Sunday, March 21, 2010

Brenda Steunenberg Richards

Brenda Steunenberg circa 1921
Caldwell, ID

Dear Friends and Family:

I wanted to let those friends and relatives that are not nearby or in regular contact know that my mother, Brenda Steunenberg Richards, quietly passed away early this morning (Sunday). She is now with her brother Cal and her parents Julian and Francis and the rest of the clan that have come and gone before us.

Mom has been in nursing care for about four months. I last saw her just yesterday and peeked around the corner of her room before going in. She was begging over and over “dear lord please take me.” She even ask “John, please help me go” but then would say I can’t, as she “didn’t want me to get in any trouble.” She did the same with my sister Kris. Leave it to Mom to always think first about keeping us out of trouble. I was very troubled thinking of her laying there begging to go and am at peace that she has passed away and that her prayer was answered. We were as prepared as one can be at such a time.

My father is in the hospital after a fall and striking his head last week so we are coping with that too. I informed him shortly after the nursing home called and was up to the hospital today to see him.

I will most likely write more about my mother once a little time passes. Arrangements are pending. Mom will be cremated and we will celebrate her life at a later date. She did not want any formal services.

With love and regards from my mother and all our family to all of you,


Friday, March 19, 2010

Bob Meldrum's Colt sold at auction

Remember my recent post on March 5th,
Bob Meldrum's Colt Up for Auction.
As we have discussed before, Bob Meldrrum and Charles Siringo were hired to guard Harry Orchard. They weren't concerned about his escape, but were there to discourage any assassination attempts on his life and to perform various other duties involving intimidation and protection. You may have seen this photo postcard from my grandparents (Julian and Francis Steunenberg) photo album before but always worth another look. I would like to find more of these or similar postcards if you ever see any or have some stashed away. Siringo is up toward the top of the stairs and Meldrum is second from the left with his hand/arm reaching behind Orchard (in the derby hat). Rudie Barthell (a step up the stairs just behind Orchard) was another hired gun that we see with this group. The picture was taken at the courthouse in Boise. Click on the photo to enlarge for better viewing. The following link shows much of the same group as they prepare to leave the Idaho Penitentiary.
Meldrum's Colt sold for $258, 750.00. Goldarnit, I just missed getting it! I wonder who did?
Click the link below to see detail photographs of this fine Colt.
Photos showing detail and engraving

