Sunday, September 27, 2009


April 2020 Update: Unfortunately, the COI has completely closed its archives in Sterry Hall and placed the "Steunenberg Family Collection" (formerly The Crookham Papers) in storage. There is no campus archives at the current time.Several years ago the documents had been removed from offline and remain so. No explanation or plans have been announced. Archivist Jan Boles has retired. 

Fortunately I have scans of all the Steunenberg Family Documents that had originally been placed online.

You may not need it, but in case you have missed the links, I am using a main post for a little promotion of the College of Idaho archives. There you will find the George L. Crookham, Jr. Papers, a collection of Steunenberg administration documents and family letters related to the Coeur d'Alene mining issues, Harry Orchard and the assassination of Frank Steunenberg.

Non-family folks, might ask...what's the Crookham-Steunenberg connection? Well that goes way back to 1900, when Jennie "Grace" Steunenberg married George Lenox Crookham, Sr. Grace was the youngest sister/sibling of Governor Frank Steunenberg and George was the founder of the Crookham Seed Co. in Caldwell. Each had a great interest in their community and family history. Grace completed the detailed work of an early genealogy of the Steunenberg/Keppel family lines that still serves as an invaluable tool today. Fortunately, Grace and George held on to to all the letters, documents, diaries and other items in their possession from the Steunenberg administration and family. Their son, George Jr., went on to be head of the Crookham Seed Co., took up the reins of family historian and was very active in local politics and the community. He had a knack for story telling and writing about the local family history that I wish I could match--but can't. Fortunately, I am glad to say that I got in on at least one of Cousin George's historical bus tours of Caldwell. Wish I had done a few more. George Jr. and Bernice Crookham, had two children, William "Bill" Crookham and Judy Crookham Krueger. Cousins Bill and Judy have carried forth the interests in our family history, and through their efforts, the many documents that survived the years have come to rest at the COI Archives (see below) and remain for our research and enjoyment today.

Documents from the administration of Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg (1-28-1897 to 12-27-1900)
  • Steunenberg family letters (1-8-1904 to 1-13-1906)
  • Correspondence from Idaho Gov. F.W. Gooding and Albert E. Horsley/Harry Orchard to Charles B. Steunenberg (4-17-1908)
The Crookham Papers comprise the largest known private collection of documents from the administration of Frank Steunenberg, fourth governor of the State of Idaho (1897-1901).
Gov. Frank Steunenberg (1861-1905) was a pivotal figure in the labor strife in the late 1890s in the northern Idaho mining district known as the Coeur d’Alenes. The district had previously experienced violence in the early 1890s, soon after Idaho achieved statehood. At that time, after the Idaho National Guard was called in along with federal troops, order was restored but peace was not: it was more of a cease fire. The mass arrests, and the herding of men into temporary enclosures known as “bull pens,” resulted in simmering resentment among the laboring class.

By the end of the decade, disputes over wages and working conditions erupted into rioting and bombings. Gov. Steunenberg, himself a member of the typographical union, was forced to declare martial law and call in troops in hopes of controlling the violence. However, the Idaho National Guard was on duty in the Philippines, so Gov. Steunenberg had no recourse but to send a request to President William McKinley for federal troops. The soldiers ordered to Idaho, the Army’s Twenty Fourth Infantry Regiment, were members of one of four black units in the service. Called Buffalo Soldiers, these were the troops who once again made mass arrests, confining hundreds of miners and their supporters in the hated bull pens.

This labor unrest in both Idaho and Colorado became known as the Mining Wars. Miners eventually returned to work, but certain labor elements carried a lingering grudge against Gov. Steunenberg for his actions. After retiring from office, Frank Steunenberg resumed his business interests in Caldwell. Five years later, on December 30, 1905, he was mortally wounded when he opened the side gate to the yard of his home triggering a dynamite bomb. He died soon after, but family members immediately assumed the crime was an act of revenge by lawless elements from North Idaho.

