Two Reporters' Perspectives

Oscar King Davis of the venerable New York Times and Ida Crouch Hazlett of the tiny Socialist paper, The Montana News, presented two very different views of the Haywood trial.

Their opinions about the truthfulness of Harry Orchard's testimony — and thus the guilt of "Big Bill" Haywood — were diametrically opposed. But they shared one thing in common: an ability to write wonderfully descriptive sentences.

The national press flocked to Boise, Idaho, in the summer of 1907. Joining Davis and Hazlett were correspondents from the Associated Press, The Hearst, Pulitzer, Scripps, and New York Sun, as well as The Denver Post, Boston Globe, Portland Evening Telegram, Cleveland Press, Chicago Herald-Record and Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Through his daily reports, O.K. Davis kept the world informed of every nuance of the trial. Hazlett's audience was considerably smaller, but she also presented a first person account of the court room events in the summer of 1907.

Here are their impressions of the dramatic testimony of Harry Orchard in June of 1907.

O.K. Davis on Harry Orchard's testimony

[Image: Harry Orchard on stand]

BOISE, Idaho, June 5—For three hours and a half today Harry Orchard sat in the witness chair at the Haywood trial and recited a history of crimes and bloodshed, the like of which no person in the crowded courtroom had ever imagined. Not in the whole range of "Bloody Gulch" literature will there be found anything that approaches a parallel to the horrible story so calmly and smoothly told by this self-possessed, imperturbable murderer witness.
...

There was nothing theatrical about the appearance on the stand of this witness, upon whose testimony the whole case against Haywood, Moyer, and the other leaders of the Western Federation of Miners is based. Only once or twice was there a dramatic touch. It was a horrible, revolting, sickening story, but he told it as simply as the plainest narration of the most ordinary incident of the most humdrum existence. He was neither a braggart nor a sycophant. He neither boasted of his fearful crimes nor sniveled in mock repentance.

It was just a plain recital of personal experience, and as it went on, hour after hour, with multitudinous detail, clear and vivid here, half forgotten and obscure there, gradually it forced home to the listener the conviction that it was the unmixed truth. Lies are not made as complicated and involved as that story. Fiction so full of incident, so mixed of purpose and cross-purpose, so permeated with the play of human passion, does not spring offhand from the most marvelous fertile invention. Touching continually points on which there can be controversy, Orchard explained acts whose motive until to-day had been hidden, whose purpose had remained a mystery. And while he talked the half-stifled crowd in the packed courtroom was so quiet that his soft voice penetrated to the furthest corner.
...

The astonishing tale is utterly incredible, and yet there is that in the manner and bearing of the teller that stamps it as true. What motive he has for telling it now has not yet been disclosed. He told me a few weeks ago at the penitentiary some facts about his life since his arrest for the Steunenberg murder which afford a reasonable explanation.

He said that a man who had done a great wrong in his life could never hope to atone for all of it, but he believed that he ought to do what he could to set matters as far straight as possible. He told me that in just the same simple matter of fact way that he told his gruesome story to-day. I believed him then. Today he forced on me the conviction that he was telling what had happened as it occurred. He has got beyond caring what comes to himself as the result. He does not even attempt to shield himself in any of the details.

Ida Crouch Hazlett on Harry Orchard's testimony

[Image: courtroom]

Orchard looks neat, well-dressed in gray and well kept. But his face is certainly one of the most repulsive countenances that one is ever called to gaze upon. It is the face of a man without a soul, of one who has never known the call of the higher and nobler impulses. He is a man who would do anything for almost any consideration. He is of the born criminal type — with a certain intelligence to enable him to carry out his crime, but not enough to enable him to successfully cover them up.

Orchard's testimony was simply a repetition of what has already been published as his confession, and which he repeated as one who had learned a lesson well. Hawley led the way for him with questions — so much so that attorney Richardson accused him of testifying instead of the witness.

Orchard was a day and a half giving his testimony. The performance was a psychological study. The man has woefully missed his calling. He should have been a second Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes isn't in it beside him.

When one reads the testimony of Orchard, how he claims he murdered for money, the question arises, how much is he being paid to railroad Moyer, Haywood, and Pettibone to the scaffold?
...

It will be interesting to see what becomes of Orchard. It is safe to say that not a hair of his head will ever be harmed. He walks secure amid his enemies, among the men whose lives he seeks like a human hyena, surrounded by what his guardians consider the greatest dangers through the exaggerated care they take to provide against any possible harm to this darling of the gods of mammon.