Ace of Spades
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The Mark Inside

The Tarsney Outrage.

Lou is involved in the investigation of an assualt
on militia commander Tarsney.


As the proprietors of gambling establishments and patrons to some local bunko men, dependent as their affairs were on influence downtown, we are confident that Sam and Lou played some role in the standoff at Denver City Hall. But there is no evidence — beyond the closing of "Blonger's place" after the governor got his way in 1894 and replaced the police board (a minor inconvenience).

Then again, as the mine owners in the Cripple Creek mining district (the Forest Queen and Newport, at least), we are also confident they assisted in recruiting deputies in Denver for the sheriff of El Paso County, and to have participated in, or at least expressed their opinion during, the negotiations to end the occupation of the mines on Bull Hill. We would fully expect their involvement, but still, no smoking gun.

That said, our research into these events is still worth the effort simply as context. Sam and Lou had to react in some fashion to protect their known interests. To refrain from participating in such important events would belie the influence they would later wield in Colorado. 1894 was undoubtedly a busy year for the Blongers, and seminal perhaps, a time for choosing sides, doing favors, and calling favors in. We suspect the events of 1894 were probably instrumental in the formation of certain relationships that would bear fruit later. Soapy Smith would soon be gone, after all, with the Blongers stepping in and taking Denver's bunco operations to new levels. Besides — how would we know there were no references unless we looked? The Denver Post, or other newspapers, may yet yield surprises.

But none of this fully explains our interest in the subject, which was initially inspired by the following two sentences:

Colorado Springs Weekly Gazette, August 16, 1894

Yesterday Peter Eales and Detectives Duffield, Harris and Lew Blonger came down and as usual landed in Oldtown. The usual batch of warrants that usually follows Eales's advent to this county have failed to materialize, up to date.

It was in trying to understand this unusual reference that we first met our old friend, Adjutant General Thomas J. Tarsney of the Colorado State Militia.

As implied above, this was not Eales' first trip to Colorado Springs. He had in fact been in town only a few days before, with Duffield, after the capture of a former "special deputy," one of the force recruited to help the sheriff break the Cripple Creek strike. Under the care of Eales, "Deputy" Joe Wilson had admitted complicity in the so-called Tarsney Outrage, and implicated the El Paso County sheriff's department in the crime as well.

Now, returning to the Springs, Eales was accompanied by detectives Duffield and Harris, and mine owner "Lew" Blonger too. Or was that detectives Duffield, Harris and Blonger? The wording is unclear. Why mention Lou by his full name? Because he was known as a mine owner? Or was he acting as a private detective, despite his financial interest in the strike at Cripple Creek?

On the one hand, the wording does seem to imply Lou was a detective like Eales — an interpretation that would explain a lot. Lou had been a deputy and a private detective in New Mexico in 1882, at least. Sam may have been a detective or lawman in Colorado as well, where his eye was supposedly lost in a gun battle. But being a Denver city detective while also owning a gambling joint and policy shops? Not likely. Or was it? There was also a joint called Arnett's. Might this have belonged to city detective Willaim Arnett? Why would no one have mentioned Lou had been a city employee in the press in 1923 at time of trial, or in his obits?

Perhaps the Gazette reporter in 1894 misunderstood Lou's presence with Eales — or was unsure, and therefore worded the sentence ambiguously. Or perhaps the fact that he had done "official work" in years past entitled Lou to refer to himself with that title if the occasion called for it. Perhaps he was "detecting" privately, acting on behalf of the mine owners association.

Or perhaps he names Lou simply on the assumption that you know who he is, a reasonable assumption in Denver, Colorado Springs or Cripple Creek. Perhaps he accompanied Eales as an interested party, anxious to check in on the Forest Queen. Perhaps he knew Wilson. Perhaps he even recruited him. Eales had earlier been reprimanded for attempting to take the accused back to his jurisdiction on the sly — to get Wilson back to home turf in Denver, perhaps. Lou may have had a similar interest in the justice mêted out to Wilson. Wilson, back in Denver, did eventually receive a sentence of just one day, for whatever that tells you.

