Saturday, August 30, 2008

Four Score Ten Years and Counting...

I wrote this mostly last week, kept changing it and procrastinated until now. Just a little something about Mom.

August 26, 2008

Today my Mom, Brenda Steunenberg Richards, (pictured left at the Frazier Farmstead in Milton, Oregon c.1924) turns 90 years young. As a reminder for those that are not as familiar with the family chain, her parents were Julian and Francis Steunenberg (Brenda,

Julian, Francis pictured to the right c. 1950's) and Julian was the eldest son of Frank (the Governor) and Belle Steunenberg.

Ninety is a lot of years and time is taking its inevitable toll. We try to value each day as we know the calendar grows short but we take solace in that we have been blessed with four score ten years and counting. We all know others that have been much less fortunate.

Although my Mom is physically frail and the trips to the emergency room and doctor sometimes too frequent, she has avoided the Alzheimer’s that plagued her sister Doris and her mother Francis. Sure, at ninety the short-term memory is slipping but at age fifty-seven I may already have the edge on her in that regard. Mom (and Dad) struggle daily with the sometimes cruel progression of age that brings with it an ever decreasing level of independence. As the sun begins to set on our parents, we experience a range of emotions and thoughts, trying to enjoy today while preparing ourselves for “that” inevitable day. Taking it one day at a time is all we―they―can do.

When I was a young kid, there must have been moments when I frustrated and made Mom mad but the funny thing is I don’t ever remember any raised voice, any pain from a spanking or even having been sent to my room. I certainly was not a perfect child so no doubt such guidance was required from time to time. I do remember there was one of those dime store paddles, the ones we bought as kids that had a ball attached with a rubber band.We had a lot of fun playing paddle ball but when the rubber band finally broke, these toys of joy could suddenly turn against us. They became recycled into a formidable paddle board for use on our backsides―or at least that is what we thought. Our paddle was kept up on top of the refrigerator, out of reach, and served as a reminder of what at least could happen. Maybe Mom already knew that its mere presence would be enough as I don’t recall it ever hitting by rear end like I probably deserved. If it did then the pangs of pain were far too faint to be etched into memory. I guess what determines if a little spanking, or even just the thought of it, is a good thing is if it teaches a lesson in behavior and you don’t remember anything bad about the punishment.

I am still learning from the wisdom of Mom's nine decades and the love and the lessons she teaches me everyday.

Happy 90th Mom. We all love you.

Recently handing off the family silverware

to my 16 year old daughter Caley.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Announcing our Digital Collections!"

The email below just arrived in my inbox a short time ago from Amy Vecchione of the Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS). You will want to check out the societies new digital collection. For those that visited the site previously, take another look as a new home page has been added for easier navigation and includes links to other related items of interest. Enjoy, John


Subject: Announcing our Digital Collections!


The Digital Initiatives Program team has been working hard to present the Idaho State Historical Society’s Digital Collections! They are now ready for your perusal and feedback. In addition, Amber Beierle composed the text of the web exhibit that is now up and designed by Adele Thomsen. Adele and Chris worked hard yesterday to put it up (Thanks Chris!!!). Of course, there will continue to be edits that need to be made, so I am sending along this link to our survey as well.

You can now view over 700 different images online including our Mining in Idaho collection, Shorty Fuller photographs and more! Have a lot of fun with this! Send us your suggestions for future digital collections, too!

We appreciate your taking the time to review this new site, and providing feedback! If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask.

The Digital Initiatives Program team includes: Steve Barrett, Amber Beierle, Chris Brady, Belinda Davis, Ellen Haffner, Kathy Hodges, Rachelle Littau, Linda Morton-Keithley, Emily Peeso, Amy Vecchione and Kurt Zwolfer.

On behalf of DIP, thank you,



Digital Collections:


Sent: Saturday, August 23, 2008 9:25 AM
To: 'Amy Vecchione'
Subject: RE: Announcing our Digital Collections!

