Sunday, May 31, 2009

Did the Steunenberg Children Favor Commuting Harry Orchard's Sentence?

Here is an interesting short note that was recently discovered at the ISHS and forwarded on to me. Thank you ISHS for bringing it to my attention. I had not seen this letter before as it was found in an unrelated file, not in Harry Orchard's or among the Steunenberg papers. Click on the image to enlarge for reading.

Courtesy Idaho State Historical Society
It is rare to have an item that has been signed concurrently by Governor Steunenberg's wife, Eva B. ("Belle") Steunenberg and three of the children, Julian (my grandfather), Francis and Frank Jr. In fact, this may be the only such example.

Belle would have been about age 56, Julian 35, Francis 29 and Frank Jr. around 21. Most likely it was written during the period of time that the family members were living in Walla Walla /College Place, WA. Frank Jr. attended Walla Walla College from 1920 to 1924 and my grandfather Julian and grandmother Francis (not the sister Francis on the letter) would have been living there at that time too. I am not sure if Belle and Francis were in that specific location or not.

Great grandma Belle was a rather dominant force and her forgiveness toward Harry Orchard has been well documented. It is likely that some degree of pressure or expectation of signing this letter was brought to bear on her children, even though they were well into adulthood at the time of its writing. Of course, that is just speculation on my part. My grandfather Julian never spoke about Harry Orchard so I can only guess his true feelings. He was a kind, forgiving man, a faithful Adventist although not with the traditional fervor of his mother. No doubt he would have been in favor of sparing Harry Orchard the gallows but I am not sure he would have been all that anxious to see Orchard released. Julian had been devastated by the murder of his father and himself never able to be "released" from the horror of that evening of December 30th, 1905 in Caldwell, Idaho. I don't believe he was concerned that Orchard spent his life in prison. What did become troubling later to Julian and his brother Frank, and perhaps Francis too, was the sometimes celebrity treatment that seemed to be afforded Orchard during his tenure in the Pen while little attention was afforded their martyred father. Scroll down to the picture section near the bottom of the blog and see "Harry 'behind bars' at the Idaho Pen."

Most of the rest of the family, led by Charles "Pete" Steunenberg, the governors brother, had a very different view in regards to Orchard and helped rally support to snuff out any attempts to commute the sentence.

See blog posts:
Mrs. Steunenberg Pardons Slayer of her Husband

Orchard's Letters to Charles "Peter" Steunenberg

Monday, May 25, 2009

"CQ,CQ,CQ, this is W6WFV....William 6, William, Frank, Victor...CQ, CQ, CQ" ...Memorial Day 2009...and "dits" and "dahs"

Today is Memorial Day and I want to pay homage to all those that have given the ultimate sacrifice for this country. Memorial Day had its beginnings during the Civil War and was later expanded to honor those who have died in all of our wars. We need to remember and remind ourselves of its purpose and intent. I have posted it before, but the poem to the left, written by Sgt. Cal Steunenberg, U.S. Army Signal Corp., always seems like a fitting tribute on Memorial and Veterans Days. This wonderful original version comes courtesy of Cal's sister, my mother, Brenda Steunenberg Richards.

You can read more about the history of this day at:

Memorial Day History

History Channel

Every day, over 1000 of our WWII vets are dying as their numbers continue to dwindle. This past week our family lost 96 year old Army Sergeant Cal A. Steunenberg—my Uncle Cal. See previous blog post. The scrapbook pages shown here come courtesy of Sheri Steunenberg Beersman, Cal's granddaughter.

Growing up as a kid, I have many fond memories of visits with my Uncle Cal. Some of those took place at family gatherings during the holidays, others at visits to the home of my grandparents Julian and Francis Steunenberg or when Uncle Cal was out and about and made a trip to our various homes over the years. He sure liked to jaw with by dad (that sometimes got a bit boring for a kid!), always loved his little sister (my mother Brenda) and her home cooking, and enjoyed hanging out to watch Sunday afternoon football games. However, nothing could match my fascination with his passion for ham radio. I have faint memories of those very early ham radio stations he had at his home—the cool radio room with all kinds of interesting equipment and a giant antenna in the back yard. Listening in to the world on his receiver was a pretty amazing thing for a kid as was hearing him chattering in ham lingo with fellow operators around the state, country and world. It is where I first heard Uncle Cal uttering "CQ,CQ,CQ, this is W6WFV."

