Sunday, September 30, 2012

Musician Gary Eller strums up Idaho history

A nice article in today's Idaho Press-Tribune about historical Idaho music hunter—Gary Eller.  Click link below.

Musician Gary Eller strums up Idaho history


Be sure to visit Gary's Idaho Songs Project website for a lot of information and to sample early Idaho songs and ditties.


Below I have included a link to a blog post on one of the songs cited in the article. 


"'Are They Going to Hang My Papa,' a 1907 labor protest song that attempted to influence the trial of Bill Haywood, accused of assassinating former Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg. According to the Idaho Songs Project website, the title refers to Haywood’s 10-year-old daughter Henrietta. It’s one of Gary Eller’s favorites."
John Richards collection.
I would venture to say the presence of Haywood's 10-year old daughter and invalid wife played an important role (though perhaps difficult to quantify) in the trial and the eventual outcome.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

New York Canal & Government Dam

Below are a couple more old photo post cards from among my parents belongings. This one is a photograph of my grandpa and grandma (well I guess a ways to go yet before they get that title) Julian, (sometimes aka 'Bill') Steunenberg and Francis ('Fan or Fannie') Beardsley Wood up at Big Creek Idaho in 1906. Grandma Francis probably wrote that note on the front. 
Julian Steunenberg & Francis Beardsley Wood.
               "Big Creek Idaho 1906 Not married yet"
They aren't married yet here but would be soon on October 16th, 1906 in Caldwell, Idaho. Julian had left Walla Walla College after his fathers assassination on 12/30/1905 and did not return. Francis was one of the few bright spots that could bring happiness back into his life after that dreadful day. His mother, my great grandma Belle Steunenberg, gave her blessing to their getting married as she no doubt could see it would help pull Julian out of his doldrums. Gramps would have been about twenty years old and grandma eighteen or so. I can see the glint in their eyes as the love is blossoming!  

Now married for about 2 1/2 years, the following two postcards were written by Julian to Francis. The are postmarked April 18, 1909 from Pocatello, ID and mailed to Mrs. J.P. (Julian Pope) Steunenberg in Roseburg, OR. Gramps was actually staying in Twin Falls, probably for work, but had come to Pocatello to get a "piece of steel" removed from his eye. Grandma was likely staying in Roseburg, Oregon where much of the Wood side of the family had settled. Ralph Maxson Wood and Eva Beardsley Wood were her parents. Grandma Francis would have been pregnant by now with their first child, my Aunt Doris, to be born August 7th, 1909 in Caldwell, ID where the family would remain for a few years.
I actually can't read the day of the postmark on one of the cards but they were marked No. 1 and No. 2 by Julian with continuous writing from one to the other so no doubt were written on the same day. Julian's writing is a tough read but here is what I have been able to transcribe. Thanks to my wife Cindy for helping out. I have taken a few liberties with spelling, punctuation and making my best guess here and here. 

"Dear Francis – I got back this morn(ing). Got your 3 letters also one from May. I wish both of the girls I mean May and Gertrude would go down—Eona is gone and its awful lonesome here now and am not able to work yet so may come down and stay for awhile. The weather is fine here.  I hope it is the same there. I was going clear to Shoshone but got a (continued on No. 2 postcard) piece of steel in my eye and could not get it taken out at Twin Falls so had to come here. It was worse than the time I had last Summer. Dr. (?) took it out this morning. I got 2 doctors in Twin Falls and neither could see it. I will write again before I make up my mind about the trip. Forever Bill."

Why Twin Falls and/or Shoshone?  Perhaps Julian was working on the Magic Dam/Reservoir under construction in 1909 on the Big Wood River near Shoshone? Or maybe other reclamation projects nears Twin Falls? All speculation but he was going wherever work could be found. I need to research further to nail town who he is taking about in regards to the names May, Gertrude and Eona.

Here is what Tony Lukas had to say in Big Trouble about the changing Idaho landscape:
    "If the town still had to reckon with dust and mud, at least it had beaten back the dammed desert. Nothing had contributed more to Caldwell's startling prosperity than reclamation of the parched wasteland through a host of irrigation projects. As early as 1864, individual settlers had channeled Indian Creek's waters onto their land. The town's network of roadside 'ditches' got under way in earnest in the 1880s. Later, water was drawn from the Boise River into larger system of reservoirs and canals, dug the hard way with hand plows, scrapers, and shovels. Frank and A.K. Steunenberg, often led by Harry Lowell, invested in many of these projects; recently they'd participated in a more massive scheme to reclaim 250,000 acres in the Twin Falls area, 130 miles to the southeast."

