Monday, December 30, 2013

A new Walter Johnson card

I don't do much baseball card collecting anymore (except for my 1964 TOPPS set in progress) but I always have room for another Walter Johnson, particularly when it is related to his Weiser Idaho days. This is a modern card but depicts Johnson's during the 1907 season in Idaho, when we know Darrow would take the occasional break from the Haywood trial to watch the up and coming phenom in the Idaho league.

     "He (Darrow) was notorious for not spending much time preparing his cases, for many in the trial community, notably the press, the weekly baseball matches were the summer's principal distraction; finally, one player in the league was performing such prodigious feats he must have arrested the attention of a baseball fanatic like Darrow."
     "His name was Walter Johnson. At age twenty, he was pitching his second season with the kids at Weiser, seventy-five miles northwest of Boise. Already he'd won a reputation as the most exciting pitching prospect ever to play in any minor league." —Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas

Saturday, February 2, 2008
"The Weiser Wonder"

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Walter Johnson - The Weiser (Idaho) Wonder sold on eBay

I guess Walter would never have to worry about going back to his old job in Idaho installing telephone wire.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 1905/2013

Gosh am I running late this year as here it is Christmas Eve day. I need to get a Christmas post on here and will borrow from previous years and add a little more as I go along.

Julian, Francis with Doris, Cal, Bud,
Jule & Brenda (my mom)
The Christmas season in 1905 was tragically interrupted by Frank's assassination as was last year by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School (last years post). Violence and intolerance continue in the world, including another recent school shooting. Once again we are thinking of those so tragically impacted by such events, and our family past and present, friends, readers, military personnel and those less fortunate then us, be it they are in the U.S.A. or in the more dangerous and oppressive parts of the globe. In the now ending year of 2013, we have remained a nation and a government with deep divisions. However, Christmas and the New Year bring eternal hope for a more tolerate and peaceful 2014...from our family to yours. 
This year I am resuming the now Christmas tradition of posting the excerpt below from Big Trouble. As you may know, the passage regarding the family's' Christmas gathering at A.K. and Carrie Steunenberg's house is a personal favorite. I had expanded on the excerpt two years ago and will add a bit more this time around.  The passages from Big Trouble are not necessarily in order of appearance in the book but I have tried to keep it chronologically correct.

In contrast to the joyous occasion at A.K's. and Carrie's home, I have ended with the more gruesome description of Frank's condition following the bombing. I debated doing so as a holiday entry but those events occur in juxtaposition for a reason. I decided to remain true to the intent of Lukas and the message he was trying to convey.

I have left some related links in the text and maintained a list of additional ones at the end.

Belle Steunenberg
From Big Trouble:
"The community's general air of well-being was reflected in the bustling jollity of Caldwell's holiday festivities, formally ushered in on Saturday, December 23, with Christmas exercises at three downtown churches. The most impressive were those at the Presbyterian Church, the house of worship that attracted many of Caldwell's leading citizens. Belle Steunenberg had stood proudly among its founders, a teacher in its Sunday School, a doyenne of the congregation, a community leader 'jeweled with Christian graces,' until her inexplicable defection to Caldwell's tiny eight-member Adventist Church when it was inaugurated a year before—an act of such breathtaking betrayal it had left a strong residue of resentment in the front pews."

Gov. Frank Steunenberg
"To assuage some of the bitterness among Belle's former congregation, the governor still attended an occasional Presbyterian service, though without much enthusiasm. He once confessed to a friend that 'his church attendance, he feared, was prompted more by anticipation of an intellectual treat than spiritual improvements.' He had to concede that the Presbyterians knew how to put on a show. That Saturday, the adult choir's 'Joy to the World' had been followed by songs from the youngest congregants, including a solo by the governor's niece, Grace Van Wyngarden, still pale from her bout with typhoid; a 'Rock of Ages' pantomime by Mrs. Stone's class, the young ladies dressed as the heavenly host, all in gold and silver, with wings sprouting from their shoulders; and finally the smallest child of all, Gladys Gordon, singing a 'rock-a-bye' with the aplomb of a prima donna and 'a clear, sweet voice that sounded to the roof.'"

