Saloon stories recount mayhem, carnage and chaos

June 28, 2012

By Christina Lords

Patrons celebrate the opening of the Union Tavern. The building that housed the establishment was repurposed as a restaurant before it was demolished in 2000 to make room for the Issaquah Library. Contributed by Issaquah History Museums

Pistol duels. Free-for-all brawls. Bombings.

These are just a few standout bar stories that permeate Issaquah’s rich history and its favorite drinking establishments along the way.

Many of the early hotels — if not every hotel — in the area would have had a drinking establishment associated with the business as Issaquah became established as a municipality.

“They knew that whenever the miners did get home, they were going to want to get a beer, to get a drink they enjoyed,” said Issaquah History Museums Executive Director Erica Maniez. “It made sense to have them right there in the boarding house, or they could walk down the block and go to a saloon.”

Edwards R. Fish Jr. outlined early saloons in the Oct. 18, 1962, edition of The Issaquah Press, noting it was far from difficult to find a place for a man (it was not socially acceptable for women to enter bars until much later) to get a drink in the early days of Issaquah.

At the time, an even half-dozen drinking establishments were available in one block along the town’s main street — Isaac Cooper’s place, the Bellevue Hotel bar, Schmidt’s Saloon and Hotel, the Eagle Saloon (with a large maple limb from a tree over its bar), the Klondike Bar and Clark’s Saloon.

“It is not exactly coincidental that just about everyone who talks about the old saloons ends up by telling about the fights that frequently erupted in them,” Fish wrote. “In fact, it appears that free-for-alls were an accepted form of recreation for some of the younger, wilder groups around town. The ‘scrap iron gang’ … often had the opportunity to defend the valor of Issaquah against the Swedes from Preston, loggers from up the lake or the Renton miners.”

Fish and Maniez agree that saloons and bars were probably some of the first establishments erected as miners flooded Issaquah’s early days in the late 1880s and early 1890s.

“I’m sure the first saloon was right before or right after the railroad reached town and coal mining really got started here,” Maniez said. “For sure, for positive, there were saloons popping up by 1892, because some of the first things the town council was dealing with were liquor licenses. That was the majority of the town council business for some time.”

1903 • Drinking ends in riot

Ed Cope and his friends John Cope and Patrick Curtis had likely just spent the better part of their day doing backbreaking work at one of Issaquah’s nearby coal mines.

They entered the Bellevue saloon — a local Issaquah watering hole — on a Sunday night in late January 1903, joining about a dozen other men in the establishment that night.

They were drinking. And they were drinking heavily.

According to the deputy sheriff dispatched from Seattle to the saloon, trouble began when the town marshal attempted to arrest Ed Cope, who was a son of one of the deputy marshals in town — a move that didn’t sit well with, well, anybody.

The town marshal tried to persuade Ed Cope to leave the saloon at the request of the barkeep, but he reportedly “refused absolutely to budge.”

That’s when things disintegrated rapidly.

As the marshal laid his hands on Ed Cope to forcibly eject him from the establishment, Ed turned and struck the marshal full in the face, knocking him to the floor.

Two other deputies rushed to the marshal’s aid, only to be swarmed, beaten and pounced on by the inebriated young miners drinking there.

“In a short time, there was a free-for-all fight in which both officers were badly used up,” an article about the incident in the Feb. 4, 1903, Seattle Daily Times states. “Another deputy named Cameron heard of the trouble and ran to the saloon. He had no sooner entered the door until he was jumped upon and beaten almost into insensibility.”

The young Ed Cope’s father appeared on the scene, advising all three instigators to submit to arrest as the best way out of the difficulty.

They agreed, following the advice of the elder Cope, accompanying him to the town jail, where they were subsequently incarcerated.

That could have been the end of a tiresome — albeit interesting — night, but friends of the prisoners demanded the judge fix the bail for all of the boys. He refused on the grounds of the incident’s seriousness and the unavailability of vetted full facts of what had happened in the saloon.

“The refusal of Judge Heaton to fix the bail of the assailants of the town officers infuriated the crowd that had gathered in front of the official’s house,” the Times article states. “They swore, it is claimed, that if he did not fix the bail they would break open the jail and then tar and feather Heaton.”

The judge became so frightened by the mob that the responding deputy sheriff from Seattle stayed the night at the judge’s house for protection.

The crowd broke down the door of the jail and the two Copes, along with Curtis, were allowed to meander out.

Meanwhile, the saloon keeper had cleared the bar of the injured officers, who were sent home to mend, and locked up for the night — to the bewilderment of the crowd. They reportedly returned to the drinking place to continue the evening.

