Follow the Fire in
the Hole script and accompanying images to learn how the Governor of Idaho
was killed, labor went on trial, and legal legends locked horns in 1907.
few days after Christmas in 1905, Frank Steunenberg walked home after a day
of business in Caldwell, Idaho. At 44, he had been out of the office of governor
for almost four years.
While he had received almost fifty threats for his role in crushing the unions
in the Coeur d'Alene, his fear for his safety had eased with passing time.
Reaching his home, he swung open the fence gate. . . Just after 7 p.m., Frank
Steunenberg died. . .many believe, the first victim of a deliberate bomb assassination
in American history. His brother, Will, had to break the news to a sister
living in Iowa.
"My dear sister. Frank
died in my arms, and I hope the fellow that killed him will also die in my
arms, only in a different manner." – Will Steunenberg
"First of all, the whole
incident speaks to how powerful the whole 1899 episode was, because immediately
his family, state officials, people in the Coeur d'Alene mining district,
assume that his assassination is related to the 1899 episode, which I think
is indicative of how powerful the episode was."
Immediately the mine
owners of Northern Idaho stepped forward to offer their Pinkerton detectives
to find the murderers.
But before private detectives
could arrive, local police acted on a tip and found bomb-making materials
in the hotel room of a man eventually identified as harry orchard. He was
charged with the murder of Frank Steunenberg.
"The face of the man
suggests cruelty, cunning and contempt for everything that appeals to the
ordinary person. The eyes being of that shifting character that suggests an
evil nature. He is the devil incarnate." -- The Idaho Statesman
The incarnation was soon
transferred to the state prison in Boise. Waiting for him was Pinkerton detective
"I hate to use the term
legendary, because I think its overused. But in his case he is the legendary
Pinkerton Operative. He had infiltrated the Molly Mcguires in Pennsylvania
and had succeeded in really destroying that union. And was now the head of
Western operations for the Pinkertons. And so he really was the top operative,
and that's who they sent.
MacParland came to the
case convinced the bombing was the work of the Western Federation of Miners.
So the detective used the same technique he had used to break the Irish society
of the Molly Mcguires in Pennsylvania in the 1870s.
Hour after hour, day after day he grilled Harry Orchard, indicating he might
save his own neck if Orchard would identify ring leaders behind the bombing.
Ten days later, James MacParland emerged with an amazing confession from Orchard.
"I awoke as it were from
a dream. And realized that I'd been made a tool of, aided and assisted by
members of the executive board of the Western Federation of Miners. And once
they had led me to commit the first crime, I had to continue to do their bidding
or otherwise be assassinated myself." -- Harry Orchard
Orchard confessed. Not
only to the killing of Frank Steunenberg, but also to blowing up the Bunker
Hill buildings in 1899, the Independence, Colorado railroad bombing of 1904,
and murder attempts on mine owners and government officials. Taken for his
word, Harry Orchard was claiming to be the most prolific mass murderer in
American history to that point. . .and he said he did it all on the orders
of the Western Federation of Miners.
"In making my investigation
I have unearthed the bloodiest crowd of anarchists that ever existed, I think,
in the civilized world." — James MacParland
MacParland set his sights
on three federation figures. Charles Moyer, the groups's president. George
Pettibone, a former member of the executive board. And William D. Haywood
-- secretary-treasurer of the federation, a powerful organizer and the group's
most fiery speaker. Many considered Haywood the heart and soul of the Western
Federation of Miners.
Nevada Jane Haywood:
"I thought the world
of that man. But nothing mattered as much to him as the labor movement. For
it, he gave up his God, his country, his wife and two children. . .everything!"
-- Nevada Jane Haywood
Haywood, Moyer and Pettibone
were in Denver. MacParland guessed that any formal attempt to extradite the
men would give them time to escape. Labeling his targets "viper" "copperhead"
and "rattler". . . MacParland launched an unusual operation.
"Well ‘unusual' is not
a strong enough word. It's unprecedented. What they do is they go to Denver
and kidnap "Big" Bill Haywood, Charles Moyer and George Pettibone, and force
them on a special train that travels secretly from Colorado to Idaho and brings
them back for trial."
News of the abduction
soon spread, and MacParland not-so-secretly promised that the three men were
certain never to leave Idaho alive. A promise that enraged labor leaders throughout
the nation. . .such as socialist Eugene V. Debs.