Good Morning Amy:

I was here on my computer doing my traditional Saturday morning history session when the email arrived regarding the ISHS digital collections. I have been accessing the site for some time but the new home page and added features are extremely nice. For an Idaho history buff that does not reside in Idaho, having more of the ISHS collection going digital is a much anticipated and appreciated event. Of course I do hope to see the Harry Orchard and Governor Steunenberg material added to the finding aids soon (friendly hint!) but I know many related items are in the more extensive papers of Borah and Hawley.

Please do pass on my enthusiastic endorsement to the team working on this project as I know it has taken a lot of hard work and time. I see a few familiar names that have contributed to other Idaho history projects in the past that I have also greatly enjoyed and appreciated.

Over the following days I will peruse the website and utilize the survey tool to provide additional feedback.

With Kind Regards,


John T. Richards, Jr. (great grandson of Governor Frank Steunenberg)

The information below was moved to this location 12/1/2008

The ISHS has now began digitizing their photograph collection. This is a welcomed development that will allow these great images to be available for study by a much wider audience. In browsing the initial efforts, I was pleased to find photos of DeLamar, ID that were contributed to the ISHS by my kin Edith Farrer Steunenberg (see blog post: Monday, April 14, 2008, Peep Show - "Ten Cents a Peep"). Edith was born in DeLamar on 12/7/1906 and married Thomas Steunenberg 9/1/1930 in Caldwell. ID. Tom was the son of A.K. (brother of Governor Steunenberg) & Carrie Steunenberg. Tom and Edith had a son, Albert Steunenberg born in Caldwell and currently residing with his wife Peg in Alamo, CA. Please check this ISHS link from time to time as this exciting pilot project continues and more photographs become available for viewing.

Governor Steunenberg and General Merriam circa 1899

I do not believe I have ever seen this picture before of Governor Frank Steunenberg on the left and General Merriam on the right. It reportedly was taken in 1899 during the Coeur d'Alene mining war. I would not have even recognized it as Governor Steunenberg at first glance and without the picture having been identified. If anyone has seen this photo or knows more about it then please let me know. In appeared in the Chicago Tribune on January 1, 1906; the day after the governor was assassinated in Caldwell, Idaho. I have included the full page of the paper that I found on Click on the images to enlarge.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Exploring History on

You can click on any of the items or numbers in the box below to access my activity on You do not have to be a subscriber but will have to pay up if you want to search on your own. I have decided to subscribe for a year as I found that even though the site is still early in its development, the resources are quite extensive, its has one of the best image viewing systems available and the resource base is expanding rapidly. It does take a bit of practice to get the navigation down.

Almost immediately I located a lot of articles on the Haywood trial, Governor Steunenberg and other related stories but have only scratched the surface. What I like is that it has smaller town papers where opinions and views might be different then New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles. Photos are a bit thin but each member is adding 1000's more of there own all the time. Hence you will see some familiar ones that I have uploaded. And it was a snap and a real treat to find the Civil War pension records for Lewis and Justus Simpson used in the previous post. The Bureau of Investigation (later FBI) files are interesting as you can find something on just about everybody, particularly if they had a German or Japanese sounding name. It gives a good picture of the paranoia that swept the county and the abuses of investigative power on innocent citizens during that period in history.

Of course there is a price to pay...about $5 bucks a month or $60 a year. You can get a free three day trial or do as I did and sign up for one month at $7.95. This is my one bit of cheap unabashed commercialism as if ever inclined to sign up then please use the banner ad over in the left hand column of my blog or wherever it might be located in the future. That way I get a cut of the action and the money goes back into the Idaho, Steunenberg, Richards' historical preservation fund for buying more old historical stuff. Regards, John

The section blow moved to here on 12/1/2008
From Footenote:
"Introducing Footnote"

" is a place where original historical documents are combined with social networking in order to create a truly unique experience involving the stories of our past.

The collections feature documents, most never before available before on the Internet, relating to the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, US Presidents, historical newspapers, naturalization documents and many more. is more than just an online repository for original documents. In addition to hosting millions of records, Footnote supports a community of people that are passionate about a variety of topics relating to history."

