Albert Horsley

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Albert Horsley
circa 1907 [1][2]
Born (1866-03-18)March 18, 1866
Wooler, Ontario, Canada
Died April 13, 1954(1954-04-13) (aged 88)
Boise, Idaho, U.S.
Resting place Morris Hill Cemetery
Boise, Idaho
Nationality  Canada
Other names Harry Orchard,
Tom Hogan
Occupation Logger, Cheesemaker, Milkman, Miner
Criminal charge Assassination of
Frank Steunenberg,
former governor,
on December 30, 1905
Criminal penalty Death, commuted to
life imprisonment
Criminal status deceased
Children 1 daughter
Conviction(s) Murder

Albert Edward Horsley (March 18, 1866 – April 13, 1954), best known by the pseudonym Harry Orchard, was a miner convicted of the 1905 political assassination of former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg. The case was one of the most sensational and widely reported of the first decade of the 20th Century, involving three prominent leaders of the radical Western Federation of Miners as co-defendants in an alleged conspiracy to commit murder.


Early years[edit]

Albert Edward Horsley was born March 18, 1866 in Wooler, Ontario, Canada, the son of English and Irish parentage.[3] One of eight children in a poor farm family, Albert was only able to attend formal school through the third grade, helping to support the family by working as soon as he was able.[3] Albert worked as a farmhand for neighbors, either on a daily or monthly basis, with his parents receiving the income from his work until he was 20 years old.[4]

Miners playing faro in a saloon in 1895.

At the age of 22, Horsley left home to work as a logger in Saginaw, Michigan.[5] He returned to Canada and married around 1889.[5] The Horsleys spent some time as cheesemakers, both independently and in the employ of others. His wife gave birth to a daughter, removing her from their cheese factory, while Albert later recalled that he "lived away beyond my means, and was some in debt, and my credit was not so good."[6]

Seeking to run away with another woman, Horsley burned his cheese factory and collected the insurance money, thereby settling his debts.[6] Horsley abandoned his family and, together with his girlfriend, headed west to Pilot Bay, about twenty miles from Nelson, British Columbia. The pair spent three months together there before they split up and went their separate ways, with Horsley landing in Spokane, Washington.[1][7]

In April 1897 Horsley was employed driving a milk wagon to the mining communities around Wallace, Idaho.[1][8] He worked steadily through 1897, saving his money so that he was able to invest $500 for a 1/16 share of the Hercules silver mine near the town of Burke towards the end of the year.[9] Horsley then quit his milk route and moved to Burke, borrowing money to buy a wood and coal business there.[9] In the spring of 1898 Horsley had to sell his share of the Hercules mine in order to pay the debts he had incurred, also taking a partner into his business to raise funds.[10] His accumulated gambling debts forced him to sell out his share of his business in March 1899, and he had to take a job as a "mucker" (shoveler) in the Tiger-Poorman mine near Burke.[10] It was in this way that Horsley joined the Western Federation of Miners.[1][10]

Over the next few years Horsley worked as a miner in various locales throughout the American West. He later recalled in his autobiography:

"During all this time I did not save any money, though I worked nearly all the time and always got the highest wages... I made many good resolutions and often saved up a few hundred dollars and thought I would get into some little business for myself. When I would get away from town, as I often did, in some out-of-the-way place, I would save my money and make good resolutions; but how soon I would forget them when I would strike town and see a faro game running, or a game of poker. My money would burn my pocket. There were many other attractions, and money always soon got away. I always bought plenty of good clothes and lived well."[11]

Steunenberg assassination[edit]

Idaho's ex-Governor Frank Steunenberg, victim of a bomb blast at his home in 1905.

On December 30, 1905, Frank Steunenberg, former Governor of Idaho, was killed by a bomb rigged to the gate of his house in Caldwell. After midnight on the evening of Steunenberg's murder, Harry Orchard (as Tom Hogan) walked with Clinton Wood, the desk clerk at the hotel in Caldwell, to the site of the assassination at 1602 Dearborn Street, now hours past. Although he didn't seem to know the way to the murder scene, Orchard expressed the belief that the governor had been given a "big wad" of money by Idaho mine owners after he had left office.[12] Such a view was common among miners, as reflected in a 1908 union pamphlet on the 1899 Coeur d'Alene mine strike.

