Ace of Spades
       Belonger Genealogy * True History * The Blonger Gang * Sam's Posse       

Alias Soapy Smith

Hell On Wheels:
The Blonger Tour.


Sam & Lou left Wisconsin in 1867 to seek their fortune in the West.
Here's our understanding of the route that finally led them to Denver.

Blonger Tour

Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Utah, Nevada, Utah, Kansas, Colorado, Texas?, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado...

Shullsburg, WI, 1866  

All born in Vermont, the Belonger children grew up in Shullsburg, Wisconsin, a few miles from Galena, Illinois, where father Simon Peter, a Frenchman, built rock walls — a surprisingly practical job in a place where communities are often situated in deep river channels with soft, steep dirt slopes prone to collapse. The Shullsburg area of southern Wisconsin is mining country — zinc, lead, and galena, of course.

In 1859 Irish mother Judith died while giving birth to her thirteenth child. Shortly thereafter, the family separates, and the children scatter to a variety of places in Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois.

In Dec of 1866, Sam married Ella Livingston in Illinois. By this time, Sam had already had unknown adventures as a young teamster and scout in Colorado, then California and Nevada.

We are told he was a soldier in the war, though this seems unlikely, but we do know that in 1865 he obtained a tract of land in California from Lyman Woods, a Mormon patriarch.

By this time young Lou is a veteran too, though he saw no action. He returned home with circulation problems in his leg that plague him the rest of his life.

Joe was shot in the chest at the siege of Atlanta, and Michael developed a heart condition after the hardships of the battle of Winchester, the second battle of Bull Run, Cedar Mountain, and finally the cornfield at Antietam.

Chicago, IL, 1867   Lou went to Chicago (Sam too?) before heading West, where he worked as a teamster, and/or attends "Bryants Station Business College" for an apparently short education at Sam's expense. Some say Lou became a friend of William Pinkerton at this time.

Mt. Carroll, IL, 1868  

They were probably living here with the Livingstons, and planning their big move West. Now twenty, Lou attended the local school.

Ella's father William, her brother William — Lou's army buddy — and other family members as well would accompany the Blongers all the way to Denver. Though they managed to avoid the limelight, the Livingstons were never far from the Blongers for many years.

Red Oak, IA, 1869-70  

Census data tells us they were working in a hotel and billiard hall in this frontier town, not far from Council Bluffs. Sam later claimed to have run a hotel in Red Oak for four years (68-71?).

Salt Lake City, UT, 1871-1872  

Here they ran a variety of businesses: a beer saloon, and gambling house, canned oysters — and if Lou's obit is to be believed, they built (or were somehow involved with) the first steamboat to ply the great salt lake.

Blonger & Bro. filed suit against Mace Campbell for $29.75 in unpaid bills for liquor and cigars.

Joe will soon disappear for years, popping up again in Cerrillos, New Mexico in 1879. How long has he been with his brothers? Will he then go on to Deadwood as he later claimed?

Dry Canyon, UT, 1873   Not far from Salt Lake City, the boys probably had business in this mining town. Sam Blonger's son Frank is born in Salt Lake City.

Stockton, UT, 1874   Another mining town.

Virginia City, NV, 1875   Lou's affadavit says they moved here in the fall of 1875.

Cornucopia, NV, 1875-76   Census records place the boys here in 1875. Newspaper articles tell us they had a saloon called The Palace in this short-lived town in 1876. Like so many mining towns, Cornucopia only lived a few years.

Tuscarora, NV, 1877   A newspaper advertisement has them running another Palace Saloon.

Silver Reef, UT, 1878   Lou's affadavit says they lived in this mining town.

Salt Lake City, UT, 1878   Lou says they returned to Salt Lake, but not for long — the only return trip to any city he mentions besides Denver.

Dodge City, KS, 1878   A biography of Bat Masterson briefly mentions the boy's presence in the summer of '78 as many of the great gamblers convened for a season of sport. Lou does not list Dodge City as a former residence, though obituaries also place them here at an unspecified time. It would be an obvious destination for professonal gamblers such as the Blongers.

