exchange with Oby has also led me to make a connection we had previously overlooked. Gaylord, as it happens, took a lease on the Blonger's Forest Queen mine, working it from 1915 until his death in 1923, as is evidenced by Lou's letters to partner O.W. Jackson and his widow.
In fact, Gaylord was in charge when a wealthy new vein was discovered just two days after Lou's arrest.
Looks like it's time for the first new inductee to the Grafters Club in quite a while! It does raise the question anew, however; Should Chase, Soapy Smith, and Bascomb, be full members or on the blacklist? Sometimes it's a fine line...
For the record, curiously, it also appears Edwin rode a gelding named The Abbot to glory, as reported in the NY Times. On September 25, 1900, one Edwin Gaylord of Denver rode the pacer to a new world's record in the mile at 2:03¼ at Terre Haute, Indiana.
More from Oby. He sent along the text of an article on Mayor Speer and Ed Chase, which says of Chase, in part:
One of Chase's gambling and saloon business associates, Vaso Chucovitch, had replaced him as underworld czar before the gambler cashed in his chips. A hefty, red-mustachioed Slav, Chucovitch had courted Speer and taken Chase's place as the broker between the bars and the boss.
Serb Chucovitch has been noted in these pages just once before, in 2006, in reference to a Denver Post article on Denver's Smaldone crime family:
The Smaldones weren't the city's first crime syndicate, not by a long shot. At the end of the 19th century, Vaso Chucovich and his partner, "Big Ed" Chase, ran gambling, saloons and the rackets in the city's lower precincts.
They were succeeded by Lou Blonger, one of the most colorful characters in the city's history. Blonger's game was bunco and stock swindles. His gang lurked near Union Station, picking off "marks" as they stepped off trains and steering them to phony stock-market offices downtown.
Vaso, who on his death in the Thirties left a hefty sum to pay for a memorial to Speer, deserves a closer look...
The Blonger Stable
Missed one, named Pinto. And forgot about the horse Sam sold to Johnny Behan, Brown Dick. The stable so far:
- Brown Dick
- Comanche Boy
- John H. Snowball
- King Lyon
- Silver Stocking
- Sorrel Dan
Omaha Beer Saloon
Scott dug up a new reference on Google Books from the Utah and Salt Lake City Gazeteer of 1874. Entries indicate it was Sam in partnership with E.M. Shipman who owned the Omaha Beer Saloon. Lou is listed as a salesman. It also tells us their addresses and the address of the saloon, but better yet, it includes this new ad:
Small, Small World
Brother Jeff reports that he is currently working in an office thirteen stories above the former location of the Blongers' Tourist Club on Larimer, between 16th and 17th. Ha!
WAR DECLARED (cont.)
Now, considering everything we knew about Jim Jordan, as stated above, we have had no previous reason to connect him directly to the Blonger inner circle. Any suggestion that Chase was igniting a war between himself (and Soapy Smith, and Edwin Gaylord, for that matter) and the Blongers by taking this action has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Yet this new article with news from San Francisco indicates Jordan was gaining influence in town, and was closely allied with Lou and Sam. If there's anything to it, and Chase did indeed conspire to have Jordan arrested, this also puts that shootout at Murphy's Exchange and events yet to come in a harsher light.
The Smith Rampage
On the night of April 21, 1895, the Smith brothers Jeff and Bascomb embarked on a mission that would alter the lives of all the principal characters. With, apparently, a few drinks under their belts, the Smiths attacked the chief of police and two bartenders. Later they would show up at Sam and Lou's, spoiling for action, but expeditiously deterred by a vigilant beat cop. The boys ended the night with Bascomb in the county jail for the assault on barkeep Johnny Hughes, and Soapy laying low.
On November 1, Governor Waite's crackdown on vice dies with a whimper as gambling houses again become legal.
The Wolcott Affair
On November 15, Sam is arrested, along with May Bigelow and Viola Tarpie of the so-called California gang, a group of badger game artists who lured men into compromising positions, took a few pictures, then extorted large sums from the fearful marks. Though indictments ultimately unsuccessful indictments were handed down against Sam in connection with the gang, the Rocky Mountain News credits the arrest instead to the fleecing of S.H. Wolcott.
