Saturday, September 25, 2010

No Neckties Allowed #1 - a Frank Steunenberg trademark, reader comments & links of interest

“No Neckties allowed” refers to the well-known habit of my great-grandfather, Governor Frank Steunenberg, of never wearing a tie during his tenure as governor or at any other time that I know of. He was informal, approachable and casual in nature. No ivory towers or layers of security. He grew-up a farm boy of meager means in Iowa and retained his relaxed, boyish nature and dry sense of humor. I think that is why when a question arose in the community, it would often be said,” let’s ask Frank what he thinks”.

Reading the first few pages of Big Trouble, we find:
“Most of the day, as wind-driven snow hissed on the windowpanes, the governor read and wrote in his study. At four o’clock, he put on his overcoat, a slouch hat and galoshes, but no necktie: he was known throughout the state for his stubborn refusal to throttle himself with those slippery eastern doohickeys. Some said the habit began in the governor’s youth when he was too indigent to afford a tie. In any case, for the rest of his life he’d button the shirt around his neck, leaving the uncovered brass collar to glint like a gold coin at his throat."

The Chicago Tribune, August 29, 1899

"People loved to speculate on this eccentricity. ‘His friends have exhausted all their persuasive powers on him,’ said the Populist James Sovereign. “Newspapers have raked him fore and aft with editorial batteries, theatrical companies have held him up to laughter and ridicule, he has become the basis of standing jokes in bar-room gossip and sewing circles, orators have plead (sic) with him, doctors have prescribed for him and politicians have lied for him, but all of no avail.’ Indeed, a fashionable Washington D.C., hotel had once refused to serve him because he wore no tie, an exclusion that he bore with ‘magnanimous mien.’ A bemused Wall Street remembered him, on one of his excursions East, as ‘a rugged giant who wore a bearskin coat flapping over a collarless shirt.’” --Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas

The 1st Idaho Legislature

Celebration Of The One Hundredth Anniversary of the Establishment Of The Seat Of Government In The District Of Columbia

With the above in mind, I have decided to post an occasional “No Ties Allowed” blog entry for informal remarks, comments, passing on of new links, bits of information and sharing contacts I have had with people of interest. It is informal but hopefully informative. And informal means don't pick on me for grammar or typos. I will still watch it and do (or is that due or doo?) pretty well for an aging dyslexic. In the tradition of Governor Steunenberg, a tradition I uphold, and one that I learned we share with retired Idaho Supreme Court Justice Byron Johnson--no neckties are allowed here.

Recent happenings:
You may have seen my brief post regarding comments from the great grandson of Albert Horsley (aka Harry Orchard) made to the IPTV website, Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century Feedback page. I appreciate Larry Taylor stepping forward as his viewpoint is an important one. I do hope Larry and other Orchard/Horsley descendants will continue to contribute to the discussion as we try to understand the many tragedies of this story that have affected families for generations.

Harve Haskell, a Nampa resident and author, is working on a historical novel based on the connection between Governor Steunenberg and Sheriff Harvey Brown of Baker County Oregon. As you may recall, Sheriff Brown was assassinated in an eerily similar plot after he had assisted authorities in Idaho with the Steunenberg assassination investigation. Now I am not a big fan of historical novels. I always felt "historical novel" was an oxymoron as folks tend to confuse fiction with history as it is. We are all guilty from time to time as the lines between fact and fiction can be pretty blurred. I been happy to share information with Harve in the hope that some truth creeps in and perhaps we will see the end result later down the road. No doubt, he will have this amateur historian lining up for a copy of the book and giving my critical review.

Gary Heagy shared some interesting discussions with me (see Comments from a reader)and I welcome his input. Gary presents an SDA viewpoint that is always important to our family that still has a few SDA members. As some of you know, Great Grandma Belle was a founding member of the small SDA church in Caldwell. Frank did not covert to SDA but he did not object to Belle’s insistence on raising the children as members of the SDA. My grandfather Julian, the eldest, was rather resistant to the idea but at the urging of his father, and for the sake of peace in the family, he went along and even attended Walla Walla College. Belle raised quite a controversy in the family; particularly with her forgiveness toward Orchard and her belief in his conversion and redemption. We continue to discuss and debate that issue to this day and I am guess we always will. Appreciate your insights Gary and keep them coming.

I recently discovered the existence of a proclamation signed by Governor Steunenberg in 1899 creating the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG) and naming Charles Arbuckle as the first game warden. Through our always helpful chain of Idaho contacts, I was led to Sharon Clark, an historian with the IDFG. She had helped put together an exhibit, "A Century of Hatcheries," that was at the Idaho Historical Museum in 2006. I am hoping to get a copy of the proclamation of the governors as well a more information on the formation of the IDFG in 1899. A future blog post perhaps.

