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Time of Death

July 8, 1898

Friday evening
9 :15 pm


W hy   we  call  it  a  ...  WAKE

  n   1: a watch held over the body of a dead person prior to burial and sometimes accompanied by festivity .      

W hen the widow of Jefferson R. Smith III (the wife of Soapy 's son) passed away in 1971 she started a family tradition. In her will she requested the family members, those who wished to attend, come to her home and remember her fondly. An addition to the will requested that the adults bring alcoholic beverages and drink them in an informal "Irish Wake."This caused a stir with some of the more conservative members of the family but all respected her last wishes. Although too young to drink Jeff said he remembers everyone having a nice time; some more than others. Jeff 's father, John Randolph Smith, asked that the same be done for him and it was. When some of the family members, including Jeff and his father, went up to Skagway, Alaska the very first time in 1977 we created the first Soapy Smith "wake."It has been called a "wake "ever since. With Jeff 's help, the Magic Castle started up their own annual event in 2003 but they prefer to call it "Soapy Smith Night."On this website and with the Smith family it will always be known by its original namesake, the Soapy Smith Wake.

The  Toast

M any of Soapy 's friends, business associates and members of the Soap Gang  were very loyal, even decades after Soapy had been killed. The toast "Here 's to Soapy 's Ghost " came from one of these old-time members of the gang who came to visit the widow and  family home in St. Louis, Missouri  in the 1920s. As a young boy, John Randolph Smith recalled the visit well. He remembers the bunco  man talking and drinking with Soapy 's widow into the night. During a drunken lull of silence in  conversation, the old man  seemed to be gazing out into space, his mind a million miles away. Upon regaining his composure  he raised his glass and quietly said, "Here 's to Soapy 's Ghost." The Smith family has been using that phrase since.

T here are currently five "wakes "held annually within the United States,

1.) Eagles Hall, Skagway, Alaska.
2.) Magic Castle, Hollywood, California.
3.) The Tivoli Club (a reproduction of Soapy 's saloon in Denver, Colorado), Whitehorse Ranch movie lot, Landers, California.
4.) The Wizard 's Club, Chicago, Illinois.
5.) The Lumber Baron Inn, Denver, Colorado.

I f you are unable to physically  join us at one of the wakes, please, no matter where you are on July 8th, around 9:15 p.m., raise your glass and give the toast below. Relatives and friends, raise your glass.*


Jeff and Ashley Smith
"We hope you will join us at the next Wake"

"It's a sure-thing!"
Ashley Smith operates the chuck-a-luck table, 2007

An unidentified person decorated Soapy's grave

S kagway, Alaska is where the Soapy Smith wake originally began. It was 1977 when members of the Smith family, along with the cast of the Days Of '98 Show (The Soapy Smith Play) created the tradition. The newspaper in Skagway reported on the event. Champagne was uncorked and consumed. Before long there was a general need for the revelers to relieve themselves of the  bubbly thus began a horrid tradition that accompanied the wakes. There were no  restrooms, so some "wakers " decided to go pay their respects to Frank Reid, the man credited with the killing of Soapy. The reporter defined it as the "sprinkling of Frank."The family and some residents of Skagway thought it was funny back then. The Smith family continued to  send up money to purchase Champagne for the wake until it was finally banned from being held at  the cemetery .

t one time the Smith family condoned, and yes, even participated in, "the sprinkling of Frank."The family no longer sanctions or approves of the activity. One might ask why the Smith family would treat Reid 's grave as we did. Let me try to explain. In 1977 , the Smiths had known for many years that the details of Soapy 's death had been altered and covered up for decades. Research shows that Soapy did not die in a fair fight but rather, by definition, was technically murdered. Over the decades we also learned that Frank Reid had a not so innocent past of his own. We knew that he was not the knight in shining armor that so many historians had painted him to be. My family was tired of hearing the same old "good "versus "evil "stories. The truth is that very few people in Skagway of 1897-1898 could be defined as innocent. Before Soapy was killed, the majority of the businessmen in Skagway were grateful he was keeping the gold in Skagway, and lining their pockets by spending it in their stores and businesses. As long as he continued to do so, they cared little how he obtained his money. Many even called Soapy, a friend.After Soapy 's demise those same "friends," however, quickly turned into self-professed "bitter enemies." None of Soapy 's friends in Skagway  dared stick up for him, and no one can really blame them. To have stuck up for Soapy after he was killed would mean the loss of everything one owned and a ticket straight out of town. It was only after they had left the city would some of the residents and friends discuss their true feelings about what had occurred. In 1977 , after decades of turmoil over the covered-up murder of their grandfather, the grand-children 's exasperated resentment came pouring out ... literally. Our revengeful grudge should not have been pointed specifically  at Reid, but he had been put up on such a high  pedestal that he was an easy target to aim at. There are several other targets more deserving, such as Jesse Murphy. Their names and stories are discussed in detail in Jeff Smith 's book, Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel . Our revenge is the truth.
The very first Soapy Wake, 1977
The Smith family and the Days of '98 cast at Soapy's grave