Three days later, Bascomb writes from jail to his brother Jeff, who is himself working hard to avoid his own arrest. In the letter Bascomb indicates that Wolcott was in fact swindled by Soapy's men Bowers and Jackson, and that Bascomb took the man's $600 check to Sam for help in cashing it. Sam gave it to a willing bank teller and took twenty bucks for his trouble. This in itself belies the suggesting there was any sizable rift between the Smiths and Blongers at that time.
But Bascomb goes on to say the the DA is pressuring him to testify against Sam.
The Farragher Incident
In December, Walter Farragher is taken for more than a grand. A number of Chase's men are taken into custody.
Immediately, the men protest their arrest, saying that the Blonger crew happens to be guilty on this ocassion. Having the wrong men arrested muddies the legal case, suggesting the Blongers wielded enough influence to have Chase's men take the fall.
The Chase-Gaylord gang is dead sore on the Blonger crowd, and the soreness is intensified now that they have been arrested for an offense from the proceeds of which they have made nothing.
The move, however, is less than a complete success. Ed Chase apparently flexes his muscle and Sam is arrested in an attempt to pressure him into offering up the guilty parties. In the end, however, Farragher is persuaded by persons unknown to leave town, and the case against Sam falls apart. Not long after, Soapy Smith leaves town for Alaska, never to return.
In January of 1896 the Wolcott case finally goes to court, and Bascomb testifies against Sam on the understanding that he will be released from jail and get a job on the police force. Unfortunately, the testifying officers are willfully obtuse on the stand, Sam goes free, and Bascomb is left to languish in his cell, complaining that the DA had stiffed him.
By October of the next year, the Blongers open the Elite saloon, replete with "mahogany fixtures and frescoed ceilings at a cost of $8,000 marble floors and an elegant cafe in the rear part of the saloon."
By 1902, the Denver Times is describing Lou as being "in charge of the wholesale bunko operations in this city." Ed Chase transitions into real estate, and eventually moves to California.
Our evidence as described above is scanty at best. We have a lot to do yet, but it is interesting to watch both Chase and Smith begin to struggle against the tide in the mid '90s, and the Blongers find greater and greater success. Though the stress of his two arrests may have made Sam think seriously about retiring his name hereafter ceases to appear in connection with the bunko trade or saloonmanship this series of incidents seemed to leave Lou with the upper hand, his star on the rise.
Sam Blonger for County Something
As Scott correctly points out, the same newspaper that mentions S. Blonger having been nominated to an unknown office in the Douglas, Wyoming Democratic primary of 1886 also contains a mention of an S.H. Blonger that being Sam, of course dissolving a business with Mr. T.W. Evans, most likely a cigar stand.
Kid Fay the Killer?
March 3, 1888, the Arizona Weekly Champion suggests that Kid Fay may have actually killed Charles Hill, and run out, leaving Kitty Blonger to take the fall. Oddly, the Champion was published by Fay's father.
Next, a very interesting new find from the Sacremento Daily Union of April, 1894. To understand its importance, we first need to lay a little groundwork, refreshing our memory as to the cast of characters and the lay of the land.
Lay of the Land
By 1889, Sam and Lou had both finally landed in Denver, divorced and remarried, and were running at least two gambling joints and saloons, on 15th St. and on Larimer. We can't put a date on their entry into the Denver bunko trade (at least by 1890), but it would be a safe bet that crooked poker games, their stock in trade in the early days, were up and running from the start.
Running the show in town were Soapy Smith and his bunko gang, and Ed Chase with his. Both men dominated local gambling and the so-called "gang" at City Hall, and their influence over all the vice trades in town was formidable.
Yet over the ensuing years the Blongers, who came late to the table, were able to run a variety of gambling/drinking joints, develop a sizable bunko gang of their own, take their own tributes, influence elections to their own ends and eventually, to conquer the entire Denver tenderloin district, seemingly without violence, as Smith and Chase eventually quit the scene. Just how did this come about? How did Lou become, as Parkhill called him, "Overlord of the Underworld?"
To this end, we have always been interested in any hint of conflict between the Blongers and the Smith-Chase faction. Or, cooperation, for that matter.
1890 In this year Sam and Lou are implicated in the voting fraud trial of Wolfe Londoner, Denver mayor. They are accused of bilking Peter Anderson of $275 and having Police Chief Farley run the guy out of town. They also run horses in races across the country.
