Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Dynamiters by Bob Sobba

I better get on here and post something before rumors of my early demise spread. Nope, still here but I did hit a bit of writers cramp and also spent some time doing research on the more mysterious Richards side of the family. Sorry to those folks who have sent requests for information as I have quite a backlog  from the past several months. Feel free to send me a reminder. In addition, I have been real busy with my paying job and playing more with my toys during off time.

Thanks to our friend Bob Sobba, who has granted permission, I am able to still get off pretty easy by posting the following article he wrote for the Wild West History Association (WWHA) Journal. I just recently joined the WWHA and will have to get some articles written myself sometime soon. Bob is a former Caldwell Police Chief and former Director of the Idaho Department of Law Enforcement (AKA "Idaho's Top Cop"). He provides a good overview of the core story from Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas.  Thanks Bob.

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.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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 (Footnote.com 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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Proclamation November 1890


A few years back I posted a smaller photo of this Thanksgiving Day Proclamation from Idaho Governor Shoup to then future Governor Frank Steunenberg . It was photographed where it hung at the time on the wall in my parents home (Brenda Steunenberg Richards  and John T. Richards Sr.).

The proclamation is in a frame so I can't get a very clear scan but have transcribed it this time around. You might notice a couple misspellings in my transcribed version. Those are as on the original (e.g. Gonernor versus Governor) and no promises that I haven't added a couple of my own. I have tried to approximate the spacing. At some point I will be removing the proclamation from the frame as it needs conservation work and re-framing. I will get a better scan when I do.

Shoup had served as territorial governor (1889-90), having been appointed by President Harrison. At the time this proclamation was issued, 11/12/1890, he was in his second month as the elected governor of the new State of Idaho. His tenure would be only three months, as Shoup resigned to run successfully for the U.S. Senate in Dec. 1890.

Frank Steunenberg was a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1889 and a member of the House of Representatives in the 1st Idaho State Legislature from 1890 to 1893 (click the link to see a photo). He was elected governor in 1896, serving two terms 1897-1900 (two year terms at that time).

So now, a 123 years after this document was issued, I would like to proclaim a Happy 2013 Thanksgiving to you and yours.

With Regards,
John and family
      State of Idaho

Thanksgiving Proclamation

By the Governor

WE have abundant cause to be grateful for the many blessings vouchsafed to us since our last annual thanksgiving.        During the year we have advanced from the condition of territorial servitude to the full enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the citizens of any State.      Our material property has all advanced with equal step.     All the sources of natural and artificial wealth with which our state is blessed beyond many of our sisters have been developed in equal ratio.        Many new and permanent homes have been established.        The area of cultivated lands has greatly increased.        The soil in apparent rejoicing with us has produced more than its accustomed yield.        Our mines have poured forth their hidden treasures in great abundance, thereby amply rewarding those engaged in this industry.          Our schools and churches have prospered in unison with the gifts of Nature and the progress of our citizens.        Peace, harmony and good will prevail among all classes of our people.        We have been blessed with health and innumerable other great gifts and blessings.
Being the recipient of such bountiful gifts, and in accordance with the Proclamation of the President of the United States, I, George L. Shoup, Governor of the State of Idaho, do hereby designate

Thursday, the 27th Day of November, instant,

as a day of Prayer and Thanksgiving to the Great Giver of all that is good, and earnestly recommend that the people of the State assemble at appropriate and convenient places and in becoming reverence and gratitude give thanks and praise to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe and supplicate a continuance of His watchful care and protection for the coming year.
              On the day of festival and thanksgiving forget not the poor, the afflicted, and the unfortunate. Your gifts and sympathetic words will dispel the chill of Autumn and bring warmth and sunlight to their hearts and homes.

 (SEAL OF THE                                         Given under my hand and the Seal of the State, at Boise
TERRITORY OF IDAHO)                                  City,  Idaho, this twelfth day of November, A. D. eighteen hundred and ninety.
                                                   George L. Shoup.
                                      By the Gonernor:
                                          A.  J. Pinkham,
                                                           Secretary.
(Below handwritten)
To Hon. F. Steunenberg
With Compliments of
Geo L. Shoup
Governor

----------------------------------------------------------------------
Other related posts and websites. 

Proclamation from Gov. Shoup regarding Idaho Statehood (ISHS).
George L. Shoup (from Wikipedia)

Constitution of the State of Idaho & the Act Providing for Admission of the State.
Prepared and published by A. J. Pinkham, Sec. of State.