Captured within hours and confronted with overwhelming evidence, a former miner named Albert E. Horsley (also known as Thomas Hogan and Harry Orchard) soon confessed to being the bomber. Ensuing events resulted in the arrest in Colorado of a trio of officials of the Western Federation of Miners. Extradited to Idaho under questionable legal procedures, these three men, implicated by Orchard as conspirators in the assassination of Frank Steunenberg, would be incarcerated in Boise for nearly a year and a half before their trials began. During this 16-month period, WFM officers William (Big Bill) Haywood, Charles H. Moyer, and George A. Pettibone would become household names as a feeding frenzy of press interest brought international attention to Boise.

Continuing coverage kept the world riveted on the Haywood trial in 1907, an event known in later years as “The Trial of the Century.” Key players included Idaho Senator-elect William Borah for the prosecution and Clarence Darrow of Chicago for the defense. Haywood, although found not guilty by the jury, would never shed the taint of suspicion engendered by the trial. In the years to come the increasingly radical tactics he adopted as a labor organizer kept him in hot water with federal authorities. Eventually defecting to Soviet Russia to avoid prosecution, he died in Moscow in 1928, a hero of the Communist Party. Orchard died in the Idaho State Penitentiary in 1954.

For the next seven decades this saga simmered on history’s back burner. Over the years a few scholarly works addressed aspects of the western mining wars, but it remained for author J. Anthony Lukas in the late 1980s to recognize the overarching significance of ex-Governor Steunenberg’s murder in Caldwell, Idaho. The recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for Common Ground (1986), Lukas was sensitive to situations in American history that illuminated class differences. From 1989 to 1996 Lukas investigated the events and tensions surrounding the western mining wars. The result was Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets off a Struggle for the Soul of America (1997).

As he explained in “The Making of Big Trouble,” (published posthumously in Idaho Yesterdays, Vol 41, No 2, 1997), Lukas met George L. Crookham, Jr. (1907-1999), as the result of a tip given him as he was pursuing research at the Idaho State Historical Society Library in 1989. Crookham, a nephew of Frank Steunenberg, was chairman emeritus of the Crookham Company in Caldwell. (This family business, founded by George L. Crookham, Sr., in 1911, continues to specialize in vegetable seed production.) Crookham in 1964 had become guardian of the documents the Governor had saved when he left office in 1901, as well as family correspondence relating to the traumatic events of December 30, 1905. Upon meeting Lukas, Crookham gave him free reign to examine what had become an historical bonanza. Lukas became the first professional writer to see these documents, which proved to be the catalyst for the rich imagery contained in the opening paragraphs of Big Trouble’s chapter one.

In the “Notes” section of Big Trouble (p. 755), Lukas refers to the “Papers of George Crookham, in possession of George Crookham, Caldwell, Idaho.” This on-line collection comprises the core of that collection and retains the title Lukas gave to it.

The Crookham Papers were donated to the Robert E. Smylie Archives at Albertson College of Idaho in Caldwell in February, 2006. The donation was made on behalf of the members of the Steunenberg and Crookham families by George Crookham’s son and daughter, William “Bill” Crookham, of Caldwell, and Judy Crookham Krueger of Corvallis, Oregon. Family members had met in Caldwell in September, 2005, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Frank Steunenberg.

Albertson College of Idaho is publishing this on-line selection from the Crookham Papers in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of “The Trial of the Century.” Annotation of the entries will continue. Eventually the entire collection will be available on-line. We solicit your comments, questions, additions, and corrections.
Jan Boles, Archivist
The Robert E. Smylie Archives
The College of Idaho
2112 Cleveland Blvd
Caldwell, ID 83605

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Couple of Personal Notes I Received Regarding the Frank Steunenberg Assassination & Haywood Trial Historical Events/Projects of 2005-2007

Here are a couple more items I am bringing up from the unarchived depths of the blog. These are two letters/personal notes that I received from Magistrate Judge Gaylen L. Box and Former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Byron Johnson.I really appreciated, and will always treasure, the notes and many other kind comments from those involved in these projects.
This above is a nice letter and personal note received from Judge Box after our correspondence in regards to the December 2006 issue of The Advocate (for display purposes I have joined a short second page with the first page of the letter).
Although I must say I was a little intimidated coming up against Justice Johnson for the first time, I quickly found out how interesting and comfortable it is meeting with Byron and talking about the history of these events. Thank you again Byron for all your work and dedication in bringing the production to a reality. Click the following and be taken to the IPTV website and a transcript of Justice Johnson's Interview.