1891 One of the Blonger joints is closed for bunko games.
1892 Sam and Lou are arrested for swindling C.I. Tolly (to no effect). Sam, Lou and others file claim on the Forest Queen gold mine on April 7, and on the same day one of their gambling rooms is closed by police.
In the following article about corruption at "Boodle Hall," both Chase and Smith are noted for their influence, but the Blongers are linked to Smith as well, as partners in crooked poker and faro, or brace games:
At the table, that's Jack Devine, Mike Ryan, Soapy, Billy Griffith, Ed Chase, (unnamed behind Chase), Bill Evans, Dave Kelly, A.M. Stevenson, Bill Hamill, Joe Smith.
Rocky Mountain News, October 11, 1892
FOUR FINE MANAGERS.
Ed Chase, Mike Ryan, Jack Devine, Soapy Smith, Run Boodle Hall
The old executive committee at Boodle hall has been relieved of many of its duties by a new executive committee composed of Policy Shop Ed Chase, Supersedeas Mike Ryan, Indicted Jack Devine and Soapy Smith...
UNCROWNED KING OF THE CRIMINALS.
On Larimer street, between Seventeenth and Eighteenth, the Blongers, in patnership with Soapy Smith, are running a brace game of faro where pigeons are openly plucked. To operate this place, they took a license, not from the police board, but from Ed Chase. This individual permits no "brace," otherwise swindling gambling house, to run in Denver without paying him a percentage of the profits. He claims to be, and is in fact, the king of the lower stratum of society. bunko men, mock auctions and shell game men are made to pay him tribute.
The truth is as perfectly well known as it is that cable cars run on Larimer street. Ample proof may be produced at any moment. Chase is now a confidant and co-worker with the combine in Boodle hall... Imagine Policy Shop Chase of the Colorado lottery, chief of police.
The combine announces that it will run this campaign on boodle, bluster and bulldozing, with the aid of Ryan, Devine, Chase, Soapy et al...
The Cady Shooting
On this night of October 11, the day the article above appeared in print, Tom Cady entered the Missouri Club and got into an argument with the club's owner, Jeff Argyle. Gambler Jim Jordan joined the argument and was struck by Cady. After Cady's arrest for assault, Jordan proceeded to another saloon, Murphy's Exchange, where he hooked up with Cort Thompson, paramour of Denver's most famous soiled dove, Mattie Silks.
Within a short time Soapy Smith had bailed out Cady, and the two of them proceeded to the Exchange. As the two men passed Jim Jordan, words were spoken, Cady struck Jordan again, and pistols were suddenly drawn all around.
Apparently, Saloonman Murphy grabbed Cady to keep him from firing, and bartender Mart Watrous grabbed Jordan, who nevertheless broke away and managed a shot. Others fired as well, and Cliff Sparks was killed.
Jeff Smith writes: "It has been written that as Crooks weeped over his friend's death he placed his head down to the dead man's chest, as if listening for any sign of a heart beat. With no one being the wiser, Crooks removed Cliff's diamond stick pin with his teeth."
"Tom Cady, Jim Jordan, John Murphy and Cort Thomson were all arrested. Soapy escaped arrest by exiting the saloon when the shooting had stopped. He turned himself in the following day. No one could agree on an accurate account of the shooting. Some were pointing at Jeff as the shooter. Soapy's gambling club and saloon, The Tivoli Club, was ordered closed, but for some unknown reason, Murphy's Exchange was allowed to continue operating."
"Cady and Jordan were tried on murder charges and acquitted. Soapy was also charged with the murder and it took his attorney, Judge Belford, nearly two months to convince Judge Burns to find his client not guilt. The shooting of Clifton Sparks was never resolved."
1892 also saw the election of Davis H. Waite as governor of Colorado. Waite was a populist, and noted opponent of vice in all its forms.
1893 To consolidate power before challenging Senator Wolcott for his seat, Gov. Waite had his new police board fire Republican police chief Farley, replacing him with populist James C. Veatch. The special officers who had been assigned to the city's gambling houses, paid $85 a month by the owners, were promptly removed.
At this time, Lou is said to have owned twelve policy shops, but didn't seem to mind Ed Chase hogging the spotlight as the king of Denver gambling. Chief Veatch had the Colorado Policy Association raided, and Chase was arrested. Soapy Smith posted the $1000 bail.