Other Idaho Proclamations (ISHS Digital Collection).

Steunenberg (ISHS Digital Collection).

Monday, April 1, 2013 
Cattle Rancher, Idaho Governor, and U. S. Senator George L. Shoup [otd 04/01]
(from Evan Filby over at South Fork Companion). 

Shoup (ISHS Digital Collection).

George L. Shoup Statue. 

Monday, October 26, 2009
A Lot of Turkeys at the Old Idaho Penitentiary
(well at least it's turkey related).

Whoops, I almost forgot my George L. Shoup medal.

Of course I have a much more prized Frank Steunenberg medal too. 

Also see: National Capital Centennial - Program from 1900

Monday, February 14, 2011
COI Archives Spotlight #2 - 1/12/1890 original letter - Frank Steunenberg to family in Iowa

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The other assassination


There has of course been much written and broadcast about the assassination of John F. Kennedy—particularly during this 50th anniversary. So I will leave the detailed analysis to the more skilled and knowledgeable writers and historians, will keep my comments short, and share only this brief reflection sent during the work day at about 10:30am on November 22, 2013 to a few co-workers and friends.


Sent: Friday, November 22, 2013 10:29 AM
To: 
Subject: 10:30am 50 years ago

I believe it was about 10:30AM Pacific time when John Kennedy was assassinated 50 years ago. I was in the 7th grade at Weathersfield Elementary school (before middle schools came about) in Thousand Oaks, CA. The announcement was made over the intercom and we listened to the events unfolding on the radio during lunch at our outside table area. Regardless of ones party politics, I would say it was a pivotal moment and a wake up call to the political world for this otherwise oblivious young kid. The tumultuous 60’s were underway and further assassinations were to come (Martin, Bobby, etc.), the civil rights and united farm workers movements had taken root and of course the Vietnam war would come into greater personal focus as I moved nearer to draft age. Although I may not have realized it at the time, my future had changed forever on that day. So take a moment to reflect at 10:30am today, as be it you were born or not, or you know it or not—your life changed forever too. 

Addendum: I had only been cognizant of one assassination, Frank Steunenberg's, and barely knew anything about it at the time. Our family still did not speak about that tragedy very much.  Maybe I knew about Lincoln too but I was not yet the history freak that I am today. To have such a history changing assassination occur in my lifetime had never occurred to me. Little did I know what lie ahead. 

List of assassinated American politicians (scroll down for Frank).

The Legend of Uncle Angus McDonald! (a blog post I ran across. I will keep an eye out for Uncle Angus).

The Political Game (Idaho blogger, historian, political commentator Tara Rowe provides a nice series of articles and resources leading up to the 50th anniversary).

John F. Kennedy in Idaho

Speech of Senator John F. Kennedy, High School Auditorium, Pocatello, Idaho September 6, 1960

Senators Frank Church and John Kennedy

JFK & Idaho 
 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pinkerton's Great Detective - The Amazing Life and Times of James McParland by Beau Riffenburgh

Yesterday I received my copy of the just released and much anticipated book, Pinkerton's Great Detective  - The Amazing Life and Times of James McParland. As we would expect in any McParland biography, the book dedicates a sizable section to Frank's assassination, Harry Orchard and the investigation and trial of Bill Haywood.

I was happy to see in the acknowledgments the inclusion of 'the Robert E. Smylie Archives of the College of Idaho for the GL Crookham Jr. Papers' and 'the Idaho State Archives, for the Pinkerton Papers of the James H. Hawley Papers.' So in return, I will give Mr. Riffenburgh a little free Idaho publicity. No doubt he and his publisher will make quite a bit more money in addition to the $20+ I already forked over. Let's hope the book is worth it.
Included in the book are some photographs of which we have become quite familiar over the years. In addition of course, topics such as the Molly Maguires, Butch Cassidy, the Wild Bunch and other outlaws and organizations pursued by and/or infiltrated by McParland look to be given ample attention.  

I am still usually a hard copy guy when it comes to books and that is the case here. Sure, you can do the electronic notes, posts-its and highlighting too, but it can't match the tactile experience of the real thing that connects you with the text and the story. If you ever see my tattered and taped research copy of Big Trouble then you would know what I mean.

So I am tossing the other books on my read list aside for the moment and diving into Pinkerton's Great Detective. Good or bad, no doubt it will have a place in my permanent book collection. I have put a cover on the jacket for protection but lets see how much I mess it up on the inside. That can go either way, and be a good sign or a bad one. I will let you know.