    "The week before, under the heading 'Musings on Our Material Progress,' a Tribune correspondent had extolled the lush cultivation along Caldwell's own Sebree Canal. 'One is favorably impressed,' he wrote, 'with the belief that this country is fast improving in all lines of farming industry when he rides along the canal, as compared with what it was a few years ago. In the haying season, it is no uncommon thing to see from three to eight hay derricks going at once...All we desire is for the Government canals to start, and we will truly be living in 'God's own country.'"
"gov. Dam, Boise River"
     "The earth was volcanic ash, dry as sawdust but immensely rich. As water seeped into the parched cinders, it turned the landscape from ghostly white to vivid green. Alfalfa, timothy, clover, sugar beets, apples, peaches, an pears all flourished in the fertile new soil. In 1890 alone, Caldwell had planted more than four thousand trees. Seemingly overnight, sagebrush and greasewood gave way to cottonwoods and box elders, Lombardy poplars and catalpas, black willows and elms. Nobody was more thrilled by this transformation than Frank Steunenberg who had ached for the luxuriant foliage of his Iowa youth."
Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas

Soon the government canals would begin construction and water would flow from the New York Canal into Lake Lowell, named after Frank's and A.K.s business partner Harry Lowell. The Idaho desert was transforming into lush fertile farmland.
"Opening of New York Canal, Feb. 22, 1909"  
More info:
Boise River Water Flows Into the New York Canal 
From Revue Guru aka Evan at South Fork Companion

I Wonder why there is a New York Canal in Idaho?


The Idaho and Oregon Land Improvement Company

An interesting letter compliments of Ben over in Eagle, ID

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Recordings from the past

Here is another discovery from the home of my parents, John and Brenda Richards. It is two recordings of my uncle Jule Steunenberg. Mom had mentioned before that Jule had a nice singing voice but I don't recall anything about these records. I have not attempted to play them yet and will resist that temptation until I am certain of the right equipment and that no damage will be done.
"Record of Jule's Voice"
The RecordDisc Corp., 395 Broadway, New York City. Date 1941. Handwritten next to Title & Recorder is "Indiana Summer" & "Jule" and on the other side "Diane" & "Jule."
"Hollywood Repro Disc, Rainbo Record Co., Los Angeles, CA. No date or titles on either side. Yes, the records have two holes but I don't know why.



Uncle Jule was killed in a collision of two B-17's in 1946, five years before I was born (1951). To have found his dog tags and now to hopefully hear his voice all these years later is quite extraordinary. 

If you have any knowledge or expertise in regards to these type of  records let me know. I am in the process of conducting more research. The goal is to get them safely recorded onto CD for all to enjoy.

Rainbo Records

Labelography of Home Recording Discs

Recordings Offer Acoustic Novels of American Families

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Early life in Caldwell Idaho

Here are a couple more old photo's I ran across from among the items at my parents home. They were taken somewhere in Caldwell, Idaho.
Above are my Aunt Doris, Uncle's Frank ('Bud'), Jule ('Juke') and Carrol ('Cal'). I believe I have the boys right as they always looked a lot alike and had those "bowl" haircuts when they were young. My mother Brenda was probably a couple years away yet. I would place this circa 1916/17.
Above my grandmother Francis Steunenberg holding my mother Brenda Steunenberg (born 8/26/1918). I would guess they are standing next to the family home. Circa 1919 in Caldwell.

This photograph of an early Caldwell home comes from Early Caldwell Through Photographs compiled and written by Elaine C. Leppert and Lorene B. Thurston. It is included here to show the structural similarities to the home in the previous photograph of my grandmother and mother. Montie Gwinn, mentioned in the caption above, would go on to become a leading citizen of Caldwell, a business partner of the Steunenberg's, vice president of the Caldwell Bank and would rub elbows with all of the towns finest as a member of the IOOF.  Before long, Montie would be moving into a much bigger house.
This one we have seen before. I am not exactly sure where in Caldwell my grandma Francis and grandpa Julian Steunenberg were living at the time. My mama Brenda is on he far left. Elsewhere on the blog I identified her in this photograph as the "little pip squeak". She laughed and always ribbed me about it.
One of the stories is that grandma and grandpa and the kids lived in this home that is now a pump house at Luby Park, not far down the road from Canyon Hill Cemetery. It's on what would have been Kimball Avenue in those days before it was split up by freeways and such. However, I don't believe the home dates early enough. I have more and better pics of it somewhere but can't locate them at the moment. The pump house windows and doors have long ago been sealed and painted over.
Above photograph of Caldwell taken from Canyon Hill. It also comes from Early Caldwell Through Photographs. Click on any of the above photos to enlarge for better viewing. A.K. Steunenberg's house is referenced in the caption and can be seen on the right before it was remodeled. If you have any knowledge of and/or recognize the surrounding buildings or land that might help identify the location of my grandparents first home—please let me know. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The other side of famous Idaho criminal Harry Orchard

Idaho Statesman 
The other side of famous Idaho criminal Harry Orchard
Click on the above title for the newspaper article.  


Published: September 4, 2012

Harry Orchard
College of Idaho archivist’s research tells the story of assassin Harry Orchard’s family.