You can access my Footnote items free of charge.
Click here to see what John is doing on foot.note.

Private Justus Simpson, Company G of 152nd NY Volunteers

August 1862
Where: Spotsylvania and North Anna River 
"At twenty-five, Justus was five years older than Lewis and a little bigger and stronger. Apparently named after the Justus of Acts 18:7 ("one that worshiped god"), his occupation was listed as a farmer. He was five-feet-seven with a fair completion, gray eyes, and light hair. Two weeks later, Justus found himself in training at Camp Schuyler in German Flats at Herkimer, New York." (Text and photographs from from Whither thou Goest by Patrick Simpson. Originals at the Frazier Farmstead Museum. See the related "The Cross Story" from the Frazier Farmstead Museum website.


Private Lewis Simpson, Company K of the Eighty-ninth New York Volunteers.

This post is about some civil war relatives with a Steunenberg connection. As many of you know, my 90 years young mother is Brenda Steunenberg Richards; her mother/my grandmother was Frances Beardsley Wood Steunenberg, the daughter of Eva Beardsley Wood and granddaughter of Mary Jane Beardsley. Mary Jane was the sister of Lewis, Justus and George Simpson. So I believe that makes Eva my great grandmother, Mary Jane my great great grandmother and her three brothers my great grand uncles but I won't swear to it. Pictured: Frankie (standing) and Eva Beardsley circa 1875, children of Mary Jane & Theo Beardsley.

The family is fortunate, that like Anthony Lukas and Big Trouble, we have another book entitled Whither thou Goest by Patrick Simpson that traces the descendents of my grandmother Frances Steunenberg through the perils of the Civil War and the journey of Mary Jane and Theo Beardsley with their daughters Eva and Frankie from Well Bridge, New York across the plains by covered wagon, through the Bannock Indian War and to the promises of the West in Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

I have basically this same post on with some additional annotations and quotes from Civil War letters. After a trial use of Footnote, I decided to subscribe and hence found the Civil War pension records. Just click on the post title immediately below and check it out on Footnote along with other items I have found.

August 1862
Where: Fredericksburg, Virginia

Private Lewis Simpson, Company K of the Eighty-ninth New York Volunteers

"Dear Sister, . . . He [Stonewall Jackson] will wake up some morning to find his stonewall all gone to thunder and his soul singing rebel anthems with the Devil and his Angels in Hell. May God arrest him in his mad and reckless career and convert his guilty soul over to taking the oath of allegiance to our dear good old Uncle Sam before it will be everlasting too late for him to repent." (Letter from Lewis to sister Mary Jane Beardsley written on August 18, 1862 from the front lines near Fredericksburg, Virginia.) From Whither thou Goest by Patrick D. Simpson.

Photo above of Private Lewis Simpson from the collection of the Frazier Farmstead Museum.

The sister of Private Lewis was Mary Jane Beardsley to whom he wrote a number of interesting civil war period letters that are in the archives of the Frazier Farmstead Museum.

Civil War Pension records from

Monday, August 11, 2008

Robert K. Steunenberg-WW II Veteran on LST 808 and Distinguished Scientist

I typically try to keep the items on this blog related in some way to Governor Steunenberg, the Haywood trial and/or that period in history. I don't go a lot into other generations of our family as I know that may not be of interest to everyone. I am going to make an exception in this instance as I want to share a recent article about Robert K. Steunenberg and Landing Ship, Tank (LST) 808 on which he served during the war in the pacific. Robert was the son of Ancil and Lorraine Steunenberg and his grandfather was A.K. Steunenberg, brother of Governor Frank Steunenberg.

Robert died about six years ago and is survived by his wife Jean. Picture to the right is from College of Idaho 1891 - 1991: A Centennial History by Louie W. Attebery.

I receive automatic notifications through Google regarding anything that appears on the web related to "Steunenberg." Hence, I received notification of the article below and got in touch with the author, Bill Mego. Bill it turns out was Robert's long time friend and neighbor.