BTW, if you haven't visited last weeks post since it first went up, you might want to do so again as I have been adding more family names (and a dog!) to the Veteran's Day 2013 Honor Wall. It all continues to be a work in progress and additional information and photo's are welcomed.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Veterans Day 2013 - Fold3 Honor Wall

Click above and go to the Honor Wall.
A couple posts below from last year. For those with a connection to any branch of our family, let me know if you have more names/photos of veterans you would like me to add to this blog.

Sunday, November 11, 2012 
Veteran's Day....send your photographs

Sunday, November 11, 2012 
Veteran's-Other Wars (not WWII)

Fold 3 Honor Wall. These are all in process and more names and items will be added as time goes by. The Honor Roll is for all veterans from all wars, living and deceased.

Jule 'Juke' Steunenberg

Cal Steunenberg   } Jule, Cal and Frank are the sons of Julian and Francis S., my mothers brothers & my Uncles. 

Frank Steunenberg

Robert K. Steunenberg

Bernardus Steunenberg 

Robert J. Richards (my father John Sr.'s brother and my uncle). 

Nile C. Kinnick (not family but did find a connection).  

Ronald L. Longanecker (my wife Cindy's nephew).

Frederick J. Mandella (Cindy's paternal grandfather).

Walter 'Gary' Osborne (my brother). 

Timothy Underwood (my nephew). 

Justus L. Simpson (Way back on Grandma Francis S. side).  

Lewis Simpson (brother of Justus)

Sergeant Stubby (kind of reminds me of my old mutt from childhood).

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Stewart Holbrook and Major George Steunenberg

Moving this letter up from the unarchived depths of the blog to make it more easily accessible. This original letter is signed by western history author Stewart Holbrook. I purchased it years ago where it had been folded neatly inside a copy of his book, The Rocky Mountain Revolution.
It seems George Steunenberg took issue with Holbrook's characterization of his brother, murdered ex-governor Frank Steunenberg, as a 'populist.' One could make the argument ether way, as certainly Frank was elected to his first term in 1896 as a 'fusion' candidate resulting from an alliance between the democratic and populist parties. Frank, unscathed at that point by any labor conflicts, had broad appeal as a somewhat benign and neutral choice acceptable to both parties. Hence, the alliance was formed as a necessary means to an end—defeat of the republican candidates.

So Frank could certainly be identified as a 'fusion candidate' in the 1896 election as Holdbrook had indicated. However,  George was right too, as Frank was always firmly in the democratic camp and much of that populist appeal had eroded by the time of his second term election—subsequent to the eruption of labor unrest in the Coeur D'Alene region of Idaho.

Orchard did make an appeal to the Steunenberg family to utilize their influence to seek his execution. Whether it was genuine or for show we probably will never know. Orchard may have already extracted a deal from James McParland and Governor Gooding essentially guaranteeing he would not swing from the gallows. However, many of the family, certainly Frank's brothers from most indications (but not widow Belle Steunenberg), would have been happy to oblige.

Related Links:

Stewart Holbrook

Saturday, December 20, 2008
1st Lt. George Steunenberg in the Spanish-American War

1st Lt. George Steunenberg

Idaho Military Project

Photos Of George & Charles Steunenberg

Sunday, April 15, 2012
The Riddle of the Sphinx

FOLD3 Memorial Page (under construction)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

James D. Julia Auctioneers donates valuable Meldrum Colt replica


Remember 'Bad' Bob Meldrum, one of the many interesting characters in our story of Frank Steunenberg's assassination, the arrest of assassin Harry Orchard and the subsequent Bill Haywood trial. Bob was one of those guys who played both sides of the law depending on the highest bidder or who was worth the most money dead or alive (dead seemed to be his preference).

I was browsing through some papers and links, and checking out the upcoming James Julia Firearms auction, when I came across the article below regarding Meldrum's rare inlaid Colt and a replica made by renowned restorer Doug Turnbull.


Here are a few prior blog posts to get you familiar with the 'bad' boy.

