JHG REVIEW/ESSAY OF BIG TROUBLE

 

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It is worth reiterating  that this is a book well worth reading -- but it is, again, worth underscoring the fact that the Epilogue should be taken, frankly, with  a grain of salt.  It definitely appears to have been written a good while after the basic book was completed -- and very shortly before Anthony Lukas'  obviously tragic suicide.  He produces not a whit of evidence to indicate the guilt of Bill Haywood or Moyer or Pettibone -- or anyone else connected with the Western Federation of Miners and the Industrial Workers of the World.   All legal evidence points to the fact that the three men were completely innocent and victims of a deliberate, colossal frameup.   Everything that  their colleagues -- and History -- tell us indicates that this sort of thing, the murder of Frank Steunenberg, whether done directly or through a hireling, ran completely counter to the direct and open approach taken always by Haywood, Moyer, and Pettibone who also, consistently, counseled tactical non-violence.

The principal source for this very strange conclusion of Anthony Lukas -- completely  unsupported by the factual situation or anything else -- appears to rest with the wild speculation of George Shoaf,  a socialist who was not connected in any way with either the WFM or the IWW -- and who, for whatever reason, developed and propounded this canard/of/guilt.  Shoaf was well known, throughout his entire life, to "shoot with the long bow" --  wild and unsubstantiated conclusions.  A full half-century after the Idaho trials, he was still doing exactly that on all sorts of topics.  By interesting coincidence, I learned that about George Shoaf in 1957 -- when he was quite old and I was 22 and 23.  He began to correspond with me about articles  that I had written in The Industrial Worker -- official organ of the IWW. ( Mr. Shoaf was still  not a Wobbly.)  It took me not long at all to realize that he "shot wild" on all sorts of things.  This was confirmed by my very solid, very rational, excellent mentor and  friend over the many decades -- and extremely competent IWW editor, the late Fred Thompson. Fred confirmed my wariness of George Shoaf and his many erratic judgements and advised great caution.  Fred died in early 1987, long before Big Trouble was even conceived -- but I know what direct-talking Fred Thompson would say about the Anthony Lukas Epilogue.   And other facets of the Epilogue are even shakier -- if that's possible!

William D. Haywood's own work is well worth consulting -- not only on the Trials but as a hell of a great Western/American saga:  Bill Haywood's Book:  The Autobiography of William D. Haywood (New York: International Publishers,  1929) and several much  more recent editions.  I also strongly recommend the excellent Joseph Conlin's Big Bill Haywood and the Radical Union Movement (Syracuse:  Syracuse University Press, 1969.)

Who hired Harry Orchard, a classic professional killer?   The on-going and perennial class war was not the only economic struggle in the Mountain West.  The latter part of the 19th Century saw a myriad of conflicts -- almost all  of them violent -- around land and grazing and water issues.   Ranchers and homesteaders clashed in such settings as the Nebraska Panhandle; big cattlemen and small shot it out in Wyoming's Johnson County War.  In Arizona Territory's Tonto Rim/Tonto Basin  country, the Graham family (cattle) and the part-Indian Tewksbury clan  (sheep) became embroiled in the Pleasant Valley War ("Arizona's Dark and Bloody Ground") which carried into the Twentieth Century. Frank Steunenberg was a sheepman in a state where tension and polarization with cattlemen was a central part of the culture. 

In the West of my growing-up, when the Coeur d'Alene mining wars and the Idaho Trials and Bill Haywood and Clarence Darrow were discussed, the best guess regarding Orchard's employer lay in the world of the cattlemen.

 

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