Check out the following blog posts if you missed them:
Dr. Hans Schantz did a fine post on his blog summarizing Big Trouble: The Steunenberg Assassination.

Evan "Revue Guru" Fillby did a nice post on his blog commemorating Albert "A.K." Steunenberg.

Recent new links of interest:
Albert E. Horsley Diaries

Victor & Cripple Creek History

Feel free to browse my history documents. I suggest clicking on "Spotlights" as some of the other stuff gets redundant but check out whatever you like.

And of course don't forget to visit our Guest Book over near the top of the blog in the left hand column. Scroll through the entries and then enter your own comment or just say "howdy." If you are kinfolk of mine or of any of the participants in this historical drama, we would love to hear from you. If the Guest Book is too public for you, email me at:

More "No Necktie" sessions to come from time to time, usually on the weekends but could show-up anytime since I never have a necktie on anymore. John

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Comments from a reader

Here is part of a recent email exchange with Gary Heagy. Gary in undoubtedly an avid history buff and well versed on the subject of Harry Orchard. Some good comments that I don't want to bury in the guest book and Gary agreed to let me use as a main post. Although I still want to encourage folks to use the guest book (near the top left column), I think I will start sharing a few of the more thought provoking emails as a blog post when it is OK with the author.
From: Gary & Terri Heagy
Sent: Sunday, September 12, 2010 10:11 AM
Subject: Governor Steunenberg

I just came across your blog about the history of the 1800-1900's in Idaho, especially of your great-grandfather Frank Steunenberg. Wow! I really appreciate all you've put together, though I've only had an opportunity to browse through it briefly so far. I wish I had found it a few years ago.
I grew up as an Adventist reading the Harry Orchard book. A few years ago I decided to do more research about the story on the internet and then took a trip to Caldwell and Boise. I learned so much about your great-grandfather and the great man he was. I saw the place where his home was, his bank, the monument, AK's home, the gravesite, the library collection of material, etc. In Boise I went to the museum, the monument, the Idanha, the penitentiary, the historical society, etc. I purchased and read the books "Big Trouble", "Idaho's Governors", "Greater Love", "The Martyr of Idaho", "The Idanha", "A Room For the Summer", etc. I made a huge notebook of copies of documents from the newspapers, Crookham collection, files at the historical society, etc. This whole story really absorbed my attention, though it has been on the back burner for the last couple years.
I agree with you and your great-uncle Frank that too much was made of Harry Orchard and not enough was said about your great-grandfather. He was very courageous and did what he knew to be right regardless of the outcome. I have come to greatly admire him and the depiction of his murder, especially by his brother in a letter, is so grievous. I have no doubt that AK died of a broken heart because of it. Harry Orchard was a thug and despicable criminal.
To me, though, through all of this I have come to also admire your great-grandmother. The story of her forgiveness of Harry Orchard is amazing. Especially at the time when he was still an evil, murderous thug of the unions who had just ripped her life apart, mangled her husband, horrified her family, ruined her future, and more. You might understand if she had forgiven the elderly, grandfatherly Harry Orchard, but what she did speaks of an amazing woman. Her comments to the press, her sending books to Harry, even meeting with him, and in 1921 signing a petition along with your grandfather and her other children to allow Harry to be released... wow. I would love to know more about her as well.
I personally believe Harry's confession and change of life to be real, and I believe Belle did as well. There is no doubt that he could have gotten out of it just like Adams, Haywood, and the others if he would have stuck to his original story. The letter he wrote to your great-great uncle Peter begging him to ask for the death penalty seems genuine. He said he would much rather die for his deeds as he deserved than to live out the rest of his life in the pen. I don't think he turned state's witness just to keep from hanging. If it hadn't been for him, the state would have had zero opportunity to go after the unions. They would have had the union, too, if Adams hadn't recanted.
I do think that God changed Harry Orchard from the vile person he was, who could kill a great man like Frank Steunenberg in cold blood, to a humble repentant sinner saved by God's grace. I feel that is what makes people focus on his story. But unfortunately they have raised him up to being a hero instead of your great-grandfather. I have thought about writing another book for the Adventist denomination that balances the story a bit better than the original Harry Orchard book, but we'll see...
Anyway, it is an honor to be able to communicate with you,
Gary Heagy
From: John T. Richards Jr. []
Sent: Sunday, September 12, 2010 4:16 PM
To: 'Gary & Terri Heagy'
Subject: RE: Governor Steunenberg
I really appreciate the email. It appears you have put a considerable amount of time and thought into you study of this subject.
Are you in Idaho? As you may have read, I am a CA boy but we have roots in Idaho and kinfolk still living in the Caldwell/Boise area. I hope to make another visit there soon. 

