Orchard confessed to playing a violent, and ultimately, decisive, role in the Colorado Labor Wars
By Rob Carrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Relating the twisting story of union boss “Big Bill” Haywood recently, it was made clear to me that I mustn’t forget the tale of Harry Orchard, the “Mad bomber of Cripple Creek.”
But according to Orchard's own "Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard," it all started in Telluride.It was Harry Orchard’s confession to Pinkerton detective James McParland in February 1906 that tied "Big Bill" Haywood and other union officials to the bombing of Independence rail platform, the bombing deaths of two miners in the Vindicator, and the murder of former Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg.
“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 Western Federation Miners. I resolved, as far as in my power, to break up this murderous organization and to protect the community from further assassinations and outrages from this gang,” his confession said.
Orchard’s real name was Albert Horsley and he grew up on an Ontario farm with seven brothers. He was also known to use the alias Thomas Hogan. He left Canada, after several years working in a cheese factory, when he was about 30 years old.
Working eventually in a silver mine in Burke, Idaho, Orchard joined the WFM and was among the thousand or so miners that hijacked a Northern Pacific train and then blew up the Bunker Hill concentrator, killing two men. According to his own admission, he was one of two who placed the dynamite and then lit the fuse.
“Orchard’s career as a paid union terrorist began in 1903 when he blew up the Vindicator mine in Colorado, again killing two men, for a fee of $500,” according a biography by faculty of the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Law. “Six months later a bomb planted by Orchard at Independence train depot exploded, killing 13 non-union miners.”
In the same testimony, he also told of unsuccessful efforts to kill the Governor Peabody of Colorado, and two Colorado Supreme Court Justices. Also he admitted additional murders including deputy Lyle Gregory, of Denver, and the attempted poisoning and then successful bombing of Bunker Hill mining manager Fred Bradley in San Francisco.
Oscar King Davis of the New York Times described Orchard’s testimony in the Haywood trial as follows:
“Orchard spoke in a soft, purring voice, marked by a slight Canadian accent, and except for the first few minutes that he was on the stand, he went through his awful story as undisturbed as if he were giving and account of a May Day festival. When he said, ‘and then I shot him,’ his manner and tone were as matter-of-fact as if the words had been ‘and then I bought a drink.”
Orchard was tried and convicted in March 1908 for the murder of former Gov. Frank Steunenberg. He received a death sentence but it was commuted to life in prison by Judge Fremont Wood and the Board of Pardons and he served out his life sentence, raising chickens and growing strawberries, in Idaho State Penitentiary until his death in 1954 at age 87.
In Orchard's own autobiography:
"About this time a mob and the militia ran some more of the union men out of Telluride, Col., in the night, and forbade them to return on pain of death. Mover sent for me to come to Denver, so I got ready and went. I met Moyer, Haywood, and Pettibone at Federation headquarters, and they wanted me to go down to the San Juan district with Moyer. They had two pump shot-guns, sawed off so they would go in our grips when they were taken down, and plenty of shells loaded with buck-shot. The reason for this was some one had told Moyer or sent him word if they caught him they would use him as they had the United Mine Workers' officers. Some of the latter had been taken off a train and beaten up and nearly killed. They laid this to the deputies the mine operators had employed," he said.
"The next night Moyer and I started for Montrose, where they had sent John Murphy, the Federation attorney, to get an injunction from Judge Stevens against the militia and citizens of Telluride to compel them to let the union miners return to their homes peaceably and not to interfere with them. We had three six-shooters, and two shot-guns in our grips, which we left unfastened in the seats in front of us, and we sat near the middle of the car; but no one troubled us. We arrived at Montrose and met Mr. Murphy, and he had the injunction all ready. We went on to Ouray, where most of the men were that had been deported, and the next day Moyer sent a telegram to Governor Peabody informing him of the injunction, and wanted to know if these men would have the protection of the militia if they returned peaceably to their homes, and he got an answer that all law-abiding citizens would be protected."
According to Orchard, Moyer said when he sent his telegram to the governor, that he had promised himself that he would never ask him for anything again, and he hated to do it, but this would be the last time. Moyer sent a few men back on the train the next morning, but they were met at a station some distance from Telluride, and forced off the train by militia and armed men, and threatened with death if they attempted to come into town. Sherman Bell, the adjutant-general, had arrived in Telluride, and martial law was declared, and Bell disregarded the order of the court in regard to the injunction.
"After these men were sent back from Telluride, Mr. Moyer was angrier than ever, and he began to advise the men that they could not expect any protection from the State, and the only way was to take the law in their own hands, and go back to Telluride in a body and clean out the town. There were some methods discussed as to the best way to proceed. The first thing that we thought necessary was to get concentrated at the most convenient place, and get what arms and ammunition and other material we would need. We also spoke of filling beer-kegs with dynamite, and attaching a time-fuse, and rolling them down the mountainside into Telluride, as the town was in a cañon with high mountains on either side. Another plan spoken of by Moyer was to poison the reservoir where they got their water for Telluride with cyanide of potassium. This is easy to get around the mills where they use the cyanide process, and of course it is deadly poison and kills any one taking the least particle of it instantly. But Moyer only started to carry out the first of these plans when he was arrested."
