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The current grave marker
An unidentified person decorated Soapy's grave

Since his death in July of 1898 the grave site of Soapy Smith has gone through  five known grave markers. Why so many? They were stolen, shot at, blown up, vandalized and replaced. Each marker has it 's own unique story. If only they could talk.

The first marker, 1898 - 1901 (+-)
Art Petersen Collection

T he first grave marker. This photograph was taken by Rev. John A. Sinclair in July 1898. This marker seems to have remained undamaged between 1898 and 1901 whereas the later markers were the victims of graffiti. Soapy Smith was very unpopular after his death. Anyone who had associated with him was harassed, and some were forced to leave town. The fact that Soapy was hated begs the question as to why this marker 's font was so much fancier than the fonts on so many other graves in the gold rush cemetery of the period. Between July 15-20, 1908, the marker was stolen or destroyed.                

The second marker, 1901 (+-)- 1927
Jeff Smith Collection

T he second marker was placed on the grave sometime after 1908. The victim of constant graffiti, hundreds of people carved their names onto this marker while it stood over Soapy 's final resting place, giving testament to the popularity of visiting his grave. One of the markings is the date 1917.

At some point the marker was broken at the base. It is believed this occurred previous to the flood of 1919. Photographs exist of the marker in the ground, and later photos show that the marker appears to be propped up with rocks. It is possible that the marker was still in the ground in 1919 during the flood and that somehow the marker, although broken, did not float away. Eventually, Harriet Pullen took possession of the marker and placed it in her hotel museum. In 1927 Pullen received $50 from Tom Kearney, of St. Louis, asking that she fix up the grave. She had a nice marble headstone made and placed in the ground. The wooden marker resided in Harriet Pullen 's care until she passed away in 1947, where it was inherited by her niece, Mary. Mary was forced to auction off the marker, along with a huge collection of gold rush artifacts in 1973. John Randolph Smith, a grandson of Soapy, was the winning bidder for the marker. Upon his passing in 1987 the marker was handed down to Jeff Smith.

The third marker, 1927 - 1950s
Cement marker paid for by a friend of Soapy's


T he third marker. The marble headstone may have been paid for by Tom Kearney and placed there by Harriet Pullen in 1927.

The Decatur Daily Review for October 8, 1933 states that "Over the third, Mrs Pullen has erected a stiff iron guard through which it may be seen and not chipped. "Martin Itjen became the grave 's caretaker starting in the 1930s. There postcards showing this marker as it appears with and without the metal cage. This marker became target practice for vandalism and gun practice.

Marker #3 with a protective cage


B elieved to be marker #3, encased in a protective wire cage. Note that the lettering matches the locations of the one above. The letters are dark, so perhaps they may have been painted. A postcard of this marker had a postmark of June 21, 1954 so we know it was still up in that year. It is believed this marker was eventually blown up with dynamite.

Marker four, 1950s -1997
A nice fence placed around the site

This is the forth marker. The date of it 's placement is unknown, however there is a photograph showing this particular marker dated 1966. It was made of metal with a wood border with a wooden post and metal pipe fence around the perimeter of the grave. The fencing still exists.

Looking just below the pipe closest to the photographer you can see the bottom portion where marker #3 was originally located.

Marker four in need of replacement
July 8, 1974, first annual Wake




T he forth marker in 1974 at the very first annual Soapy Smith Wake, in poor condition and ready for replacement.

The fifth marker, 1997 - present
Authentic replica of the second marker



T he fifth marker is actually a reproduction of the second marker. Jeff Smith photographed and measured the second marker in his possession, believing it was the first marker and James Richards of Skagway had the copy made. It was placed on the grave in 1997.

Replica of the first marker, Whitehorse Ranch

The last marker is a replica of the very first one placed on the grave, however, this one is not on Soapy 's grave in Skagway, Alaska but rather placed in the memorial cemetery grounds at the Whitehorse Movie Ranch in Landers, California. It was made by artist Jerry "Judge "Gargolione. It was unveiled erected in a ceremony on July 8, 2008 the 110th anniversary of Soapy 's death.

Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel


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