Jefferson R. "Soapy" Smith (1860)close
Famous (or infamous) outlaw and con-man who left Colorado on unfriendly terms with the law and showed up in Skagway, Alaska at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897. He was quick to organize his own gang of brutes to fleece the miners for as much as he could in this lawless gold-rush town. Along with many other money-making schemes, "Soapy" convinced the adventurous miners that he was telegraphing their messages to families back home in California or Seattle from his Dominion Telegraph Service. He then shared "replies" from home requesting money. The money he promised to wire home went straight into his own pocket, as no one realized that the "wires" for his telegraph went a few feet out into the water and stopped. On July 8, 1898, a group of 101 angry men finally came after Soapy, furious that his gang had taken over $2000 from one miner. The town surveyor, Frank Reid, faced a drunken Soapy in a gun-duel at the docks, and Soapy was killed instantly. Reid died a few days later. No one celebrates Reid much anymore, but there is an annual remembrance of Soapy every year on July 8 in Skagway. To many he is as famous as Butch Cassidy or Billy the Kid.
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|Jefferson R. "Soapy" Smith|
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