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

The Mark Inside

The Road to Albuquerque.


Early on, our attention turned to New Mexico, where it was said Sam had served as sheriff of the bustling young town of New Albuquerque.



In 1963, Mary Virginia Armstrong wrote:

Sam and Louis, well known all over the West in the seventies, eighties and nineties as the Belonger Brothers... Later Sam became a peace officer while Louis remained in business.

Sam became an A-1 Western sheriff. He served a long time in the 1870's and 1880's. Later, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he was hired as a peace officer at 750 dollars a month to clean up a bad gang of outlaws.

Sam, a huge man over 6'3" and a dead shot with both .45 and rifle cleaned up the outlaw gang without getting shot. But later, back in Denver, while arresting a bad-man-outlaw, there was gun-play and a .45 bullet, glancing from a stove, struck Sam in the left eye. As a result he lost the eye; then he quit sheriffing and went into mining again, where, in the early 1900's he and Louis operated the Forest Queen mine up in the mountains west of Denver.

Here's my current hypothesis:

1881 - There is opportunity in Albuquerque. Maybe Sam & Lou contract to grade land for Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. Maybe Joe follows them there, maybe he's there first.

The business does not take a lot of their time — Sam can run for sheriff. He hires Joe as deputy, one of many, and he's called in as needed.

Deputy Marshal J.T. Blonger captured a Colt's 45 early this morning from a man who was making preparations to "run amuck."

By the mid-eighties, Lou wants to try a saloon in Silver City, maybe the Livingstons do too. Sam is having too much fun playing the lawman/gambler and heads up Colorado way, where he continues to do some type of law enforcement, but also travels a lot around Colorado, gambling, partying, seeing his brothers, doing business. Maybe he's riding horseback a lot and Lou can't deal with it. Finally Sam gets shot in the eye.

Lou only follows when he's done in New Mexico and ready to settle in doing business in the growing Leadville/Denver area. Sam is getting old too, and half-blind. Not good for a lawman.

Years later, Lou keeps up with his brothers by saying he was a sheriff, too, way over in a little town in central Texas...

Thing is, Buffalo Bill, Hickok, Earp, Holliday, Masterson all led roughly equivalent lives. Railroad grading contracts, official work. They dealt faro, played lots of poker, bought interests in gambling houses and saloons, drilled in the rock now and then looking for gold, made fortunes, lost fortunes, traveled constantly, and all were known, on occasion, to take advantage of a wager. Let the gambler beware. From all I can tell, Sam was in no way substantially different from any of these guys, even to the extent of apparently having a few notches in his gun. They were all Knights of the Green Cloth, Sam and Lou too.

On the subject of these four legendary gentlemen:

Lou does not mention living in Dodge City prior to 1882. Bat Masterson's biographer, on the other hand, places Sam & Lou there in the heady summer of 1878.

Now, it's not hard to imagine them riding the rails for a day to spend a few weeks in Dodge having a good time. It is quite possible they were there, which infers that they were indeed fellow travelers of the Earps, Holliday, Masterson.

And yet, that probably isn't even the best bet.

  1. In 1882, on their famous ride out of Tombstone, chased by Behan's, Earp and Holliday stopped briefly in Albuquerque. If they spent anytime there at all, Sam as sheriff (or Joe as deputy) would have reason to be aware of their presence. Earp and Holliday were both well-known at the time, and the chase was news. Why doesn't anybody know who was sheriff in Albuquerque at this time?
  2. More importantly, Earp, Masterson and Buffalo Bill both spent quality time in Denver in the gay nineties, when the Elite saloon was the place to be in Denver (so I'm told). They dealt faro, gambled and partied. Could their paths never cross? Open question.

    Might Lou have attended Bill's Denver funeral in 1917?

These gents simply HAD to know each other. They did the same things and traveled in the same circles. Maybe they just didn't like each other.



Today I heard from Karen Stein Daniel, a certified genealogist who did a little sleuthing on our behalf in Albuquerque. Very interesting indeed.

We recently learned, of course, that Lou and Sam were in Albuquerque 1881-83. Lou says so in his pension application. Further we knew from online abstracts that a miner named Blonger worked in Cerrillos, and that a Marshal J. T. Blonger was in Albuquerque in 1882.

Add to this what was reportedly said by Joe in the Armstrong account about Sam's career as a sheriff in Albuquerque. Tall tale? That was the million dollar question.

Karen gets the million.

Very interesting... An article in the Albuquerque Evening Review, September 1882, tells us that Lou, while on a "sight-seeing expedition" (quotes mine) with some buddies down on Fourth Street north of the tracks, stumbled into a house of ill-repute owned by "Blonger's woman". Hello Kitty! Seems one fellow said something that Lou didn't like too much, at which point he clubbed the guy with a stick, and then a long revolver. What happened in court?

