Saturday, May 19, 2012

Did Steunenberg neighbor William 'Bill' Williams know about the bomb?

Here is a great story from Carlin Otto (great-grand-daughter of William Williams, grand-daughter of M. Ned Williams) as told to her by M. Ned Williams. Carlin provided permission to share it here on the blog.

"In December of 1905, William Williams, his wife Mimsy Crosser Williams, and their 4 school-aged children (Perdix, Ky, Ned, and Clyde) lived in Caldwell across the street from Governor Steunenberg. William Williams was a very active member of the WFM. He had served as one of the original officers (along with Bill Haywood) for Local 66, Silver City, Idaho during a time when the Williams family lived full time in Silver City.
John Richards Collection
On the night of the assassination, Mimsey and the boys (but not William Williams) ate dinner, as usual, before 5pm and then they all passed out. They did not awaken until many hours later in the dead of night or wee hours of the next morning. None of them had been able to even dress for bed or go to their bedrooms. They just "fell asleep" in the living room. When they awoke, they felt drugged.  They dragged themselves off to their beds and did not find out about the assassination by "bomb" that occurred just across the street until the next morning. M. Ned Williams always suspected that his father had known about the plans for the assassination and had drugged his family in order to protect them from harm and perhaps had even allowed the assassins to use the Williams house for something related to the placing of the bomb."

Below from Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas, page 407.

ISHS Digital Collections
Big Bill Haywood
Bill Williams upper right corner
"In the weeks after Steunenberg's assassination, the search for conspirators was so thorough that even labor sympathizers in town for years found themselves under suspicion.  Bill Williams had been a close friend and union colleague of Haywood's while both were miners in Silver City. About 1900, with his wife and son, Williams moved to Caldwell, buying a home on Dearborn Street, catty-corner from the Steunenbergs. For five years, the Williamses lived in amicable concert with their neighbors. But once the bomb blew up the governor barely a 100 feet away, Williams found himself on a list of suspicious characters, although never formally a suspect. He reacted, his son recalled, by withdrawing from all organized activity—including the union—shunning intercourse with his neighbors for fear it would be hostile."  Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas

I attached the photograph above from the ISHS showing Bill Haywood in his usual pose shielding his bad right eye from the camera. Bill Williams is listed in the description as being in the same photo. Perhaps Carlin can help us confirm which of these fellows is her great-grandfather. Click on ISHS Digital Collections to see the full version.

I know Carlin and I would sure be happy to hear from anyone that may know more about Bill Williams and his connection to Bill Haywood, Silver City, WFM's Local 66 and as a neighbor of Governor Steunenberg. We are looking for any documents that have been signed by William Williams as an officer of the WFM/Local 66 in Silver City. 


Anonymous said...

William Williams is the man in the topmost, right-hand-side of the photo on this webpage.

John T. Richards Jr. said...

You’re kidding me! That is actually William in the upper right of that small clip with Haywood? Purely accident that he was included as I had no idea. Glad I got him in there nonetheless. John

Patricia said...

There is a William Williams listed on the 1900 census in Silver City. His wife is Minnie C., and his sons are Ray, Karl, Marvin N. and William C. ranging in age from 7 down to 8 months. After checking other census records, etc., this appears to be the William Willams you mentioned. The astonishing thing to note is that he is listed as a Druggist in Silver City! A Druggist! I grew up in Caldwell, and studying its history is fascinating. My parents bought me the book "Big Trouble" when it came out, and now I am drawn to it again.