We have tried to obtain information about papers and belongings of Robert and wife Jean in the hope of preserving items that might be of historical and personal family interest. Unfortunately, they did not have any children and it appears the attorney in charge of their estate has merely focused on its sale and disposal. Sad indeed.

Interestingly, at the same time I discovered this article, I had run across Robert's copy of That Man Boone (with his personal nameplate) on eBay. The book is about the life of William Judson Boone, founder and president of the College of Idaho from where Robert graduated in 1947. The seller was from the same general area of Chicago near Naperville and Argonne National laboratory where Robert was employed for many years as a scientist. Fortunately I was able to at least acquire that one item and it will be heading for the College of Idaho archives. The seller, once I identified my connection, has not been particularly forthright with other information.

Robert played the cello and Jean the piano. According to Bill Mego, those items were sold off. Bill also shared the following information: "Bob (aka Robert) was a friend and neighbor of mine for more than 30 years. He was a chemist with the Chemical Engineering Division at Argonne National Laboratory. His notebooks, which are thought to be the most meticulous works of their kind, remain at Argonne." "Jean was very active in the local Republican politics. Bob served on the Park Board, in several community organizations, and produced shows for our local television station NCTV." Their Steunenberg china was to be passed on to other kinfolk but its disposition is unknown. Inquiries to the attorney handing the estate have gone unanswered.

With the information about Robert and his having served as an Ensign on LST 808, I have done a little research and included additional links at the bottom of this entry. I added the two pictures below from the referenced websites.

(The title below is linked to the Naperville Sun where you can view the online article. I have included the full text below as the author tells me it will disappear off the site after a few weeks).

Cables tell tale of WWII attack on Naperville ensign’s ship

by Bill Mego, Naperville Sun

July 31, 2008

On the evening of May 19, 1945, the tank landing ship LST 808 was anchored at Ie Shima, the island on which a sniper had killed famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle. It was midway through Operation Iceberg, the battle of Okinawa, and the ship was supposedly hidden in a man-made fog of oil smoke. However, the joke was that the letters LST stood for Large Slow Target.

The 327-foot ship had previously served at the foot of Mount Suribachi, on Iwo Jima. She carried seven officers and a crew of 204. The communications officer was Ensign Robert K. Steunenburg, who would later become a Naperville resident and one of Argonne National Laboratory's finest scientists.

At 2207 hours, the LST 808's engine room was hit by a torpedo from a low flying plane. The enormous concussion opened a five-foot hole in the hull, instantly killing the five men in the engine room and filling the air with the smell of sulfur.

From the gray-painted communications room the following cable was sent: CROWBAR 808 THIS ANCHORAGE HAS RECEIVED HIT X ENGINE ROOM DAMAGED Then another: WE HAVE 6 FEET OF WATER IN TANK DECK An order to assist went out and was answered. BRAINWAVE WE ARE STANDING BY TO ASSIST CROWBAR 808.


But assisting was difficult. BRAINWAVE IMPOSSIBLE TO BEACH CROWBAR 808 IN THIS SMOKE WE HAVE GONE AGROUND ONCE. But the ship soon got free and went, with another LST, to beach the 808, which was now listing dangerously. CROWBAR 808 SLIP UP ANCHOR X BACKDOOR WILL ASSIST TO BEACH

Most of the crew was off the ship by 0300, and the salvage officers began the task of removing everything valuable or secret. A security detail of five was on the ship when, at 1837 hours on May 20, a kamikaze from the 50th Shinbu Squadron at Chiran Air Base flew his Hayabusa fighter plane into the forward superstructure and crashed all the way down to the tank deck. None of the men on board the ship were badly hurt.

Just another day in paradise. The final toll was 17 dead and 11 wounded.

Doctor Robert Steunenberg survived the war and went on to devote his energies to science and the community in which he became highly respected. As far as I know, he talked about the LST 808 only at the crew's annual reunion.

Bob had no children. After he died, and his wife had grown ill, men in charge of his estate came to his home and told his wife's live-in caregiver that she had one hour to leave. Then they admitted his wife, involuntarily, into a nursing home.