Frank Steunenberg was then serving his second two-year term as governor. His first term being satisfactory as far as the writer knows. In 1899 he proved a willing tool of the mine owners and allowed outrages perpetrated which were a disgrace to any civilized community. It is significant that within one week after the decisive step, which showed him to be subservient to the mine owners, it is said, he deposited in the bank $35,000, yet up to this time he was considered a poor man.[13]

Orchard made no effort to escape, and slept in his hotel room that night in Caldwell. The next day, Sunday, December 31, he was suspected and placed under parole, and was arrested for the assassination on New Year's Day.[14] He raised suspicion when a detective for the Mine Owners' Association recognized him as Orchard; he responded that his name was Hogan; and, it was discovered that he was registered at the Saratoga Hotel under the surname Goglan. When his room #19 was searched, evidence related to the murder was discovered.[15][16][17] Aside from using aliases, Orchard made little attempt to conceal his activities. Historian Melvyn Dubofsky has theorized that Orchard may have suffered from a "psychotic personality disorder" that caused him not only to engage in a life of violence, but also, perhaps subconsciously, to set up the circumstances of his own arrest.[18]

It was revealed during the Haywood trial that numerous attempts on Steunenberg's life that month were unsuccessful. In the week between Christmas and New Year's, Steunenberg had spent several days in Boise on business and returned to Caldwell on Friday the 29th, and had renewed an insurance policy on Saturday afternoon and stopped off at the Saratoga Hotel to talk with friends before returning home.[19] Minutes before his death, Steunenberg was observed sitting in the hotel, so Orchard retrieved the bomb from his room and rushed out to the residence to set it, about a dozen blocks away. On his way back to the hotel, Orchard met the governor two blocks from the house, and the explosion occurred shortly after as Orchard was running to the hotel. The fatal bomb was detonated by rigging the gate so that as it was opened, a bottle of sulfuric acid was spilled onto giant blasting caps. A blasting cap exploded in Orchard's pocket when he was back in his room, and he curiously stayed at the hotel until his Monday arrest.[20][21] Errant first reports had surmised the device was wire-tripped by the assassin and used nitroglycerin.[22]

The Haywood trial[edit]

Under threat of hanging, Orchard made a confession to Pinkerton detective James McParland in the Frank Steunenberg assassination, confessing as well to the murders of at least sixteen other people.[23] Orchard agreed to testify that the murder of Steunenberg was ordered by William Dudley Haywood, Charles Moyer and George Pettibone, all leaders of the Western Federation of Miners.

Prosecutors selected Haywood as the first of the three defendants to stand trial, thinking him the most vulnerable. His gnarled physical appearance, being blind in one eye, combined with his propensity to use hyperbolic language, made Haywood more likely to be associated with conspiracy and murder in the minds of the jurors, the prosecution believed. This was especially important to the prosecution as McParland had been unable to find corroboration for Orchard's confession.[24]

The prosecution acted with significant support and direction from Agent McParland, and with assistance from Governor Gooding. Chief prosecuting attorneys were William Borah and James H. Hawley, who were paid in part by money secretly supplied by western mine operators and industrialists.[25] Orchard's testimony was persuasive, at least to reporters attending the trial.[26] Meanwhile, McParland arranged for Orchard's confession, which he had worked on for fifteen months, to be serialized in a magazine to "reach the largest possible public."[27]

The defense argued that Orchard had his own, personal motive for murdering Steunenberg. As the result of a violent incident during a labor struggle in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Steunenberg had ordered severe measures against the unionized miners, including a declaration of martial law. Defense attorneys Clarence Darrow and Edmund F. Richardson argued that if Orchard hadn't been forced to sell his one-sixteenth share of the mine because of the martial law decree, he would have become wealthy. Orchard had denied the accusation. The Haywood defense team produced five witnesses from three states who testified that Orchard had told them about his anger at Steunenberg. Several of them stated that Orchard had vowed to seek revenge against the former Idaho governor.[28] However, the prosecution presented evidence that Orchard had sold his share of the mine before the labor troubles began.[29] Darrow later observed the date of the sale didn't seem to matter to Orchard; he "tried to sell this interest (again) a year after he had disposed of it." [30]

