The Blonger Bros. were born in Swanton, Vermont and moved
with their family to Shullsburg, Wisconsin in 1853.
Not happy with the prospects in this small lead-mining community,
the brothers set out to discover the Wild West.
Born in 1849, Lou was fast-talking, quick-thinking brother who got things done too well, as it later turned out. Enlisted in the Union Army at age 15 as a fifer. Hitched his wagon to older brother Sam's star and went west to seek fortune. Supplied drinks, gambling, and entertainment in the boomtowns of Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado during the 1870s and 1880s. Gambled and hobnobbed with western legends like the Earps, Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Frank Thurmond and Lottie Deno. Served as a Deputy Marshal in New Albuquerque under his brother Sam, and protected Earp and Holliday for a few days as Acting Marshal. Settled in Denver in the 1880s and ran saloons and policy shops on Larimer Street and later Stout Street. Along with Sam, owned various valuable mining claims over the years. Influenced elections and political appointments, and developed a protection racket that shielded Denver con men from prosecution until 1922, when the operation was shut down by district attorney. Convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud, he died in prison in 1924.
Born in 1839, Sam was the biggest Blonger at 6-foot-3. Went west by wagon train in 1858 and hauled freight over the Sierra Nevada. Said to have scouted and fought Indians alongside Buffalo Bill Cody. Returned home to the Midwest after the war, then back west with younger brother Lou to seek fortune. Teamed with Lou in dozens of towns across the West, including Virginia City, Tuscarora, Salt Lake City, and Albuquerque. As a lawman in Colorado, he lost an eye in a gunfight; for the rest of his life he always wore blue-tinted glasses. Married three times; only son Frank died at age 15. Followed the boom to Leadville in the late 1870s and lost race to succeed Horace A. W. Tabor as mayor in 1879, then went south with Lou and served as City Marshal of New Albuquerque during this period. Settled in Denver in the late 1880s, but continued to run mines at Cripple Creek until late in life. Prominent gambler and racing afficianado, probably an expert swindler as well. Died in 1914.
Born in 1836, Simon was the oldest of the Blonger Bros. Married in 1861 in Wisconsin; fathered five children: Laura, Elizabeth, Emma, Fred, and Mary. Moved west about 1878 and became superintendent of the Robert E. Lee mine in Leadville. Elected to Colorado House of Representatives from the Lake County district in 1882. Later moved his family to Denver while he operated mines in the Cripple Creek district. Retired to Washington state late in life and lived with his daughters outside Seattle. Died in Seattle in 1920.
Born in 1847, Joe represented the quiet, introspective side of the Blonger Bros. Served in the Union Army and was shot in the chest during the siege of Atlanta. After returning to civilian life, marched to a different drum and was rarely found in the same state, much less the same city, as his brothers. Mined on his own in South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Washington. Said by his own account to have the friendship and respect of such notable native Americans as Sitting Bull, Cochise and Geronimo, and played many a poker game as partner to Wild Bill Hickok. Shot the boss of the Bottom Dollar in 1897 when he wouldn't let him go to Santa Fe for a drink. Widowed three times; no children known. Visited family in Shullsburg in 1927 and gave a long account of the Blonger Bros. saga that has been passed down through the generations. Died in Seattle in 1933.
Born in 1851, Marvin was the youngest of the Blonger Bros. Lived in Illinois through most of the 1870's, before moving to Leadville with oldest brother Simon to work in the mines. Father of two daughters, Abbie and Ollie, and a son, Edward. Left his wife and daughters and departed for Montana about 1890 with Edward. Worked in mining at Philipsburg, Montana, the rest of his life. Returned to Abbie's care and died in Dunsmuir, California, in 1927.
Born in 1841, Michael was the only brother who stayed behind in Wisconsin. Enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and fought in the Battle of Antietam in September of 1862. Suffered a crippling heart ailment while in the service; returned home to Shullsburg, Wis., and farmed there the rest of his life. It is said that U. S. Grant, who lived in nearby Galena, was acquainted with the Belonger family and thought Michael the best dance-fiddler on earth. Father of one son, John, and nine daughters. Died in 1924.