|Burt Alvord - Wikipedia
several rustlers and outlaws between 1886 and 1889. His reputation
began to suffer as his alcoholism became apparent. Alvord continued to
frequent saloons , and began to associate with gamblers and even outlaws.
When Sheriff Slaughter reprimanded him, he quit.
|Burt Alvord (1867-after 1910), or Albert Alvord, was
a lawman and later outlaw of the Old West. He began working as a deputy
under Cochise County Sheriff John Slaughter in 1886, but he turned to train
robbery about the beginning of the 20th century.
Burt Alvord was born to Charles Alvord and his wife on
September 11, 1867 in Plumas County, California. His father, Charles, originally
worked as a mechanic for mining companies and eventually came to hold the
public offices such as constable and justice of the peace in several of
the places that the family lived. The family moved often throughout Burt’s
childhood, following the mining business from boomtown to boomtown. In
1879 the family moved to and settled down in Tombstone, Arizona.
Alvord’s education was not formal, but he likely learned much from his
father’s cases about local disputes. He also spent much time working
at the O.K. Corral where he got to know the townspeople very well.
Claims that Alvord witnessed the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral are
unsubstantiated, though the outlaw events that Tombstone was famous for
would have certainly made an impression on young Alvord.
Law Enforcement Career
Despite Alvord’s reputation for frequenting saloons and
participating in several bar altercations, Sheriff John Slaughter recruited
Alvord as a deputy in 1886. In the same year, Alvord’s mother died. Alvord
primarily served as the muscle behind operations, as he made several decisions
which revealed his lack of experience and finesse in the profession of
law enforcement. He was reportedly “not noble, temperate, far seeing, of
unselfish”. However, he assisted in the capture and or killing of
Dies after 1910
Alvord worked as a lawman in several towns in the 1890s,
including Fairbank, Arizona and Pearce, Arizona.
In 1896, Alvord moved to Cochise County, where he married
Lola Ochoa, bought a ranch, and once again served as a sheriff’s deputy.
 Things seemed to take a turn for the worse when Alvord’s father, Charles,
died in 1898. In late December of 1899, Alvord suddenly and inexplicably
resigned his post of deputy sheriff.
Outlawry and Last Years
Almost immediately, Alvord turned to crime and joined
outlaws Billy Stiles and "Three Fingered Jack" Dunlop, men that he had
pursued during his career as a lawman. Together, they committed several
armed robberies in Cochise County, Arizona. Alvord and Stiles were captured
in 1899, but they managed to escape. On February 15, 1900, Dunlop was killed
by lawman Jeff Milton during a train robbery attempt in Fairbank, Arizona.
Gang member Bravo Juan Yoas was wounded. Later that year, Alvord himself
was captured and taken to Tombstone. Billy Stiles went to Tombstone and
wounded the deputy on duty, allowing Alvord and 24 other prisoners to escape.
In 1902, Alvord assisted Arizona Rangers Captain Burton
C. Mossman in capturing the Mexican bandit Augustine Chacon, in exchange
for part of the reward money and a reduced sentence. Chacon was hung at
Solomonville, but Alvord decided not to surrender after all.
Alvord and Stiles returned to crime, now pursued by the
Arizona Rangers. They were captured in December, 1903, but again managed
to escape. Alvord decided to fake their own deaths using the bodies of
two Mexicans. They sent the bodies to Tombstone, with the news that they
had both been killed. However, an examination of the bodies showed it was
not the wanted men.
The Arizona Rangers finally pursued them into Mexico,
trapping them near Naco in February 1904. The outlaws resisted, but they
were captured after they had been wounded. Alvord spent the next two years
in Yuma prison. After his release, he sailed toSouth America. He was last
seen in 1910 working as a canal employee. His last years are unknown.
|Sam Bass - Wikipedia
The "Sam Bass Shootout"
|Sam Bass (July 21, 1851 ? July 21, 1878) was a 19th-century
American Old West train robber and outlaw.
Union Pacific Big Springs robbery
After failing at a series of legitimate enterprises, Bass
turned to crime. He joined a gang and robbed the Union Pacific Railroad
gold train from San Francisco, California. Bass and his men intercepted
the train on September 18, 1877, at Big Springs, Nebraska, looting $60,000.