Now, Sam...

Interestingly, and characteristically, the boys are not included in numerous references checked by Karen, references that should have noted their presence, such as The United States Marshals of New Mexico and Arizona Territories, 1846-1912. Just fell through the cracks.

There are, however, articles, and one manuscript.

1. The manuscript, Rogues to Public Servants, Early Albuquerque Marshals, written in 1980 by Michael H. Reggio, states that Sam, "liked by some and hated by others," served as Marshal of Albuquerque for all of five months in 1882. Marshals were generally hired by the sheriff, in this case at the behest of some local businessmen(?). Apparently, someone suggested in an article that Sam was neglectful of his duties. Shortly thereafter he was dismissed.

2. One page of the Albuquerque Evening Review, March 1882, has three articles detailing the boys' exploits. We now have the impression that Joe AND Lou were deputy marshals.

The exploits, you ask? J. T. Blonger taking a gun from a man about to "run amuck" (original quotes), all three boys being fired upon and giving chase with a hail of gunfire, and Sam and a brother chasing two horse thieves out of town on horseback.

3. Sam's office got a telephone in March of 1882.

4. In March of 1882, friends gave a party for Sam because he was such a standup guy. They presented him with a gold badge engraved with his name and the words "Marshal New Albuquerque". I hate to say this, but I would give up the internet to get that badge.

5. An open letter from Sam seeks to rebut charges made against him in print, accusing him of non-performance of duties. The letter is hard to read; we'll get a more legible copy.

6. Last but certainly not least, a March 1882 article tells how Sam sent a deputy to Cerrillos to retrieve a prisoner. He returned without his man, but did bring with him one Joe Belonger (again, we knew a Blonger was working the Bottom Dollar in Cerrillos). The article goes on to state that Sam (and Lou) had not seen Joe in nine years, and had thought him dead.

We are told of Joe:

He left the family circle in Salt Lake City nine years ago and has led an adventurous life since. The three brothers are all of them young, all nervy and square western men and it would be a good thing for the town if they were all on the police force.

I feel spent...



I have to say it: They rode together. The Blonger Brothers, Sam, Lou and Joe, saddled up, probably looked at each other and smiled, then chased drunken ne'er-do-wells out of town, guns blazing. That's something, isn't it?

You know, to me, getting those clippings from Albuquerque in the mail yesterday was like finding the Forest Queen. That's what it felt like, finding gold. Is that strange or what?

Another Joe mystery: If Joe arrived in Albuquerque on March 10 or 11, 1882, as implied by an article written on March 13, then who was the Marshal J. T. Blonger who disarmed a miscreant on March 7? The article states that Joe's arrival made three Blongers in town, so J. T. must be Lou, right? Sam? The March 7 issue is the same that mentions "Marshal Blonger and his brother deputies." Perhaps "two or three days" (prior to March 13) was simply a misstatement. Apparently it didn't take long to deputize him and start having good lawman fun.

If Joe did indeed "leave the family circle" in Salt Lake City, 1873, Joe could easily have found his way to Deadwood in 1874 or thereabouts.

Consider: If the boys were keeping the peace in Albuquerque in '82, that means they were there when Earp and Holliday stopped in town after fleeing Tombstone. Bat Masterson apparently met them at the train station (sorry, not on horseback). This was news at the time, and Earp supposedly gave interviews while in town, so there is surely much more to discover here. At any rate, I'm convinced now that we will find solid evidence the Blonger Boys and these fellow Knights of the Green Cloth were acquainted, maybe even old friends.



Here they are: Transcriptions of all the Albuquerque articles we have so far. This is priceless stuff. In the News section.

Lou Assaults Wizard of Oz: "Professor" Park Van Tassel, owner of Albuquerque's Elite Saloon, and the guy who insulted Lou's prostitute girlfriend (and got two whacks on the head for it), had his own claim to fame. Seems he is considered the first balloonist — that is, the first man to fly — in New Mexico. His first ascension was two months prior, at Albuquerque's 1882 Fourth of July celebration. He went on to travel the country as an itinerant aeronaut, performing at fairs, not unlike the famous wizard. The Blongers went on to name their Denver saloon The Elite.



We are now convinced there is much, much more to find in the Albuquerque newspapers — of which there were several in 1882 — including articles about Earp and Holliday passing through town, Park Van Tassel's historic balloon ascension, Lou's trial on assault charges, Sam's hiring and firing, and of course the daily head-knocking and pistol-whipping chores of a town marshal.

Unfortunately, it's going to take some time to get those materials on loan.

Regarding Earp's so-called Vendetta: apparently Behan's hot pursuit got much cooler after Earp's crossed the state line into New Mexico, headed for Sam's Albuquerque.