Leadville, CO, 1879-81   Sam runs for mayor, and Lou has a theater in nearby Georgetown. The census tells us they were still there in 1880, though Sam's family lived in Denver.

Denver, CO, 1880   The city directory lists Lou as a resident. Perhaps they had residences in Leadville and Denver. Other sources generally date Lou's arrival in Denver at 1880, and a 1912 article states Lou was first detained by the Denver cops sometime in 1881.

D & RG Railroad, 1881  

Obituaries briefly mention unspecified work on the Denver & Rio Grande railroad, which was expanding quickly throughout the Colorado at the time. Lou, however, makes no mention of the railroad in his pension affadavit.

More likely, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe was expanding in New Mexico and Arizona in the early Eighties, when the boys were in Albuquerque. This would be a likely place from which to oversee the business of contracting this type of work. Or maybe they were doing "official work" for the railroad.

Then again, perhaps they joined the infamous Royal Gorge war in 1879. They were in Leadville at the time. That's railroad work, right?

It might also lead to a job as marshal — but weren't they just in Denver being busted by the cops? Maybe they needed a change a scenery.

San Angelo, TX, 1881   In later years Lou told stories of his days as sheriff of San Angelo, but researchers at the University of Angelo State were unable to find any evidence of Lou's presence. In his 1887 affadavit, Lou makes no claim to have ever lived in Texas, and yet the Albuquerque paper that notes his arrival describes him as "visiting from Texas" in February of '82 (he stayed).

Albuquerque, NM, 1881-83  

Sam was appointed City Marshal of New Albuquerque in February of 1882, and dismissed five months later.

While Marshal, he appoints Lou deputy when called for. Later, Joe is brought to town by a deputy who happened to meet him in Cerrillos. There is on occasion gunplay and horse thieves and various Western-style felonious conduct — but no killings.

In April of '82, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday arrive in Albuquerque after their infamous Vendetta ride. Sam is in charge for a few days, then Lou takes over as marshal in Sam's absence.

During this period Lou is arrested for beating his drinking buddy — the first man to fly in New Mexico, bartender and balloonist "Professor" Park Van Tassel — nearly to death. Apparently he said something unseemly to the madame of the house, who happens to be Lou's woman. We'd like to find out she was the infamous Kitty Blonger. (See 1888)

Phoenix, AZ, 1883  

Newspaper ads indicate Blonger & Co. briefly ran Stroud's Theater, and perhaps Stroud's saloon as well, in 1883. It's unclear if this refers to Sam, Lou, or both.

Silver City,
Kingston, NM, 1883-87

Lou says he is in Kingston when he submits a military pension request in 1887, supposedly socializing with noted gamblers Frank Thurmond and his wife Lottie Deno.

San Bernardino, CA, 1884-88  

On the other hand, the voter rolls say Lou was running a saloon in San Bernardino in 1884, and he's coming from that town in 1888 when he goes to Kingman for Kitty's trial.

Colorado environs, 1884-87

For the first time in years, Sam and Lou are on separate paths. Sam may have still been in "official work" at this time, though he also runs ponies in Denver, spends time with Simon and Marvin in Leadville, and who knows what?

San Bernardino, CA 1888  

Newspaper listings of local hotel guests tell us Lou came to Arizona for the trial of Kitty Blonger in 1888. In one entry, his home town is listed as San Bernardino. Did he travel to California after writing his pension affadavit in New Mexico, but before showing up on the Denver scene? This is our only indication that Lou spent time in California — though Virgina City, where he spent some time in 1875, is just a stone's throw from Sacramento (but a fur piece from San Bernardino).

Kingman, AZ, 1888  

A mysterious "L. Blonger" arrives from California two days after Kitty shot Charles Hill in the head.

Denver, CO, 1888  

Lou has to arrive about this time. They have a saloon on Larimer, and after a few years he and Sam build a second saloon, the Elite, one of Denver's toniest nightspots.

Denver, CO, 1895  

Sucker's Progress states that by the time Soapy Smith returns to Denver in 1895, after two years laying low in Texas and the Southwest, Lou and Sam have taken control of the city's thriving underworld.




Genealogy - History - Gang - Posse - Evening Review
The Grafters Club - Blonger Bros. Fake Restaurant