"Then a portly member, dressed as Santa Claus, pulled up in a sleigh and taking his traditional position in the choir loft, delivered a gay, bantering speech. 'Have all you children been good this year?' he asked to squeals of affirmation. Descending to the foyer, Santa opened his sack, tossing out green net bags tied up with crimson yarn, each containing candy, nuts, and a bright golden orange. All this in the glow of an admirable balsam—which the congregation's men had cut in the crisp air of the Owyhee Mountains—now dressed out in cardboard angels and colored balls and illuminated this year, for the first time, by genuine electric lights."

"For the next few days, he (Harry Orchard) tried to get a fix on the ex-governor's schedule. He didn't catch up with him until Christmas day, when he saw him with his family on his way to his brother A.K. Steunenberg's house for the holiday dinner."

AK & Carrie Steunenberg home.
“At noon on Christmas Day, the governor and Belle attended the traditional family dinner at A. K.’s house. The hustling young entrepreneur and his family occupied an imposing Colonial Revival mansion, its great front portico supported by three Tuscan columns, approached by a new cement sidewalk on North Kimball Avenue, where the city’s 'quality' clustered in the lee of the Presbyterian Church.”

"Although Frank, A.K. and their wives certainly ranked among Caldwell's first families, they were less self-assured than they appeared. In a town that had long cherished the notion of unrestrained opportunity, the uncomfortable specter of social class reared its head. When James Munro, a clerk in the Steunenberg bank, married Estella Cupp, the eldest daughter of the town's most prominent real estate broker, the Tribune called them 'the popular young society people'—a frank recognition that a 'smart set' was coalescing in this nominally egalitarian community. A Young Man's Dancing Club invited the socially active young people to occasional soirees at Armory Hall."

"Some of Caldwell's new elite never quite felt they belonged. During a prolonged stay in the nation's capital, Frank Steunenberg shied away from the fashionable dinner parties to which he was invited. 'Why,' he told a friend more eager than he to see how the smart set lived, 'to accept one of these invitations means the wearing of an evening costume and what a pretty figure I would cut!'"

"A.K. Steunenberg had a thick sheaf of credentials. But consider his reaction as a guest of Bob and Adell Strahorn, the most worldly members of Caldwell's inner circle, at their summer home in northern Idaho. 'You can imagine my consternation when I 'butted' into a regular dress suit card party,' A.K. wrote his wife. 'I was the only one who did not wear a white front and a claw hammer. And to make matters worse they played a game called 500 I think I had never played before. Being like a fish out of water anyhow that did not tend to give me any reassurance...I sailed in and got through without making any very bad breaks or spilling my coffee. The ladies were perfectly lovely and seemed to try and relieve my embarrassment and I guess the men did too...The main theme of conversation at the card party was the help problem...not being able to procure help of any kind.'"

Bernardus Steunenberg
“None of these insecurities could be detected that Christmas afternoon as a gracious A.K. welcomed the boisterous clan beneath his portico. No fewer than thirty Steunenbergs gathered around the heavily laden table, headed by the seventy-two year old patriarch, Bernardus, a shoemaker by trade, a Mexican War veteran who’d come west from Iowa to join his children earlier that year. Seven of his ten offspring were there that afternoon: five sons—Frank; A.K.; Pete, the most raffish of the brothers, a part-time printer who sometimes dealt cards at the Saratoga; Will and John, lifelong bachelors and partners in a shoe store (“Fitters of Feet,” they called themselves) just behind the Saratoga—and two daughters—Elizabeth (“Lizzie”), married to Gerrit Van Wyngarden, a Caldwell contractor who’d built both Frank’s house and the new Caldwell Banking and Trust building, and Josephine (“Jo”), at thirty-four still unmarried, who made a home for John, Will, and Bernardus at her commodious house on Belmont Street, while finding time to repair Franks’ shirts as well. The “plump” and jolly” A.K. played Santa at his own festivities, distributing elaborately wrapped gifts to all the children.”

"The 'social event of the season' took place that night, a gala masquerade ball at Armory Hall, nest door to the Saratoga, attended by several hundred townspeople decked out in garish masks and costumes. 'Tailors in town did a booming business in rented evening wear of all kinds.

"'After it got dark, I (Orchard) went up to his residence and took a pump shotgun with me and thought I would try to shoot him when he was going home...I was there an hour or so before I heard him coming home, and he come soon after I got up there but he got in the house before I got my gun together.'"

