Friday, May 23, 2008

The Marines

In the family we often think of the better known and published prose of "The Major", George E. Steunenberg, brother of the Governor. I will get some of the Major's items on here too. But this poem was written by my 95 years young Uncle Cal Steunenberg, older brother of my mother Brenda (almost 90) and son of Julian and Frances Steunenberg. It is not dated but was written sometime during or shortly after WWII and I think it is a fitting start to this Memorial Day weekend. Uncle Cal or Cousin Roy Steunenberg might be able to date it more accurately.
As is always the case, it is the patina of time, the hand made corrections and the addition of the three cent stamps at the top commemorating that moment on Mount Suribachi that reflects the heart and soul of its author in honoring his fellow soldiers. I will let Uncle Cal's words do the talking as we honor the service and sacrifice of all those past and present on this Memorial weekend.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cover Addressed to Governor Steunenberg -1899

Just going through more stuff and ran across this cover I had picked up quite some time ago. Too bad the letter was not inside. It is a Spanish-American war cover from the Philippine Islands and addressed to Gov. Frank Steunenberg. The postmark is a Military Station postmark. The Military Stations were field Post Offices operated under the administration of the San Francisco Post Office (information courtesy of Mark Metkin). This cover was likely "mailed" sometime earlier in the Philippine Islands but postmarked on January 7, 1899 at the military station in San Francisco. It arrived in Boise on February 14th 1899.

I had previously compared the handwriting on the cover to that of George Steunenberg, the brother of Governor Steunenberg, as he was serving with the First Idaho Volunteers. However, the writing is not similar and Steunenberg is spelled incorrectly.

One can only imagine the contents of the letter, maybe part of a correspondence between the governor and military authorities regarding a request for troops to serve in the Spanish-American War or an anticipated need on the home front because of simmering trouble in the Coeur d'Alene's. Or perhaps from a soldier in the field wishing to express an opinion or experience. The name Lyman C. Reed is on the back but I have been unable to identify who that might be. Maybe we will eventually uncover a letter somewhere among Frank Steunenberg's papers that will match this envelope.


After a declaration of War against Spain by the United States Congress on April 19, 1898, the Secretary of War sent telegrams off to each state "advising them of the allotment of troops under the President's call for volunteers.” Idaho’s contribution was defined as two battalions of infantry composed of four companies each. Governor Frank Steunenberg issued orders for the Idaho National Guard companies composing the First Regiment to report to Boise. These companies were mustered into the service of the United States as the First Idaho Volunteer Infantry in May of 1898 for deployment to the Philippines to fight in the Spanish-American War.
"Just before the regiment left for the front, it was presented with a handsome flag of military blue silk, upon which was embroidered in richly colored silks the Great Seal of the State of Idaho. This flag was presented by the women of the state and was carried by the regiment during its entire service. Col. Charles H. Irvin, of Boise, suggested the material and design for the flag, and through the courtesy of Mrs. J. B. Lyon, of Chicago, mother of Mrs. Calvin Cobb, of Boise, the flag was made in Chicago by skilled needle-workers. After the war the legislature directed to collect all flags belonging to the state of Idaho and carried by troops in the Spanish-American war and preserve them in the capitol building, and $100 were appropriated for the purpose. The flag presented to the boys of the First Idaho is now preserved under that order and can be seen by visitors to the capitol." 1
The battle flag of the First Idaho Infantry consisted of a rendition of the pictorial content of the Idaho Territorial Seal centered on a blue field. The regiment name was placed below.
The First Idaho Volunteer Infantry arrived in the Philippines on July 31 and took part in the staged assault on Manila on August 13. After active participation in battles at Santa Ana, Caloocan, Malaban, Santa Cruz, and subsequent scrimmages in 1899, the First Idaho Volunteer Infantry was sent home. They were greeted by Governor Steunenberg and nearly one hundred Idahoans when they arrived in San Francisco on August 29, 1899.

