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Home  >  Digital Archives  >  People of the North  >  Heroes and Scoundrels
Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith  -  Related Materials
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Who Killed Soapy?

Was Frank Reid the only shooter? Soapy's descendants don't think so. Here's what one family member wrote on the White Pass & Yukon Route online forum in 2005:

"I am the great-grandson of Jefferson Randolph 'Soapy' Smith, the badman of Skagway during the Klondike Gold Rush. The Smith family has always believed that the White Pass & Yukon Railroad was partially behind the killing of Soapy Smith. The man responsible for killing Soapy was Jesse Murphy, a railroad employee, not Frank Reid as is believed. I am currently finishing up the biography on Soapy and will show that what I am saying is true."

Jeff Smith posed the subject again in True West magazine's reader forum on August 26, 2005:

"Are you are at all familiar with the July 8th, 1898, face to face gunfight between Jefferson Randolph 'Soapy' Smith and Frank H. Reid in Skagway, Alaska? Imagine four men (vigilantes) guarding the entrance to a meeting when along comes 'Soapy' Smith with a Winchester over his shoulder to break the meeting up. Reid tells 'Soapy' he can't go in, and the two men argue. Suddenly, 'Soapy' swings his rifle down to buffalo Reid, but Reid catches it with his left arm as he pulls a revolver. Holding the rifle away from his body he pulls the trigger, as Soapy cries out, 'My god, don't shoot!' There is no shot. The hammer has fallen onto a faulty cartridge. As Reid goes to send off another shot, 'Soapy' jerks his rifle back towards Reid, and both men fire at the exact time. Reid fires at least two shots, hitting 'Soapy' in the arm and left leg. Reid is hit in left and in the groin which causes a compound fracture (his bone protrudes out the exit wound). The fight is finished for Reid as both men go down. Credit is given to Reid for the bullet that entered 'Soapy's' chest and this is where the ambush theory comes into play. My family has researched that shootout and has documents and witnesses to show that another man killed 'Soapy' Smith, my great grandfather. I am currently finishing up the biography on 'Soapy's' life that will answer all the questions."


More reading:

Be sure to check for availability online through your local library catalog at For the statewide Alaska Library Network catalog, go to and click on ALNCat.

Download Documents

(529 KB)
Soapy Smith

(649 KB)
Soapy Smith Photos 1

(854 KB)
Soapy Smith Photos 2

(741 KB)
Soapy Smith Photos 3

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