And below is the full description from
James D. Julia auction item 2092.
*EXTRAORDINARILY RARE AND HISTORIC HELFRICHT ENGRAVED & GOLD INLAID COLT SINGLE ACTION ARMY REVOLVER PRESENTED TO "BAD GOOD GUY" ROBERT D MELDRUM. SN 253161. Cal. 45 Colt. Blue finish with 4-3/4" bbl, full front sight and 2-line address with caliber marking on left side. Left side of frame has 2-line 3-patent dates and rampant Colt in a circle. Mounted with 2-pc smooth pearl grips. Revolver is spectacularly engraved in very unique patterns by master engraver Cuno Helfricht with about full coverage on frame consisting of fine foliate arabesque patterns with gold wire inlay in two patterns on each side of the frame, narrow gold bands on the bbl at the frame and at the muzzle and a gold wire border around the presentation on the back strap. Rear edge of left recoil shield has an unusual geometric & foliate pattern with diamond & dot patterns combined with foliate patterns on the top strap. Loading gate is engraved in a beautiful scallop shell pattern and there is a large flower blossom on the ejector rod boss. Bottom front gullets of frame are engraved with tiny flower blossoms. The foliate arabesque patterns extend about 2/3 of the length of each side of the bbl with fine braided border patterns around bbl address, terminating in intertwined geometric & foliate arabesque patterns. In addition to the gold band around the muzzle there is a 4-panel triangular shaped diamond & dot pattern, and a flower blossom on each side of the front sight. Ejector rod housing has an unusual & well-executed foliate arabesque pattern on outer radius with a foliate spray at the frame end. Ejector rod housing top gullet is fully engraved with a braided pattern. Top of back strap is engraved with a fine shell pattern with chip & dot border and punch dot background. Back strap engraved with the presentation "From The Tomboy Gold Mine Co. Lt'd / Telluride Colo" and the butt strap is engraved "Rob't. D.Meldrum". Trigger guard & trigger bow are engraved in foliate arabesque patterns with a gold wire inlay on the trigger bow. Cylinder has full coverage engraved foliate arabesque patterns on the outer diameter with the flutes left unadorned. Rear edge of cylinder has four borders with a narrow gold wire band inlay and another very narrow gold wire lands on each side of a very fine, wavy border with a chip & dot border at the very rear edge. The serial number was observed in the usual three places on the frame, trigger guard & butt strap with the last three digits of the SN on rear face of cylinder. This revolver is very similar to two other Helfricht engraved and gold inlaid single actions, SN's 242701 and 256058 which are illustrated in full color on pp. 434 & 435 of The Colt Engraving Book Volume One, Wilson. A factory letter accompanies this lot which conforms to this gun. It also states the gun was ordered by Tompkins Hunt Hardware Co., (which was located in or near Telluride). According to factory records, only 2 gold inlaid 1st run Colt S.A.A.'s were ever made inscribed with presentations (this being one of them). As noted S.A. authority Ron Graham states in his letter (accompanying the gun), "The only way this could be any better is if the other (inscribed) one did not exist!" However, it actually gets better. The history of its somewhat nefarious former owner is both interesting and reflective of a time of great transition in the history of the West. While civilized societies were expanding, many areas were still hard and dangerous. In these areas, a lawman needed to be equally hard and feared to survive. It was hard to sometimes differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys. RobertMeldrum was such a man. In 1900Meldrum recognized a Texas fugitive, Noah Wilkerson from a wanted poster.Meldrum simply shot the man and collected his $200 reward without risk of personal injury. This approach seemed to become his policy. By 1902 he hired on as a mine guard and deputy sheriff in Telluride, Colorado, for the Tomboy Mining Co. located high in the mountains overlooking the village of Telluride. It had two serious problems; mineral poachers and organizers attempting to organize the mine workers. In need of a hired gun, the mine purportedly contacted the famous Tom Horn who is believed to have referred his acquaintance RobertMeldrum. While working for the Tomboy Mine company in a covert operation involving the Pinkerton Agency sometime from 1902 to 1904, Meldrum ingratiated himself to the mine (probably by killing some problematic individuals). Tomboy was unquestionably grateful because they not only presented him with this spectacular gun, but also gifted him another engraved (but not gold inlaid) Colt.Meldrum continued his heavy-handed ways and in 1904 killed unarmed Olaf Thissal in Telluride and others as he felt they needed it. He was brought to court on various cases involving killings but was usually acquitted. On a few occasion he worked for cattle growers associations like Tom Horn to dispose of and discourage cattle thieves. Finally in 1912, as a law officer, Meldrum killed another drunk unarmed cowboy, Chick Bowen. Meldrum was again brought up on charges and finally sent to jail. By 1919 he was out on parole and later owned a saddle and holster shop in Wyoming. In 1926 fire destroyed his shop and Meldrum disappeared never to be heard of again. There are far more fascinating details about this bad-good guy. More info and a great exhibit of some of Meldrum's things are available at the Museum of Northwest Colorado in Craig, Colorado. Much of the above information was graciously provided by Director of the museum, Mr. Dan Davidson. In appreciation of this, James D. Julia Auctioneers has commissioned Doug Turnbull to produce an exact copy of this gun which will be donated to the museum as part of its permanent Meldrum collection. CONDITION: Very fine, all matching including cylinder, grips are unnumbered. Overall retains 20-25% orig blue finish, mostly in sheltered areas on the bbl and in the flutes of the cylinder and on the face of the cylinder. Balance of the revolver is an even bare metal patina showing moderate wear to the inscription on the back strap. Grips are extremely fine with great fire & color. Crisp mechanics, bright shiny bore. 4-38974 JR91 (200,000-400,000)
--James D. Julia Auctions

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Governor Frank Steunenberg's Model 1895 .303 Savage Rifle

I guess this is guns week, so in addition to the Bob Meldrum and Harry Orchard Colts discussed in the immediately preceding posts, we might as well cover Frank Steunenberg's Savage Model 1895 .303 rifle. I would like to get better documentation and photographs of this personally engraved rifle given as a gift to then Governor Steunenberg in 1899--but here is what I have to date.
The Savage was reportedly given to Frank by several mine owners. I don't know which ones specifically but would like to find out. One would assume it was presented as a token of appreciation for his action to suppress labor unrest in the Coeur d'Alene. I know that opens up a political Pandora's box but those issues are covered elsewhere throughout this blog, in the history books and the production of Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century.

This 1895 has a custom checkered stock, a 26" octagon barrel, a engraved patent date of 1893, a gold crescent butt plate and a blade front site. It takes a .303 cartridge (not British .303) that is no longer available commercially but can still be purchased from various re-loaders. Unfortunately, well intentioned kinfolk had the rifle re-blued, stock refinished and checkering probably sharpened up a bit. Never a good idea with an antique firearm.

A nameplate affixed to the stock says "Frank Stennenberg, 1899, Governor of Idaho." As often happens with the Steunenberg name, it is misspelled on the nameplate. You would have expected the mine owners and/or engraver to have been a bit more careful in that regard. An interesting mistake when presenting such a special gift to a standing governor. The picture to the right is not very clear but you get the idea. The engraved plague may have been silver but was unfortunately blued.

After Frank's murder by Harry Orchard on December 30th, 1905, the rifle passed into the possession of his brother, Will Steunenberg, who mentioned it in his last will and testament ("To Hell With the Man Who Breaks My Will"). Will indicated the rifle should be passed on to either of Frank's two sons, one being my grandfather Julian and the other Frank Jr. Although Julian hunted as a teenager and young man, I don't believe he or Frank Jr. had any propensity toward guns later in life. This picture (Caldwell, ID circa 1905) shows by grandfather Julian on the right, after a fresh kill, a knife in his mouth and holding a rifle. Maybe this one? Probably not but always fun to speculate.