I remember an old receiver that Uncle Cal's gave me when I was probably 10-12 years old. I think it was a Hallicrafters. It was from one of his original station setups and had been setting around for awhile. It was pretty old then and would be a real antique today. Wish I still had it. Of course I never had much of an antenna but strung up some wire and could still pull in broadcasts from around the world. The constant “dit” and “dah” of Morse code still rings in my ears and is forever etched in a deep fissure of my brain. I use to keep a log book of all the different countries that I tuned in—of course I wasn't a real Ham but Uncle Cal kept a log book so I did too. Over time I added a copy of the Ham’s bible, The Radio Amateur's Handbook, and other books on radio. Uncle Cal gave me some guide books on licensing and Morse code along with an old straight key for code practice—and always words of encouragement.

Thanks to that interest Uncle Cal had sparked, I took several electronics courses in high school, learned the basics, built a few projects and always had a fascination with old radios—still do. My copy of The Radio Amateur's Handbook remained a handy reference and I still kept that old receiver out in the garage but never got a ham license. Many years later, by own two boys would take up an interest in amateur radio to go along with their expertise and careers in the computer technology field. Both of them got their technician licenses not long ago. Joe’s call sign is KI6MVD and Josh’s KG6CYK—but old dad continues to lag in that regard. I was always scared off by that code requirement—all those dits and dahs again. They tell me code is not required these days but Uncle Cal was always fast on the key. He had to be as a radio operator during WWII. He served his country honorably in the Pacific as a Sergeant is the U.S. Army Signal Corp. I am sure he probably thought ending the code requirement a few years back was making it too easy for the ham radio newbie’s. I can hear him now—scoffing loudly at such a thing. He was an original, a real purist when it came to ham radio.

In later years, Uncle Cal went with a mobile station as he spent more time traveling in his pickup truck with a camper on the back. He always raved about that Swan 350 rig. During visits to Los Osos, CA, my oldest son Josh would sit with him in the truck and learn about amateur radio just as I did as kid. The old truck got a lot of miles put on it and the Swan a lot of airtime. Just thinking about Uncle Cal has sparked my electronic interests again. Maybe I need to start looking at those license requirements and shopping for radio equipment with my boys. They have small hand held units and haven’t gotten into the bigger rigs yet.

L to R: Brenda, Jule, Cal, Frank ("Bud"), Doris, Grandma Francis
and Grandpa Julian Steunenberg in Caldwell, ID
. The little
pip squeak on the far left, my mom, is now almost 91.

I know Uncle Cal would razz me a bit but I would probably be forgiven if I skipped trying to learn Morse code. However, he sparked an interest that remains today and I know he was happy to hear my sons had taken up the reins of ham radio. I will always love and remember who it was that first taught me about “dits” and “dahs.”

We love you Uncle Cal.

"73 W6WFV Clear"

Update 11/18/2009: A few decades late but I finally got my Generalist ticket Uncle Cal. 73, KJ6DOV

Springfield Missouri Veteran's Cemetery

Carroll "Cal" A. Steunenberg page (just starting)

The Passing of my Uncle Cal Steunenberg (previous blog post)

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Passing of my Uncle Cal Steunenberg

I will post more in the coming days but wanted to get this obituary written by Sheri Beersman Steunenberg, Cal's granddaughter, posted on the blog right away. You can view it and other information about funeral arrangements, flowers, signing the guest book, etc at the Butler Funeral Home website. (no longer a good link)

Carroll Arthur Steunenberg
(May 19, 1913 - May 21, 2009)

U.S. Veteran Carroll “Cal” Arthur Steunenberg of Morrisville, passed away on May 21, 2009 at 2:00 a.m. at Citizen’s Memorial Hospital following a sudden illness. Cal was born May 19, 1913 in Caldwell, Idaho to Julian Pope and Frances Wood Steunenberg. He was the middle of five children. Cal was the grandson of the fourth Governor of Idaho, Frank Steunenberg, who was assassinated in 1905.

