Historical Novel about the struggle between mining union, Western Federation of Miners and mine owners:
His name was Albert Edward Horsely, but in the mining districts of Montana, Idaho and Colorado he was known as Tom Hogan or Harry Orchard, just two of his many aliases.
Orchard was an explosives expert, who knew just how to set a charge of dynamite to do the most damage. Bill Haywood, miner and powerful individual in starting and recruiting for the Western Federation of Miners (WFM), employed Orchard to apply his craft in various mining districts in Idaho and Colorado. Haywood’s ruthlessness knew no bounds; Orchard’s final employment for Haywood, and the job that sent him to prison, was when Haywood hired Orchard to assassinate Idaho’s Governor, Frank Steunenberg in 1906.
Jack Bailey’s story of Harry Orchard begins on a train traveling from Montana to Wardner Idaho, which was the location of the Bunker Hill Mill and Concentrator. The conflict between the workers and the owners of production is the historical backdrop of Bailey’s story about Harry Orchard. Orchard is portrayed as an interesting character, who liked the whores, the booze, and the gambling table. On his train ride into Wardner, Idaho he became acquainted with two other main characters in the story, Charley Siringo, alias Leon Allison, and Bella Shanks.
Siringo was a Pinkerton detective, who worked for the different mills and mines as an undercover agent. His mission was to find out who among the mine workers were actually union men working as non-union labor and who were the culprits of violence in the mining communities. It takes awhile for Orchard and Siringo or Allison to realize that they worked on opposite sides of the labor conflict. In any other life, Siringo and Orchard would have been drinking buddies; the author portrays them as having that kind of relationship. The other main character traveling the same train as Orchard and Siringo was Bella Shanks. Orchard was attracted to her, and he made it his business to turn around her unenthusiastic attitude toward him.
Orchard begins his work in Wardner Idaho when negotiations with the owners of the Bunker Hill Mill failed to meet the union’s demands. Bosses for the Western Federation of Miners were trying to place union members in the mines to recruit for the Union. Union members demanded that the owners of the Bunker Hill Mill shorten worker’s hours from 10 to 8 hours a day and increase worker’s hourly wage.
The owners of Bunker Hill rejected the union’s demands. The union’s answer was violence. On April 29th, 1899, Orchard along with 300 Union members planted 60 boxes of Dynamite on a train heading into the mine. The Bunker Hill Mill was destroyed and two men were killed.
Instead of giving into union violence, Governor Steunenberg notified President McKinley of the need for federal troops and Marshall law. The troops had orders to round up all union members and hold them in a facility, which was a farmer’s barn. While the federal troops were rounding up union miners, Harry Orchard found his way out of the mining town and relocated to Cripple Creek Colorado waiting further employment from union boss Bill Haywood. Meanwhile, Orchard married Bella Shanks and all was good until Orchard was called by Bill Haywood to kill the Governor of Idaho.
Orchard believed one more job for the union would net him enough money to retire to San Francisco. After Orchard placed a wired explosive at the front gate of the Governor’s residence, just in time for the Governor to walk through and trigger the wire, Orchard calmly went back to the Saloon and ordered a drink. However, on this job, he was clumsy. He did not dispose of the wire in his room that matched the wire on the Governor’s gate, nor did he depose of the different explosive materials. While Orchard was at the bar, his room was searched. Charley Siringo had him. After killing 19 men in Idaho and Colorado, he was apprehended and after a trail, he was given the death sentence. His cooperation in fingering Big Bill Haywood, and others, commuted Orchard’s sentence to life in prison. Toward the end of his life in 1954 at age 88, some have written that he lived in a little house by the prison and raised vegetables.
Orchard’s 64 pages of confession nailed Bill Haywood. There was trial; Haywood had the best of lawyers, Clarence Darrow. Haywood was not convicted of being any part of the violence or murder in Idaho and Colorado. Haywood went on to form the International Workers of the World. In 1918, he was convicted of sabotaging war industries and sentenced to 32 years. While out on bail and waiting appeal, he escaped to Russia, where he died in 1928.
Jack Bailey’s historical fiction, Orchard, is a very good read. For readers not familiar with the mining history of the Pacific Northwest, this historical fiction will enlighten them to the dark aspect of the mining industry in America, but at the same time, they will enjoy a good story.