To date, this is the single largest robbery of the Union Pacific.
Bass and the gang he formed in Texas staged a string of
robberies, yet never netted over $500 at any one time. In 1878, the gang
held up two stagecoaches and four trains within 25 miles of Dallas, Texas,
and became the object of a manhunt by Pinkerton National Detective Agency
agents and by a special company of the Texas Rangers headed by Captain
Bass was able to elude the Texas Rangers until a member
of his gang, Jim Murphy, turned informant. Mr. Murphy's father, who was
very ill at the time, was taken into custody and held for questioning.
He was not allowed to see a doctor and was prevented from receiving medical
treatment causing his condition to rapidly worsen. Law officers then sent
a message to Murphy informing him that they had his father in custody,
and that if Murphy did not agree to meet with them, they would continue
to withhold medical treatment from the father. Knowing how sick his father
was, Murphy agreed to the meeting where he reluctantly agreed to turn informant.
John B. Jones was informed of Bass's movements and set up an ambush at
Round Rock, Texas, where Bass planned to rob the Williamson County Bank.
On July 19, 1878, Bass and his gang were scouting the
area before the robbery. When they bought some tobacco at a store, they
were noticed by Williamson County Deputy Sheriff A. W. Grimes. When Grimes
approached the men to request that they surrender their sidearms, he was
shot and killed. As Bass attempted to flee, he was shot by Texas Ranger
George Herold and then by Ranger Sergeant Richard Ware. Near Ware, were
Soapy Smith and his cousin Edwin who witnessed Ware's shot. Soapy exclaimed,
"I think you got him."
Bass was found lying in a pasture west of Round Rock by
Williamson County Deputy James Milton Tucker. He was taken
into custody and died the next day on July 21, 1878, his 27th birthday.
Bass was buried in Round Rock in what is now known as Round Rock Cemetery
on Sam Bass Road. Today, his grave is marked with a replacement headstone
as the original suffered at the hands of souvenir collectors over the years.
What remains of the original stone is on display at the Round Rock Public
Library in downtown Round Rock.
As with many figures of the American Old West, Bass captured
the public's imagination and has since been portrayed in countless books,
radio programs, television shows, and movies, including the following:
In a 1936 episode on the syndicated
radio drama, Death Valley Days, Bass's last days are portrayed before his
death in Round Rock, Texas.
In the April 24, 1944 episode of the
radio series "The Lone Ranger", there was a fictionalized story about Bass'
death. In this episode, Bass' son is supposedly the sheriff of Round Rock,
In the 1946 Western movie, Badman's
Territory, Bass is portrayed by Nestor Paiva.
In the 1949 Western movie, Calamity
Jane and Sam Bass, Bass is portrayed by Howard Duff.
In the fictional 1951 film, The Texas
Rangers, Bass heads a gang composed of The Sundance Kid, John Wesley Hardin,
Butch Cassidy, and Dave Rudabaugh, then squares-off against two convicts
recruited by John B. Jones to bring them to justice. The plot has Bass
dying in Round Rock, Texas.
In 1954, Bass was portrayed by Don
Haggerty in an episode of the syndicated Western television series, Stories
of the Century. Haggerty was 40 when he played the doomed 27-year-old Bass.
In 1955, though not the central focus,
the story of Bass was incorporated into an episode titled "The Shooting
of Sam Bass" on the CBS television series, Tales of the Texas Rangers.
In 1957, Chuck Connors was 35 when
he played Sam Bass in an episode entitled "Sam Bass" featured on the NBC
Western television series, Tales of Wells Fargo.
In 1959, the actor Alan Hale, Jr.,
best known for his role on Gilligan's Island, played Bass in the episode
entitled "The Saga of Sam Bass" on the ABC/Warner Bros. Western television
series, Colt .45. Hale was 38 when cast as the 27-year-old Bass.
In 1961, Bass was portrayed by Jack
Chaplain in an episode of the NBC Western television series, The Outlaws.
|Louis H. "The Fixer" Blonger - Wikipedia
|Lou Blonger (May 13, 1849 – April 20, 1924), born Louis
Herbert Belonger, was a Wild West saloonkeeper, gambling-house owner, and
mine speculator, but is best known as the kingpin of an extensive ring
of confidence tricksters that operated for more than 25 years in Denver,
Colorado. His "Million-Dollar Bunco Ring" was brought to justice in a famous
trial in 1923.