A prosecuting attorney later issued warrants for the arrest Ed Cope, John Cope and Curtis—all charged with assault and battery with the intent to commit murder — as ringleaders of the mob.

The Times article states that the behavior in the crowd was not all that uncommon for Issaquah’s miners, although this was the most serious incident to date.

“A few years ago, Sheriff Moyer was forced to take a special train to Issaquah with deputies aboard to prevent the lynching of a man who had raised a Spanish flag in town and was said to have cursed the President and United States government,” the article states.

Quiet, in that instance, “was secured without bloodshed.”

1904 • Pistol duel erupts

It was 9:45 p.m. at Soyen’s saloon in Issaquah when a pistol duel broke out between the town marshal, J.H. Case, and John Condotti, a non-union miner.

Six rounds were fired off in the bar brawl, but no one was hit or injured, according to the July 14, 1904, edition of the Seattle Star.

Tony Condotti, the son of John Condotti, had resisted arrest for a similar offense a week prior to the pistol duel.

Both men were arrested on their way to work.

“All is quiet today,” the Star article states. “The Condottis are out on bail.”

1941 • Shooting injures revelers

Gunfire drew headlines in Issaquah again after a man reportedly opened fire at the Lake Sammamish Inn, which likely boasted its own drinking spot, during a nighttime dance party.

In what was described as “a most regrettable affair,” Andrew Darst was shot in the abdomen, Truman Hume was shot in the chest and Eddie Parker was shot in the right groin.

“Three popular young men were sent to hospitals with wounds from a revolver held by Earnest Hale, lessee of the resort,” the Jan. 23, 1941, issue of The Issaquah Press states.

Reports about the incident were so varied, it was nearly impossible to say what exactly happened.

“Most seem to agree on the following: Hale struck Parker over the head with a ball bat,” The Press article states. “Hale was knocked down by Parker and fired all tree (sic) shots from the floor.”

Parker and Hume apparently attempted to transport themselves home, but “swooned near the Pickering corner and were afterwards brought to town for first aid and taken to the hospital.”

Darst was transported to the hospital immediately via ambulance, where he was given numerous blood transfusions and reports on his condition were encouraging.

“The last report from Parker was that the head blow was giving more trouble than the shot to the groin,” The Press article states.

Hale was taken into custody and held in a Seattle jail.

1980 • Explosion levels tavern

Many people who want to dismiss Issaquah as a quiet, sleepy town incapable of bar brawls and drunken misdeeds need only take a short journey back to 1980 to know it wasn’t always that way.

They need only go back to a time when a popular watering hole — the Waterhole — was blown to smithereens.

Waterhole Tavern owner Dave Brumpton reportedly had plans to reopen the bar as a topless club in Issaquah after it had temporarily shut down in June 1980. The new joint was marketed with “Girls-Girls-Girls! Live! On Stage!” signs, and amateur nights were planned for Wednesdays, according to Jean Cerar, a docent at the Issaquah History Museums.

(Never fear, ladies, there were even all-inclusive plans for male dancers on Sunday nights.)

But before the plans could get off the ground, a suspected Seattle mob member and strip club extraordinaire added his own flare to the mix.

Ed Mott, an Issaquah policeman at the time, said in an oral history interview conducted by the Issaquah History Museums, that the mobster pressured Brumpton to include him in the revamp of the Waterhole.

“There was an individual, [Frank] Colacurcio [Sr.],” Mott said, “who was kind of the godfather of all the strip clubs in the area, who came to him and said, ‘You hire my girls, you put my soda machines in there, you put my cigarette machines in there. And that’s the way we’re going to run it, and I get a cut.’”

Brumpton reportedly refused, and a couple of nights later, the place was blown sky high in an explosion at about 11:30 p.m. Aug. 28 that was heard by residents throughout the area.

“The area was strewn with yellow crime scene tape,” Cerar said. “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had taken over the investigation, a sure sign that arson was suspected. Witnesses working at Hi-Lo on the night of the fire said there was a small explosion, followed by a huge blast that sent a ball of flame 100 feet into the air, and then another four or five smaller explosions.”

Responding firefighters from the Issaquah Fire Department and King County Fire District 10 estimated damages at about $250,000 and the Waterhole Tavern was never rebuilt.

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2 Responses to “Saloon stories recount mayhem, carnage and chaos”

  1. steve on June 28th, 2012 6:37 pm

    You could drink in Issy on a Sunday in 1890’s?

  2. Tami Thurman on June 29th, 2012 10:53 pm

    I love hearing the history of Issaquah it’s my home.

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