Below is my response to questions Bob Sobba asked through this blogs Guest Book. Since I can't put links in the guest book, and the lights have been turned off in the lower portion of the blog for some unknown reason, I am putting my response here as a general post.
Bob will be presenting on the Steunenberg Assassination at the Wild West History Association convention taking place this year in Boise, Idaho on July 10-13.
I believe the John S. (there is a brother of the Gov. named John) you reference is actually Frank W. Steunenberg, the youngest son of Gov. Frank & Belle S. Sometimes referred to as Frank Jr. (I will use that notation), he was five years old at the time his father was murdered. Frank Jr. later attended Walla Walla College, graduated in 1924 and entered the Adventist ministry. He has two surviving daughters.
Belle was of course a devoted Adventist by the time of the assassination. Gov. Frank, as near as I can determine, was not—but at the very least tolerated and accepted Belle’s zeal for Adventism. It was clear a spousal agreement had been reached that the children would be reared in the Adventist church although my grandfather Julian, the eldest child, was somewhat resistant. He relented, attended Walla Walla College circa 1903-05, and met my grandmother Francis—from a family (Beardsley and Wood) with deep roots in the Walla Walla Valley and the college. He was from then on an Adventist for life.
No doubt, as an outgrowth of her faith, Belle expressed forgiveness toward Orchard and did have some contacts with him in prison.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Mrs. Steunenberg Pardons Slayer Of Her Husband
The nature and frequency of those contacts has always been hard to determine. Perhaps in person, perhaps through correspondence, and the provision of religious literature no doubt occurred. I am not sure if my grandfather Julian ever visited Orchard in-person but he may have stopped by the prison at the prodding of his mother. Grandpa Julian never spoke about it as those events were taboo around the kitchen table or house.
Although Frank Jr. was indeed later upset about the attention given to Orchard, and lack of given his father, he had actually contributed to Orchard’s story with publication of his book, Greater Love, in 1952. In this small book, Orchard, his alleged religious conversion and forgiveness toward him are the primary topics. The Steunenberg family and Gov. are not the focus—Orchard is. Toward the end, Frank Jr. mentions a 1911 letter that Orchard wrote to my grandfather Julian “who was not at the time a Christian.” I do have a couple 1909-1911 letters from Orchard to Belle and one to Julian (missing a second page). They are posted on my blog. I recovered these (for a price of course) with several other items.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Letters from Assassin Harry Orchard
Frank Jr.’s later book (1974), The Martyr of Idaho, was a part of his effort to correct what he then realized had been the glorification of Orchard while his father was relegated to a footnote in history. The book borrows and expands on the family related history mentioned briefly in Greater Love, and takes a more personal family focus both pre and post assassination. Orchard is minimized and there is no discussion of forgiveness, just a mention of God’s judgment. In the text portion covering the bombing, Orchard is hardly mentioned by name and usually referred to as one of the gangsters, murderer, the arrested man, thug”, etc. Here is a news article that came out shortly after publication of the book.
I would be very interested in a copy of the letter from the Caldwell Library if you have one or I can contact the library directly. I am not aware of, nor have I ever seen, any photo of Orchard with Belle or other Steunenberg family members. I have heard that Orchard declined any pictures with Belle or Julian based upon his not being worthy of such.
I will continue to give this more thought and browse my own archives for any relevant facts. Please keep me posted on your progress and preparation for the presentation in July.