Blonger's gang set up rooms resembling stock exchanges
and betting parlors that were used by several teams to run "big cons".
The goal of the con was to convince tourists to put up large sums of cash
in order to secure delivery of stock profits or winning bets. The depiction
of the "Wire Con" seen in the movie The Sting is a fairly accurate representation
of a typical big con.''
Blonger had longstanding ties to numerous Denver politicians
and law enforcement officials, including the mayor and the chief of police.
In 1922, however, District Attorney Philip S. Van Cise bypassed the Denver
police and used his own force, funded by donations solicited in secret
from local citizens, to arrest 33 con men, including Blonger, and bring
the ring to justice.
My 13, 1849
Dies April 20, 1924
Lou Blonger was born in Swanton, Vermont, on May 13, 1849,
the eighth of 13 children. His father, Simon Peter Belonger, was a stonemason
born in Canada of French ancestry. His mother, Judith Kennedy, was raised
in an orphanage in Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland. The Belonger family
migrated from Vermont to the lead mining village of Shullsburg, Wisconsin,
when Lou was five years old. After his mother died in 1859, Lou lived with
his older sister and her husband for a few years. Around this time Blonger
began using a shortened version of the family name (omitting the first
"e"), as most of his brothers did.
Blonger followed brothers Mike and Joe into the Union
Army in 1864. Although he was still three days shy of his 15th birthday,
Blonger was mustered in as a fifer at Warren, Illinois, and served a few
weeks with Company B of the 142nd Illinois Regiment before suffering a
leg injury at White Station, Tennessee. He spent the remainder of his 100-day
enlistment recovering at the Marine Hospital in Chicago.
At the conclusion of the Civil War, Blonger reunited with
his brother Sam, ten years his elder, who had spent the war years prospecting
in Colorado and driving freight over the mountains in California and Nevada.
Lou was living in Mount Carroll, Illinois, with a friend named William
Livingston when Sam returned. While Sam courted and eventually married
Livingston’s sister Ella, Lou attended high school. Later Sam sent his
brother to study at Bryant & Stratton Business College in Chicago.
In the Western boomtowns
In 1870 Sam and Lou Blonger, along with many of the Livingstons,
left the Midwest for the western frontier. Following the path of the newly
completed Transcontinental Railroad, they briefly ran a hotel and saloon
in Red Oak, Iowa, before moving on to Salt Lake City, Utah and the nearby
mining towns of Stockton and Dry Canyon. In a pattern that repeated itself
at many of their stops, Lou owned and operated saloons with assorted entertainments
while Sam developed mining claims in the surrounding mountains, served
occasionally as a peace officer and, in his spare time, raced horses. Similar
stops followed in Virginia City, Nevada; Cornucopia, Nevada; Silver Reef,
Utah; and again in Salt Lake City.
Moving to Colorado in 1879, Lou Blonger took a shot at
running a vaudeville theater in Georgetown, while Sam made an unsuccessful
bid to become the first mayor of nearby Leadville. There the Blongers were
joined by two other brothers: Simon, the eldest, who worked as superintendent
at the Robert E. Lee Mine, and Marvin, the youngest, also a miner. Soon
afterward, Sam and Lou were on the move again, this time to the burgeoning
railroad town of New Albuquerque, New Mexico (soon to merge with Albuquerque).
Sam Blonger was appointed marshal of New Albuquerque in
February 1882 and quickly deputized his brother. Newspaper accounts indicate
that while the brothers engaged in a few shootouts and jailed their share
of vagrants, they also took plenty of time off to pursue other interests:
prospecting, horse racing, and even running a brothel.
For a couple of months the Blongers were toasted as the
solution to the town's law enforcement problem (a previous marshal, Milt
Yarberry, had murdered two citizens). When Sam and Lou were joined briefly
by brother Joe, a prospector in the nearby Cerrillos Hills, a local newspaper
wrote: "The three brothers are all of them young, nervy and square western
men and it would be a good thing for the town if they were all on the police
In April 1882, Lou Blonger served as acting town marshal
while Sam traveled to Denver to negotiate the sale of a mine. Lou’s stint
roughly coincided with the escape to New Mexico by the Vendetta Posse,
composed of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and five others. Hoping to make their
way to legal sanctuary in Colorado, the men took temporary refuge in New
Albuquerque after killing several men to avenge the murder of Wyatt’s brother
Morgan. According to one theory, Lou or Sam (or both) may have been called
upon to provide shelter for the posse members during their stay.