Then a bagman starting showing up in the gambling houses, demanding tribute be paid to the police board, and Chief Veatch got burned in the ensuing scandal. Soon Farley had his old job back, and Gov. Waite moved to replace the two members of the police board he saw as the source of the problem.
City Hall War
But the fired board members refused to vacate. In his determination to see his new men seated and to legally resolve any question concerning his power to appoint new members to Denver's city board Waite eventually sent the state militia, commanded by another loyal populist, Gen. Thomas Tarsney, to lay siege to city hall. The militia, with their cavalry, gatling guns and cannon, found themselves confronted not only by Denver elected officials trying to defend the city's right to self-government, but also by hordes of the city's low-lifes and scoundrels, armed to the teeth and packing dynamite. Many of these men were recruited and led by Soapy Smith himself, at the Mayor's request for a "special police force." Some two hundred more were also deputized by the county sheriff.
While this brewing fight is now sometimes considered a fight over home rule, as it was often framed at the time, it was in fact an attempt by the governor to counteract the gambling fraternity's influence over Denver city affairs everyone was walking out of the city and county jails!
Knowing the new board would outlaw gambling, the men signing up to defend city hall were largely gamblers, con men, pimps, drunks, hobos and assorted criminals. While Smith recruited many of his own associates, the Blongers likely did the same though this is unsubstantiated. But could the Blongers have had some reason to side with Waite, or sit by, unmoved by events? Unlikely.
Pagosa Springs News, March 16, 1894
It seems from newspaper reports that every Denver tough who is not behind bars is either a deputy sheriff, or a special police officer.
In the end, Waite balked at ordering violence, but won the day nevertheless when the state Supreme Court found in his favor, and the board was seated. On April 16, police board members Orr and Martin step down peacefully.
"The program which is mapped out," said he, "is to shut every one of them [gambling houses] and keep them shut. The governor and board are committed to that course and there will be no half measures. Lower Seventeenth street will also be cleaned of the bunko men who have infested it. All these people have been helping to hold up the old board with money and physical force. Jeff Smith will be arrested every day so long as he attempts to continue his present occupation. The district attorney may turn them all loose or refuse to prosecute if he likes, but the board will keep right on arresting."
Which brings us up to speed. Here's the new article.
Sacramento Daily Union, April 19, 1894
JORDAN MAY NOT GET HERE.
Discharged in Denver by Gov. Waite's Order.
His Arrest Caused Quite a Stir in the Gambling Fraternity in San Francisco.
The press dispatch received from Denver on Thursday night, stating that Governor Waite of Colorado had signed the requisition issued by Governor Markham for the extradition of James Jordan, the diamond robber, and that I. J. Simmons was about to start that night with the prisoner for Sacramento, appears to have been a little premature.
It seems, according to later dispatches, that the Attorney-General refused to indorse the papers on the ground that Simmons was a private detective. Simmons appealed to Governor Waite, and represented that he was the ex-Chief of Police of Sacramento, and a State agent, but Governor Waite also refused, and Jordan was set at liberty by habeas corpus.
Yesterday a telegram was received by District Attorney Ryan and Sheriff O'Neil from Simmons to the same effect, adding that an additional reason given by Governor Wane for his action was that the charge against Jordan was based on statements made by Edwards, who is a convict.
District Attorney Ryan at once called at Governor Markham's office and laid the matter before Private Secretary Eby, the Governor being absent. Mr. Eby promptly telegraphed a request to Governor Waite to honor Governor Markham's requisition, Jordan being under indictment by the Grand Jury of this county. He also Informed the cranky Colorado Governor that it was not alone on Edwards' confession that Jordan wan indicted, corroborative evidence being given by Ned Foster of San Francisco, to whom some of the stolen Wachhorst diamonds were sold).
Referring to this case the San Francisco Chronicle says: "Jordan's arrest caused a sensation in the San Francisco sporting fraternity, as it was taken as a declaration of war between the two factions of gamblers, headed on one side by Edward Chase and "Soapy" Smith and on the other by Lew Blonger and Jordan. Chase is a millionaire policy king, and his presence in San Francisco at this time has, it is thought, a great deal to do with Jordan's troubles. "It is believed here that Chase trumped up the charges to get him out of Denver, as he has become quite a formidable figure in sportlng circles. Chase induced Ned Foster of San Francisco to charge Jordan with the diamond robbery in order to get revenge. The last time Jordan was in California he and Foster put up a job to win a big pile of money on a footrace. At the last moment Jordan went back on young Foster, bought up the runners and thereby won the money.