The fact that Lou clubbed Van Tassel with a heavy stick before hitting him with his gun might suggest that he used a cane.

Who, besides Marshal Sam, gets a gold badge of appreciation after just six weeks on the job?



Typical. A book on the marshals of New Albuquerque tells us the first, Milt Yarberry, shot a man in cold blood in 1881, was arrested for murder, and then hanged in Feb. 1883. The book then says the second marshal died in the line of duty in Nov. 1886. Once again, the Blonger Boys were denied their due.


Albuquerque articles:

Yesterday Scott received microfilm of the Albuquerque Morning Journal, February through mid-July, 1882. It will take a while to transcribe and digest all the relevant articles, as there are quite a few.

A few highlights:

February 1, Sam is appointed Deputy Sheriff and Town Marshal by the Sheriff of Bernalillo County, Perfecto Armijo.

March 8, Sam deputizes his brother Lou and Charlie Ronan.

Numerous articles tell of running miscreants out of town, searching for missing persons, arrests made for assault, etc.

I am compelled to note that, whatever their failings, Sam and Lou apparently faced death or injury on many occasions, and more than once stared down the barrel of a gun, and always managed to resolve the situation with true Western grit. The details are mundane in their way, un-mythic, more like an old episode of Cops. And yet facing down drunks with pistols is harrowing work in any century and deserves the appreciation of the community. The Armstrong account tells us it paid $750 a month.

Reports of Van Tassel's brand new balloon being enroute to New Mexico.

In March, an article warns of the impending arrival of the dangerous Earps, but then nothing after their arrival.

In April, a man named Ben Meyer receives cash from Lou Blonger in exchange for a check, and immediately loses the money in a game of stud poker. Claiming he had been swindled, "and perhaps he was," he orders payment stopped on the check. Lou brings suit and "will certainly get judgment." Could this be the earliest appearance of Lou the Swindler?

Sam mistakenly arrests a gent he thinks is Frank James.

For a few days, Lou actually serves as marshal in Sam's absence. Could he really have been lame as we are led to believe by his pension request? Who would make him marshal if he was?

There is a reference to Sam negotiating the sale of a local claim, the Star Mine. His relationship to the mine is unknown. It sells for $120,000.

In July, Sam leaves town for a few days. While gone, he is relieved of his duties by Sheriff Armijo, though we are told he is offered the job again when he returns, only to decline. Seems Sam knew when he wasn't wanted. The Morning Journal maintained that Sam was one of the best lawmen they had ever had.



Articles about Sam's hiring, his first few days on the job, and Lou's arrival in Albuquerque.

By god, Sam was hired to "clean up a gang of bad out-laws." And he did it.



More Albuquerque articles:

According to the Morning Journal, Sam became a member of the Rocky Mountain Detective Association in 1882, and attempted to find a postion as a U.S. Marshal. Additionally, we are told when Sam is hired that he had "considerable experience in official work in the west."

Taken together, this suggests Sam indeed did have a long career as a lawman. The Armstrong account says Sam was a peace officer in the 70's and 80's before arriving in Albuquerque, and there may be some truth to that.

We are also told that he was a lawman after leaving Albuquerque. It was later, in Denver, that Sam lost his eye during some kind of gunplay. Perhaps his reputation led to work as a detective in Colorado in the 1890s — but for whom? We're on the case...



More Albuquerque articles:

In early August of '82, a petition was circulated by prominent businessmen heartily in favor of reinstating Sam, but now Sheriff Armijo refuses.

In late August, Tony Neis, one of those who guarded Billy the Kid on his way to trial in La Mesilla, opened a branch office of the Rocky Mountain Detective Association in Albuquerque. The Journal notes that Sam is interested.

Sam then leaves for Prescott, to go into the hotel business. But he returns. Does he leave again for good? Or go into the detection business with Tony Neis, a job that eventually leads him back to Leadville and Denver?



More Albuquerque articles:

On March 28, 1882, the Morning Journal carried two particularly interesting articles back-to-back.

The first tells us how Sam and his sidekick Murphy kicked some serious butt:

A party of roughs rose up on their muscle at the dance hall last night and started up a general row. Marshal Blonger and his assistant, Murphy, entered into the fight and after a short battle placed the men under control and placed them safely in the jail in old town. There were four of them and they were pretty hard citizens. They will receive a trial in Sullivan's court to-day.

The next article details the imminent arrival of the Earps and Holliday:

The Earps in Albuquerque.