But what did Mr. Wilson do? What was the Tarsney Outrage?

First, we need to fit Tarsney's pieces together, and just what he was up against following the City Hall War and Battle of Bull Hill. Then we'll get to the tar and feathers.

When Governor Waite decided to send the militia into Denver, he needed a commander he could trust. Waite had well-founded fears that some officers might balk at laying siege to their own state's capital city and its duly elected municipal government.

What's more, Waite undertook the enterprise knowing it was illegal, in fact because it was illegal. He was aware that while he could appoint the police board, he did not have the power to install the new members. That power was left to the courts, and the Supreme Court of Colorado had no interest in deciding a hypothetical. So by sending in the militia — and subjecting himself to arrest — Waite hoped to get the Supreme Court to decide the issue, and in his favor. He was ultimately successful.

But who could be trusted to manage the gambit? Enter General Thomas J. Tarsney, who also happened to be a member of the Populist party, and believed as did Waite that it was time to clear the gang out of city hall.

Once in Denver, Tarsney found himself squaring off against Denver's toughest citizens — police, politicians, fireman, and a small army of police and sheriff's deputies recruited for the occasion among the local gamblers, con men, and other toughs that had an interest in the status quo. Soapy Smith reportedly joined the fray and brought his associates with him.

Everyone was heavily armed, and ready for a fight. The city hall contingent had even brought in dynamite. Thousands of citizens were in the streets, at substantial risk, to witness the confrontation.

Calling Waite's bluff, the city hall gang and their heavily armed cohort presented a formidable challenge to Tarsney, and the militia withdrew to await reinforcements from other units, and the regular army. In the meantime, the Supreme Court settled the matter, and Waite got his way. The new board would assume their posts, the old guard cops and fireman would be out on their ears, the gambling houses would close (for a while), and arrested criminals would stay arrested (not really).

General Tarsney had made no friends in Denver, not among the cops, the politicians, or gamblers.

No sooner than the conflict in Denver had been settled, Waite again had need of the militia. Sheriff Bowers in El Paso County was frantically requesting state troops be sent to Altman, on Bull Hill, where miners had gone on strike for $3 a day and eight hours work instead of nine. Seven hundred strong, the strikers had barricaded themselves atop the hill and refused to allow the mines in their control to open. Sheriff's deputies were arresting union officials and Altman politicians, and strikers were arresting deputies. The mood was tense. Then someone claimed Bowers had been killed.

When the militia arrived, all seemed quiet. Bowers was fine. Union officials assured General Tarsney and General Brooks that they had done no mischief, would behave themselves, and would submit to any justified arrests. The generals were satisfied, and told Waite that the sheriff had misrepresented the situation. The militia was needed here only to help serve arrest warrants, not contain violence. Waite recalled the troops.

Strike two for Tarsney. The mine owners, in whose interest Sheriff Bowers was working, were angered that the militia would not assist in getting the mines back up and running. They went to Waite to voice their displeasure, but Waite was adamant. He would, however, furnish the sheriff with guns and ammunition.

Determined to reopen the mines with scabs, if neccessary, on a nine-hour day, the mine owners began to assemble an army of their own, deputies to guard the mines and non-union workers. Sheriff Bowers would recruit many in Colorado Springs, but a contingent of over a hundred was raised in Denver, made up of ex-cops and firemen, forced out by the new board, and other toughs anxious to bust heads at $3 a day. Many of these same men had faced Tarsney at city hall.

In the meantime, there had been a few incidents, including assaults on non-union men, and the utter destruction of the Strong mine by masked men — presumably unionists, but possibly deputies, stirring the pot. Strikers took a group of scabs captive at the Independence. By the time the Denver deputies arrived in their special train, ready for a fight, things seemed in the process of going very sour. Jumping off the train outside of town, they approached the strikers and engaged them in a brief firefight. There were two deaths, one on each side.

Negotiations that followed stalled on the issue of the hiring of non-union miners, and the two sides prepared for further hostilities. Reinforcements were dispatched to both sides, which would both soon number more than a thousand men.

