Frank Steunenberg, 4th Governor of Idaho

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Frank Steunenberg, 4th Governor of Idaho's Geni Profile

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Frank Steunenberg

Birthdate: (44)
Birthplace: Keokuk, Fort Madison–Keokuk, Iowa, USA
Death: Died in Caldwell, Canyon, Idaho, USA
Cause of death: assassination (bomb)
Place of Burial: Caldwell, Canyon, Idaho, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Bernardus Steunenberg and Cornelia Steunenberg
Husband of Eveline "Belle" Keppel Steunenberg
Father of Julian Pope Steunenberg and Frank Willis Steunenberg

Managed by: Eldon Clark (C)
Last Updated:

About Frank Steunenberg, 4th Governor of Idaho

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Frank Steunenberg (August 8, 1861 – December 30, 1905) was the fourth Governor of the State of Idaho, serving from 1897 until 1901. He is perhaps best known for his 1905 assassination by one-time union member Harry Orchard, who was also a paid informant for the Cripple Creek Mine Owners' Association. Orchard attempted to implicate leaders of the radical Western Federation of Miners in the assassination. The labor leaders were found not guilty[ in two trials, but Orchard spent the rest of his life in prison.

Born in Keokuk, Iowa, Steunenberg attended Iowa State College at Ames and then went on to become a printer's apprentice and publisher. In 1881 he was hired by the Des Moines Register in Des Moines. Steunenberg later published a newspaper in Knoxville until 1886, when he moved west and settled in Caldwell, Idaho, where he joined his brother in taking over the Caldwell Tribune for six years.

In Caldwell Steunenberg became active in politics and was elected to the first Idaho Legislature in 1890 at age 29 as a fusion candidate, endorsed by both the Democratic and Populist Parties. Governor

With labor union support, in 1896 Steunenberg was nominated as both the Democratic and Populist candidate for governor. He won the November election and became the first non-Republican elected to that office and was re-elected to a second two-year term in 1898. Steunenberg served during a period of considerable labor unrest, particularly in the mining industry in northern Idaho. As a result, many corporations, fearing that Steunenberg's government would not support them if there was a strike, increased their wages for workers.

The Bunker Hill Mining Company, however, did not. In April 1899 striking members of the Western Federation of Miners destroyed the company's mill at Wardner. In response Steunenberg declared martial law and asked President William McKinley to send federal troops to quell the unrest. This action was seen as a betrayal by Steunenberg's union supporters. Martial law remained in place through the end of his term, and Steunenberg did not seek a third term in 1900.

Four years after he left office, Steunenberg was killed outside his house in Caldwell by a bomb rigged to the front gate. Harry Orchard, a former miner from the Western Federation of Miners (WFM), was arrested shortly after for the assassination, and the investigation was conducted by Pinkerton agent James McParland. Orchard at first claimed innocence, but after solitary confinement and intense interrogation by McParland, Orchard signed a 64 page type-written confession detailing years of being a paid assassin and dynamiter for the WFM. Orchard claimed he was hired to kill Steunenberg by leadership of the WFM, as he had been in previous jobs that resulted in at least 17 other deaths. Orchard said his orders for the killing of Steunenberg came from "Big Bill" Haywood, general secretary of the WFM, Charles Moyer, president of the WFM, and George Pettibone, a labor activist who had a prior conviction related to an 1892 labor dispute in Coeur d'Alene. McParland arrested the three in Colorado in February 1906 and brought them to Idaho for trial.

The nationally publicized trial took place in Boise in 1907 and included future U.S. Senator William Borah for the prosecution and Clarence Darrow for the defense. On the stand Orchard repeated his written confession, admitting to years of setting bombs for the WFM. He was then cross-examined by defense lawyers for 26 hours spread out over a week's time. In addition to Orchard, the prosecution presented 80 more witnesses to corroborate Orchard's description of numerous attacks. Darrow and the defense team called over 100 witnesses of their own. Closing arguments lasted two weeks, the most talked about of which was by Darrow. Modern commentators have praised Darrow's closing argument, which used powerful emotional rhetoric focused on the moral superiority of the unions' position. However contemporary reaction was universally negative. The Chicago Tribune called it "the most unseemly, abusive, inflammatory speech ever delivered in an American courtroom." Despite most observers' opinions that the verdict would be guilty, the jury returned an acquittal for Haywood. Pettibone was defended in a separate trial by Judge Orrin N. Hilton of Denver, Colorado and was also acquitted, and charges were dropped against Moyer. Orchard received a death sentence in a separate trial, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison.

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Frank Steunenberg, 4th Governor of Idaho's Timeline

August 8, 1861
Keokuk, Fort Madison–Keokuk, Iowa, USA
July 1, 1886
Age 24
Knoxville, Marion, Iowa, USA
Age 38
December 30, 1905
Age 44
Caldwell, Canyon, Idaho, USA
Caldwell, Canyon, Idaho, USA