"This is believed to be the true reason that Foster is mixed up in the case, and the whole scheme was arranged to get Jordan out of the way.
"Jordan is well known on the Pacific Coast. In San Francisco he used to run a variety theater. In Tacoma he ran a big gambling-house and bunko dive until he was driven out of town by the police. He, with Smith and Chase, commenced years ago in Chicago, when the trio was mixed up in a Washington Park bunko game. Jordan got the money, over $3,000, and refused to divide up to suit his companions."
In short, our old friend Jordan is accused of robbery in Sacramento, and Gov. Waite refuses to extradite him. The episode is seen by San Francisco gamblers as a play by Chase to punish Jordan for past transgressions, and to cripple the Jordan-Blonger organization the existence of which is news to us.
And, by extension, we see Gov. Waite supposedly doing Lou a favor by releasing Jordan from custody at Chase and Smith's expense. Strange bedfellows indeed. Where does the relationship between the Blongers and Smith-Chase go from here?
On April 22, the new police board announce their intention to close down all gambling rooms, prostitution, opium dens and more in Denver's downtown. The new police chief, Hamilton Armstrong, closes the gambling rooms, and on May 8, Chase is arrested for still running his policy shops. The gambling houses leave for the suburbs, or go underground.
Battle of Bull Hill
Meanwhile, mine workers in Cripple Creek decided to strike for a shorter workday. Sam and Lou were probably affected, as the Forest Queen was situated in the general area of the strike Ironclad Hill is just north of Bull Hill, where the miners took refuge.
Soon the miners were being credited with violent acts. Gov. Waite again deployed the militia, again under Tarsney, to keep the peace between the strikers and the sheriff's department, who were determined on behalf of the mine owners association to get the men back to work.
When Tarsney seemed to favor the miners and ordered his troops to stand down, the local sheriff began to assemble a force of strike-breakers, deputizing hundreds of men from across the state, including many Denver men who had recently served as "special deputies" during the City Hall War.
A confrontation ensued involving all three groups, and a few were killed. Eventually Waite stepped in himself to negotiate on behalf of the miners, and the strike was settled. Gen. Tarsney represented the miners in court as their attorney. For this he would be tarred and feathered by a group of deputies in August of that year.
Enter Lou, who inexplicably accompanies Denver detectives as they move to bring one of the accused deputies back to Denver, where it is assumed he could expect better treatment and he got it. He eventually served a just a single day for his part in the affair.
Found a few new things of interest. Let's start with the fat ladies.
Fat Ladies! Roll Around
The Bisbee, Arizona Daily Review of May 23, 1907, had this curious article out of Denver.
Mrs. McIntyre was addressing a large gathering of women at the Presbyterian church that is, a gathering of large women encouraging them to lose those extra pounds by "rolling about on the floor."
"We will which?" demanded a stout lady a lady so stout, in fact, that a wee little fly, crawling about the floor at her feet, would be perfectly immune from her gaze that is, from where she sat.
The instructor continues:
"Don't you want to reduce that om-bong-pong?" queried Mrs. McIntyre, pointing to whatever that word means.
She goes on to insist the ladies comply, and that no family can afford not to make a habit of the exercise. And though some take their leave, many of those assembled do, in fact, begin rolling around on the floor. This fact is confirmed by the "timid gentlemen who infest the University Club across the way," who report the church was indeed, quaking under the weight.
Extolling the benefits of said activity, the Review concludes by stating, curiously:
Another point: the rollee, or roller, can get much nicer results by belonging to the church. Mr. Lou Blonger may claim that this is not entirely necessary to rolling, but it seems that in Mrs. McIntyres class, if one belongs to the church, one gets the instruction about rolling at a discount from the price required of those who do not belong.
S. Blonger for County Something
The October 6, 1886 edition of Bill Barlow's Budget informs us that S. Blonger, a "good and representative citizen," has been nominated to office in the Douglas County, Wyoming Democratic primary.
It could be Simon or Sam. My guess is Sam. He and Lou apparently split up after Albuquerque in 1882, not to partner again until their return to Denver in 1888 or so we assume. Lou certainly spent time in southern New Mexico, and Sam certainly traveled the country racing horses, but they easily could have spent a great deal of time together during that time. Regardless, this is our first forray into Wyoming, and my money says Sam went there for a time.