There was a Deanna Davis that I corresponded with and finally met in 2007 that was interested in writing a new book. Deanna and I, along with archivist Jan Boles, met in the archives at the College of Idaho. Here is a summary of that meeting from my daily log in case you have not discovered it yet on my blog. It may be of some interest. 
November 9, 2007 - College of Idaho Archives with Jan and Deanna
Today we headed over to the COI archives for a visit with Jan and I wanted to get a look at that wonderful old court docket from 1906 that had been rescued from the dumpster. Quite a find with the names we all know (Haywood, Petitioner, Moyer, Orchard, Simpkins, etc) but including the quiet presence of a young Julian Steunenberg as a witness to Orchard’s presence in Caldwell. Thank you Cousin Bill and Jan for seeing that the item found its way safely into the hands of the archives. Our friend Jan has of course been of great importance to the Steunenberg family with the establishment of the George L. Crookham Jr. collection. He served as a consultant to the IPTV production and his white beard and hair served him well as a member of the Haywood trial jury. He is not really as old as any of those Haywood trial jurors but he played the part well! Thank you for all your work and for keeping me in touch with happenings in Idaho. You are an invaluable resource.
Jan, John, Deanna
We also had the pleasure of meeting with Deanna Davis from Pacific Press in Nampa. Deanna and I had corresponded briefly and we arranged to meet and discuss the SDA Church’s desire to have her write a new book on Harry Orchard. I was happy to hear Dianna say that she wanted to do more then just a rehash of The Man God Made Again, and plans to update and include other elements from the story on which we have been focusing so much recent interest. Perhaps it is Belle Steunenberg and later Frank Steunenberg Jr. who played significant roles in Orchard’s alleged salvation that deserves more prominent recognition. Regardless of one’s personal view of Orchard’s real or faked conversion, as someone opposed to capital punishment I cannot apply that view only to modern times and ignore the past. I am at peace with Orchard’s life sentence, supportive of my ancestors that made sure it stayed that way but find regrettable some of the unusual freedom’s that Orchard enjoyed during his life at the Idaho pen. Deanna also spent a considerable amount of time looking over my mother Brenda’s treasured copy of 60Years of Progress-Walla Walla College. The book has many notations and markings made by my Grandmother Frances Beardsley Wood Steunenberg. Some of our ancestors on my grandmother’s side were pioneers in the early days of the college and the Walla Walla Valley. That is another story to be told but suffice to say that Julian Steunenberg was smitten by the young Frances while attending college and we know the story went on happily for a lifetime thereafter.
Jan and I were recently corresponding and mentioning that neither of us has heard from Deanna so I am not sure the status of her book efforts.
The SDA has played an important, albeit sometimes controversial, role in our family. Great Grandma Belle was viewed as a bit fanatical by the mostly Presbyterian Steunenberg clan. Her forgiveness of Orchard put her at odds with many that preferred to see him swing from a rope. We still have a few living family members that are SDA. I am not but we grew up always familiar with the church and respecting the Sabbath due to the many happy weekends spent with my grandparents Julian and Francis Steunenberg.
As you read over my blog, I think you will find many indicators of my views and findings. Of course, the story seems never ending as a new bit of information or person of interest always seems to pop up, one being the recent surfacing of a great grandson of Harry Orchard. There may be more information coming in that regard soon.
Please keep in contact, let me know if you have any questions and always feel free to share your views. The blog has grown far beyond my original intent and some things are rather hard to find. If looking for something particular, please let me know.
BTW, would you mind if I post your email letter as a main post entry? Your expressed interests and many excellent points would be worth sharing. If you prefer, I will delete you email address so it will not show. Let me know.
Kind Regards,


I didn't get around to writing much but here is an article of interest. Click on the photo to use my enlarger. To check others articles I have found on go to my Spotlights.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Steunenberg Reunion May 28, 1977

A couple of long misplaced photos that were finally found and go along nicely with a diary entry from my mother. This was my last Steunenberg reunion. Maybe it's time for another.
 Excerpt below from my mother's (Brenda Steunenberg Richards) diary, May 28,1977.
"1977 Steunenberg Re-union Caldwell. Such a great bunch & good time we had. 2 of our kids made it-Beckie & family and John & Cindy. Ger (George) Crookham had everything nice. Bus ride - dinner etc. A great person!"

1977 at Canyon Hill Cemetery, Caldwell, Idaho in front of the monument marking the family plot and the grave of Ex.-Governor Frank Steunenberg. Left to right, John T. Richards Jr. (me), my brother in-law David Underwood (deceased), my sister Beckie Underwood, my nephew and niece Tim Underwood and Kim Underwood, my mother Brenda Steunenberg Richards (deceased), my father John T. Richards Sr. (now deceased) and my Uncle Cal Steunenberg (deceased).