Monday, March 31, 2008

Tara's Blog and Happy Cesar Chavez Day

Thank you to Tara Rowe, a third generation Idahoan and a student in History and Political Science at Idaho State University. Tara gave me a very kind plug on her blog (despite not liking the length of my title!). I had to shovel a little back at her over the title issue and we had a good laugh over it.

It is always gratifying to see a very active and involved younger person, no matter what their political perspective, that takes a thoughtful, scholarly approach to issues with an eye on lessons to be learned from our history. Be it college students such as Tara from ISU or Josh from BSU (that we met doing research at the ISHS), high school history day participants such as Katie Forsythe in 2006 (see under History Day in left hand column of my blog) or Molly Mills (this year) or my own own three children (one daughter still in high school and two adult boys in the computer network technology field and very politically astute)...all are truly an inspiration and far ahead of where I was at that age. I like to think I am am a bit older and wiser, but these young or soon to be adults just keep getting further ahead of me!

Before I sign off I will add a Happy Cesar Chavez Day. In CA it is a State Government holiday so adds one more day to my spring vacation. However, rather then just another day off, the "kids" cited above cause me to reflect back to an earlier time when I was more aware of and involved with the plight of CA farm workers and political causes in general. Yes, I read everything I can, watch CNN and Fox (CSPAN and Public TV when I want to cut out the pundits), follow the candidates and debates and stay pretty current. But I am mostly an armchair activist as opposed to back then when we rolled up our sleeves and jumped into the thick of it. It is always gratifying to see the younger crowd involved in the much greater numbers that seem evident in the current presidential primaries. Hopefully that activism will be sustained long after the presidential election has ended. Not everything has to be about Britney, Paris, reality (but unreal) shows, obnoxious behavior or making a fast buck. The media and corporate advertisers need to stop glorifying misbehavior and focus on the many talented and good citizens among all our generations.

On this blog, I try to stay clear of partisan political discussions but one cannot totally avoid it when looking at political history. I am proud to point out that Frank Steunenberg was a democrat and even a populist during his first term, a reflection of the man and his broad appeal as a fusion candidate. Of course "populism" has morphed into many different forms today, with some on the left and some on the right wanting to cloak themselves in a populist message. However, none reflect true populism as practiced in the late 1800's/early 1900's. Maybe that is good or maybe not. Perhaps more discussion in that regard would be of interest. For now, it is just nice to know that students and others are utilizing the historical resources in Idaho that we have all been talking about and citing over the past couple of years. Some have even drawn the connection of how past history such as the Coeur d'Alene mining war of 1899, the Assassination of my great grandfather in 1905, the Haywood Trial in 1907 and over two hundred years of other political and cultural events impacts our world today. Despite the many negatives that we often see in the media, these young people are some of our best and brightest and provide a ray of hope amongst all the negative visions we see on our TV's.

You can view the United farm Worker's website and specifically the UFW history page at:
Takes me back to some of my own interdisciplinary classes in political science, history and Mexican-American studies (as it was called in those days) in the 1969-1974 time period. Also my first (and last!) bowl of Menudo as part of a cultural awareness lesson. However, most other Mexican food remains a staple in our diet.

Check out Tara's blog, The Political Game, at:

Below is a copy of Tara's March 22nd entry where she mentions my blog. Lot's of other interesting reading there too. Thanks Tara!
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Smorgasbord Saturday

Oh, oh, I almost forgot about the greatest discovery of this week. There is a great website called Idaho Meanderings: Steunenberg, Trial of the Century, Labor, Legal, Political History. Yes, long name, but I assure you it is amazing and worth the suffering through the name. The creator is the great grandson of former Idaho Governor Steunenberg and the site is absolutely amazing. For all of you interested in Idaho history and even if you're not, go visit this site. You'll not only learn something, you'll enjoy learning something. You will find a link to Idaho Meanderings in Friends, Finds, and Favorites on the sidebar until I move it to the Here We Have Idaho section.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mining Song by Josh Ritter