They are now in the process of selling Bob and his wife's possessions and the home that they loved so much. One of them sold me a plastic bag of my friend Bob's papers for $20.

And that, I guess, is how life ends for an American hero.

Bill Mego's column is published each Thursday. Contact him at

(Bill, thank you for your kind article and correspondence regarding Robert. Lets remain in touch, John)

Links related to LST 808

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1940-1945 - USS LST-808

NavSource Online: Amphibious Photo Archive - LST 808

Kamikaze, the Ultimate Sacrifice


I have also entered the above on my account at:

Robert K. Steunenberg

Friday, August 8, 2008

Bringing the Haywood Jury to a Calm and Unbiased Decision July 27, 1907

Just a quick note to pass on this link provided courtesy of our friend Gary Eller. Thought I would put it here rather then burying with all the other links. Haywood trial political comment cartoons are rather few and far between. Click on the link below:
"Bringing the Haywood jury to a calm and unbiased decision"

I will be seeing if I can get permission to utilize the image but the link lets you see it anyway along with all the referencing information.

You can find a lot of other J. N. "Ding" Darling cartoons from the University of Iowa Digital Library. No doubt I will be poking around more as we have a lot of family history in Iowa too that I have not explored to any great degree.

More later this weekend.

Not too much later....I already started checking out the site a bit more and here is another good Haywood trial cartoon from Jay "Ding" Darling. "When they get around to the twelfth juror"
And more:
Big Bill Haywood is reported on his way back in disgust
Our bow-legged constabulary
Any incivility on the part of the attendants should be promptly reported

Friday, August 1, 2008

Automatic Teller Bank from the Caldwell Banking & Trust Co. Ltd.

The attached pics are of an old Advertising Automatic Teller Bank that I was happy to find and purchase recently. It is made by the National Recording Safe Co. Chicago USA and has three slots for cents, two for nickels, two for dimes, one for quarters, one for halves and a hole on the top for rolled up bills. The bank is made of stainless steel and cast iron with an advertising plate riveted to the top. The bank measures 2.5 inches high by approximately 3.50 inches across. It is quite heavy compared to later types that came with aluminum bases.

As you can see, what makes this one special is that is comes from the Caldwell Banking & Trust Co in Caldwell, Idaho...the bank found and operated by A.K. and Frank Steunenberg. You can see pictures of the exterior and interior of the bank building toward the end of this blog.

The base reads US PAT 758340 which would place it circa 1904. These almost never come with keys and that is the case here. The bank customer would save their change and dollars and when the bank was full they would take it to the cashier/teller. The teller would have the key, open the bank and place the money into the persons account. The process would then repeat itself and encourage customers to save more money. I have never seen one before from the Caldwell Bank and was particularly pleased to find this early version that dates to the period of Frank and A.K. The picture to the left is of the interior of the Caldwell Bank with A.K Steunenberg at the back window.

Has anyone else seen one of these small automatic teller banks before or perhaps have more information? It is in great shape with the wear, pitting and patina that gives it the unique character that can only come with the passing of time. To think it might well have been is use when Frank and A.K. were still alive and at the bank is quite fascinating.

Since it doesn't have a key, I have yet to open it. I tried a little lock picking but don't want to cause any damage. I located some information and a template from online as it seems a lot of folks are in need of keys for these old advertising banks. There are a few coins jingling around so it will be interesting to see if those were recent additions or from the distant past. I will let you know.

I think I will start filling the bank with my own coins and dollars as I certainly need to be saving some!

Here is a letter from A.K. written to his friend, colleague and bank VP Montie Gwinn just after the assassination of Frank Steunenberg. It identifies the principal stakeholders in the Caldwell Banking & Trust Company and gives one a good sense of the devastation A.K. felt over the loss of his brother. Update 4/2020: Link no longer active and deleted. This letter comes from the College of Idaho where the Steunenberg Family Documents are located. However, all items have been offline for several years and the archive in Sterry Hall recently packed up and closed. Fortunately, I have scans of most everything.