The Grafters Club

The Membership


Davis H. Waite

BANNED, 1894

Davis H. Waite

"It is infinitely better that blood should flow to our horses' bridles than our national liberties should be destroyed."

Elected governor of Colorado as a populist in 1892, Waite twice found himself sending the Colorado militia to deal with forces in league with the Blonger Bros.

In 1894, Waite tried to end the influence of gambling interests on Denver justice and politics by installing his own police commissioners. He called in the militia under General Tarsney to force out the old gang at city hall, but it was too late. The building had been fortified and stocked with arms and dynamite. The battlements were manned by cops, detectives, firemen, politicians and sheriff's police, whose ranks were swollen to some two hundred by newly-deputized gamblers, con men and thugs.

Waite got his way when the state Supreme Court decided in his favor. The barricades had held, but the court took them down, the police and fire boards replaced, and the gambling joints closed — only to move undercover, or to the suburbs where the commerce was welcome. Peepholes and other methods of hiding evidence proved very effective in making convictions rare.

As the owners of downtown gambling joints, Sam and Lou Blonger would have had a stake in this fight, though we can't yet implicate them directly.

Later in 1894, striking miners at Cripple Creek shut down mines throughout the area, where Sam and Lou Blonger owned at least two: the Newport and the Forest Queen. The strikers barricaded themselves atop Bull Hill, and the El Paso County sheriff, in concert with the mine owners association (and therefore the Blongers), recruited hundreds of deputies from across the state to break the strike, including over a hundred from Denver — mostly cops and firemen fired by the new police commission, and various thugs that had faced the militia at city hall only days before.

Again Waite called in the militia, this time to protect the strikers — who were well-armed and roughly matched the deputies in number — from the sheriff's "special police". For their part, the sheriff and his new deputies were aching to have a crack at the strikers, and none too happy about the prospect of the militia's arrival.

Ultimately the intervention of the militia led to the disappearance of the primary union agitators and the surrender of the strikers, but Waite had made his loyalties clear. Whether Sam or Lou were among the deputies, or helped to recruit them, we cannot say — but we can suggest without fear of contradiction that the Blongers were not fans of Bloody Bridles Waite.

Waite is perhaps most fondly remembered today for his proposal to send Colorado silver south of the border to be minted into "Fandango dollars". Just kidding. He is not fondly remembered.

More yet about Governor Waite