Read more at:

The Boise Barracks

From Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas:

“After their calculated rebuff to Gooding’s March 14 request for direct command of U.S. Troops in Idaho, the president and his war secretary had edged toward a limited―and very quiet―intervention in Idaho. In early April, they decided to assuage the governor’s anxiety by surreptitiously reinforcing the garrison at Boise Barracks, perched on a Hillside five blocks north of the capitol. As 1906 began, the barracks were manned by Troop L of the Fourteenth Calvary, at full strength sixty-five officers and men―though, with desertions and other vacancies, more like fifty. Now Roosevelt and Taft agreed in principle to triple that.”

“When nothing happened by April 18th, Roosevelt jotted Taft a note: 'What have you done about getting some more troops quietly into Boise―or even not quietly if necessary?' Two days later, Taft ordered Troops A and B of the Fourteenth Calvary on a practice march from Walla Walla, Washington, to Boise―some 350 miles across heavily wooded mountains and grassy plateaus. The troops―substantially understrength―reached Boise Barracks on May 4, adding seventy officers and men to the garrison.”

Later in Big Trouble:

“For more than a year, Frank Gooding had stewed about threats of a labor or Socialist insurrection during the upcoming trials. In early 1906, he’d persuaded Roosevelt and Taft to triple the cavalry force stationed at the Boise Barracks, bringing Troops A and B of the Fourteenth Calvary from Walla Walla to reinforce Troop L. When pressures built for returning the reinforcements to their home base, the governor and Calvin Cobb had convinced the White House to retain them in Idaho. Only in the late fall―with winter approaching and the troopers squeezed into 'inadequate quarters'―did the War Department finally withdraw Troops A and B, replacing them with Troop K from the Presidio at San Francisco. On the eve of the trial, some 106 enlisted men, five officers, 110 calvary horses, and four newly arrived 'machine guns' were posted at the barracks.”

Above excerpt and picture of Gooding and Cobb come from Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas. Pic of Boise barracks is a period post card in my collection.

I guess the stage was set, machine guns ready and the state fully prepared to deal with any trouble that might occur during the upcoming trial. John

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Have You Seen These Harry Orchard Items?

The above photograph shows a display case with personal items that had belonged to Harry Orchard while he was in the Idaho Penitentiary. The photo came to me courtesy of Jan Boles, COI Archives. From where else it originates escapes me so my apologizes if not giving appropriate credit. Click on the photo to enlarge. When Orchard died in 1954, his modest personal effects were for the most part passed on to the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Boise, ID.
As most of you know, Orchard had converted to Adventism, a rather controversial conversion at
least partially attributable to my great grandmother the widowed Belle Steunenberg. That story is discussed elsewhere so I won’t go into detail here.

In 1990, C. Griffith Bratt's opera "A Season For Sorrow" was performed in Boise as a part of the states centennial celebration. Quoting from the opera program, “C. Griffith Bratt’s historical opera is based upon the capture, imprisonment and confession of Harry Orchard, assassin of Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg in the early 1900's.” I will have more to report on the opera itself at another time as I had a delightful phone conversation recently with the 93 years young Dr. C. Griffith Bratt.

The Adventist Church had loaned the Orchard items for display as pictured above at the Morrison Center in Boise, ID during the centennial celebration and opera performance. Apparently the items were misplaced, lost or stolen and never returned to the church. No one seems to know for sure other then they have not been seen since 1990.

If anyone has more information, has seen these items, knows there whereabouts, etc then we would sure like to have them returned to the proper owners (the Adventist Church) and made available for historical study. I believe the name of Leon Cornforth as Trustee (written on the smaller card on top of the display case) refers to Pastor Cornforth but I am not sure. Perhaps someone can shed light on that for me. I hope one of several Orchard descendants with whom I have had contact might recognize and be able to identity the people we see in the box of photographs. Email me at:

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day is Every Day

I did not get my usual Saturday post out this weekend as intended. Typically that is my day to get something new up on the blog. Being mother’s day weekend, the intent was to recognize the Steunenberg women, my mom and mothers everywhere. As fate would have it, Saturday was spent at the hospital with my mother, Brenda Steunenberg Richards. Let me say right off that she is doing ok; we got her back home and no immediate danger. It was just one of those periodic scares and illnesses that are inevitable and that we have all experienced at one time or another with our loved ones. Since a blog is a public forum, I will leave it at that in respect for her privacy.