"Let them dare! There
will be a revolution, and I will precipitate it. If they attempt to murder
Moyer Haywood and Pettibone and their brothers, a million revolutionaries
will meet them with guns!"
Only six years into the
1900s, the looming trial was already being billed as the "Trial of the Century."
"The attorneys certainly
attract a lot of attention. William Borah had just been elected, well appointed
united states senator from Idaho, so he is the new senator. Clarence Darrow,
the famous defense attorney, comes to defend Bill Haywood and the others.
And laboring people were attracted to this trial because of the underhanded
way that these people were arrested. So they provided money that paid for
Darrow to come. And reporters from all around the country and world come to
Boise to follow this trial and report on it."
The defendants were to
be tried separately. . .with Haywood as the pivotal first case. The charge
was murder, the expected penalty: death. Waiting for trial, Haywood busied
himself with tending the prison rose bushes and running for governor of Colorado
as a socialist. Once started, the trial would stretch through the summer of
1907. But all of the testimony paled when Harry Orchard took the stand.
Oscar King Davis/New
"Through all the story
ran the names of the men for whom he worked, and those who helped him in his
wretched task. Haywood was the master. Haywood was the source of the money.
Moyer he named occasionally, but Haywood was the master. Without question
it produced a tremendous effect, and throughout its recital there ran a growing
conviction of its truth." -- Oscar King Davis for The New York Times
To convict "Big" Bill
Haywood, the jury had to believe that harry orchard was telling the truth.
Clarence Darrow. . .the most famous defense attorney of his time. . . understood
"I sometimes wonder if
I am dreaming in this case. I sometimes wonder whether here in Idaho or anywhere
in this country a man can be placed on trial and lawyers seriously ask to
take away the life of a human being upon the testimony of Harry Orchard."
Closing arguments stretched
over most of six days in the July heat. Prosecutor William Borah, destined
for the U.S. Senate and a close personal friend of Steunenberg, urged the
jury to keep the dead governor at the center of their thoughts:
"I remember again the
awful thing of December 30th, 1905. I felt again the cold and icy chill, faced
the drifting snow and peered into the darkness for the sacred spot where lay
the body of my dead friend. And saw true, only too true, the stain of his
life's blood upon the whitened earth. I saw Idaho dishonored and disgraced.
I saw murder. . .no, a thousand times worse than murder. I saw anarchy wave
its first bloody triumph in Idaho. Let us be brave, let us be faithful in
this supreme test of trial and duty."
Clarence Darrow spent
eleven hours ridiculing Harry Orchard, the Pinkerton detectives, mine owners
and the prosecution team. But he also told the jury to weigh the unseen factors
of life in America, beyond Bill Haywood.
"Gentlemen, it is not
for him alone that I speak. I speak for the poor for the weak for the weary.
For that long line of men who in darkness and despair have borne the labors
of the human race. The eyes of the world are upon you, you twelve men of Idaho.
If you kill him, your act will be applauded by many. Where men hate Haywood
because he fights for the poor and against the accursed system upon which
the favored live and grow rich and fat."
The jury started deliberations
on the afternoon of July 28th, 1907. By midnight there were rumors that the
vote was 11-to-1 against Haywood, and that the lone hold out would soon give
in. The Idaho Statesman newspaper began setting a headline announcing the
conviction. At seven the next morning the jury filed back in the courtroom.
"We, the jury in the
above entitled case, find the defendant William D. Haywood. . .not guilty."
Immediately the rumors
started. Pinkertons grumbled that one or more of the jurors had been bribed
by the Western Federation of Miners. Another report said the jurors were to
be murdered if they returned a guilty verdict. William D. Haywood walked out
of the courtroom on July 29th, 1907 a free man. A subsequent, half-hearted
effort to convict George Pettibone failed. . .and the charges against Charles
Moyer were dropped. Mine owners were appalled by the verdict.
But, in a bigger picture,
they had triumphed over the Western Federation of Miners in Idaho. The northern
Idaho mines had anti-union loyalty oaths as a means of keeping the federation
out of their workforce. And Moyer and Haywood had a sharp falling out during
the months of their trial. . .and the leadership of the federation would soon
undergo a wrenching split. Moyer would urge working within the system. . ."Big"
Bill Haywood would try to tear the system down.
(End of Hour One)
When Fire in the Hole
continues. . .The nation enters the twentieth century, locked in a desperate
struggle for its future. A time that will produce two of the darkest moments
in American history.