A Public Silence Broken
The Murderer Harry Orchard’s Forgotten Family 
By Jan Boles, Archivist, the Robert E. Smylie Archives, The College of Idaho, Caldwell, Idaho

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dog Tags, Ribbons & Pins.


Jule Steunenberg Memorial Page.
Click on the above to view more information about Jule on my FOLD3 account.

I have posted on the blog before about my Uncle Jule "Juke" Steuneneberg—one of my mother Brenda's three brothers. Please click on the link and read the story as it will give you the background information to better understand the discovery of these items.
Click above to enlarge.
This was a completely unexpected find at the home of my mother and father—as these items have never been seen before that I am aware of. As we were going through things at the house, my wife Cindy found a small box and came immediately to show me what was in it. I was flabbergasted to say the least! Of the twenty airman that disappeared that day in 1946, ten in each B-17G, four bodies were recovered—one being Jule. It makes sense that the dog tags came back with his remains and would have been returned to my grandparents, Francis and Julian Steunenberg. However, I was never aware of their existence, much less the additional ribbons and pins. I am guessing that a few other items may be missing, either lost over the years or as a result of the collision of the B-17's—with all major wreckage having immediately sunk to the bottom of the ocean. To have these surface some 66 years later is quite amazing.

I will be posting more about these items and additional photographs of my three uncles from their tenures in the military. I have started to research the above items but if you are knowledgeable and have more information please email me.

Sorry if any typos as I was rushing a bit to get this one posted.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A couple of Frank Steunenberg photos & his granddaughter (my mom) Brenda at the Statue in Boise, Idaho

As we go through stuff from the house where Mom and Dad lived for the past ten years, we still find the occasional treasure or photograph we did not know existed. That is as it should be as doing so helps in the processing and grieving for those we have lost. Items with a Steunenberg connection will be shared here from time to time in the days, weeks, months ahead.
Governor Frank Steunenberg

I thought we had long ago found all the photographs of Frank but here is another one I discovered stuffed in an envelope with other Steunenberg family photos. I may have seen this pose before but did not realize we had one of the original cabinet cards. This was taken at Myers photo studio in Boise, ID. Not dated but I am guessing pre-governorship and during Frank's term in the Idaho legislature.The classic buttoned collarno tie.
Statue of Governor Frank Steunenberg with Brenda Steunenberg standing at the base. Circa 1937.
A rather somber picture of my mother Brenda Steunenberg, a granddaughter of the governor, taken in 1937 at the statue in Boise. That would put mom at about age 19. I was not even a thought yet and meeting my dad was years away. With her serious expression and dark conservative suit, I am guessing she may have been in Idaho for a family funeral...though I could be totally wrong. Not the usual smile or playful self we are accustomed to seeing.
A real photo postcard of the statue
No writing or date on the above card. It was with the other above photographs and is printed on AZO paper with the four corner squares in the stamp box placing it in the 1927-1940 range. I would estimate it was taken mid 1930's.

More to trickle in as time allows.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

John T. Richards Sr. - Born 3/6/1926 - Died 8/30/2012

As some of you know already, my father, John T. Richards Sr., born on 3/6/1926, passed away on Thursday, 8/30/2012.
A kid born in Philly. Circa mid 1930's
He died at his home in Paso Robles, CA, just as he had wished, as dad did not want anything to do with hospitals or care facilities. His health had been failing and although one is always taken off guard when the moment arriveshis passing was not totally unexpected. Dad had been very clear in his desire to join my mother Brenda as life became increasingly challenging. It has been a rough ride in recent years. As many of you have experienced too, we have been in the process of making arrangements and going through and cleaning up things at the house.
L to R: Grandpa & Grandma Richards, Grandpa and Grandma Steunenberg.
Circa 1962
Much of the Richards' side of the family prior to my Grandmother Mary E. Costello Richards (an immigrant from County Mayo, Ireland) and my grandfather Robert J. Richards (aka Ricciotti, a 1st generation Italian American)remains hidden. Unlike the Steunenberg's, with much having been written, photographed and preservedwe have very little information and no photos of Richards' generations prior to my grandparents.

Dad was a hard guy to get information out of and not much was known about the Richards' genealogy other than grandma and grandpa and maybe an uncle and aunt back east. There was so little in any of the family photo albums that sometimes I started to think maybe we had Italian mafia connections. Just kidding...but he has left us without revealing very much and no doubt I am going to have to start digging a little deeper I guess. As even with the Steunenberg's, one has to be prepared and ready to accept the Richards/Ricciotti road of history no matter where it might lead.

As time allows, I will throw a few more items on here.

Rest in peace Dad.   
Still has the suspenders, and now baggy pleats and puffing a Camel.
Circa: Before my time.



L to R - my Dad, Grandma Francis, my mom Brenda and Grandpa Julian Steunenberg at the ranch in Escondido, CA. A lot of good memories there.
Circa later 1950's/early 1960's?