Sam Blonger's appointment as marshal of New Albuquerque
lasted just five months. He was relieved of his duties while on a trip
to Kansas City, and soon afterward, Lou and Sam split up for the only extended
period of their adult lives. Lou spent the next few years in the New Mexico
towns of Silver City, Deming, and Kingston, living at least part of the
time with Frank Thurmond, a well-known gambler, and his wife, Carlotta
Thompkins (better known as Lottie Deno). Blonger also got married, probably
in 1884, to Emma Loring.
In 1888, a woman calling herself Kitty Blonger shot and
killed a man who tried to break into her room in a Peach Springs, Arizona,
brothel. Lou Blonger soon arrived to arrange her defense, and eventually
she was acquitted. Kitty had previously worked in Albuquerque, where she
had a soiled reputation. She may have been one of Blonger's madams, but
the exact nature of their relationship has not been determined.
The Denver underworld
Soon after the Kitty Blonger trial, Lou Blonger relocated
permanently to Denver, rejoining his brother Sam. The pair operated several
saloons and gambling houses in the area of Larimer Street and Seventeenth
Street over the next few years, including the magnificent Elite Saloon
at 1628 Stout Street, with its mahogany fixtures and frescoed ceiling.
In addition to hosting the typical array of poker and faro tables, the
Blongers' operation also branched out into the "policy racket" (also known
as the "numbers game"), an illegal lottery that paid out on a daily basis.
The Blongers aggressively targeted tourists, who were lured to the saloon
by a network of henchmen called "steerers" and then cheated out of their
money. The sophistication of the swindles developed over time. In the early
years they were as simple as marked cards or loaded dice; later, elaborate
"big cons" became the Blonger trademark.
Denver had a reputation as a wide-open town in the 1890s.
Gambling shops bought protection from the police force and the mayor's
office and operated openly except when occasional crackdowns were required
for show. In addition to making direct payments to authorities, Sam and
Lou Blonger also engaged in election fraud for candidates from both parties,
from Denver mayor Wolfe Londoner in 1890 to Congressman Robert W. Bonynge
in 1902. Testimony in the latter case indicated that Blonger's network
of steerers had already been in place for several years.
The Blongers' policy shop had plenty of competition, including
saloon man Ed Chase and Soapy Smith, the famous Western con man. Smith
was an uneasy Blonger ally for a while, but the frequent quarrels between
steerers from the rival groups suggested a confrontation was brewing. In
1895 Smith went on a drunken rampage through several Larimer Street establishments
including the Blongers' saloon, where police removed him; one account alleged
that Lou Blonger was crouched behind the cigar counter, ready to unload
a shotgun. In the wake of the rampage, Smith and his brother Bascomb were
charged with the attempted murder of a saloon manager. Realizing he had
lost control of the situation, Soapy left for the mining boomtown of Skagway,
Alaska, in 1897, ceding control of Denver's underworld to Lou Blonger.
The Forest Queen
In 1892 Sam and Lou Blonger found the gold mine they had
been looking for in the mountains above Cripple Creek, Colorado, and named
it the Forest Queen (38°44?48?N 105°08?27?W). Sam and Lou had several
partners in the mine at different stages of its development, some of whom
were extraordinarily well-placed. Two of them, Neil Dennison and Robert
W. Steele, served as district attorney in Denver during the 1890s. Dennison
was the son of a former governor of Ohio and Steele later became chief
justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. A third partner of note was J. W.
McCulloch, manufacturer of Green River Whiskey, who supposedly traded 20
barrels of his product for a piece of Lou Blonger's stake.
Once developed, the Forest Queen provided its owners with
periods of steady income, if not the fortune that came out of the nearby
Independence Mine. Lou and Sam Blonger claimed, bought, traded, and sold
several mines in their lives, but both held onto the Forest Queen to the
end, leaving their interest to their wives.