See related letter from Peter Morrill, General Manager of IPTV, and my signed copy of Debaters and Dynamiters on the following post: More of Premiere Night - Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rival Towns—Steunenberg & Ferdinand, Idaho

Earlier this year, I posted quite a bit of information about the short-lived town of Steunenberg, Idaho. I won't repeat information here that is already on previous blog posts, as some of the following comes from related sources and is very similar. I have listed links to the previous posts at the bottom of this page.

The following excerpt is from Ferdinand Idaho. The web page provides an interesting history, with photographs of Ferdinand and the surrounding area. For purposes here, I have pulled out the information specific to Steunenberg, Idaho but you will want to visit the site and give it a full read.

Now if only I can only find a remnant of the town for my own collection...a post mark, a token, a bottle, an old sign, a letter or piece of paper written on letterhead for the Bank of Steunenberg or the Steunenberg Mercantile Company...anything!

....The Railroad was to be built on John Bieker land, which was ¼ mile from his brother F. M’s Store in Ferdinand. Mr. J.P. Vollmer, a shrewd millionaire banker and a shareholder in the Northern Pacific railroad, came to Ferdinand to buy John’s land and any other land close to it. Mr. Vollmer intended to start a town on the east side of the railroad tracks. Vollmer offered John $50.00 an acre for his 240 acres and $40.00 acre for an adjoining 140 acre farm owned by Matt Lawen and 40.00 an acre for F.M.’s 80 acres east of John’s land. It was then surmised that the depot would be located on Johns 240 acres because he would offer only $40.00 an acre for the other land. And that meant that Vollmer meant to start a town at the depot.

Rival Town-Steunenberg

Vollmer had about 25 acres on the west side also, which joined Ferdinand. Vollmer had been in that business, years before when the railroad was built to Uniontown and Genesee. The surveyor told F.M. that Vollmer told him to crowd the town as much as possible to the east. He did not want anything to do with Ferdinand. When F. M. heard of Vollmers, plan to start a town on the east side of tracks, one-fourth mile east of Ferdinand, he wrote Vollmer a letter and offered to sell him the forty acres on which Ferdinand is located, providing he would put the town on the west side of the tracks. F.M. received no reply, and after that started to sell tracts to people who wanted to go in business there. Ben Gerding, a former Cottonwood Saloon man, was the first to build. He put up a two-story saloon and hall building, also a dwelling. Later on he erected a two-story hotel. Joe Bushue and Barney Herzog, partners, put up a two-story hall and store building, Tony Nau and Frank Staab, a general store building, and Ed. Nau a harness store and workshop. About 1904 Vollmer sent his surveyor, Mr. S.P. Judson to Steunenberg. July 1906 difficulties arose between Vollmer and surveyor Judson. Mr. Judson was fired, although to platting was not half finished. F.M. arranged with Mr. Judson to survey and plat forty acres as the Ferdinand town site.

The platting of Steunenberg was not taken up again until about eighteen months later when a family by the name of Noel came from Oklahoma, and, back by Mr. Vollmer, started a store there. A large, flat-roofed building was erected, containing, in addition to a storeroom, some dwelling rooms and a room in which a bank was to be located. The Vollmer Clearwater Company put the bank, a private one, in some time later, but business did not flourish, and after a year or two, Mr. Noel left. The bank was run in connection with the company’s grain warehouse.

Fire Loss At Steunenberg: May 26 1908. Fire in the town of Steunenberg started at 2:00 A M destroying the Steunenberg hotel and the Gerding soft drink establishment & lodging house. The total loss in buildings, furniture and personal effects was estimated at $7,000, while the insurance did not exceed $2,000. The fire started in the rear of other lower room of the building occupied by the soft drink establishment & poolroom of unknown origin, operated by Joe Gerding. No person slept in the building. The upper floor of the establishment was lodging rooms. The hotel also a two-structure was located about ten feet from the poolroom building, and the flames soon spread there. It was impossible to save the furniture; within a comparatively short time both buildings were in a ruin.