Fun Stuff. I have started adding a few other Idaho, mining, historical or just plain fun or favorite videos down toward the bottom of the blog with all the photos. Some are good and some, be the judge. You need to have something for entertainment to get through this endless blog. This is a special Josh Ritter story and song about mining in Idaho. For those that don't already know, Josh is a native of Moscow, Idaho. He also wrote and sings the "Idaho" song which is more serious and quite a beautiful recording. There are some music video's and tracks of that one floating around but I haven't found one I am happy with yet. In the meantime, I have posted the lyrics to "Idaho" down at almost the very bottom of the blog with some of the other poetry, lyrics, etc. I do that so that you have to scroll all the way through everything else first. So just click on the "Mining Song" below and enjoy the ride to the bottom of this mine shaft as you have over nine minutes of Josh's monologue and singing to entertain you on the way down. For more info on Josh Ritter go to:

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Brenda Steunenberg Richards-The Graduate-Class of 1936-Honorary Diploma September 2004

By the 1920's Julian and Francis Steunenberg had packed up the old Model T Ford with five kids, left Idaho and Washington behind and made the long dusty trek to CA. In the picture to the left, my mother Brenda is the youngest one with her hand on the dog. They were in search of work, a new beginning and the promises of a rapidly developing Southern California. Not much remained for Julian in Idaho except for some sad memories, what with his father Frank Steunenberg having been brutally assassinated, Uncle AK Steunenberg's untimely death, the passing of his grandfather and family patriarch Bernardus Steunenberg (Julian's grandmother Cornelia Keppel Steunenberg has died many years before in 1876, Keokuk, Iowa) and Belle Steunenberg having already moved to CA to reside with other relatives. I do not know a lot about Belle's life in CA so if anyone can fill in some of the blanks I would sure appreciate it.

Little did Julian and Francis know the tough times that lay ahead as the country began the rapid fall into the depths of the depression. Francis, with help from Brenda when not in school, labored hard doing other peoples laundry and ironing in their home in Glendale, CA. With money in scarse supply, they would often barter and trade for services. Julian and youngest son Jule would hop the rails to Arizona to pick crops to earn a little bit of money. The older boys, Cal and Frank (Bud), had joined up with Franklin Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corp., sometimes known as "Roosevelt's Tree Army." Read about the CCC at: They earned $30 a month...yes a month..for very hard work but had room and board (sometimes a basic tent but usually plenty of food) and $25 of their earnings was required by the CCC to be sent home each month. The idea was to inject that money into local economies and it actually worked pretty well. The money to buy food and the essentials of life was in short supply and every little bit helped. Being a devout Adventist couple, and with Glendale having a thriving Adventist community, Julian and Francis did their best to keep the children enrolled in the local church affiliated schools. If you were a member of the church, there was a strong expectation that your children would attend the Adventist schools but a family had to be able to pay the extra cost. In the years during the depression, sometimes Julian and Francis could not afford it.

In 1935/36 my mother Brenda was entering her senior year at the Glendale Adventist Academy. When the school requested payment of the tuition, something she recalls as being in the neighborhood of $50, Francis and Julian just did not have the money. Fifty dollars was big money in those days and would go a long way in feeding the family and paying the rent. The Adventist Academy administration said that without payment Brenda would not be allowed to graduate. Well you can imagine the impact on a teenage girl when told she would not be able to graduate from high school with her classmates. It was a huge blow and something my mother has mentioned on numerous occasions throughout her life...having never quite gotten over it. She left school and never returned. There may have been other family that could have and should have helped but Julian and Francis were proud people and were unlikely to ask for or accept hand outs. I have never sensed my mother having any blame toward her parents as she knew how difficult times were during those years. I can probably say that she did feel a sense of disappointment toward the Adventist Academy and church for not being more helpful toward those struggling during that difficult time in our history.