Cal was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers, Jule and Frank “Bud” Steunenberg, and one sister, Doris Knowles. He was also preceded in death by two children, Raymond Arthur and Maureen May.

Cal grew up in Idaho, Washington, and California, where, during the Great Depression, he joined the CCC using his older brother’s name and went to work to try to help support his family. Eventually, Cal became a Batallion Sergeant Major in the United States Army and served as a radio operator in the South Pacific during World War II. He worked for Mobile Oil as an electrician following his honorable discharge from the Army, where he received several medals and awards for conduct and service. Cal (W6WFV) also held a HAM Radio operator’s license with the Federal Communications Commission for more than 65 years and was a member of the American Radio Relay League for more than 40 years.

Cal moved from California to Missouri to live with his granddaughter, Sheri and her family in 2001. He has enjoyed many years of laughter, love, and happiness in the company of his family and will be dearly missed every single day.

Cal leaves behind his beloved granddaughter, Sheri Beersman, of Morrisville and her husband Wes, his cherished great grand children, LCpL Christopher Cable, USMC and his wife Reagan, both of Morrisville, Lauren Cable, of Willard and her fiancé, Shawn Cook of Brighton, and Danielle Beersman, of Morrisville. He is also survived by his son, Roy Steunenberg, of Put-in-Bay, OH and his wife, Mary, his granddaughter, Carri Carnahan of Mooresville, IN, and his great-granddaughter, Eden also of Mooresville, IN. He is survived by his grandson, Scott Cable, of Maryville, one sister, Brenda Richards of Paso Robles, CA and her husband John, his dear long time friends, Marilou Brennan and Gedney Gallagher of Palm Desert, CA, and several nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held on Monday, May 25 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Butler Funeral Home in Bolivar, Missouri. A graveside service with full military honors provided by the AMVETS Post #114 of Flemington, Missouri will take place at Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Springfield, Missouri on Wednesday, May 27 at 2:00 p.m. under the care and direction of the Butler Funeral Home of Bolivar. Dr. Ray Leininger will officiate the service. Pallbearers will be Shawn Cook, Chris Cable, Kenneth Cable and the AMVETS Post #114 of Flemington, Missouri.

Friends and family may sign the guest book or send private condolences at

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Hard Luck" Walley

Long before IPTV's production of Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century, there was The Steunenberg Murder Trial performed at the College of Idaho on August 5th and 6th, 1963...starring one William Crookham as Merritt Walley. Click on the pics to enlarge for viewing.

Merritt who!? It would have been easier if Cousin Bill had had been Ex-Governor Frank Steunenberg but who the heck was Merritt Walley? That was not one of my immediately recognizable Steunenberg assassination or Haywood trial related names. Of course I went right to the other bible, Big Trouble, after all Lukas has everything and everybody documented in there--or so I thought. To my surprise, no mention of a Merritt Walley. So who was this guy?

A little more Goggling reminded me that poor Mr. Walley was the innocent bystander in Orchard's failed attempt to kill Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Gabbert. The murder occurred on May 28,1905. Mr. Walley was 48 years old and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He picked up the decoy pocketbook to which was attached the bomb intended for Gabbert. Another tragic murder of an often forgotten man with a family that suffered a terrible and tragic loss. Our family would suffer the same a few short months later.

The New York Times
Published: June 7, 1907

I suspect that in the play from 1963, Cousin Bill was likely on stage for a very short time but no doubt gave a dynamite performance.

Merritt W. Walley

If anyone knows more information about Merritt Walley, please let me know.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"I am glad to say I was his friend, the friend of a man who gave his life for his State and his country."

Click on the above to be taken to my viewer to enlarge and read the full article.

Sunday, May 10, 2009



Click on the pictures to use my viewer for enlarging/reading.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Swine Flu History in the Pacific Northwest-The First Case

I guess I have to say something about swine flu since everybody is reading about it elsewhere when they should be on my blog. So just saying "swine flu" is guaranteed to bring me a whole bunch of new site hits so here goes.

"Swine flu"--we can't seem to escape it, what with 24 hour cable news networks and websites giving case by case number counts. It's like listening to the score going up in an NBA basketball playoff game.