Located across the street from the hotel was a large general merchandise store operated by J. C. Noel that was threatened with destruction. The front of the building was severely scorched and the heat was such that some panes of glass were broken. Ben Gerding of Grangeville owned the buildings destroyed. Prior to the ruling of the Supreme Court holding that liquor could not be sold on the reservation, Mr. Gerding operated a saloon at Ferdinand. When the town of Steunenberg was established, Mr. Gerding moved the buildings to Steunenberg. When the conducting saloons on the reservation were forbidden, he moved his stock of liquors to Grangeville. The saloon building was devoted to the use of the soft drink establishment and poolroom, operated by Mr. Gerding’s brother Joe. John Schiller operated the hotel. Above article was from the Lewiston Morning Tribune, Wednesday May 27, 1908. Thanks to Byron Bovey for researching fires on the Camas Prairie.

1910 Steunenberg: Bank of Steunenberg (capital $10,000) J.P. Vollmer president. E. E. Heagle was Railroad agent. There was the Steunenberg Mercantile Co. & Scheuller Brothers General Store.

--From Ferdinand Idaho.

See blog posts:

1/1/2009 - Happy New Year from the Town of Steunenberg Idaho

1/3/2009 - More on the Town of Steunenberg Idaho

1/5/2009 - "Steunenberg will be one of the best of the new towns."

1/6/2009 - Fire at Steunenberg Idaho

1/24/2009 - Photo of Steunenberg Idaho

1/24/2009 - Rival Towns

1/31/2009 - Plat Maps of Steunenberg and Ferdinand

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Idaho Capitol Restoration

Governor Frank Steunenberg is still Watching over the Capitol Restoration. The view has certainly improved over the past couple of years, as most of the exterior restoration has been completed. I believe the Capitol building is scheduled to reopen in January 2010. Hopefully the grounds maintenance department has or will be sprucing up Frank and the surrounding walkways and garden area for the re-grand opening. Click on the photograph to get a nice enlarged view.

Photograph from Idaho Capitol Commission Website

Another Charles Landon Sketch from the Haywood Trial

--Washington Post, 6/6/1907, from

See blog post: Artist Charles H. Landon Sketches Scene at the Haywood Trial

I also wonder if Landon did the sketch portion of the composite photograph/drawing shown in the following blog post. I am guessing not, since I don't believe that is his style nor do I see the characteristic Landon signature. Let me know if you have other information or thoughts on the matter. 7/28/1907 - Scene and Principal Actors in the Great Haywood Trial.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Scott Fife: Big Trouble - The Idaho Project - Exhibition at the Missoula Art Museum Oct. 2, 2009 - Feb. 10, 2010

I am pleased to see that Scott Fife's Big Trouble: The Idaho Project, is going to be on exhibition in Missoula, Montana. You can click on my blog posts below and read more about this most intriguing and interesting artist and art medium. Check it out if in the Missoula area.

For more, go to:
Big Trouble: The Idaho Project by Scott Fife

Archival Cardboard, Wood Screws and Glue. The Idaho Project by Scott Fife-Part II

Scott Fife: Big Trouble - The Idaho Project
At the Missoula Art Museum- October 02, 2009 - February 10, 2010

Scott Fife, installation detail.Artist Scott Fife has long been obsessed with the historic characters that helped shape the time we live in; characters that have often fallen into the dark recesses of history. Through his re-creations, Fife offers us a renewed perspective reminding us of the famous quote by George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

One such historic event with national impact, and the focus of this exhibition, was the assassination of Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg in 1905. The murder occurred in Caldwell, ID, and the subsequent trial in 1907 was held in Boise, ID. Although this tragic drama was played out over a century ago, its relevance today must not be understated. The story of a small town in a small state, thrust into a national spotlight as a consequence of unrest associated with the extractive industries, is not lost on a Montana audience. Montanans too, have a long history that has borne witness to the consequences of labor's upheaval and industry's selfish acts. Much of this historical labor drama was played out again and again and then set aside, out of the spotlight, forgotten, to fade into the recesses of our collective memory.

Fife works in a non-traditional medium, recreating busts with archival cardboard. His surfaces are rough, yet the busts closely resemble the characters they portray. He cuts, tears, sands, gessoes, and uses sheet rock screws as elements of these additive constructions.

