Boise’s Old Idaho Penitentiary Hosted “Dynamite Assassin”


Boise, the capital city of Idaho, isn’t just known for one or two legendary Wild West stories. The Old Idaho Penitentiary, a working prison until 1973, is located against the beautiful backdrop of the Boise Foothills and is known for its many stories, including Wild West tales and those of the ghost kind. It has held some of the West’s meanest and most daring criminals since its doors opened in 1872.

One of those criminals was Harry Orchard, who is known to have killed Governor Frank Steunenberg by dynamite slaying in Caldwell, Idaho on December 30, 1905. Before the assassination of the governor, Orchard had occasionally admitted to killing two other men by dynamite due to violence led by industrial disputes with the Western Federation of Miners. A convert to Christianity during his imprisonment, Orchard molded into a model inmate. He died in the prison in 1954 at the age of 88 and is buried at Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise.

Boise’s Old Idaho Penitentiary hosted some of the West’s meanest and most daring criminals in its 100 years, including “assassin by dynamite” Harry Orchard. Photo courtesy of Visit Boise

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