Last night, at a late hour, a JOURNAL reporter learned that the famous Earp boys were headed for Albuquerque, and that they were on the Atlantic express which arrives in this city this morning at 6:18. In the party there are two of the Earps and five of their confederates. These men have made for themselves a name in southern Arizona which has become a terror to the entire country. They are now pursued by the sheriff and a, who are desirous of capturing them for the murder of Stilwell, at Tucson, last week. There is a general feud in and about Tombstone between the Earp boys and the cow boys. Virgil Earp was at the time city marshal of Tombstone, and he, with two of his brothers and Doc Holliday, shot and killed the cow boys last October. Since that time there has been a continuous war between the two factions. One of the Earps has since been killed, and Virgil has been wounded and is now at his home in San Bernardino. The rest of the party are outlaws, and fugitives from justice. It is not likely that they will remain in this city, if they stop at all, as they are too shrewd to stay in this locality. Should anyone attempt to arrest them there will be life taken, as they are, without doubt the most desperate men now at large.

Whoa there.

This interview with Earp is from the Evening Review of May 13, 1882, quoted in Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend, by Casey Tefertiller:

...He stated that they had come to Albuquerque to escape persecution while awaiting the result of an effort being made by Governor Tritle to secure their pardon from the president; that they were then being sought for by their foes, and that they would not give themselves up to the Arizona officers without resistance.... The party remained in Albuquerque for a week or more, their identity being well known to fifty people or more.... During their stay here, "Doc" Holliday and Wyatt Earp quarreled, and when Albuquerque was left the party disbanded, Holliday going with Tipton.... The party, while in Albuquerque, deported themselves very sensibly, performing no acts of rowdyism, and this way gained not a few friends for their side of the fight.

According to the book, the Earp party arrived in Albuquerque sometime after April 15. Checking the timeline, this means that they very well could have come and gone while Sam was off to Denver (April 19-May 4) and therefore while LOU was in charge (of new town, at least)!

This on March 8:

Monday night J.M. Lewis and C.W. Soper, two mixologists, went out for the purpose of having a little fun. Their idea of fun seemed to be to fill up their skins with bad whisky and fire their revolvers in the air just for the fun of hearing the report. Marshal Blonger heard the reports and deputizing L. H. Blonger and Charlie Ronan went in pursuit of the men. They followed them, braving the heavy wind and sand which filled their eyes and faces, to their room, in an adobe building in the northwest suburbs of the city. As soon as the officers came up to the house the two "funny" men commenced firing at them through the window and the officers returned the fire, at the same time getting at a safe distance from the improvised fort. As soon as they retreated the two fellows rushed out, uttering the nearest they could to Apache war whoops, and firing their guns at Marshal Blonger's party, who returned the fire. Soper and Lewis escaped under cover of the storm and darkness, but they were arrested yesterday, and brought before Judge Sullivan who placed them under bonds of one thousand dollars each to appear for examination this morning. This promiscuous shooting and spreeing lawlessness will have to be stopped and these fellows will receive a just punishment.

And this on April 2:

This morning about half-past one o'clock a man named Jones, who is in the employ of Wells-Fargo's express company in this city, was in Zeiger's saloon quarrelling and flourishing his revolver about in a dangerous way. The man was drunk, and Marshal Blonger, who came into the saloon about that time, took the revolver away from him. Jones is a man of family and Marshal Blonger therefore took him out of the saloon and started him on his way to his home, which is in the Highland addition. The marshal left him when they got near the railroad track, and just after Jones moved on toward his house he turned toward Blonger and said, "I will have my revenge upon you," or words to that effect. Marshal Blonger paid but little attention to this, considering it only the remark of a drunken man, and returned to Zeiger's. He had been there but a few minutes when he saw Jones come into the room with a shot gun in his hands. The marshal concluded at once that the man was going to shoot him, and so, stooping down, he ran toward him and, catching the gun by the barrel, threw it up out of range of himself. Just as he did this the gun was discharged, and the charge passed over his head and lodged into the wall of the club room, near the upper southwest corner of the saloon. The marshal then arrested Jones and took him to the lockup.

See entire ad for Van Tassel's first ascension



Articles about Tony Neis and the Rocky Mountain Detective Association.

In 1882, there was a photographer's studio on Second street in Albuquerque, Wittick & Russell. Wittick would go on to become a famous photographer, a contemporary of Ansel Adams.

Wittick's photo of Geronimo.

At the time, Wittick took many photos of government officials and the like. Perhaps he took one of Albuquerque's lawmen brothers.



Back to Albuquerque, 1882.

Con Caddigan and others are arrested as accessories on a bunco charge, but after hearing testimony, Caddigan's case is immediately discharged by Judge Bell.

Milt Yarberry, marshal prior to Sam, is hanged in Santa Fe.

Also, a few articles now are implying, not surprisingly, that Sam and Lou were heavily involved in racing. Sam is showing a history of owning racehorses, and in 1915 the L. A. Times tells us that Lou, implicated in a wire payoff — a con that hinges on knowing the winner before the sucker bets — is described as "well known in racing circles over the last twenty years."

Sam's horses: Sorrel Dan, Comanche Boy and King Lyon.