Bell disregarded the injunction. Moyer sent word to Silverton, for Frank Schmelzer, the president of the San Juan district union. He wanted to confer with him about what to do with these men who were deported, Orchard said, as there were about a hundred of them stopping at the hotel at Ouray, and paying about $1 a day there, and he said the Federation could not afford that.
More of these deported men were at Silverton. They decided to lease one or more of the idle mines up at Red Mountain. This is about half-way between Ouray and Silverton on the divide, and not far from Telluride, Another man came down from Red Mountain with Schmelzer; his name was Tom Taylor. He had a partner at Red Mountain, and he said there were some large boarding and lodging-houses there, and he thought there would be no trouble in renting them, as almost everything was silver mines around there and they were closed down on account of the low price of silver.
"The object of getting this out-of-the-way place was to have some place to concentrate the men and keep them together, and this place was just where they wanted them, and the lease was all a bluff. The real object was to send these men up there and arm them all, get a car or two of provisions, and send all the outlaws they could get hold of up there, too," Orchard wrote.
He said they also wanted to get Telluride union leader Vincent St. John to go up there and drill these men. "These men were mostly all foreigners—Austrians, Finns, and Italians. They thought if they could get enough men up here in this out-of-the-way place, and have them well armed, and keep them there until the snow got settled in the spring so they could walk on it, some night they could march them over the hill to Telluride and clean out the town. This was the plan, but it was not told except to a very few, and they were well satisfied with it."
"But the morning that we might have finished up and left later in the day, before we got up, the sheriff rapped at the door and wanted to see Moyer. I was sleeping with Moyer, and we got up and dressed, and when we went out the sheriff arrested him. He said they had wired him from Telluride to hold Moyer, and that the sheriff from San Miguel County was on his way with a warrant. Moyer wired his attorneys at Denver and wanted to know if the sheriff at Ouray had any right to hold him without a warrant. I think they told him he had; anyway, he did hold him, and about noon the sheriff and two deputies arrived and took him to Telluride. Moyer had given me some papers and his six-shooter before the sheriff from Telluride arrived, and the Ouray sheriff did not search him or lock him up, but let him stay in his office. The charge they arrested him on was desecration of the American flag. The Federation had sent out by the thousands posters imitating the American flag, with advertising on them. They only arrested Moyer on this as an excuse. They took him to Telluride, and he was released on bail, but the militia re-arrested him right away," according to Orchard.
"I left Ouray that night and went to Silverton with Schmelzer to escape arrest, and Moyer telephoned me from Telluride in a day or so, and wanted me to fetch his things and meet him at Durango, but before we got through talking they cut us off. He was telephoning me just after he was let out on bonds, and while he was talking they cut off the connection, and the militia arrested him right afterward and held him for over three months. That was the last I saw of him for nearly a year.
I stayed at Silverton a few days, and then went back to Denver and reported to Haywood. The lawyers from Denver had gone to Telluride in the mean time, but they could not get Moyer out, as the militia held him under military necessity. A few days after he was arrested, Sheriff Rutan of Telluride came to Denver to arrest Haywood on the same charge, but Haywood blocked his plans by getting a friend in Denver to swear out a warrant on the same charge, and a justice in Denver that was friendly to him put him in the custody of the deputy sheriff, who stayed with him all the time; and he had his case continued from time to time.
Albert Edward Horsley, who throughout his life he used many aliases, including Harry Orchard, Thomas Hogan, Demsey and Goglan, was a one-time mine owner.
In 1897, Harry Orchard, along with August Paulsen, Harry Day, May Arkwright, butcher F.M. Rothrock, lawyer Henry F. Samuels and C.H. Reeves, invested in the Hercules silver mine in Idaho. A decade later, Orchard's ownership of a share in the mine would be used in an effort to impeach his testimony in a murder trial.
By 1899, Orchard was among the thousand miners who hijacked a Northern Pacific train on April 29, 1899 and then blew up the Bunker Hill concentrator, killing two men. Orchard was one of the miners who planted the dynamite and lit a fuse. Six months later a bomb planted by Orchard at an Independence, Colorado train depot exploded, killing 13 non-union miners.
In his testimony, Orchard also told of other planned killings that for one reason or another did not succeed, all ordered, he claimed by Haywood and Pettibone. Among the unsuccessful efforts were the assassination of the Governor and two Supreme Court justices of Colorado and the president of the Bunker Hill Mining Company. The reason for Orchard's life of union terrorism is not entirely clear, but was most likely the result of a combination of factors--anger at mine operators and scabs, union loyalty and greed.According to "The Third Millenium Online," and other sources, Harry Orchard was a complex individual who apparently had sought opportunity working for both sides in labor disputes.
"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. He reportedly told a companion G.L. Brokaw, that he had been a Pinkerton employee for some time. 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. 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. Orchard's confession to McParland took responsibility for seventeen or more murders," it was reported.
Orchard also 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."
James P. McParland