While browsing my website, I ran across the article above. It is not Idaho or Steunenberg history but swine flu was already in the news some thirteen years ago on 4/2/1996 in the McKenzie Bridge, Oregon newspaper, River Reflections. Click the pic to enlarge for reading.

Not to take H1-N1 (the name used by us pig lovers) lightly, as I do hope everybody is keeping healthy and taking precautions as we would for any type of illness and flu. A flu outbreak is always of concern although this one has perhaps been a bit unfair to pigs.

Then we have this somewhat similar but more recent picture that is circulating the web. I think it's the pig that may have more to fear in this case.

At least I now know there is one other human that still loves a little fine swine.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Evidence from the Haywood Trial on display at the Idaho Historical Museum ....Not Quite is now

Evidence from the Haywood Trial on display at the Boise Historical Museum.

This display is labeled as " This damaged revolver was used by Harry Orchard to trigger the bomb mechanism which killed Governor Steunenberg. The force of the explosion caused the damage." I do not believe that is exactly correct but it had never registered with me until pointed out by Justice Byron Johnson. It is my opinion that these pieces were most likely non-active parts of the bomb that killed the Ex-Governor. The infernal machine had originally been designed by Orchard as a "time bomb" with an alarm clock and trigger mechanism. However, as he had done on other occasions too, he decided not to use the timing mechanism. Instead, as pointed out by Justice Johnson, he used a vial of sulfuric acid with a cork or stopper, a pin or screw eye in the stopper to which was attached a string or line. The line was attached to Governor Steunenberg's gate. When the gate was opened, it pulled out the stopper, spilled the sulfuric acid on the blasting caps and set off the dynamite. Hence, the revolver parts were not the trigger mechanism. I was in error when I accepted the display label as fact in my post on Saturday, March 7, 2009, Harry Orchard's Colt .45 Single Action Army Revolver. In that entry, I had posted and described the same photograph as above. There is also a 3/8/09 addendum to the same post that I had entered after Justice Johnson had pointed out the discrepancy in the information.

The above is supported by the the photos and trial testimony presented in Debaters and Dynamiters by David Grover and The Confession and Autobiography of Harry Orchard in McClure's Magazine, Volume XXIX, May to October 1907 and various other documents and accounts of the assassination. I will post some pictures after I hopefully recover programs and data from a complete computer crash this past week.

Here is a link to the online book version of The Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard published in 1907. You will want to scroll up one page and should see the picture of the "The Two Steunenberg Bombs.". I have originals of the McClure's Magazine version published in serial format during 1907-08 and the 1907 book among the items in my collection.

In the interest of accuracy, the display labels at the Idaho History Museum should be revised unless other convincing evidence exists to suggest otherwise. I have forwarded my comments to the museum.

Clicking on the picture above will take you to my viewer.

Visit the Idaho Historical Museum when in Boise and check out the trial display and all the other interesting items you will discover.

5/4/09 - UPDATE!
Rachelle Littau, Curatorial Registrar at the Idaho Historical Museum, tells me that the display card has been updated as follows based upon information from Justice Byron Johnson:

Prosecutors presented these revolver fragments as evidence of a prior bombing committed by Harry Orchard. The revolver was used as a triggering mechanism and the force of the explosion caused the damage.

That sounds a bit more like it, as we know the revolver was definitely not the triggering mechanism for the Steunenberg bomb. As long as there is nothing tying it to that particular bomb, then it is reasonable to assume it was part of the other evidence. In preparation for Orchard's testimony, available evidence from other bombings was brought to Boise and Orchard built mock-ups of several of the different types of bombs that he had previously used.

Thank you Byron and Rachelle for providing the additional information. John

Saturday, May 2, 2009


"Frank Steunenberg Shockingly Mangled by a Contrivance Placed at His Gate Which Exploded as He Entered"

San Francisco Chronicle, December 31, 1905.
Click on image to use viewer.

Bolshevik Bill Haywood-A Fugitive in Red Square

Chicago Tribune
Year: 1923
Month: July
Day: 29
Page Number: 7
Volume: 82
Number: 30

That is unmistakably Haywood on the far left foreground of this photograph. Click on photo to enlarge.