The defense presented evidence of extensive infiltration, spying, and sabotage of the WFM by the Pinkertons. One witness was Morris Friedman, James McParland's former stenographer. Haywood testified in his own defense, and he stood up well under five hours of cross-examination. Then the defense presented what they claimed was "startling new evidence" about insanity in Orchard's family, including a grandfather who needed to be "chained up" and an uncle who went insane. Orchard admitted that one of his uncles was "demented" over family problems and had hanged himself, but testified to knowing nothing about his maternal grandfather, who died before his birth.[31]

Harry Orchard's history[edit]

Original caption: "HARRY ORCHARD From a photograph taken in January, 1906, shortly after his arrest for the murder of ex-Governor Steunenberg." (from The Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard)

Orchard confessed to playing a violent, and ultimately, decisive, role in the Colorado Labor Wars. During the Haywood trial Orchard confessed to serving as a paid informant for the Mine Owners Association.[32] He reportedly told a companion, G.L. Brokaw, that he had been a Pinkerton employee for some time.[33] He was also a bigamist, and admitted to abandoning wives in Canada and Cripple Creek. He had burned businesses for the insurance money in Cripple Creek and Canada.[20][34] Orchard had burglarized a railroad depot, rifled a cash register, stole sheep, and had made plans to kidnap children over a debt. He also sold fraudulent insurance policies.[35] Orchard's confession to McParland claimed responsibility for seventeen or more murders.[36]

Orchard tried to help McParland build a case by implicating one of his fellow miners from the WFM, Steve Adams, as an accomplice. The effort failed, but it revealed interesting details about the methods McParland used to induce defendants to turn state's evidence.[citation needed]

Results of the trials[edit]

Even before Darrow's closing argument in the Haywood case, it was clear that the prosecution was in trouble. Having relied totally on Orchard's testimony to make its case against the WFM leader, the state found the testimony of their witness overly ambitious, with Orchard confessing to crimes he could not have committed.[37]

The state of Idaho had provided Orchard with "a library of religious tracts", which may have influenced his announced conversion to religious belief.[36] Some analysts at the trial later opined "the prosecution let Orchard get away from the facts and his testimony turned into a syrupy story of repentance, religion, and God's mercy to sinners, which had the effect of turning everyone's stomach."[38] The Idaho jury found Haywood not guilty. One juror told a reporter, "There was nothing against the accused but inference and suspicion."[39] Pettibone was found not guilty in a separate trial, after the defense declined to argue the case.[38] Charges against Moyer were dropped.

Steve Adams was tried in three separate trials, resulting in two hung juries in Idaho, and an acquittal in Colorado.[40] After the rest were acquitted and/or released, Orchard was tried alone. He changed his plea to guilty[41] in March 1908 and received a death sentence in Idaho for the murder of Steunenberg.[42] An appeal was made by the prosecution to Idaho Governor Gooding, urging the commutation of Orchard's death sentence for his previous cooperation in the trials of the union leaders.[why?] This request was granted and Orchard's sentence was commuted to life in prison,[43] a decision that was widely lampooned in the press.[44]

Last years & death[edit]