An    Apology

I am one of the two remaining family members who were present at the first annual Soapy Wake in 1974. Though but sixteen, I remember that the Smith family knew of no surviving relatives of Frank Reid. Over the next thirty years, I was introduced to several members of his family and have come to realize how upset the Reid ’s must be with my family and me for the tradition that began over a generation ago. I know how upset I would be were I to find that people were doing to Soapy ’s grave what we had begun doing to Frank Reid ’s in 1974. So it is, without expectation of being forgiven, that I apologize to the descendants of Frank Reid and express most humbly my deep regret that the horrid tradition of “sprinkling ”his memorial was ever started.


J eff Smith, President
The Soapy Smith Preservation Trust


Grave of Frank H. Reid

The place to be
The famed & plush Magic Castle

T his year, 2013 marks the 10th year anniversary for the Soapy Smith Wake at the Magic Castle. Following, Whit Haydn describes one of the previous years.

T he Wake was held downstairs of the Magic Castle in the W.C. Fields bar, and it was packed solid with several hundred guests. Dress ranged from three-piece suits to  19th century costumes. The $5.00 entrance included $100 in Soapy play money for gambling at the gaming tables which included roulette, craps, 21, chuck-a-luck and faro. The casino was operated by Phil Gessert of Pharobank.com. The money collected was donated to the Magic Castle 's, Dai Vernon Charity Fund. Guests were also invited to purchase numerous auction items, including a small wood chip off the original grave marker, beautifully displayed in a shadow box. The chip sold for $60. There were a number of Soapy related souvenirs for sale, including bars of  Soapy soap, posters, t-shirts, tote bags, and playing cards. The guest who won the most "money "at the end of the night was awarded one of the Soapy grave marker chips in a shadow box. An $60 value, according to this years auction.

SOAPY MONEY (110th Annv.)
Play money and one of the Soapy buttons

Soapy Smith descendants
Elizabeth Moriarity & Jeanette Smith

J eff Smith brings the original grave marker and Pete Menyhart brings an authentic replica of the very first grave marker. People who attend always return. Some attendees come from across the country for the event. Every year there is a notable increase in the size and interest of the crowd.

There since the very first wake, two time US champion pool trick shooter, Chef Anton, wows the crowd with his humorous and  skillful trade. Also since day one, "Professor "Dave Bourne, from HBO 's Deadwood , plays his 19th century piano accompanied by musicians playing various period instruments.

Shay Maxwell creation
Souvenir Soapy faro deck

Beauty and the chip
One of two shadow boxes containing a sliver from the grave marker

M any guests come in old west clothing and the costume contest always has some very interesting entries. Jeff is one of the judges.

Jeff Smith has donated several slivers that have fallen from the Soapy grave marker, to the event. Whit Haydn places them in beautifully decorated shadow boxes, complete with signatures of authentication. they are placed in the auction and realize nice bids for the Magic Castle 's charity.

The gambling hall was very popular
Jeanette Smith gambles away at the roulette table

Dave Bourne band
Beautiful victorian music filled the air

Jeff Smith owns this original marker (2nd)
Marker on display at Wake

Would you like to see all five of
Soapy 's grave marker s .

"Next years bash will be even bigger. We plan to turn the whole Magic Castle into a den of thieves competing against each other to take the prize. People will be able to register as dealers or players. Dealers can run their own faro tables, Monte games, chuck-a-luck, dice, shell game, fast and loose, coin pitch, etc., and play for each others and for the players 'Soapy money. The player and the dealer with the most Soapy dollars at the end of the evening win the two biggest prizes of the night."        

—Whit Haydn

Soapy's ghost still enjoys a good game of faro

The Smith family wishes to extend their  gratitude to Whit Haydn, Jim Richards, Jeff Brady, Keith Cobb, Dave Elstun, Peter Menyhart, and all the people who have organized and supported  the wake events in memory of Jefferson R. Smith.

Thank you!

Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel


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