In The Idaho Project, Fife has recreated the cast of over a dozen colorful characters associated with the assassination of Governor Steunenberg and the subsequent trial, including Governor Steunenberg and his assassin Harry Orchard, union leader Big Bill Haywood, defense attorney Clarence Darrow, actress Ethel Barrymore, President Teddy Roosevelt, and prosecuting attorney and later Idaho Senator William Borah. Fife states, "For this piece I worked with portraits, using references to classical portraiture busts of the Roman Republic era to portray participants in the historic trial. The sculpture speaks of class struggle, political intrigue, and the country's economic and social landscape of capitalism and populism."

MAM is thrilled to present this regionally significant exhibition. An authoritative account can be accessed by reading Anthony Lukas' highly regarded book Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America. This account captured Fife's imagination and inspired this remarkable body of work. --Missoula Art Museum

Monday, September 14, 2009

Evening view on the Salmon River in Idaho by Jan Boles

Copyright Jan Boles
Click on the photograph to enlarge.

A great photograph from our friend, archivist, jurist and photographer , Jan Boles. This post and the link don't do the photograph justice but nice nonetheless.
Check out the Cloud Appreciation Society website

Below from The College of Idaho Weekly Newsletter, 11/15/2007.
Boles’ film debut airs tonight and Dec. 2

Archivist Jan Boles’ film debut airs tonight (Thursday, Nov. 15) at 8 p.m. on Idaho public television in “Assassination: Idaho’s Trial of the Century,” in which Boles plays a juror. The film is the story of the aftermath of the Gov. Frank Steunenberg murder in Caldwell 100 years ago. The film used newspaper clippings and other items from The College of Idaho’s collection. The film will air again on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. on IPTV.

"6/14/(19)07 Big crowds here, on account of Haywood trial"

More photo postcards and coverage from original 1907 McClure's and Collier's Magazines that I have brought up from the un-archived bottom portion of the blog. All items shown are a part of my personal collection.

St. Alphonsus Hospital, Boise, ID.
April 29, 1899. "In bed that day at Boise's St.
Alphonsus Hospital, Frank Steunenberg had a severe case of the grippe and was able to attend to state business only with difficulty. But he sat bold upright when, just before noon, he received a wire from a third party deeply offended by violation of railroad protocol. 'The armed force at Coeur d'Alene mines took possession of a Northern Pacific engine and are using our tracks,' wired Adam L. Mohler, the president of the Oregon Railway, from the Portland headquarters. 'Will you protect us against use and damage of our property?' The news didn't improve the governor's state of mind or body, and he took out his mounting irritation on Sheriff Young, whom he telegraphed: 'Representations are made that you are not able to cope with those who threaten disturbance...Up to this time I have relied upon your power and ability to protect property and preserve order. Wire me the situation and any contemplated or actual violence, as reports seem to call for prompt and vigorous action by the State.'" --Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas

Ada County Courthouse during the trial. These postcards were sold as souvenirs of the trial. Click above image to hear an excerpt of Gary Anderson (aka Clarence Darrow) from the production of Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century.

Haywood Trial Jury (McClure's 1907). Left to right: (seated) Samuel D. Gilman, F. A. Robertson, George Powell, Thomas B. Gess (foreman), Daniel Clark; (standing) Levi Smith, O.V. Sebern, A. P. Burns, Samuel F. Russell, H. F. Messecar, Finley McBean, and Lee Schrivener.

Looks to be Charles Moyer on the stand far left and Haywood second from right. This is a photograph I recently acquired. Probably an old copy made on photographic paper from another photo and sold for use in news publications and periodicals (from the markings on the back). 

To read more on the trial you can click the pic and be taken to Professor Linder's Haywood Trial website.

Orchard on the hot seat. Truth or Consequences? Collier's Magazine 1907. Click image for more on Orchard's testimony.

See more trial news coverage scattered throughout my SPOTLIGHTS on

Friday, September 11, 2009

9-11, Iraq War, Frank Steunenberg Assassination and the Haywood Trial...Any Connection?