Friday, February 8, 2008
"Bad Man" and/or "Hair Trigger" Bob Meldrum

Friday, March 19, 2010
Bob Meldrum's Colt sold at auction

Sunday, August 2, 2009
Gunfighters in Boise-D.C. Scott & Bob Meldrum

Saturday, March 15, 2008
Would Trade a Mantle, Mays, Koufax or Robinson for a good Steunenberg, Orchard, Siringo or Meldrum

Saturday, September 5, 2009
ORCHARD AND GUARDS WHO TOOK HIM TO CALDWELL

Below from Military Trader News by raustin 2/14/2012
This replica is of the very rare gold inlaid Colt which was presented to nefarious lawman Robert Meldrum. It is one of only 16 gold-inlaid Colt (first period) S.A.A.s ever produced by Colt. - See more at: http://www.militarytrader.com/military-trader-news/james-d-julia-auctioneers-donates-valuable-meldrum-colt-replica#sthash

Left: This replica is of the very rare gold inlaid Colt which was presented to nefarious lawman Robert Meldrum. It is one of only 16 gold inlaid Colt (first period S.A.A.s ever produced by Colt).

James D. Julia Auctioneers, of Fairfield, Maine, announced that they are donating to the Museum of Northwest Colorado, in Craig, Colo., an exact replica of the famous gold inlaid and engraved presentation Colt revolver which was once owned by infamous lawman Robert D. Meldrum.
Not a great deal is known about Meldrum. There are no books written about him. There was never a movie made about him. But most certainly, his life and his character would be the grounds for a most interesting Western movie. The Meldrum presentation Colt is an exceedingly rare presentation Colt given to him by the Tomboy Mining Company of Telluride, Colo.

What is known about Meldrum is that sometime around the turn of the century he was hired as a mining guardfor the Tomboy Company to assist them with two major problems: the first was to rid them of activists that were attempting to organize their miners to strike. The second problem was claim jumpers stealing minerals from their site. Although it’s not known exactly what Meldrum did, it was obviously very important for the mining company. A gun of this nature around the turn of the century was very, very expensive, so expensive in fact that of the vast number of Colt revolvers produced by the world renowned Colt industries, only 16 first generation Colt single action revolvers ever had any gold inlay at all.

Right: Deputy Robert Meldrum of Telluride was of small stature but tough as nails and lightning quick with his gun. He also had no reservation about shooting someone if he thought they needed it. In 1900 he recognized a Texas fugitive Noah Wilkerson from a wanted poster. Meldrum simply walked up to Wilkerson, shot him dead and then collected the reward money. 

Meldrum was the epitome of a tough western character. He was hard as nails, fast as lightening and had an unquestionable mean streak. As a lawman, it is known that at the time that he was a guard for the Tomboy Company he also was a deputy in the village of Telluride. The Tomboy Mining Company was located high up in the mountains above Telluride. It was literally a small village near the peaks of some of the taller mountains in the area. The village sported a small general store, a school, and even a bowling alley where the miners lived and worked. According to one source the Tomboy Mining Company, desperate to deal with their problems, had originally contacted Tom Horn.  Horn was a range vigilante and had worked for the Cattlemen’s Association, ridding the range of cattle rustlers. At the time that they contacted Horn, supposedly he was too busy, but he apparently referred them to Meldrum and they later hired him.

He established his reputation early on in the village of Telluride. Just after being sworn in as a deputy sheriff, he brazenly walked into a busy local saloon and announced in a loud voice that he was the new deputy sheriff in town, and he would not tolerate any funny business. If anybody had any issue or problem he would be glad to step outside with them, then stepped up to the bar and had a drink.

He dealt with problems in a very direct way but his mean streak apparently was exhibited whenever anything didn’t go quite his way. During his lifetime he killed a number of men, at least two were unarmed. In one incident while in Telluride a large Scandinavian miner had gotten drunk in one of the local saloons and was creating a disturbance.  Someone sent word to Meldrum. The small, slight of build Meldrum announced to the miner that he was taking him to jail. However, the large miner responded he would do no such thing, and would beat Meldrum severely if he tried.  Meldrum simply drew his gun and shot him dead. The matter eventually went to court, but Meldrum was acquitted.  Later in life as a deputy sheriff in Wyoming, a similar incident did not work out so well for him.  He attempted to arrest a young cowboy who had gotten drunk in a local saloon. The cowboy defied him and once again, Meldrum pulled his pistol and shot the man dead. Unfortunately for Meldrum, the unarmed dead cowboy had a lot of friends in the community and Meldrum was taken to court. A lengthy court battle ensued in which he was finally sent to the penitentiary.

Some years later, after Meldrum was released from prison, it is known that he moved to a small community in Wyoming, started a saddle shop and apparently was an excellent leather worker. His saddles and holsters were of excellent quality (some of these exact creations are on display at the Museum of Northwest Colorado). One night his saddle shop mysteriously burned down and Meldrum himself was never seen alive again by anyone. To this day, it is still unknown what happened to him, although it is suspected that a relative or a friend of one of the various men that he killed eventually had their revenge.

