Tuesday, May 25, 2021


 Post by Doris McCraw

writing fiction as Angela Raines

Those who know me, know I enjoy research and reading old news publications. Some of the pieces I read make me wonder if the 'reporter' was a frustrated fiction writer. And as we all know 'If it's in the paper - it has to be true." 

Photo property of the author

In reading one of the publications from the town of Tin Cup from 1882, I knew I had to share it with you. If anyone knows the history of Tin Cup, especially their propensity to go through local 'lawmen' over short periods of time, this story is even more fun. Since I cannot copy and paste, for it is too long, I will share by re-typing. So from the 'Tin Cup Banner' of May 27, 1882, Volume I Number 38, I give you the story "The Man Who Smiles" from that publication, via the Detroit Free Press.

The man who smiles — a road agent with the record.

There is in the Detroit Work–house today a prisoner whose smile is as soft and sweet as a woman's, and the stranger who meets him is instinctively drawn toward him by his clear, blue eyes, soft voice and gentle smile. And yet that very man is accounted the shrewdest, sharpest and most "nervy" prisoner of the lot. The fact that two officers rode over 1000 miles with him, handcuffed and shackled and constantly watched, is proof of the above assertion. When they turn him over at last to the custody of the superintendent they left the following record on the books:

"Prisoner has been engaged in one train robbery at least, and in half a dozen stage and highway robberies. Has broken jail three times and bears the scars of several wounds. Has the reputation of being a shooter and a fighter; has killed at least three men; was a pal of Wild Bill; is supposed to know all the leading outlaws in the far West. Is sharp and crafty and has great nerve. Look out for him. Offense, highway robbery."

The "Smiller" has not yet exhibited the slightest desire to see the world outside the walls of the Work–house, but is reported to be one of the most orderly and quiet prisoners in the institution.

The first deadwood line stage robbed was the work of a single man, and if  That man was not the prisoner we write of, then he has a twin brother. The robbery occurred just at sunset, 6 miles from 

Deadwood. The stage contained seven men, all well armed. It was just rounding a thicket when a man stepped in front of the horses, halted them, and quietly said to the driver:

"If you pull the line until I am through I'll send you a bullet through your head!"

This was accompanied by such a soft, bland smile that the astonished driver yelled back:

"Stop your fooling, or I'll run over you."

But the smile was deceiving. Up came a navy revolver on line with the driver's eye, and his teeth chattered as he loosened the reins and soothed the horses. Yells and shouts were heard inside the stage, none of the passengers suspected what was happening until the road–agent pulled open one of the doors and called out:

"Now, then, gentlemen, please climb down!"

"Who the dickens are you?" was shouted at him by three or four in chorus, and his smile was honey itself he answered:

"I'll introduce myself directly. Come, gents — these shooters are in a hurry to hurt some one!"

He backed off a few feet, a revolver in either hand, and the passengers began climbing down.

"Leave your arms in the stage!" shouted "Smiller." "I'll pop the man who brings out any sort of weapon with him!,, Now — suns going down fast!"

There were seven revolvers and three Winchester rifles among the passengers, but that one man had the bulge on the crowd. Men are half disarmed when surprised. Coop them up in addition to the surprise, and pluck is gone. The road – agent knows this, and the fact is as good as a half a dozen men behind him.And as the last man left the coach the "Smiler" confronted the line and softly remarked:

"I will now trouble you to deposit your watches and money on the ground!"

With many a grown and curse and sigh the request was complied with. Those who had wallets lost all; those who had divided their money in different pockets save. Two of the seven had no watches to lose. After the last man had "deposited" the robber pointed to the open door of the stage and said:

"It's a tough country, and I won't take your weapons. Please climb in."

As the last man mounted the step the robber slipped behind the coach and called to the driver to go on at a gallop, at the same time firing three bullets over the coach to start things with the rush. Half a mile away the coach halted and the seven victims jumped Down with their arms, but the smiler" had disappeared with his booty.

Less than a month after the robbery related above, "smiler" was half asleep in a Custer City saloon, when in came a sharp known as "grizzly," accompanied by three or four men, whose admiration for his Bragg and bluster made them his backers. "Grizzly" wanted to fight some one, but he wanted to pick his man. When he saw the "smiler" dozing away in his chair he thought he had discovered a "tenderfoot" whom he could wallop. Without a word of warning he advanced and pulled the sleeper's nose. The soft smile came to the little man's face as he slowly rose up, and his voice was no more than a whisper as he inquired:

"Stranger, did ye mean that?"

"You bet!"

"Then sich of this crowd as don't like bullets had better git!"

Three or four men rushed out just as the revolvers commenced to speak. The "Smiler" was alone — the bully had three backers. For three or four minutes there was a constant pop! pop! of revolvers, and then two of "Grizzly's" friends rushed out and ran away, both wounded. Those who rushed in found the bully down and severely wounded and the other one stone dead, while they "smiler" was sitting on a bench reloading one of his revolvers. Thirty shots had been fired at him from a distance of 12 feet, and yet he had received only one slight flesh wound.

One day as for men rode out from Julesburg, Colo., they encountered a smiling stranger, who made several inquiries regarding the mines. They were giving him all possible information, when he suddenly interrupted the conversation with:

"Gentlemen, dismount and hold up!"

At the same time he covered the crowd with his shooters, and there was no alternative but to yield. The crowd Left him over $1,600, but it was his last robbery a large party were soon on his trail, and after dodging them for two or three days he was captured and given a sentence of ten years.

Photo property of the author

I hope you enjoyed this 'little piece' I shared. I did my best to copy it the way it appeared in the paper. I also confess, with my background in 'criminology' my eyes tend to go the articles about criminals and their exploits. Until next time, happy reading and writing and researching. 

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History

Author of  'The Agate Gulch' Novellas and "The Kiowa Wells" Novels
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

(c) Doris McCraw All Rights Reserved.


  1. I loved this post! Don't you smile when you read old newspapers? Their use of exclamation marks and the writing was much different than used today. I always enjoy your posts.

    1. Caroline, when I started reading this one, I knew I had to share, exclamations, misspellings and all. It truly felt like the writer was trying to be a fiction writer.
      I'm glad you enjoyed it. The stories and ideas ones gets from reading the news. Doris

  2. Excellent! Rather like a piece by Ned Buntline. Thanks for posting it, Doris.


    1. That was my thought, Keith. It seemed like the 'reporter' was a frustrated fiction writer. LOL Doris

  3. Thanks, Doris. The character of Smiler really comes across. Love it!

    1. I agree, Smiler is a keeper. He may end up in one is a furture story. Doris

  4. Thank you, Doris, for sharing this wonderful post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. I just had to share, misspellings and all. Doris

  5. I love how he says, "I will now trouble you to lay your watches and money on the ground." LOL This is awesome, Doris! Thanks so much for a great post!

    1. He was so polite, wasn't he? When I read it, I know I had to find just the right spot to share it. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  6. What a fantastic post. This journalist had a taste for drama. Thoroughly enjoyed this.

    1. Thank you. I give the unknown reporter a lot of the credit. I'm glad you liked it.
      I find to many great pieces in these old publications. Doris

  7. This is great reading. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Tracy. Some things just have to be shared. Doris

  8. Replies
    1. Thought of you as I was reading it. Glad you enjoyed it, Kaye. Those publications are gold mines in so many ways. Doris