Today, numerous articles have been added to the Albuquerque news pages. Topics: Van Tassel and the sharks, an interview with his Mrs. Van Tassel, Lou as marshal, more.

Also, an improved synopsis of Lou's career in the bunco trade.



Today begins part 2 of the Albuquerque Abstracts. Scott received the microfilm of the Albuquerque Evening Review for most of 1882.

After a cursory look, he has concluded it is unlikely we will find much news that has not already been covered, but we may find a few new perspectives. The Review apparently had a falling out with Marshal Sam, and after a certain point gave him little coverage. There is good material, however, on Lou's Marshalship, undertaken while Sam was in Denver selling the Star Mine.

Unfortunately, the vaunted Earp interview is badly obscured. Some text was recovered; perhaps we can find a complete transcript, or even examine the original.

One puzzle piece found: Earp and Holliday arrived in Albuquerque on April 15th. Sam would be in charge till the 19th, then Lou for a few days. They may well both have had the Earps (Wyatt and a younger brother) to contend with. Will the Evening Review yield any clues? Not on first examination.

Sources say Masterson was in town at the time, and met Earp at the train. He was apparently a deputy U. S. Marshal in southern Colorado at the time.

Also, a bit of back-pedaling: Joe may never have been Sam's deputy. This is an inference that may not withstand scrutiny. The Deputy J.T. Blonger mentioned in the Review was at work a few days before Joe's supposed arrival. Another article says it would be nice to have all three Blongers as lawmen, but does not indicate that this was in the offing. Yet another article mentions Sam and his brother deputies. It doesn't quite add up. A suggestion, but the contradictions cast doubt on the whole hypothesis. In all likelihood, he returned to his job in Cerrillos after visiting.



More articles from the Albuquerque Evening Review, 1882.

In searching through these articles, I began to notice that these old papers used to spar all the time, sometimes with good humor, sometimes not so much.

The rivalry — read animosity — between Albuquerque's Evening Review and Morning Journal is coming into focus. Many of the glowing accounts of Sam's exploits featured in the Review, penned in the spring of '82, were written by a reporter named E.M. Bernard.

Sometime around the end of April, Mr. Bernard was canned. He was immediately hired by the Journal. From that point, Sam had nothing to say to the Review, and the Review had next to nothing to say about Sam, save for the odd bit of news and a few pointed editorials in early May. They did, however, call Bernard a drunk.

That's bad news for us, because Wyatt went to the Review for an interview, not the Journal. The interview does not mention the Blongers, of course, but under friendlier circumstances, the paper might have considered the marshal's take on the matter important. News of their vendetta having preceded them, the Earps (Wyatt and a younger brother) and Doc Holliday were considered to be extremely dangerous at the time, though after their stay it was remarked that they were actually regular joes after all.

Interestingly, the interview was not published right away, so as not to betray the posse's whereabouts to Arizona authorities. Nevertheless, many in town became aware of their presence over the course of their two-week visit. The article wasn't published until mid-May, after news of Wyatt's death reached town. The paper deemed it safe to run at that point. The report of Wyatt's death, of course, was premature by many years.

It appears Earp's posse was in town April 15 to about April 29. That means that both Sam and Lou served as marshal during their stay, uneventfully.



Tonight, the target is acquired — Sam Blonger and the Earp Posse...

If you've been following "What's New?" the past few days, you're probably asking "What's Up?" and "Hey, you're usually running off at the mouth, where's my full disclosure?"

Sorry for the secrecy. As it turns out, we've recently acquired, from a noted Earp scholar, a couple of fantastic transcriptions that appear to confirm that Sam Blonger, or Lou, or both, along with Sheriff Perfecto Armijo, met Wyatt Earp and his men and protected them during their brief exile in Albuquerque in 1882.

As the researcher is about to publish the full transcription of one item, a newspaper article, for the first time, we've promised to hold off posting it until after his account appears in print. The second item, a letter written by Miguel Otero, governor of New Mexico Territory from 1897-1906, first appeared in print just three years ago, so we are seeking permission before posting it here.

The Otero letter states explicitly that Otero visited the Earp posse while the men were in Albuquerque, and that "Blonger and Armijo kept watch over the boys." In the world of Earp research, there is some controversy over whether the letter is authentic. It may turn out that our Blonger research will help decide the question.

Sam Blonger was the marshal of Albuquerque for only five months, and after he was fired he quickly moved on. If the letter is a fake, the person faking it had to know that a Blonger (Sam or Lou) was marshal, and as far as we know, that has never been common knowledge. For a modern forger, it would have been far easier to say simply that Armijo took care of the boys. So if it is a fake, it is a damn good one, undertaken by someone who's done the microfilm research necessary to fool the good folks at

Needless to say, we will keep you up to date on any new developments.