What we now know would be the final family gathering on Christmas that would include Frank, was fortunately not tainted by this bungled assassination attempt on Christmas dayyes, even the ex-governor walking home with his family on Christmas day did not dissuade the beast from trying to slay its pray. Of course, the family could never imagine that this would be Frank's last Christmas at his brother A.K's, with only five days until the tragic events on December 30th, 1905, when past assassination failures would finally end in a tragic and dastardly success.

The Blatchley house (now Blatchlley Hall)
on the College of Idaho campus.
"The night before the governor's walk had witnessed the season's grandest dinner party, cohosted by Caldwell's social arbiter, Queen Carrie Blatchley; William Judson Boone; and their spouses for a group of refined young couples, including two attorneys, an insurance agent, a pastor, and the manager of a lumber company. 'Very pleasant,' Boone recorded in his diary. 'Fine time.'"

"Indeed, to Boone, his guests, and many others, that winter in Caldwell seemed a fine time and place to be alive. Despite its early dependency, there lingered in town a fragile sense of autonomy—the notion that its citizens controlled their own destiny....

William J. Boone
On that snowy night of the governor's walk, Caldwell looked for all the world like the quintessential ninetieth-century American community, sufficient unto itself, proof against an uncaring world."

"The Reverend Mr. Boone and his wife had been entertaining their closest friends, the Blatchleys, when they heard a "terrific" noise. They thought something had fallen on the roof."

A walk with grandpa Julian
"Julian Steunenberg (my grandfather) and Will Keppel (nephew of Belle/son of her brother Edward Keppel) came running. A sturdy youth with a shock of blond hair, strikingly like his father in face and figure, Julian had been particularly close to the governor. He and Will had been strolling two blocks behind him when they felt the explosion, then dashed with pounding hearts to Frank's side, where they were quickly joined by Garrit Van Wyngarden, the governor's brother-in-law, who lived two blocks west on Dearborn. Together the trio tried to lift the grievously wounded man, but as they did the flesh on his legs simply gave way. Finally, someone got a blanket, into which they paced the governor, managing to carry him that way into the house and lay him on a bed in his daughter's downstairs bedroom."

The exploded gate.
Will Steunenberg had just eaten supper and was back at his store arranging a display of boots when the concussion spilled them on the floor. A minute later, Ralph Oates rushed in to say there'd been an explosion at Frank's house...When he reached the house, his brother had already been moved inside. Belle was lighting kerosene lamps to replace the electric ones, for the neighborhood's electric power had been knocked out by the blast. Window on the north and west side of the house had been shattered, as had those in other houses for blocs around. Shards of glass littered the floors. A huge clock had toppled from its shelf, striking five-year-old Frank Junior, who'd been lying on the leather couch below."

"When Will entered the front bedroom, it was 'horrible': the governor writhing on the bed, his right arm hanging by a few shreds, his right leg mangled, both legs broken at the ankles. He kept asking to have his legs rubbed."

"Three of the town's doctors-John Grue, W.E. Waldrop, and John A. Myer—had arrived. There was nothing they could do."

"Just past 7:30 p.m., he gasped three or four times, like a man trying to catch his breath, and muttered something unintelligible. As Will leaned closer, trying to hear those last syllables, the governor sank back and died. "

"'Frank died in my arms', Will wrote a sister in Iowa, 'and I hope the fellow that killed him will die in my arms, only in a different manner.'"

Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas

Other Related Blog Links

Canyon Hill Cemetery

Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century on Public Television

12/31/1905 - Assassinated with a dynamite bomb ( Spotlight)

Click here to see a blog post about the home of A.K. and Carrie Steunenberg.

Click here to see the 1880 Census entries for the Steunenberg family.

Google Street View of A.K. Steunenberg home (give it a minute to load).

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Boise Architecture Project (BAP)

From BAP website. Click the pic.
Doug StanWiens from the Boise Architecture Project (BAP) contacted me recently regarding some photos on this blog. Doug is an Idaho educator at Boise High School and is working on various history related projects with students, including a series of videos by the title of—Building Boise. Here are three of the initial  "rough cuts" of what is expected to be a series of eleven videos documenting Boise from its early beginnings right on up to current times.

Check these out and click on the link below to view their progress and to support the BAP. These "rough cuts" are looking pretty smooth to me. I look forward viewing the finished series of videos.

2/2014 Update: Video's no longer active.  Hopefully we will see more soon.

Boise Architecture Project