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,

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