Time marches on and we need to value each day as it comes. A belated happy mothers day to all the mothers out there...past, present and future.

I love you mom! John

A Teenage Future Governor

I love this old tin type photo of Frank Steunenberg Sr. as a teenager. He is maybe 17-20 years old, living in Iowa and perhaps already attending Ames College. This picture comes out of Martyr of Idaho by Frank Steunenberg Jr. I look at it and think that could be me at about the same age as I had a similar pair of boots and dressed about like that too!

I am not sure who has the original tin type as the photos were not referenced but I assume it was in Frank Ju
niors possession. It is the earliest picture I have seen of the future governor.

daho was likely not yet a flicker in Frank’s mind but we do get a peak into family life in the Steunenberg household with his poetic "Bean Soup Tragedy." This piece of classic prose has been down at the end of this blog for sometime but I have moved it up to this posting as it was written by Frank around the same time as this photo was taken. Be on the lookout for a musical rendition of “Bean Soup” that might be in your future!

And right out of Martyr of Idaho, 1974 by Frank W. Steunenberg Jr, here is the complete preceding paragraph to the poem:

“Frank was in his mid-teens when his mother died. It hit him hard, but he did not permit the tragedy to blight his buoyant spirit. Perhaps I can do no better then to share with you two poems that gave us some insight into the life of the shoemaker’s home, while the family was growing up in Knoxville. One poem, if I may be permitted to describe it thus, is a parody. A take off on a poem entitled “Excelsior,” it was written by Frank while a student at Ames College in Iowa. The poem is entitled “Bean Soup Tragedy.” It depicts some of the fun and frolic that must have been ever present with ten frisky children growing up in one house. Without doubt, with a dozen mouths to feed, on a shoemaker’s income, there were times when bean soup was a symbolic staple of important proportions.”

The poem is not dated but being that the family was in Iowa, Frank attending Ames College and about age 20--that would place it around circa 1881. Click on the doc to enlarge.

From Martyr of Idaho by Frank Steunenberg Jr. The poem was written by future governor Frank Steunenberg Sr. as a young man of about 20 years of age living in Iowa and attending Ames College. It appears that each of the five boys...John, Al, Charles, Will and Frank were identified with a specific part. Nothing like Boys and Beans!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Frank's Funeral

Continuing from Big Trouble:
"With a resigned sigh, she (Belle) left the funeral arrangements in the capable hands of Frank's close friend Harry Lowell."

 "From the church, a dark procession of fifty carriages crawled up the long gravel road on the snowy face of Canyon Hill, where the governor's body was lowered into the frozen earth. He wasn't buried in the family plot, which at that time held only his first son Felix, dead in 1894 at the age of six. 

The day before the assassination, as he and Harry Lowell had returned from their trip, Frank Steunenberg had gazed out the train window at the old town graveyard on Canyon Hill and remarked how "dreary and desolate" it was, overgrown with sagebrush, graves piled high with boulders to keep the coyotes and other varmints from digging there. So Lowell selected a new part of the burial ground, free from the dense sagebrush and chaparral thickets, more open to light and air, overlooking the valleys of the Boise and the Snake."

Picture to the left from Martyr of Idaho. A pretty desolate looking place in those days.

Little Felix was later relocated to the same spot that became the Steunenberg family plot as it exists today. Picture to the right taken in 2005 showing L-R my daughter Caley, Cousin Bill Crookham and me (not showing up. Will try to relocate) A much more pleasant place today that is no longer "dreary and desolate" like the governor found it 100+ years ago.

Many Steunenberg & Crooham kinfolk are buried at Canyon Hill.

Caldwell Banking and Trust Company

I have discovered that finding information and documents related to the Caldwell Banking & Trust Company can be rather difficult. With Frank Steunenberg's assassination in 1905 closely followed by brother A.K.'s. death in 1907, the ownership and administration of the bank from there on forward is unclear. Perhaps other family have more information in that regard. The bank did go on until it failed to open one day in I believe 1925, perhaps an early victim of the depression. I have a little more information around somewhere but can't put my hands on it at the moment. The banks assets were bought up by other financial institutions. Surely there must be some records somewhere.

