Sunday, February 8, 2009

Wash Bench Made by Harry Orchard?

I received the following photos and information from Doug White, a resident of Caldwell, ID. I have combined a couple of emails from Doug with the information on the above pictured "wash bench." I also made an inquiry to the Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS) regarding a guard named Lavender, and they confirmed that an M. W. Lavender was in fact a guard at the prison. The ISHS provided a photo of Lavender and several other guards and granted permission to publish that photo on this blog.
From Doug White:
John, very nice website on your great grand father!
Being an Idaho native of Idaho natives - Mingers and Slaters of Mayfield and various other parts, I am very interested in the history of the area. As a boy, I grew up in Boise on the bench.The first house I lived in was on Broxon just south of Overland. An old couple lived across the street from us named Lavender. Her name was Maude and his name was Mister Lavender. ;) That was all I was ever allowed to call him, so I don't remember his first name. Mr. Lavender did work at the prison - I believe as a guard. So there is the connection. Rachelle could probably confirm this.Anyway, to make a long story short, Maude gave my mother a "Wash Bench" some time in the 80's I believe. The bench was supposedly made by Harry Orchard and given to Maude.
Please review the attached photos. Could there be any way of tracking back to know if this was actually made by Harry? Are there prison records that would tell us anything about the bench being made, taken out of the prison or such?
I think it would be great if you would post this stuff on the blog. It is very interesting how much information comes around from this kind of exchange. Just curious, as you are about what has happened before us.
Thanks again, Doug" 
2/9/09: update from Doug: I did find some information on the Lavenders. His first name was Merrit and he died in May of 1968. Maude died August of 1980.

 --Photo from The Man God Made Again by Harry Orchard & Leroy Froom. I note that Orchard and Froom  forgot to include "mass murderer" in the caption under the photo. If anyone has more information or similar examples of Orchard’s carpentry or any items of interest, please let me know. Perhaps the warden's daughter still has her chair?

Below are a couple more photos of the wash bench. As you can see, it is well worn and was for day to day practical use. Doug said he "grew up in Boise on the bench.” I thought he meant this bench but I later learned from him that there is an area above and south of downtown Boise called "the bench." Learn something new everyday! We know that Orchard learned carpentry skills while in prison and made various table, chairs, boxes, etc. Although no way to know absolutely for sure, with the provenance confirming the link to M. W.Lavender, it is reasonable to assume that this could very well have been made by Orchard. It would not be the first Orchard item given to or otherwise acquired by a guard or prisoner at the pen and surfacing later.

--guard photos courtesy of ISHS
I am posting the complete panel of guard photos. Interesting to get a look at the prison guards of yesterday. Perhaps you know someone in this group? Where is the mace, stung guns, batons, face shields, bullet proof vests, etc. that we see on "correctional officers" of today. At least they do have bow ties for protection!

Thank You Doug for sharing this interesting item.

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