Waite then took up the negotiations himself, and ultimately agreed to a settlement on behalf of the miners, granting the mine owners the right to hire non-union men.

Suspecting, reasonably, that the miners would be displeased with Waite's concession, he dispatched Tarsney and his men once again to Cripple Creek, both to ensure the cooperation of the strikers, and protect them from the deputies' wrath.

Fearing restraints that might be imposed on his men with the arrival of the militia, Sheriff Bowers made his move, dispatching the deputies to "make arrests," moving a thousand strong on Bull Hill as the militia rushed to the scene.

Details are sketchy, but there were casualties when the deputies and the miners' pickets finally came face to face. The militia was still making its way to Altman, but General Brooks sent word that the deputies should retreat until the militia's arrival. By now the militia was still an hour away, but in plain sight across the valley to the deputies, strikers and hundreds of onlookers.

Let's see this one again:

Miners Ready to Fight—Deputies incensed at General Tarsney.
CRIPPLE CREEK, June 8.—At 10 o'clock a. m. the miners have sounded the call to assemble on Bull Hill to fight. General Tarsney has requested General Brooks to start for Altman with the troops and the bugle call is now sounding. The deputies are incensed at Tarsney, he being the miners' attorney and is doing all he can for them. He has been served with a request to return to Denver. The general disposition of the militia is to join the deputies against the miners and end the strike in short order.

Strike Three, undoubtedly. What could have possessed Waite to send the militia into such a situation commanded by the attorney for one of the armed factions involved? How could Sheriff Bowers, the deputies or mine owners trust the militia when its commander was in league with the opposition? Our original impression that Tarsney was inept may perhaps be true, but "hapless" is seeming more appropriate all the time.

Finally, a leaderless horde of deputies marched past the newly-arrived militia toward the fortifications on Bull Hill, spoiling for a fight. When General Brooks realized what was happening, he ordered his men to give chase. Riding ahead, he ordered the deputies to stop, which finally they did, protesting angrily. But by this time, things were even worse for Tarsney.

He failed to order his men to stop the deputies, angering the strikers. But the activists who had instigated the strike had fled, and the backbone of the action was broken. Strikers laid down their arms and left Bull Hill.

Then the militia assisted the sheriff and his men in making arrests, which the Governor had expressly forbid, further angering the miners. Perhaps Brooks had reasserted himself at this point, but Tarsney was the ally who failed them.

This alone was enough to convince some, and allow others to later suggest, disingenously, that it was the miners who were responsible for an assault on Gen. Tarsney.

But the deputies, the sheriff, and the mine owners, meanwhile, were deprived of their chance to kick some ass by the militia's arrival, and Tarsney would pay for that as well. Strike four.

So, finally, it should come as no surprise that just a few weeks later, while back in Colorado Springs attending to the legal affairs of the arrested strikers, Thomas J. Tarsney should find himself the target of a malicious act of a most unpleasant nature.

Castle Rock Journal, June 27, 1894

Adjutant General Tarsney Tarred and Feathered at Colorado Springs.
Adjutant General Tarsney was kidnaped from the Alamo Hotel a few minutes after midnight Saturday morning, by masked men, taken to the suburbs in a hack, and there tarred and feathered.
General Tarsney has been in the city for several days past attending the examination of the arrested Bull Hill miners. Tarsney, together with Colonel B. F. Montgomery of Cripple Creek, appeared as attorneys for the miners.
At midnight the general, having just gone to his room, was called to answer a summons to the telephone purporting to come from Cripple Creek. While at the telephone two masked men entered and one of them ordered Tarsney to go with them. He objected, and they hit him over the head with a revolver. The clerk was guarded by another man while Tarsney was forced out of doors and put into a hack. The drivers of the two hacks when they saw the struggle in the hotel started to drive away but were forced to remain by armed men. The party went to the foot of Austin Bluffs, nearly three miles from town. The hotel clerk gave notice to the police and a party soon started in pursuit.
Three of the officers arrived before the miscreants had finished their rascally act, but the seven masked men were too much for them and they could not prevent them from escaping.
After the ordeal General Tarsney was left lying on the prairie. He was found to be not badly hurt, but was suffering from bruises caused by his rough handling and was in great mental anguish.
The kidnapping caused the greatest sensation and excitement at Colorado Springs as soon as the facts became public, and also at Cripple Creek, to which place the telephone immediately carried the news.
Governor Waite was notified of the outrage by a reporter of the Denver Republican and expressed strong indignation. He said he would offer a reward of $1,000 out of his own pocket for the arrest of the men who did it.