The story of the Colt is almost as interesting as the man himself. Many years ago a Montana rancher negotiated a deal with a fellow rancher. The fellow rancher wished to purchase bull sperm from a top-of-the-line bull but the asking price from the Montana rancher was a little steep. In lieu of cash, the rancher friend offered an interesting old Colt revolver he had.  Even more unusual is the fact that the name of the sperm-donating bull was “Colt”. The Montana rancher thought the gun simply an interesting sidearm and wore it in a holster frequently when he worked on horseback. On other occasions, he left it in the glove compartment of his pickup truck and frequently shot it. Over the years it sustained a fair amount of use and abuse.

The inscription on the gun, however, intrigued him. It read, “From The Tomboy Gold Mine Co. Lt’d / Telluride Colo to Rob’t. D. Meldrum”. He always wondered who Robert Meldrum was and one day he discovered that the museum in Craig, Colorado had an outstanding collection of outlaw items, which included objects that had belonged to the nefarious lawman, Robert Meldrum. A visit to the museum and various conversations with the very affable curator, Mr. Dan Davidson, eventually led the Montana rancher to loan his Colt to the museum for exhibit. The Colt was an outstanding addition and was featured in their Meldrum presentation.
The Meldrum gun was inscribed on the backstrap and butt “From the Tomboy Gold Mine Co. Lt’d Telluride Colo.” and “Robert D. Meldrum”. - See more at: http://www.militarytrader.com/military-trader-news/james-d-julia-auctioneers-donates-valuable-meldrum-colt-replica#sthash.AHEwpCNF.dpuf

Then 2008/2009 came and the rancher’s fortunes began to decline. He was in desperate need of money and around the same time he learned that his Colt, left on loan was, in actuality, a very valuable object. He also discovered that the James D. Julia Auction Company had just sold a similar gold-inlaid Colt revolver in pristine condition for an enormous sum of $747,500. He contacted Julia’s and after various discussions, made arrangements to consign the gun to an upcoming auction.

At the same time, Julia’s learned that the gun was currently on loan to a museum so Julia made a personal call to the curator of the museum. During his various discussions, he was impressed with the curator and what the museum had done. The Meldrum Colt was obviously a significant addition to the museum and he felt badly about the circumstances.  However, he realized that the rancher, desperate for money, was going to sell the gun, regardless of whether it was in a Julia auction or somewhere else.  So, if Julia elected not to take it for auction, it was still going to be pulled from the museum and sold. After Julia thought about the matter, he called the curator back and told him that although the gun was being removed, if he was successful in selling it at auction, he would personally, at his own expense, have a special exact, hand-made recreation of the famous Meldrum gun made and personally donate it to the museum and this is exactly what he did.

Before offering it at auction, Julia contacted Doug Turnbull Restorations. Mr. Turnbull is considered one of the finest gun restorers in the world today. His specialty is in Winchesters and Colts. Doug told Julia that he could produce an exact re-creation of the pistol without any problem at all and arrangements were made. An order like this involves a tremendous amount of artistry. From the time of the order, it took literally many months for Turnbull’s master craftsmen to create the replica gun. The final product was expensive, but the result was exact in every detail. It can now be seen on permanent display at the Northwest Museum along with a selection of other Meldrum items as well as a great number of other very historic old western items.

The museum is located in Craig, Colo. Its business hours are Monday thru Friday 9-5 Saturday 10-4 (year round).

James D. Julia Auctioneers, the world’s leading auctioneer of rare, historic and expensive firearms can be contacted via their website: www.jamesdjulia.com, by phone at 207-453-7125, or at 203 Skowhegan Road, Fairfield, ME 04937.

As a side note, the original Meldrum Colt, by the way, sold at public auction to one of the world’s largest collectors of western artifacts for $258,750. With antique firearms, history is very important. But of equal importance is condition. Had the rancher never distressed the gun, and had it been in its outstanding original condition, the gun would have likely brought a multiple of what it realized.—Military Trader News by raustin 2/14/2012

More:
See: Turnbull-Reproduction of the Meldrum Colt

Colt Factory Engraving: Models 1873, 1877 & 1878—A Collection by Kurt House  

1/24/1909 - Fighting Cattle Rustlers - "Bad" Bob Meldrum (click image)
1/24/1909 - Fighting Cattle Rustlers -