"Their hired girl, Rose Flora, served up the austere breakfast prescribed by Adventists: wheat cereal, stewed fruit, perhaps an unbuttered slice of oatmeal bread (the sect believed that butter-like eggs, bacon, other meats, coffee, and teas—stimulated the 'animal passions')."
OK, so maybe not as as drama packed as the missing Jack Simpkins, but who is this disappearing Rose Flora? The brief, almost unnoticed, early appearance (p.16) of Rose in Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas is about all we know about her. She is not mentioned anywhere else in the book. Lukas, with his extreme attention to detail and indexing, does not even list Flora in the books index or page notes.
So how long had she worked for the Steunenberg's, where did she live, was she in the house at the time of the explosion, what happened to her after Frank's murder, etc.? These and other questions linger, as Flora, we would assume, would have considerable insight as to the daily life of the Steunenberg family—a fly on the wall so to speak. How did Flora come to be working for the Steunenberg's, what happened to her, where did go, what family did she have.....
Here are a few facts from a quick check of census information and other records:
1885 Census: Rosella Flora was born 9/12/1884 in Larimer Couny, Colorado, the daughter of William and Susanna Flora. Seven other older siblings are listed.
1900 Census: We see the family is in Cliffs, ID (Owyhee Co.) and Rose is age 16 with three brothers listed, Peter the oldest at 19 and three younger, Carl 15, Charles 14 and Elijah 11.
1908 Marriage Certificate: A marriage certificate was located and shows on August 18th, 1908, Rose married Joseph Lessman. Both Rosa and Joseph are listed as "of" Cliffs, ID. The marriage takes place in Caldwell, ID and is presided over by Clergyman, College of Idaho (COI) President, and Steunenberg friend and confidant, William Judson Boone. William L. Flora signed the certificate as a witness.
1910 Census: Rose, Rosalia, or Rosella Flora (now Lessman) is listed as age 24 (about 19 at the time of Frank's murder) and Joseph Lessman as born in CA 1872 (estimated) and now age 38. They are living in Pleasant Valley, Idaho. A daughter, Lina Rose Lessman, age 0 (under 12 months) and born in Idaho, and a brother (of Rose), Carl Flora, age 14, born in Colorado, are all a part of the household.
1920 Census: Rose died 9/23/1920 and does not appear on the 1920 Census (not that I have spotted anyway). She would have been 36 years young. I have not done an extensive search but haven't yet found Joseph either.
1930 Census: Joseph does show up here, now age 58, still living in the Owyhees at Dairy, Idaho with three children, Alica or Alice age 9, Glen age 14 and Ralph age 16. No Rose or other spouse although James is listed as married.
Our friend Vivian Good, up at the Owyhee Museum, tells us the Lessman children are mentioned in the May 1984 Outpost as attending the school in Cliff's ID. This edition was about Owyhee County Schools.
|Canyon Hill, Caldwell, ID. The 1890 birth year is apparently incorrect.|
Next stop as I track Rose and Joseph is Find a Grave. Low and behold we are back in Caldwell, ID at a familiar place to many Steunenberg kin—Canyon Hill Cemetery.
Rosella "Rose" Flora Lessman (and you can link to Joseph & other family from there) is back where we first found her, near the Steunenberg family she served during those dark days of late December 1905. Rosa's birth year, as indicated in the Find a Grave information and inscribed on the headstone, does not appear to be correct.
Next time I am in Caldwell, and up to Canyon Hill, I will be sure to find and visit Rose. If only she could talk and tell me what it was like working in the Steunenberg household circa 1905.
If you are descendants of Rose and Joseph, and have any knowledge of her life in Idaho and time with the Steunenberg's, I would enjoy hearing from you. A picture of Rose would be a real bonus.