The Chicago Tribune, June 9, 1907. Click on article to enlarge.

Visit my footnote account for many other articles. I suggest Spotlights, Footnote Pages and Annotations.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day/Furlough Day 2009 - The Real Labor Day 1866

Happy May Day and Furlough Day! It is time to see if I can get back to the keyboard, back to history and move past some of the strain of recent weeks, the unexpected family tragedies, job and economic stress, an incredibly challenging workload and a complete system crash and hard drive loss on my computer. Hence, no pictures at the moment.

Today is one of my “furlough” days. In CA State government lingo, that means I am off without pay. It is a mixed bag, as always nice to have a day-off but the work will only pile up waiting for my return and the hit in the wallet hurts a bit too. However, I remain fortunate that my career, although a bit battered, remains intact. For that I am thankful, as so many others have suffered a much worse fate in our current economy. Just another day in paradise!

To clarify a couple questions related to our recent family tragedies (see previous post), my oldest brother is Walter “Gary” Osborne and my oldest sister is Beckie Osborne Underwood. It was my brother’s son (my nephew) Gary Ted Osborne, who was so cruelly taken from us by some low-life who remains lurking out there in the shadows. Hopefully justice will be done. It was older sister Beckie’s long time partner (my sister-in-law) Sherry-Ann-Nichols-Underwood, that suddenly past away due to illness. We had grown too accustomed to Sherry-Ann’s ability to rally back from physical setbacks. It was not to be on this occasion.

My brother Gary and sister Beckie are the children of my mother, Brenda Steunenberg Richards, from when she was first married to a Walter Osborne (deceased). Hence, the Steunenberg and Osborne connection. Of course, that first marriage was long ago, as I think my mother and father (John Richards Sr.) are now in their sixty-second year of marriage. Yikes!

So does anyone know the origins of May Day and its connections to the labor movement, Bill Haywood and ultimately to the trial and events in Idaho? May Day is sometimes referred to as the "Real Labor Day" as it was on May 1, 1886 that marches began in the streets of Chicago in support of the eight-hour work day.

"The 1886 Haymarket riots, trials, and executions made a deep impression on Haywood inspiring, he would later say, his life of radicalism. The Pullman railroad strikes of 1893 further strengthened Haywood's interest in the labor movement. Then in 1896, while working a silver mine in Idaho, Haywood listened to a speech by Ed Boyce, President of the Western Federation of Miners. Haywood immediately signed up as a WFM member and by 1900 became a member of the organization's executive board."
--From William D. Haywood, Famous American Trials, Bill Haywood Trial 1907

(Half of Haywood's ashes were entombed at the Haymarket Monument in Chicago). jr

What else have I been up to? Doing a little reading as always. I decided to give Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas a cover-to-cover read again, as it had been several years since doing so. It is such a huge monumental work, with many twists and turns and digressions, that items are always missed or perhaps not grasped during the haze of late night reading. I don’t have a very good memory anyway so re-reads are not uncommon. For those not inclined or able to wade through such a book, I suggest getting the audio version. It is still out there on cassette tape and sticks to the main story line if one is not inclined to explore the many related paths and underpinnings provided by Lukas. Listening to the tape, I always thought to myself, “What a great documentary and/or movie this would make.” Assassination: Idaho’s Trial of the Century brought that to reality and I can certainly envision a Hollywood screenplay too. As a side note, it is nice to see that the program is now playing on other public television stations around the country. Check your local listings and ask your public TV station to get it if they haven't already.

Big Trouble came out in 1997. As I mentioned, it was available in abridged version on audiotape but never produced on CD. One project I have not yet gotten to is converting the cassette to a CD version. Simon & Schuster might have something to say about it if I start giving away Big Trouble CD’s but then again they have never pursued it commercially so maybe not.

I have found that with all the events of recent years in Idaho (see blog!) that focused on the events of Big Trouble, and my own participation and study, that perspectives shift and memories ones relegated to the depths of the mind are again brought to the forefront. I will continue to post items of interest and new discoveries. In many respects, and sometimes surprisingly, it seems to be an endless story.

And tomorrow?....It's Derby Day! Enyoy a mint julep or other beverage of your choice and watch the horses run.