Now that our search for an Earp/Blonger connection has seemingly crossed paths with an ongoing discussion in the world of "Earpology," we look forward to an interesting year.



Not to be melodramatic, but debates in the field of Earpology seem to be pretty lively, even now. Each new work on Wyatt Earp inspires another spirited debate about the myth and reality of his life, and more importantly, his standing as hero or villain. Very vigorous debate, at times.

Wyatt's case seems to have become instantly symbolic of our struggle to come to terms with the mythic outlaw/lawman. Should we be repelled? Or admiring? From the very day of the Tombstone gunfight, the fight over Wyatt Earp's soul has been a surrogate for our struggle with these characters in general.

Which is kind of funny, because we have had to face that question, too, in our own research on the Blongers. Why are we so intrigued by such men, men either of us would probably avoid like the plague in reality? Under most circumstances, rowdy, drunken men with guns make me very nervous. There, I said it.

Who am I kidding? The Blongers rock. They are cool and are looking cooler all the time, so sue me. If for no other reason, the Blongers are cool because they did it. They did ALL of it. When you do genealogy, you get what you find, you know, and I count myself incredibly fortunate Scott stuck to it and struck that little tip of the vein, just under the surface. And the gold just keeps coming. It could well be a life's work, for us both.

As it happens, the short time Wyatt spent in Sam's Albuquerque (several days) is important to the story, in its own way, as his legal status was being sorted out by the governments of New Mexico and Arizona. In other words, they were arguing over Wyatt's soul then, and they argue to this day. Our research on Sam may prove useful to the debate — at least something new to discuss. For our part, there may be more interesting news about Sam's role in these events. We are fairly certain now that he had a job to do. What will we learn?



We're finding indications that, during the early '80s, Albuquerque was regarded by some as being in the grip of bunco men — a charge bolstered in part by references to Sam's predecessor Milton Yarberry (who was hanged for murder), and his replacement, Con Caddigan, who was supposedly run out of town. Sam is not mentioned (as usual), but under the circumstances it's hard not to associate him with the same crowd.

More articles on Con Caddigan.

Interesting tidbit in the Caddigan articles. In describing Con's small gang of grifters, we are told: "Billy Nuttall and Sam Houston are sporting men, Barney Quinn was formerly proprietor of a saloon knows as the Sportsman's Headquarters, and Con Caddagan is constable of precinct number twelve and has been on the police force for some time."

Later we learn that Con's gang had previously worked Denver and Deadwood. Well, wouldn't you know, the No. 10 Saloon in Deadwood where Wild Bill was shot in '76 was owned in part by one Billy Nuttall. Could be an old acquaintance of Joe...

Apparently, Albuquerque was under the thumb of some shady characters. Could be Sam and Lou were part of a gang of sorts in Albuquerque, a precursor to Lou's machine in Denver? At this point one might reasonably implicate a number of the characters we've met so far — Neis, Caddigan, Nuttall, Bernard the reporter, and a host of others who might have been in on the graft.



New Albuquerque pages: Lou in Charge and Sam on the Rebound



Eureka Some of you may remember the gold badge presented to Marshal Sam in March of 1882, by his friends:

For some time past the friends of Marshal Blonger, who are many and appreciative, have been talking over a little scheme whereby he might be shown that his worth was acknowledged. Their consultation resulted in an invitation being extended to the marshal "to meet a party of his friends in the White House dining room on police business," and nothing suspecting, he walked in last night at the appointed time, finding himself surrounded by friends.
As spokesman for the party, Charley Montaldo then advanced and presented the surprised officer, in the name of his friends there assembled, a beautiful gold badge in the form of a shield, suspended from a scroll, on the latter being engraved the words: "Presented to Sam Blonger," and on the shield, "Marshal New Albuquerque."
The recipient accepted the badge, and in a few feeling words expressed his thanks, after which the party sat down to an appetizing lunch, accompanied by frequent libations of Mumm's Extra Dry, furnished by Charley Montaldo.
The badge is one of the handsomest the reporter has ever seen, and there is probably no one who better deserves such a token of esteem from our citizens than Marshal Sam Blonger, who is one of the most efficient officers in the territory, and certainly the best marshal New Albuquerque ever had.
Marshal Blonger found out to-day that badge was a birth-day present. He was thirty-five years old yesterday [He was, in fact, 43].

Well, I heard today from Chuck Hornung, noted Earpologist and western historian, who tells me that the badge, along with one of Sam's pistols, is in a private collection in Albuquerque! Here's hoping we can track it down and perhaps get a photo or two.

Additionally, Mr. Hornung informs me there is a chapter that discusses the Earp-Blonger relationship in his new book Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday: The New Mexico Adventures. Can't wait to see it!