In 2004, I contacted the Glendale Adventist Academy and the Southern Conference of Adventists to do a little research and to inquire regarding my mother's records and time at the school. I was happy to find a very helpful school principal in Mr. Glen Baker and asked what perhaps we could do to help rectify what had occurred in 1935/36. After a period of discussion and communication, I was pleased that the academy and Southern Conference granted my mother an honorary high school diploma and that I was able to present it to her. I did a video under the guise of recording some Steunenberg oral history (which we did do) but the true intent was presentation of the diploma seen in the picture at the top of this post. I must admit that it was a very emotional moment during which the tears began to flow. Thank you Principal Baker, Chairman of the Board Karl Kime (signatures on the diploma) and the Southern California Conference of Adventists for helping heal an old wound from over 70 years ago.
I think you can tell that Mom was pretty pleased.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Would Trade a Mantle, Mays, Koufax or Robinson for a good Steunenberg, Orchard, Siringo or Meldrum

JTR Collection
Here is a cropped version of that same photo postcard that is shown toward the bottom of the blog in the photo section and has appeared in True West Magazine and on the Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century website. It was one of the very view reminders of the trial left over from by grandparents as they did not want this stuff around. Fortunately my Mom held on to it.

This one was taken at the old courthouse. There is another similar group photo out there in the world that I don't have that was taken at the Idaho pen. Although the pictures appear in many publications, finding genuine period photo postcards such at this is extremely difficult. They sell for $100's of dollars each. When my boys were still at home and we were into baseball card collecting, I use to spend a pretty penny on a good Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax or Jackie Robinson card. Now I would trade them for a decent Steunenberg, Orchard, Siringo or Meldrum any day. Any takers out there?

You can click on the pic to get a closer look at these boys.

Read more about the lesser known Bob "Bad Man" Meldrum (standing at the bottom of the stairs in between Orchard and Warden Whitney) on my 2/8/08 post.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Idaho Public Television Feedback Link

Do you have comments, praise, criticism about Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century program or a piece of historical information to contribute that is related to these event? Maybe a question to ask or a new resource to offer? I encourage you to use the new Idaho Public Television Feedback link at:
I made a first entry and now it is your turn. John

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Frank Steunenberg to son Julian - February 2, 1905

I love this old letter written on original Idanha Hotel letterhead. It conjures up a picture of Frank sitting down in the Idanha lobby or perhaps in his room during a visit to Boise. It is more personal in nature then the letters of government and business and I hesitated a bit before sharing it with the world. However, it is important to see Frank Steunenberg not only in the role of governor and martyr, but to get a glimpse of him as husband and father. Here we see that Frank dealt with similar issues that most of us as parents have experienced with our children (a child away at college, behavior, grades, lack of responsibility, etc). 

My grandfather Julian was a bit of an impetuous lad and had not applied himself to his studies while living with the family in Caldwell. He appeared to be slipping down the same road as a student at Walla Walla College. Although Julian went on to a lifelong membership in the Adventist Church, he was less then enthusiastic (as was his father) about it at this point in his life and with having been sent away to "that missionary" school in Walla Walla, Washington.

Belle Steunenberg, by 1905 a very active and devoted member of the Adventist Church, apparently insisted that Walla Walla College would be the chosen institution at which young Julian would continue his education. Many of the Steunenberg’s had been members of the Presbyterian Church and more closely associated with Dr. Boone and the College of Idaho. Belle’s conversion to a then new and very small sect of Adventists no doubt raised tensions within the family and probably to some extent within Frank’s circle of personal, business and political friends and associates.

In this letter, we leave behind the difficult decision making of a governor and see the sometimes equally challenging role of father and husband. Unfortunately, I do not have what apparently was a letter written by Julian to which Frank is responding. Julian's "physical condition" seems to be interfering with his studies and we see the firm fatherly advice of Frank basically telling him to get over it! My guess is that Julian may have already been bitten by the love bug from a young Francis Beardsley Wood…hence his “physical condition" and lack of attention to his studies. Francis of course would later become Julian's wife and my beloveded grandmother. She would help restore stability and happiness after the shattering experience of his father’s brutal murder just eleven months after this letter was written. 
"Remember, you are but a boy, and if you live, you will have many, many more years of mature life in which not only to plan, but to do." 

"With Love, Your Father, Frank Steunenberg"