Another article a few days later lifts the above description in its entirety, but refutes the italicized above with a more detailed description of the incident, beginning with the party's arrival at Austin Bluffs:

Littleton Independent, June 29, 1894

Here the party found a large number of men waiting for them. General Tarsney was stripped of all his clothing and a coat of hot tar and feathers applied to his body, even his face and neck not escaping. During all this time he had been abused and cursed in unmeasured terms. After helping the general to dress, the men ordered him to go north and never show himself in El Paso county again. The men then disappeared. His condition was pitiable in the extreme. As a result of the severe handling to which he had been subjected and the drying of the tar, he could make but slow progress. Toward daylight, however, he reached the house of Andrew T. Malloy, a ranchman, who had been a deputy at Cripple Creek. Mr. Malloy, after giving General Tarsney his breakfast, hitched up and drove him to Palmer Lake. Here the station men cleaned the tar from his face. He was taken to Denver on a special train in the afternoon.
The greatest apprehension had been felt by his family and friends, as they feared that he had been killed. Indignation was expressed by all classes of people. The Republican Redemption League offered a reward for the apprehension of the criminals. Commissioner Boynton of El Paso offered to do all in his power to arrest them, and messages of sympathy were received from all sides. General Tarsney, on his return home, was well cared for and on Sunday it appeared that the results would not prove serious. He said that he had no idea as to who the men were that had so abused him.

So, it seems, no party of police found Tarsney and came to his defense. Were they even looking? Instead, Tarsney, caked in tar and feathers, stumbled across the plains to the home of one of the deputies, who gave him assistance.

Castle Rock Journal, June 27, 1894

Keep the Chinese out of this country? Yes, by all means, and while we are at it don't forget to keep that more dangerous class, the Italians, out also.

Gov. Waite speaks of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Sons of Veterans as "SO CALLED patriotic societies." This insult will be remembered later on.

The outrage to General Tarsney at Colorado Springs is a dastardly deed and cannot be too strongly condemned. Every lover of law and order will join in condemning it and earnestly demanding that every possible effort be made to bring the perpetrators to justice. But while this is true it must be confessed that the cruel and cowardly act is the legitimate fruit of the anarchistic seed that has freely been sown for the past year.

Not knowing who perpetrated the crime, folks were still free to blame who they chose, and advance their agenda thereby. And so they did.

The battle lines seem largely to have been drawn between the Republican party and their organs, allied with the denizens of Colorado Springs, where the mine owners association held sway, versus everybody else. It's worth noting that the Springs was now overwhelmed by unemployed "special deputies" brought in to challenge the strikers, thugs and miscreants imported from all over the state.

Following are a handful of articles illustrating reaction across the state.

Aspen Weekly Times, June 30,1894

Was In a Pitiable Plight.
PALMER LAKE, June 23—A special train was sent here to bring General Tarsney to Denver. He was in a pitiable plight when he came here. Friends tried to remove the tar and feathers from his neck. General Tarsney is uncommunicative but shows by his appearance that he passed through a hard ordeal. Indignation is very warm throughout the state. The supposition is that General Tarsney was injured by the deputies who had been abused by the miners and who revenged themselves on General Tarsney because he was the attorney of the Cripple Creek strikers.