Soon after receiving his sentence, Orchard converted to Seventh-day Adventism.[45] His multiple pleas for a pardon over the years were all denied.[46] Orchard died in the state penitentiary in Boise on April 13, 1954, aged 88, over 48 years after his arrest. After his sentencing in March 1908, he served more than 46 years at the Old Idaho State Penitentiary, its longest-ever term, and is buried in Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise.[47] As a trustee, he had lived outside the prison walls in a small house for most of his later years, tending the prison's poultry flocks,[46] but was brought back after he had suffered a mild stroke a year earlier. Orchard was bedridden for his last three months and in a coma for his last days.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Orchard's story of his career of crime". Deseret Evening News. June 5, 1907. p. 1. 
  2. ^ "Orchard's harrowing story begun". Lewiston Morning Tribune. June 6, 1907. p. 1. 
  3. ^ a b Albert E. Horsley, The Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard. New York: The McClure Company, 1907; pg. 3.
  4. ^ Horsley, The Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard, pg. 4.
  5. ^ a b Horsley, The Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard. pg. 5.
  6. ^ a b Horsley, The Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard, pg. 14.
  7. ^ Horsley, The Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard, pg. 15.
  8. ^ Horsley, The Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard, pg. 16.
  9. ^ a b Horsley, The Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard, pg. 23.
  10. ^ a b c Horsley, The Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard, pg. 24.
  11. ^ Horsley, The Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard, pp. 45-46.
  12. ^ J. Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997; pg. 67.
  13. ^ Emma F. Langdon, Labor's Greatest Conflicts. Denver: Great Western Publishing Co., 1908; pg. 17.
  14. ^ "Strip Orchard to a skeleton". Lewiston Morning Tribune. June 14, 1907. p. 1. 
  15. ^ "Guilt of Hogan now clear". Lewiston Morning Tribune. January 3, 1906. p. 1. 
  16. ^ "Harry Orchard real name". Lewiston Morning Tribune. January 4, 1906. p. 1. 
  17. ^ James D. Horan and Howard Swiggett, The Pinkerton Story. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1951; pg. 294.
  18. ^ Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All, A History of the Industrial Workers of the World, University of Illinois Press Abridged, 2000, pg. 53
  19. ^ "Last hours of Steunenberg". Lewiston Morning Tribune. January 2, 1906. p. 4. 
  20. ^ a b "Haywood paid him to kill". Milwaukee Journal. June 7, 1907. p. 13. 
  21. ^ "Orchard's story told in all its nakedness". Lewiston Morning Tribune. June 7, 1907. p. 1. 
  22. ^ "Steunenberg murder plan". Lewiston Morning Tribune. January 1, 1906. p. 1. 
  23. ^ Peter Carlson, Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood. New York: W.W. Norton, 1983; pg. 90.
  24. ^ Melvyn Dubofsky, Big Bill Haywood. Gordonsville, VA: Palgrave Macmillan, 1987; pg. 47.
  25. ^ Lukas, Big Trouble, pp. 350-72.
  26. ^ Carlson, Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, pg. 116.
  27. ^ Lukas, Big Trouble, pg. 643.
  28. ^ Carlson, Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, pg. 125.
  29. ^ Lukas, Big Trouble, pg. 705.
  30. ^ Emma Langdon, The Cripple Creek strike: a history of industrial wars in Colorado, 1903-4-5, Great Western Publ. Co., 1905-1907, pg. 535.
  31. ^ Lukas, Big Trouble, pgs. 687-700.
  32. ^ Carlson, Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, pg. 119.
  33. ^ All That Glitters — Class, Conflict, and Community in Cripple Creek, Elizabeth Jameson, 1998, pg. 228, from Dubofsky's We Shall Be All, pg. 98.
  34. ^ Carlson, Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, pg. 118.
  35. ^ Carlson, Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, pg. 119.
  36. ^ a b Carlson, Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, pg. 92.
  37. ^ Dubofsky, Big Bill Haywood, pg. 48.
  38. ^ a b Horan and Swiggett, The Pinkerton Story, pg. 306.
  39. ^ Dubofsky, Big Bill Haywood, pg. 49.
  40. ^ Carlson, Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, pg. 141.
  41. ^ "Orchard pleads guilty; withdraws former plea for murder of ex-Gov. Steunenberg.". New York Times. March 10, 1908. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  42. ^ "With streaming eyes and broken voice, Harry Orchard thanks judge for mercy". Spokane Daily Chronicle. March 18, 1908. p. 1. 
  43. ^ Carlson, Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, pg. 140.
  44. ^ "Mercy for the Merciless". Albuquerque citizen. March 23, 1908. p. 2. 
  45. ^ Lowell, W.E. (November 3, 1942). "Harry Orchard sees life imprisonment worse than death". St. Petersburg Times. Associated Press. p. 17. 
  46. ^ a b "Harry Orchard seeks pardon". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. May 30, 1941. p. 3. 
  47. ^ "Morris Hill Cemetery Walking Tour: Harry Orchard". City of Boise. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  48. ^ "Harry Orchard, governor slayer, succumbs in state penitentiary". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. April 14, 1954. p. 1. 


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