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Fort Laramie



TERROR OF SKAGUAY.


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San Antonio Light / October 23, 1898

Was Known All Over Alaska as “Soapy” Smith.

He Ran the Town to Suit Himself and His Pals, but Nemesis Finally Overtook Him in the Shape of a Bullet.

An Alaska correspondent writes, under the date of July 15, that with the passing of “Soapy” Smith Skaguay’s reign of terror seems drawing to a close. “Soapy” is dead.

“Soapy” would have gone down the dark trail long ago had it not been for the fact that he was never seen alone, and to pull a gun on him meant death to the puller. “Tom” Reed, the city engineer, found that out, but “Soapy” went with him, and there is a heap of satisfaction in that.

He came here from Colorado, the cradle of bad men. He first gained fame by saving the life of “Bloody Bridles” Waite, then governor of Colorado. When Creede was experiencing a reign of lawlessness in 1891, Smith was United States marshal, and so vigorous was he in the pursuit of his calling that in a short time he had turned the camp into a fairly respectable community. On coming to Alaska, however, a change came over the spirit of his dreams.

Gathering some 30 of the most hardened and desperate men about him, he proceeded to take affairs into his own hands. He opened a saloon on the main street of Skaguay. It was called “Jeff Smith’s Parlors,” and here the gang had its headquarters.

The thing culminated the other day when a party of returning Klondikers struck town.

When “Soapy” and his gang heard that the Klondikers were in town they pricked up their ears. They sniffed gold dust in the air. Arriving in the evening the party made a few purchases and retired for the night. The next morning Stewart was on his way to the bank to make arrangements for having his dust shipped to his home in British Columbia. The gang of confidence sharps had camped on his trail, ready


Skagway town hall and Soapy's saloon circa 1900-1910.

to resort to any measure to fleece him. Four of them met him on the street. They were “Slim Jim,” one of “Soapy” Smith’s chief henchmen; “Reds” Bowers, “Bob” Tripp and “Jack” Wilder. They plied him with questions about prices and wages in Dawson, and finally “Slim Jim” requested Stewart to let him “heft” his little bag of dust.

Stewart thought it best to comply, as he was unarmed, and not realizing that his money could be stolen at ten o’clock in the morning on the public thoroughfare. But it was, just the same.

As soon as the particulars of the robbery became known, and before either the judge or the warrant had arrived, a number of the citizens who believe in law and order, but more particularly in order, held a meeting at which it was determined that something must be done at once.

Notices were posted all over town calling for a meeting of the citizens at Sylvester’s hall at nine o’clock that night. At the appointed hour, the place was filled to overflowing, and more were clamoring to get in.

“Soapy” stood up on a barrel, where everybody could see him, and raised his hand in an imperative gesture for silence. The law-abiding citizen who was speaking stopped.

“Who in hell is runnin’ this here town?” demanded “Soapy,” in thunderous tones.

Tom Reed, the city engineer, was standing in the crowd.

“Do you want to know real badly who is running this town?” he demanded.

“I reckon you heard what I said,” yelled “Soapy.”

“Well, then,” said Reed, and the stillness seemed to grow more intense, “let me tell you that the good citizens of Skaguay are, and not ‘Soapy’ Smith and his gang. Their reign is over!”

“Soapy” ripped out an oath and everybody scattered. They knew trouble was coming. “Soapy” was armed with a Winchester rifle, and Reed was standing directly beneath him. He unstrung his weapon, and with its butt struck the engineer full in the face, knocking him to the ground. Then he jumped down from the barrel and fired twice. One bullet went through Reed’s foot, and the other passed clean through his body.

Reed knew he was mortally wounded, but he pulled his revolver and took steady aim as “Soapy” was standing over him, ready to send another bullet into his prostrate body. There was a flash and a report, and the desperado sank back and fell to the ground with a bullet through his heart, stone dead.

It was a good shot, but poor Reed paid the penalty. He was buried day before yesterday.

 

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