The Blongers were keen observers in the frequent labor
struggles between miners and mine owners. Conditions reached a head in
1894 during the "Battle of Bull Hill", when striking miners took up arms
in the hills near the Forest Queen. Lou Blonger and several allies from
Denver were frequent visitors to the area during the months-long dispute
and its aftermath, calling themselves "detectives".
"Million-Dollar Bunco Ring"
As his gang branched out into bigger and more complicated
"big cons" that attracted a more well-to-do clientele, Lou Blonger found
he no longer needed his saloon and the relatively small take it provided
from card and dice games. Eventually he moved into headquarters in the
American National Bank building on Seventeenth Street and styled himself
as a mining magnate. A crucial moment in the development of the bunco gang
was Blonger's partnership in 1904 with Adolph W. Duff, who had operated
his own gang of confidence men in Colorado Springs before being run out
of town by the police. With Duff handling the details of coordinating gang
members and scheduling locations for the scams, Blonger was free to conduct
the business of schmoozing public officials and bribing law enforcement,
all while cultivating the image of a model citizen. In the summertime he
made the rounds of friendly politicians and policemen, paying off favors
with boxes of cherries from his orchard in suburban Lakewood.
For the next 18 years Blonger and his gang operated virtually
unmolested by local law enforcement. Gang members were specifically instructed
not to solicit victims from Colorado, concentrating instead on out-of-state
tourists who would find it difficult to help prosecute a criminal case.
Only twice during this period did Blonger come close to arrest. The first
was in 1910, when he escaped prosecution in connection with the Maybray
Gang of Council Bluffs, Iowa. The second occurred in 1915, when Blonger
was implicated in a swindling scheme uncovered by carpenters remodeling
his office building.
Sam Blonger's participation in his brother's gang waned
as bigger and more sophisticated cons were developed, and he died in 1914.
Meanwhile, Lou Blonger expanded the gang's home base from Denver, where
it operated only during the warmest months, southward to Miami and Havana,
Cuba. During the winter Blonger relaxed at Hot Springs, Arkansas, where
he reportedly compared notes with his old friend William Pinkerton, president
of the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
Investigation and Arrest
During the 1920 primary election for Denver district attorney,
Blonger approached Republican Party candidate Philip S. Van Cise and offered
assistance in the way of campaign contributions and votes. To Blonger's
surprise, Van Cise turned down his offer, and after his election, Van Cise
called Blonger into his office to warn him that one of his goals would
be the eradication of Blonger's gang of con men. Recognizing that the police
force was in Blonger's pocket, Van Cise undertook a private investigation
underwritten by donations from 31 wealthy benefactors. Over the course
of a year, his detectives gathered information and watched the habits and
movements of the gang members. Van Cise monitored Blonger's trash, spied
on him from a building across the street, and had a Dictaphone installed
surreptitiously inside his office (an action that did not require a search
warrant at the time). He also allowed a crooked police detective to work
inside the district attorney's office, feeding him misleading information
to confuse the gang.
In the summer of 1922, Van Cise made it well known he
was going on a long fishing vacation to the Rocky Mountains, signaling
to the gang members that the heat was off their operation. While the con
men plied their trade openly on the streets of Denver, Van Cise and his
assistants plotted a huge roundup that required a willing victim to help
catch the gang in the act. With incredible good fortune, J. Frank Norfleet
showed up in Denver at precisely this moment. Norfleet was a Texas rancher
who had previously been scammed twice by other gangs and was on a nationwide
manhunt to bring the men who swindled him to justice. Entering the lobby
of the Brown Palace Hotel, Norfleet was hooked by unwitting gang members
who saw him as an easy mark, and the plan was set in motion.
The posse assembled early on the morning of August 24,
1922: eighteen Colorado Rangers to arrest the gang members and several
private citizens to chauffeur them to a holding cell in the basement of
the First Universalist Church. Blonger and Duff were among the first to
be arrested; eventually 33 gang members were hauled in before news of the
raid reached the street, allowing the remainder of the gang to flee.