On this 9/11/09, we all stop to reflect on the events of eight years ago that have changed each of us and our world forever. In the past, I have expressed the connection between terrorism and Harry Orchard, as he was the first terrorist that utilized explosives on a broad scale for the purpose of creating fear and publicity by brutally murdering political targets and innocent people. Sound familiar today?

Several years ago, a couple of articles appeared on the George Mason University His
tory News Network (HNN) , one suggesting a government and corporate role in the assassination of Governor Steunenberg and the other laying the assassination at the feet of Bill Haywood and the Western Federation of Miners. My views have been written elsewhere (i.e. Reflections on the Haywood Trial Verdict and others) and generally support the latter, despite Haywood having been found not guilty and the seemingly obvious government/corporate impropriety and law breaking that took place. Similarities were drawn between these events and the more contemporary history of 9-11 and the Iraq war. Utilizing historical comparisons is certainly valid and a practice I encourage. I have not previously shared these two articles and have posted them below for reading and reflection on this 9/11/2009.

All of the pictures below are from my collection and were added to the articles for illustration purposes. Nothing you probably haven't seen before and/or viewed elsewhere on this blog. Click on the pics and you will be taken to a related blog entry or website.

The Event from the Past that Suggests Maybe 9-11 Was a Pretext for Knocking Off Saddam By James Ottavio Castagnera

Mr. Castagnera, a Philadelphia journalist and attorney, is the Associate Provost at Rider University and author of the weekly newspaper column “Attorney at Large.”

The summer of '68 was an exciting time for my hometown of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. Paramount Pictures brought Sean Connery, Richard Harris, Samantha Edgar and Anthony Zerby to the hard coal region to film The Molly Maguires. What premiered about a year and a half later in early 1970 was the classic tale of capitalist oppression, reprisals by a secret society of Irish terrorists, betrayal by an undercover agent, and --- inevitably --- the day of the rope. Connery, looking to escape being typecast as a certain British spy, brought his license-to-kill over to the character of Black Jack Kehoe, presented to film goers as a coal miner with a pick ax to grind against the mine owners, bosses, and coppers. Harris was James McParland, aka Jamie McKenna, the Pinkerton detective on the make, who befriends and then betrays Kehoe and his cohorts.

Not a bad movie, except that it got much of the story wrong. Although he mined coal in his salad days, Kehoe was a Girardville tavern keeper and political leader when he was arrested, tried and hanged as the alleged King of the Mollies. And McParland… well, was he an undercover detective who later testified honestly to the Molly Maguire crimes he had witnessed? Or was he an agent-provocateur who instigated crime and violence in the mine patches, providing an opportunity for his masters --- the likes of Alan Pinkerton and President Franklin Gowan of the Philadelphia & Reading --- to break the power of organized labor and the Irish immigrants' own Ancient Order of Hibernians? These questions have bedeviled historians and stirred controversy for generations.

Clues to the correct answer may be found more than a quarter century and a couple of thousand miles from the Molly Maguire trials, in the Coeur d'Alene mining district of Idaho early in the twentieth century. Like the July 1916 terrorist attack on the Black Tom Island arsenal in New York harbor, written about at this website last month, the murder of Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg on December 30, 1905 in Caldwell, Idaho, has faded into history's mists, its lessons largely lost to our policy makers today. But Steunenberg's murder, caused by a terrorist's bomb tied to his garden gate, has a lesson to teach us about conspiracy and the two-edged nature of terrorism.

Coeur d'Alene was a region rich in precious metals and in labor union agitation. The Western Federation of Miners was militant and bare knuckled. During work stoppages, union terrorism took the form of dynamiting company mines and mills, capturing and imprisoning scab labor in the union hall, and hijacking trains. The dynamiting of the Bunker Hill Mining Company's major processing facilities in Wardner, Idaho, in May 1898, led Governor Steunenberg to call in federal troops, who arrested "every male --- miners, bartenders, a doctor, a preacher, even a postmaster and a school superintendent," in the nearby union bastion of Burke, Idaho. All together about 1,000 men were herded into the "Cow Pen," a kind of makeshift concentration camp and held for weeks without trial.

Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather, claimed that "revenge is a dish best served cold." Fully seven and a half years later the ex-governor, back home in Caldwell, opened his garden gate at six o'clock on the second-to-last, snowy evening of '05. The explosion of a homemade bomb, fastened to the gate by a fish line, took off Steunenberg's legs. He lingered an hour before bleeding to death in a downstairs bedroom, conscious to the bitter end.

A waitress at Caldwell's Saratoga Hotel fingered a long-term guest, one Thomas Hogan, as a possible suspect. A warrant-less search of Hogan's hotel room turned up plaster of paris in his chamber pot. Other detritus, that could have comprised bomb components, was found in his valise. On New Year's day, 1906, Hogan aka Harry Orchard was arrested and charged with first degree murder. Less than a week later, the State of Idaho hired America's most famous detective: none other than James McParland, who headed the Pinkerton Agency's Denver office.

McParland, the famed Molly Maguire-catcher, rushed to Boise, where he interrogated Hogan/Orchard relentlessly. The result? An astonishing 64-page confession to the killing of Frank Steunenberg and seventeen others, all ordered, said Orchard, by the leaders of the Western Federation of Miners. On the strength of this confession, McParland led a posse by special train to Denver, where Colorado Governor McDonald had a warrant waiting for the arrest of WFM officers William "Big Bill" Haywood, Charles Moyer and George Pettibone. Denied any opportunity to contact their loved ones and lawyers, the three union leaders were kidnapped aboard the Idaho special and hauled to Boise for trial. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently sanctioned their kidnapping to Idaho.

Luckier than Black Jack Kehoe and Yellow Jack Donohue, Big Bill Haywood and his comrades had Clarence Darrow on their side. Already a rising star, and later to win international fame in the Scopes Monkey Trial and Leopold-Loeb Thrill-Killing case, Darrow was the darling of the American Federation of Labor.

Looking for three bites at the union apple, the prosecution brought Big Bill to trial first. Harry Orchard --- like another alleged-turncoat, Kelly the Bum, in the Molly trials --- told his lurid tale of a life of crime, terrorism and murder on the witness stand. In a long and passionate closing argument, Darrow told the jury of ranchers and business men,

I don't believe that this man [Orchard] was ever really in the employ of anybody. I don't believe he ever had any allegiance to the Mine Owners Association, to the Pinkertons, to the Western Federation of Miners, to his family, to his kindred, to his God, or to anything human or divine. I don't believe he bears any relation to anything that a mysterious and inscrutable Providence has ever created. . . . He was a soldier of fortune, ready to pick up a penny or a dollar or any other sum in any way that was easy . . . to serve the mine owners, to serve the Western Federation, to serve the devil if he got his price, and his price was cheap.

Darrow's theory was that Orchard acted alone in belated revenge for being squeezed out of a lucrative silver-mine deal by Steunenberg years earlier.

In a direct attack on McParland and his methods, Darrow recalled for the jury the great detective's ambiguous role in bringing the Mollies "to justice," and expressly drew the parallel between the two cases, especially the Pinkerton's production of the snitch known as "Kelly the Bum" to bolster McParland's testimony for the prosecution.

Some say the jury's unanimous "not guilty" verdict was the result of Darrow's silver-tongued oratory. Less kind critics claim the twelve jurors were intimidated by the terrorist tactics of the WFM. But when George Pettibone was likewise acquitted, the prosecutors gave up the ghost and released the three defendants.

Were the WFM union officers guilty or innocent? Were Black Jack Kehoe and the other alleged Molly Maguires guilty or innocent? Or, in a climate of violence and terrorist tactics, did beleaguered government officials lay those indisputable acts of violence at the feet of political opponents they preferred to see removed from the stage?

Was Saddam Hussein in league with al-Qaeda? Or did the 9-11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington provide a later generation of our government officials with an opportunity to remove another political thorn from the side of our body politic?