Aspen Weekly Times, June 30, 1894

Letter From Durango.
DURANGO, June 27, 1894.—Editor TIMES—In company with A. B. Whitehead, formerly of your city, I attended an indignation meeting of the citizens of Durango, held in that city on the 25th instant, for the purpose of protesting against the outrage upon General Tarsney. The meeting was held under the auspices of the Knights of Labor and was well attended.
The republican press of this city, in common with the press of that party throughout the state, is endeavoring to destroy the political effect of the dastardly outrage, but public spirit is aroused and the venal scribes of that moribund party will not be successful in saving the perpetrators from the scorn and indignation evoked by their crime.
J. W. Dwyer.

Aspen Weekly Times, June 30, 1894

The people of Colorado Springs should make haste to deplore the outrage and crime perpetrated against General Tarsney. It they do not they may wake up some morning to learn that over ten thousand men from the mountains are there to demand reparation or set the goldbug gang hoofing it over the plains with not a vestige of the one-lunged city left to tell the tale. Aspen can easily furnish a thousand men to protect any attorney the Cripple Creek miners may employ in their defense.
The republican newspapers at Colorado Springs say that General Tarsney was not tarred and feathered nor offered any other indignities; that the whole matter was a plot put up by Governor Waite and the general's friends for political effect. Now, as all the facts in the case prove this claim to be a lie, those newspapers must admit that the "political effect" of the outrage will cost the republican fathers of the crime thousands of votes in the state this fall.

That tar and feather party given at Colorado Springs last night would have been anarchistic had it been committed by populists or laboring men. But since it occurred in the highly cultured precincts of "little England" it must be all right as a matter of course. But decency and law can not always be thus violated with impunity even in that thieving bailiwick.—Pueblo Herald.

Aspen Weekly Times, June 30, 1894

A great deal has been said in the past few days about the good name of Colorado Springs being smirched. As long as Colorado Springs will support such an anarchistic paper as The Daily Mining World, published there, it is not entitled to any good name. This publication pretends to be the official organ of the mine owners and undoubtefly does echo the sentiments of the majority of the citizens of that city. A few quotes from this mouthpiece of the Colorado Springs people maybe of interest to The TIMES readers. These extracts are taken from The World, published the morning after the outrage, when all decent people were horrified at the blackness of the crime. It speaks for the brokers as follows:
"Business on the street today was practically suspended. Everything had 'tar' in it and 'feathers' were floating everywhere. If the extreme goody goody people had circulated among the brokers this morning they would have been shocked to death with the numerous 'served him rights.' There was not one man who volunteered anything else. The sentiment was so universal that it became really prosy."
Locally, The World apologizes for the mild censure which it administered to the deputies in an editorial written at an early hour in the morning. However, the editorial concludes in these words:
"The World does not advise tar and feathering, or any other extreme measure, only under great provocation. The general concensus of opinion is that there was sufficient justification."
While upholding the outrage against General Tarsney this paper advises further violence in the following editorial paragraph:
"A vigilance committee composed of the good citizens of Colorado Springs would mean prosperous times in El Paso county within thirty days."
"Organize a vigilance committee."
This representative of a town with a "fair" name thus treats of the damnable crime locally. No other evidence is neccessary to prove that Colorado Springs is filled with a murderous and villainous gang of cut-throats:
"Shortly after midnight this morning it is said a number of trusted friends of Governor Waite and General Tarsney called at the Alamo hotel by preconceived arrangement and asked for General Tarsney, who is in the city attending the trial of the Cripple Creek Creek miners for whom warrants were issued for misdemeanors in camp.
"General Tarsney promptly came down stairs to 'answer a telephone message' from 'General' Brooks who is now in camp. By the arrangement, it appears, General Tarsney was 'seized by maked men' and hurried to a carriage. During the process of 'kidnapping' General Tarsney screamed like a Commanche and squealed like a stuck pig in a manner that showed he had rehearsed his part in Dictator Waite's apartments before he came to this city, in order to make a poltical 'move' that would turn the tide of feeling in El Paso county for instead of universally against Waite."
"However, to be brief, the friends of Tarsney 'put' him in a carriage and 'ordered' Sherman Crumley and his driver on the second hack to drive to Austin's Bluffs, in the northeast end of the city. At this point The Gazette had Tarsney tarred and feathered, but all that was done to Tarsney was to give him many expressions of congratulation on the 'heroic' manner in which he played his part, and left him a guide to pilot him to the nearest railroad station to take an early morning train to Palmer Lake, where he spent the day waiting to see the effect the 'political move' would have in this city."
The same issue of this representative of Colorado Springs people says:
"The whole political scheme is a great outrage on the good people of Colorado Springs. It is another trick more contemptible, more henious and more cursed than any that Waite has thus far conceived of, and that is only putting it mildly.
The above is given to disabuse the mind of any person who may think the "good" people of Colorado Springs have been misrepresented in this outrage. The crime is not only backed by the leading republican journals of Colorado Springs, but by republcan newspapers elsewhere in the state. Don't talk any more about the fair name of this lawless community.