I am not sure the exact chain of ownership from there, but assume the rifle came into the possession of the Steunenberg sisters and passed into the hands of my Crookham kinfolk through the marriage of our families. Later, George Crookham Jr., passed it on to the current kin's possession. Those family members wish to remain anonymous and I will respect their request.
I would like to get the serial # and obtain a letter of authenticity available from a former Savage employee and historian (link is a sample, not for this rifle) documenting the rifles manufacturing date, shipping date, who it was sold to, etc. It would be good to have that letter with the rifle and might be helpful in tracing the early provenance.

I am gratified to know this great old Savage 1895 it is still within the family. Hopefully, I may be able to make a trip in the not too distant future and examine the rifle more closely, study and document its history, obtain more detailed closeup photographs.... and maybe shoot off a couple rounds.

Thanks to my kinfolk for providing the photographs of the rifle.

Shorter barrel on the 1895 pictured above. I believe it was available in carbine (23"), rifle (26"), musket (30") or thereabouts.

Related Websites

Savage Arms Co. History

Early Savage Model 1895

Unofficial Savage Website

Model 1895

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Where is Harry Orchard's Colt Single Action Army? Who has it?

If you have a little spare change around, the Colt of Meldrum's in the previous post would be a fine item for your (my) collection. Now if I only knew where Harry Orchard's old Army Colt ended up after being auctioned off a few years back. It wouldn't be as pretty as Meldrum's, as Harry wasn't no gunfighter and probably didn't take very good care of it. A gun was not the chosen tool of his trade and shooting wasn't his type of killing. However, a cowardly shot in the back now and then wasn't against his constitution if he couldn't get his prey with dynamite.

The following auction took place circa 2003-2006. I believe it was likely 2004, as that would have been the only year within that time-frame with Columbus Day falling on Monday October 11th as indicated at the top of the listing. Click on the auction listing for clearer reading. Those of you more familiar with auction houses specializing in old weapons might be able to shed some light on it. If you are the one that bought Harry's Colt, or know who did, I sure would appreciate hearing from you. Not particularly looking to buy, but would like to get some documentation and good photographs for the historical record.

Colt Single Action Army (Wikipedia)

Colt Firearms

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bob Meldrum's Colt up for auction

Remember Bob Meldrum? Well you can now purchase a fine Colt given to Meldrum by the Tomboy Mining Company of Telluride, CO. Meldrum had been recommended to the mining company by his friend Tom Horn. Tom is another one of those characters, like "Hair Trigger" Bob, that moved in and out of various roles as a lawmen, gunfighter, assassin, Pinkerton detective, etc. Meldrum, Charles Siringo and others were hired by the Pinkerton's and/or Governor Gooding during the Haywood Trial in Boise, Idaho. Who was on which side of the law was often hard to distinguish.

Below from James D. Julia Auctioneers

Now move 90 years ahead in history to the Wild West Colorado, specifically Telluride. The lot in question is an extraordinary and rare Cuneo Helfricht engraved and gold inlaid Colt single-action Army revolver. According to the records, it appears that of all of the 300,000 antique Colt revolvers produced over a period of approximately 30+ years, only 16 ever had gold inlay and only two of those gold inlaid ones ever carried presentation inscriptions on the backstrap, this being one of them. The backstrap and butt strap read, “From the Tom Boy Gold Mine Co., Telluride, Colorado to Robert L. Meldrum”. The gun had been on loan and display at the Museum of Northwest Colorado, in Craig, Colorado until the owner learned that the Julia auction company in March of 2009 had sold a similar gold inlaid revolver for around $750,000 and as a result, contacted Julia. While this gun is not in the spectacular condition that the Sears Colt of spring 2009 was, this has something the Sears Colt did not have and that is a most intriguing and exciting western history. Meldrum apparently was a friend or acquaintance of Tom Horn. The Tom Boy Mining Company was experiencing great difficulty with organizers trying to get their workers to go out on strike and poachers stealing minerals from their claims. They unsuccessfully tried to get Horn to come work for them but he was busy at the time and referred them to Meldrum. Meldrum obviously was successful for the mining company because in 1904 they presented him with two beautiful engraved Colts. This one however, is by far the finer of the two with gold inlay; a most extravagant gift in those days. History about Meldrum indicates that his title “hair trigger” was well earned. During his lifetime he killed no fewer than 14 men, most “in the line of duty”. Meldrum was obviously a hard and cold man as at least two of his victims were unarmed at the time he shot them. Meldrum’s history is not only intriguing but a bit mysterious. By the 1920s he had established a leatherwork business making saddles and holsters at which he was greatly accomplished. One night his business was burnt down, Meldrum disappeared and was never heard from again. This extraordinary pistol with its tremendous history carries a presale estimate of $200,000-$400,000.
--James D. Julia Press Releases