Pictured at the top of this posting is an old $1000.00 first mortgage real estate bond for an Ammon Christopher and his wife May K, Christopher. The original date on the mortgage is April 6th, 1908, coming after the death of Frank and A.K. The bond amount plus interest is due April 1, 1911. On the back it is marked "pay to the order of Robert E. Morgan without recourse" and signed by J. H. Lowell, Vice president. I hope to someday find other bank documents with the signatures of Frank and/or A.K. but no such luck in this instance. However, this is of interest since it is a period item from the bank and the J. H. Lowell would be James "Harry" Lowell, a close friend and business associate of Governor Steunenberg. Lowell had been handling the real estate transactions of the Caldwell Banking & Trust Company for a number of years. To the left is an early picture of the bank before the rest of the Steunenberg block was erected. This one and other bank pictures are located toward the bottom section of the blog.

From Big Trouble: "For only the day before he'd (Frank) returned from a strenuous trip--by train, buggy and horseback--to his sheep ranch near Bliss, a hundred miles to the southeast. With his business associate, James H. "Harry" Lowell, he'd also inspected an irrigation project along the Wood River. A.K. Steunenberg--his brother's confidant--believed there was a quite different explanation for Frank's behavior that day. Later he told reporters the governor must have received a warning late in the week, which would account for his "unusual" manner. On Friday afternoon at the bank, he'd walked the floor with a "meditative and troubled expression" on his face."

..."Frank and A.K. Steunenberg, often led by Harry Lowell, invested in many of these (water reclamation) projects; recently they'd participated in a more massive scheme to reclaim 250,000 acres in the Twin Falls area, 130 miles to the southwest."

..."they (A.K. and Frank) were officers of Caldwell's Independent Lumber and Manufacturing Company, headed by their colleague Harry Lowell, who also served as manager of the newly formed real estate department at the Steunenberg bank. Lowell and the Steunenbergs reaped thousands of dollars from exclusive sales rights on the remaining lots of the Caldwell Land Company, once run by Bob Strahorn" (From Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas).

I am not sure where the property and assets ended up (not with me!) but the business interests of the Steunenbergs seemed to diminish rapidly from there on with Frank and A.K. having been the main movers and shakers in that regard. Wish I had one of those lots in Caldwell now.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Farewell to Steunenberg

Here is the instrumental tune composed by John Larsen and played by Bona Fide and friends at the IPTV premiere of Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century. They dedicated it to my great grandfather Governor Steunenberg and hence the title. I have been anxiously waiting for John, Gary and Marv to lay down these tracks as a lot of us were so busy hob-knobbing and gabbing in the lobby at the Egyptian Theater that we missed most of their playing. I regretted that later when I found out more about the band, the songs and all their efforts to record and preserve historical Idaho music. Thanks to Gary Eller, that gap has been getting filled and my guilt has diminished. Most of the music either has or will be recorded (such as this instrumental piece) from that special evening at the Egyptian Theater in Boise.

You will want to check out the Bona Fide website if you haven't been there recently.

The information below came from the website. You will need iTunes , Windows Media Player or something similar on your computer for playing music downloads. Just click on the title of this entry or the link below to go right to the music. Enjoy, John

INSTRUMENTAL SONG - Farewell to Steunenberg ( click to hear)

This instrumental song was written in 2007 by the long time Idaho folksinger John Larsen of Givens Hot Springs, on the centennial of the assassination of Governor Frank Steunenberg by Harry Orchard in Caldwell. The ensuing trial of the radical union leader Big Bill Haywood involved legendary American attorneys such as Clarence Darrow and William Borah and captured the attention of America. The trial had a strong impact on the development of the modern American labor union movement. Almost forgotten during the hooplah of the trial was the man who was assassinated. This song, while not written prior to 1910, attempts to capture the overall sound that a tribute song to Governor Steunenberg might have had at the time of the trial. On this recording, John Larsen played mandolin, guitar and harmonica. Gary Eller played plectrum banjo and Marv Quinton added bass. (courtesy of Gary Eller)

Playoff Update: The Lakers swept the Denver Nuggets four straight and are resting up, licking their wounds and preparing for the first game with the winner of the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets series.