Here we must plead the Blonger's guilt by (mine owners) association. The sentiments in the Springs would surely be a reflection of the Blonger's attitude. To assume otherwise is to suggest Sam and Lou were somehow above the fray, or shocked by its crudity, or disinterested. Not likely.

The Rocky Mountain News, August 7, 1894 informs us that detectives Eales and Duffield were assigned by Chief of Police Armstrong of Denver to extract a confession from deputy Joe Wilson. In the same issue, we are told that Tarsney had since returned to Colorado Springs, where he was to face charges of contempt of court. He was guarded on his journey by the highest officers of the National Guard, the attorney general, and six Denver city detectives: Eales, Duffield, Connors, Peterson, Cross and Parker.

Newark Daily Advocate, Aug 8, 1894

A Tarsney Conspirator Makes a Confession.
The Conspiracy to Tar and Feather the Colorado Adjutant General Was [?] in the County Sheriff's
Deputy Sheriff's Wife Furnished the Feathers.
Sanctioned by the Sheriff.
DENVER, Aug. 8.—Wilson, the El Paso county deputy sheriff, who was captured by Adjutant General Tarsney in Missouri, has made a full confession and given to Chief of Police Armstrong the names of all the men connected with the outrage committed in Colorado Springs a few weeks ago. According to story the men engaged in the disgraceful enterprise were Sheriff Bowers, his deputy sheriff, Bob Mullins, Captain Saxton of Troop A., Sergeant William Bancroft of Troop A, Deputy Sheriff J. R. Wilson. Deputy Quackenboss, Sherman Crumley, "Shorty" Allen, Smith Suelleneger[?] and perhaps one or two others, including a woman. The police now have three confessions: those of Wilson, Parker and a prisoner in the El Paso mmity[?] who is being held as a witness to a murder committed in Cripple Creek. These men will all be brought before the grand jury now sitting in Colorado Springs.
On the day that Tarsney appeared at Colorado Springs for the purpose of assuming the defense of the Bull Hill strikers [...] T. Allen and Smith were the other men in the hotel office. Saxton, Bob Mulhns and the others waited outside. Wilson described the ride out to the open prairie, and said that most horrible threats were made against Tarsney. He was told that he was being driven to a place of execution, where he would be tortured to death. Capfola[?] gleefully told him they would first quarter him and then chop off his head. Tarsney asked for his life, as any man would do under the circumstances. On arriving at the place of torture Tarsney was dragged from the hack by Allen, Bancroft and Wilson and was told to strip. When he was informed that his life would be spared he shook hands with his persecutors and thanked them.

Aspen Weekly Times, August 11, 1894

JOSEPH R. WILSON, the man arrested in Missouri for being implicated in the tarring and feathering of General Tarsney, has made full confession. It is said that one or two others have also confessed to a participation in the outrage. As the confessions criminate officials and prominent men in Colorado Springs it is now conceded that the affair was concocted by General Tarsney's political enemies. It illustrates the methods of the republican redemption League, the moving spirits of which are such men as Soapy Smith, Burchinell and the rest of the gang at Denver and Colorado Springs.

Now that hits a little closer to home.



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