RMDA I missed this somehow. It's from one of the Albuquerque articles, May 21, 1882:

Lou and Sam Blonger deserve credit for their quick work in this case, and their capture of this man proves they are in earnest in suppressing crime. They are now members of the Rocky Mountain Detective association at this place.

Till now I had considered it unresolved as to whether Sam had joined the Association. Apparently they both were members, making it all the more likely they continued to pursue the occupation elsewhere.



APD Received the Albuquerque PD history book. It mentions Sam as City Marshal, and the dates are correct, but no other Blonger news. Lou is omitted from the Marshals list, but that's not too surprising, as he held the post for only a few days, in Sam's absence. Would make an interesting footnote, though.

The book neglects to mention con man Con Caddigan's stint as marshal, as mentioned in some of the articles we came across.

Of course, there is some historical background included, which has a few interesting things to say:

The original town of Albuquerque, established by the Spanish in 1706, had long been a hub of commerce, exploration and agriculture, but the completion of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe in 1881 brought a tidal wave of Anglos to the area. New Albuquerque, established the year before, grew up around the tracks, eventually joining with the old town. New Town, as locals often referred to it, quickly became a rough place of open-air saloons, supply stores and brothels, "the epitome of what has become known as the 'Wild West'." This was Sam's beat.

Of the early police force, the book has this to say:

Law enforcement, to the degree it existed, consisted of hiring an officer who was tougher, but hopefully no worse, than the criminals he was enlisted to control. Soon after the founding of New Albuquerque, business leaders organized and funded a Merchant's Police Force, staffed by a town marshal and deputies.

The book devotes a few paragraphs to Albuquerque's first marshal, Milt Yarberry. As noted here before, Yarberry apparently had a habit of gunning down unarmed men, then claiming self defense. He got away with it a few times, but eventually hanged for it. Interestingly, he was evidently an early victim of a new-fangled device, a gallows that used a 400-lb. lead weight to jerk the condemned up, rather than letting him drop from a platform. "Jerked to Jesus," as the local paper put it. They got plans for the device from Scientific American.

Yarberry was in jail in Santa Fe during Sam's tenure, and brought back to Albuquerque for hanging in February of 1883. Perhaps Lou was in the crowd.

Albuquerque got it's first phones, with 50 subscribers, in 1881. By 1882, streetcars connected the new and old towns.



Griffin's Run Just re-read the story of W. T. Griffin of Winslow, AZ, the owner of a dance hall who found himself over-leveraged and decided to skip out on his creditors. Sam arrested the man as he came through Albuquerque by train, hidden in the express car with a pistol in his hand and two more on his person. 45 in hand, Sam uttered the traditional admonishment to "throw up your hands," and Griffin complied. A good bust. But it was the end of the article that caught my attention:

By his prompt and energetic action Marshal Blonger saved two different business men in this city considerable sums of money, and he should be liberally rewarded by them for his work.

Marshaling was a fairly well-paying job to begin with. If grateful businessmen were also kicking in rewards and tokens of their appreciation, seems like a cop could do all right, if he could keep from getting kilt. It also speaks to the phrase in the 10/5 update, "Merchant's Police Force." Early western cops were not the municipal employees we know today — protecting the public was primarily a way of assuring folks and their families would stick around to keep the economy growing.



Top and Bottom Mark Dworkin comes through again, with more from that rather expensive volume, Wyatt Earp, 1879 to 1882, The Man & The Myth, A Sequel to the Untold Story (1964). Says he:

"Bartholomew's books are not indexed, so it's a laborious task trying to find anything. But I did manage to find a couple of Blonger references in volume 2. I'll keep looking for others, but they may not exist. Here 'tis, Bartholomew typos and all:"

[p. 323] Said a Siver City [NM] paper on April 15 [1882]; "A party is in town and reliably informed, says Curly Bill is not dead as told here this week by the Earp party." By this time the Earp gang had reached Albuquerque, hoping to bask under the prtectgion of City Marshal Sam Blonger.
[p. 325] The newspaper told of Earp's arrival in Albuquerque, the town through which he and his party had traveled back in late 1879 or 1880, when they left Las Vegas for Tombstone. There Sam blonger ruled as City Marshal of New Town, with his brother Lou helping, and who was later to be the super conman, the Mr. Big of vice in Denver for many years, only to be sent to prison in the 1920s. The Earp gang may have stayed in Albuquerque for a few days, and perhaps by coincidence the newspapers told an increase in petty crime in the Duke city.
The, a newspaperman was "take" in a common confidence game, and he told of in his paper. there were charges that one of the gang, perhaps "Nut Shell Bill", had given the reporter a gold watch to shut him up. Next report had Marshal Blonger blackballing that particular paper, refusing them access to the news, especially "police news". A wordy newspaper war of sorts developed, but the Earp gang had moved on toward Colorado, via the rails, as had Doc Baggs, the king of the conmen, and Bill Nuttal, Tom Ashton, and Sam Blonger; Sam had gone to Denver with "mining samples". His brother took over as marshal. And, for the time being "Sheeney Frank" and his "Silent Six" continued to work the old "top and bottom: game in Old Town Saloons."