Although newspapers across the country carried the particulars
of the unusual sting, the Denver Post at first declined to print Blonger's
name. Co-publisher Harry Tammen was a close friend of Blonger's, but his
partner Fred Bonfils ordered the paper's editors to end the embargo and
support Van Cise and the prosecution of the "Million-Dollar Bunco Ring".
The nickname the papers hung on the gang didn't tell half the story. The
con men's total haul was impossible to determine, but in any case was well
in excess of a million dollars per year.
Blonger had a host of legal talent at his disposal, not
to mention a sympathetic judge or two. His personal lawyer, Thomas Ward,
Jr., was a former U.S. district attorney who had argued cases before the
U.S. Supreme Court. While the rest of the gang was represented by lesser
names, they all benefited from the roadblocks laid down by the lead lawyers
in the conspiracy case. The defense successfully fought to have Van Cise
removed from the prosecution of the case on a technicality, but Van Cise
considered this a tactical error, since it allowed him to spend more time
devising the prosecution's strategy and less time in court. The case proceeded
with two special prosecutors, S. Harrison White, former chief justice of
the Colorado Supreme Court, and Harry C. Riddle, a former district court
The trial began on February 5, 1923. Day after day the
prosecution called a series of victims, bilked out of their life savings,
to the stand. The star witness, however, was Len Reamey, one of the gang's
bookmakers, fourth in the hierarchy behind Blonger, Duff, and bookmaker
Jackie French. Reamey provided the inside story of how the gang defrauded
hundreds of victims and divided the spoils among themselves. When the prosecution
rested after seven weeks of testimony, the defense attorneys surprised
everyone by resting their case without presenting a witness, and further
by offering to forgo their closing arguments if the prosecution did the
same. Van Cise directed the special prosecutors to call their bluff, and
so the case went immediately to the jury without any closing arguments.
During the trial rumors were rampant that the jury had
been fixed. Blonger's men approached at least four of the jurors, but struck
out when they attempted to bribe Herman M. Okuly, a mechanic. Okuly played
along with the offer, but immediately reported the deal to his boss, who
informed Van Cise. After four days of deliberations, with three jurors
still favoring acquittal, Okuly played his ace, telling the holdouts "the
difference between me and you is that I got my five hundred dollars, but
turned it over to the Judge, and you've still got yours." The three relented,
and the jury returned a verdict of guilty for the 20 defendants who remained
Incarceration and death
Blonger's health, poor even before his arrest, grew increasingly
worse during the long trial. In the days after his conviction, while he
was still battling to stay out of prison, Blonger received a final blow
when the Denver Post revealed that he had led a double life for 20 years,
living with his wife, Nola, on weekends and a mistress, Iola Readon, during
the week. Rocked by the revelation, he reconciled with his wife, transferring
his property to her in anticipation of his incarceration.
As one legal appeal after another failed, Blonger made
a final plea to Van Cise to remain free, a plea the district attorney forcefully
rejected: “ What leniency have you shown to others? What God have
you worshiped except the Almighty Dollar?
When you stole Preacher Menagh's trust funds, did you
hesitate? When, overwhelmed with shame, he committed suicide, did you give
any aid to his family? When you took the life earnings of old man Donovan
of New Orleans, and reduced him from comfort to penury, what did you do
to ease the last months of his life?
You have been a criminal from the time of your youth.
You have been the fixer of the town. You have prostituted justice. You
have bribed judges and jurors, state, city, and police officials. You have
ruined hundreds of men. With that record, tell me why a death sentence
is not your due? ”
Blonger was driven in a special car to the Colorado State
Penitentiary on October 18, 1923, and died there on April 20, 1924, succumbing
to organ failure. His funeral, held at Denver's Cathedral of the Immaculate
Conception, was attended by hundreds of people from all walks of life.
Despite his wishes to be buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, his wife directed
that he be interred at Fairmount Cemetery instead.
Lou Blonger married twice. In 1882 or 1884 in San Francisco,
he married Emma Loring, about whom nothing is known. Blonger received an
uncontested divorce in 1889 on the grounds of desertion and quickly married
30-year-old Cora "Nola" Lyons (née Morehouse), who was said in younger
days to have been a "successful variety actress." Blonger had no children.
Upon Nola's death the remainder of Blonger's estate, including his interest
in the Forest Queen Mine, passed to her fourth husband, William J. MacAuley.