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"

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