Saturday, April 26, 2008

Orchard letter's to Charles "Peter" Steunenberg

A couple of interesting letters written 100 years ago by Harry Orchard/Albert Horsely to Charles "Peter" Steunenberg, a brother of the slain governor. The one on the left is courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society (MS 773 – George Huebner papers) and the one on the right from the College of Idaho Archives (George L. Crookham Jr. papers).

Orchard is requesting that Peter use his influence to stop any effort to have his (Orchard's) sentence commuted. Orchard is indicating that life imprisonment would be a worse sentence then death and that he would prefer to meet his maker. I find it doubtful that Orchard had any desire to hang and imagine he already knew too well that his neck had been spared. It is probably safe to say that Peter and the rest of the Steunenberg men and most of the women preferred to see him dangling from a rope. We know that Belle Steunenberg, widow of the governor, was already expressing forgiveness toward Orchard...much to the chagrin of many family members. Life imprisonment was probably viewed as a tolerable alternative but the family had no idea of the eventual freedom to roam as a trusty that Orchard would be given. I am sure one reason Peter and others preferred a more definite end was to eliminate any possibility of future shenanigans, pardon efforts, legal maneuvering etc. that might shorten the sentence and find Orchard being released. Of course a good witness protection program would have been needed if that had happened what with all the enemies Orchard had made in the course of these events.

I am injecting a bit of opinion and family bias into the above so feel free to take issue. Just can't help it sometimes!

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