The Blonger Stable
Speaking of the ponies, the Ogden City, Utah Daily Standard of April 19, 1894 adds a pony to the stable, Oberon, and corrects a misunderstanding: contary to our former deduction, John H. Snowball was a horse. The stable so far:
- Comanche Boy
- John H. Snowball
- King Lyon
- Silver Stocking
- Sorrel Dan
The Famous Sam Blonger
And finally for today the Wyoming Pine Bluffs of February 20 of 1914 lists Sam's obit, calling him "one of the best-known sporting men in the west."
Red Dead Redemption
For fans of the video game, there is a new gang in town, looking for members...
(Not affiliated, by the way. Just popped up on Google.)
Old Joe Blonger
According to the Armstrong account, Joe met an ignominious end:
He met his death, an old man in his 90's, when a young Mexican bad-man stabbed him with a Bowie-knife in Seattle, Washington, and robbed him of 18,000 dollars in big bills that he had sewed inside the lining of his vest. The woman that Joe hired to sew the bills there told the Mexican about them.
Where this story might have originated is impossible to say Joe was certainly not the source but it didn't take long to debunk. His death certificate indicates that he died from a coronary thrombosis on July 8, 1933, after some four days under the care of Dr. Al Jordan. The portion of the death certificate reserved for "death due to external causes (violence)" is blank. The Armstrong story was obviously just that a story.
But now, as has happened so often before, the kernel of truth appears in this front page story.
Seattle Sunday Times, August 17, 1930
JOE BLONGER, ILL, IS ASKING FOR HIS NIECES
Aged Civil War Veteran Knows He Will Get Well If Girls Will Visit Him.
It would gladden the heart of old Joe Blonger if he could see his two nieces once more.
He is not feeling well these days, the 82-year-old Civil War veteran admitted to nurses at the County Hospital, but if he only knew where to find his nieces so he could ask them to visit him, he knows he could get well again. Although his memory is a bit hazy and he can't quite remember his nieces' names, he knows they are somewhere near.
Blonger was brought to the hospital August 3, suffering head wounds and body bruises. His injuries were "payment" for being a good fellow.
A few days before he met a youth on the street near his hotel room at 222 Columbia St., and stopped to chat. The young man was hungry, he complained, and had no place to live. With a twinkle in his eye and with a remark that better times are coming, Blonger offered to share his room and food with the young stranger. He draws a small pension from the government and had a little sum put aside, the veteran explained.
Next day police were called to Blonger's hotel room. They were told that the youth had beaten his benefactor unconscious and escaped with the $80 savings Blonger had mentioned.
Now Old Joe has decided the best place for him to go is to a veteran's home. But he's getting anxious and wants to see his nieces.
He wasn't stabbed, he would live another three years, and apparently the money involved was $80, not $18,000. Still...
As for his eventual death, Joe's pension file details a slow and agonizing slide toward incapacity and death. Joe first entered a veterans' home in 1908, at Los Angeles, when he was just sixty years old. He bounced around for many years, landing in the Colorado Soldiers and Sailors Home in Monte Vista, then apparently living with his brother Lou in Denver for a while (or at least receiving his mail there), then later at the veterans' home in Leavenworth, Kansas. His pension file shows he was admitted to the Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs, South Dakota, in 1917, and there he stayed for over a decade.
At some point prior to 1930 he moved to Seattle, home of his niece, Emma Sandhofer. As Joe's condition continued to decline, she shipped him out to a woman named Inga Dunn, who took care of him in return for his monthly pension check. When Mrs. Dunn found herself in the hospital one day, her friend, V. M. Walbridge, took over Joe's care (and check). Upon her recovery Mrs. Dunn showed up at the Walbridge house with a wheelchair and "two lusty men" who intended to move Joe back, by force if necessary, but Joe insisted he was happy with the Walbridges, and there he stayed. The Veterans Department had to intercede to retrieve Joe's pension certificate from Mrs. Dunn.
Joe's final year or two found him bedridden, incontinent, waiting to die. In July, 1933, he developed gangrene in his foot and was moved to Harborview Hospital, where he finally succumbed three days later. He was cremated and thus has no headstone.
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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.