Somebody needs a proofreader! As Scott notes, this is the first time we've found an author who mentions Lou's stint as Marshal, and further makes the connection to his Denver days. Super conman, indeed.

Bartholomew evidently researched the ABQ newspapers, as did we. As noted here previously, Sam left town for Denver during the time of Earp's stay in Albuquerque, leaving Lou in charge, supposedly to have ore samples assayed. Scott says he was inclined to take the news of Sam's departure at face value. He was involved in mining, after all. I wondered if he might have left to attend to some negotiation on behalf of Wyatt and his.

We are familiar with the "newspaper war" mentioned, and that Sam, in response to several articles critical of his performance, eventually refused to provide further reports to the Evening Review. The Review replied:

Deputy Sheriff Sam Blonger announces to the reports of THE REVIEW that they need expect no more news from him and that his efforts hereafter will be directed to keeping such information as he may command from this paper. This is gratifying. Hereafter, criminal news published by THE REVIEW will be more reliable. It may be interesting for some to know that Mr. Blonger's dislike of this paper dates from the discharge of a reporter who was formerly weak enough and fond enough of liquid and nicotan [sic] stimulants to espouse the cause of the officer whenever a dark-looking case came before the public, and the fact is probably of the same degree of interest that this reporter is now employed at the Journal. THE REVIEW is published as a newspaper, and any of its reporters who suppress the news will be promptly scut over to the Journal office with a letter of recommendation.

Bartholomew's final quote above also speaks directly to the bunco culture in Albuquerque. Doc Baggs is credited with inventing the "gold brick" confidence game, and refining the big store concept that later made Lou a very rich man in Denver. Bill Nuttall went on to own the saloon in Deadwood where Hickok was shot. We are unfamiliar with Ashton, "Sheeny Frank" and his "Silent Six," but you get the idea: Albuquerque was a dangerous place for the naive. Many of the West's most famous conmen were having a good time in Sam and Lou's town. Let's not forget Soapy Smith, Con Caddigan, and others. Not to mention Masterson, the Earps, Doc Holliday... Undoubtedly the list goes on.

As for the top ad bottom scam, Mark sends this:

Big Ed Burns (sic)- the notorious "top and bottom" fiend- disguised as a miner, and who has just sold a mine for $50,000. Ed has got more money than he knows what to do with, and wants to shake somebody the dice for the treats. In part, this early newspaper account was somewhat whimsical, but "Big" Ed Burns was indeed the genuine article. He was known throughout Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico as a notorious killer, con-man, and "floating tin-horn gambler. "Big" Ed was especially adept at figuratively roping in tenderfeet, and dragging them into the lair of "top and bottom men;" who, as prominent historian Paula Marks explains, were ":men who used loaded dice to trick the gullible into betting against the possibility the tops and bottoms of three rolled dice adding up to twenty-one. Since the tops and bottoms would add up to tenty-one every time with unloaded dice, this was known as a real sucker trick.
From Bob Alexander's Dangerous Dan Tucker

Sam kicked Big Ed out of town in February, 1882. Ed later worked with Soapy Smith in Denver, perhaps in competition with the Blonger Bros. and their cohorts, till Smith was run out of town.

Albuquerque Morning Journal February 16, 1882

Burns Bounced.
Ed Burns, the notorious hold-up, was escorted to the train last night by Marshal Blonger, and sent on his way south with instructions never to show his theiving mug within the city again. Burns is a dangerous man to any community, but there are others in this town to-day who are equally bad and should be made to travel. Marshal Blonger told a reporter last night that he intended making his rounds to-day to gather the poll tax, and that all men that he could find without any visible means of support, would be compelled to go to work or leave town. We know of a number of individuals who belong to this class, and if the marshal has any trouble in finding just who they are, we will not hesitate to publish their names, as they are known here. The vags, for they are nothing else, must go.

Scott adds: "Interesting, too, to hear Doc Baggs brought into the conversation, since he was the one who scammed Otero's father in Denver just a couple of weeks before the Earps showed up in ABQ [April, 1882]." Otero was the young son of a prominent ABQ businessman, who is purported to have seen to the needs of the Earp posse during their Albuquerque stay. He later went on to become governor.

Big Ed, a violent and profane man, plied his trade in many Western towns, including Leadville, Santa Fe, Buena Vista, Trinidad — and Tombstone. He was arrested by Virgil Earp in that town in August of 1881, so he was surely no friend of the Earps.


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