If, as I am suggesting here, both the so-called Molly Maguires and the three top officers of the Western Federation of Miners were brought to trial as scapegoats for terrorist acts, not because they instigated or aided those acts, but because government and corporate interests wanted them removed as potentially-powerful opponents then, in the ongoing absence of evidence of weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda, might we not fairly wonder whether Saddam Hussein has been made the unlikely bed-fellow of Black Jack Kehoe and Big Bill Haywood? An unusual context in which to view his pending trial, perhaps, but one which in this writer's opinion cannot be dismissed out of hand. --James Ottavio Castagnara

Who done it? (#44699)
by Charles V. Mutschler on October 18, 2004 at 10:08 PM

For the second time in two weeks HNN readers are offered a look at the murder of Idaho's former governor, Frank Steunenberg. In both articles, the implication is that Clarence Darrow saved his clients from being railroaded to the gallows. That is, of course possible. However, it seems quite possible that labor leaders
engaged in behavior as sordid as hiring a hit man to kill political figures they disapproved of. Of course, if this is correct, then the argument that William Haywood and the Western Federation of Miners leadership were decent men, and the mining companies engineered the trial to purge the country of labor leaders becomes harder to sustain.

The Steun
enberg killing resulted in a trial which was like the O. J. trial of its day. The country followed it closely, in print, and via telegraph. Afterwords, the trial reseeded into the background, but at least four books on the subject all seem to suggest that the union leaders were, indeed, guilty of hiring Harry Orchard to kill people.

No disinterested party, the killer himself penned _Harry Orchard: The Man God Made Again_ (South
ern Publishing Association, 1952) while serving his life sentence in the Idaho prison. Orchard confesses his crimes, and explains his religious conversion in prison. If one takes his confessions, both in court and again in his memoir at face value, the killer was hired by union leaders. One should note, however, that by 1952, Orchard had outlived the other major players, and they could not contest his account.

H. Holbrook spent much of his life writing for newspapers before turning to writing popular history. _The Rocky Mountain Revolution_, New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1956 is his narrative account of the labor violence in the hard rock mining camps of Idaho and Colorado, and Orchard's role in it. Holbrook didn't use footnotes, and his work was largely based on interviews, a common practice for journalists. He was able to obtain an interview with Orchard in prison, and also interviewed Edward Boyce, Clarence Darrow, and Mrs. Frank Steunenberg. The bibliography lists a number of secondary sources and some contemporary newspapers, but the interviews were probably Holbrook's major source. He concludes that Orchard was hired by the WFM leadership, based on Orchard's trial testimony, and his interview with the elderly man.

Robert G. Grimmett revisited the events, and wrote _Cabal of Death: Harry Orchard and His Associates in Murder i
n the Western Mining Wars_, Moscow, Idaho: University of Idaho Press, 1977. Although not footnoted, Grimmett's bibliography suggests that he went much deeper into the primary sources than Holbrook had. Grimmett cites the James H. Hawley papers, and William Borah papers held by the Idaho Historical Society, which include a copy of Orchard's confession, and a transcript of the Haywood trial. Grimmett is not quite as positive as Holbrook or Orchard, and notes the basic conflict between the testimony of Orchard and that of the WFM leaders. He seems to lean toward the point of view that Orchard was probably hired by the WFM leadership.

J. Anthony Lukas, _Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Town Sets off a Struggle for the Soul of Americ
a_, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997 is the larges, and most recent study of the case. Lukas used extensive footnotes, and he probably did the most extensive research of any writer to date. He ultimately concludes that the WFM leaders were guilty. His proof isn't in the trial transcripts or Orchard's confession. He found correspondence files of the radical publication _Appeal to Reason_ which seem to be solid evidence that Haywood, Moyer, and Pettibone were guilty. The concluding sentence of _Big Trouble_ reads, "If, four years after the Boise trial, these prominent Socialists wrote freely to one another about the guilt of Haywood, Moyer, and Pettibone, what does this tell us about who struck down the governor on that snowy night in Caldwell?"

If Lukas is correct, it makes the argument that the trial for the murder of Governor Steunenberg was a mine owner 'railroad job' a lot less plausible. Comparing the Steunenberg trial to the Molly Maguire trials, or the decision to go to war in Iraq, may not be particularly apropos. --Charles V. Mutschler

Comments from either viewpoints are welcomed and appreciated. Please also browse this blog, the left hand column of resources, the archive of previous entries and/or utilize the search tool in the top upper left corner to research these events. You will also want to visit the GLC Collection/Steunenberg Papers at the College of Idaho. Thanks, John