REBELS  OF  THE  WOODS:  The  I.W.W.  in  the  Pacific  Northwest


In the free-speech fight at Everett, Washington, in late 1916, the I.W.W. reaped a bitter harvest from its first decade of sowing revolution. Emboldened perhaps by their own fearsome reputation, Wobblies descended upon Everett to speak on the downtown streets, their determination increasing with each arrest and beating they suffered at the hands of Snohomish County deputies. The intransigence of both Wobblies and authorities reached its furious climax at the city dock with a gun battle that left at least seven men killed and many more wounded. The conflict in Everett repeated in the main pattern of earlier free-speech fights along the Pacific Coast, but its crescendo of violence, its terrible dramatic unity, marked it a culmination to all harassment of Wobblies before the first world war. It summed up in a few moments of history — illumined as if by a flash of lightning — all the I.W.W.’s exhortations, all its rowdy hymn singing under the street lights of small Western towns, all its picaresque militancy, all its “martyrdoms,” and also all the righteous indignation and violence of authorities and respectable burghers.

The I.W.W. did not bring class conflict into Everett; rather, the almost feudal organization of the community made it inevitable. Everett was a new city of about 30,000 people thirty miles north of Seattle on Puget Sound. Two agents of John D. Rockefeller, scouting for profitable ways to invest their employer’s millions, had founded the city as a promotion in the early 1890s.Ralph W. Hidy, Frank Ernest Hill, and Allan Nevins, Timber and Men: The Weyerhaeuser Story (New York, 1963), p. 221. By 1900, the new settlement boasted a population of 8,000 and a growing complex of lumber and shingle mills. It had also become a station on the Great Northern Railroad.Ralph W. Hidy, Frank Ernest Hill, and Allan Nevins, Timber and Men: The Weyerhaeuser Story (New York, 1963), p. 221. In 1902, the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company purchased the dilapidated Bell-Nelson Mill Company property in Everett and began thus its manufacturing career in the Pacific Northwest lumber industry. It remained the only mill of the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company in the whole Pacific Northwest — a “barometer mill”Ralph W. Hidy, Frank Ernest Hill, and Allan Nevins, Timber and Men: The Weyerhaeuser Story (New York, 1963), p. 228. — until 1915, when the company built its Everett Mill B.

The residents of Everett proudly called their city the “City of Smokestacks.”Lowell S. Hawley and Ralph Bushnell Potts, Counsel for the Damned:A Biography of George Francis Vanderveer (Philadelphia, 1953), p. 171. The large, permanent mills obtained their raw materials of spruce, fir, and cedar from the log booms floated to the Everett harbor from all around the shores of Puget Sound.Lowell S. Hawley and Ralph Bushnell Potts, Counsel for the Damned: A Biography of George Francis Vanderveer (Philadelphia, 1953), p. 171. The city’s shingle mills alone accounted for a good share of the shingle production of the whole region, and by 1912 almost four-fifths of all shingles cut in the United States came from the Pacific Northwest.Wilson Comptom, The Organization of the Lumber Industry (Chicago, 1916), p. 45.A perfume of cedar hung permanently over the city, an industrial byproduct considerably more poetic than the usual smelly effluvia of industrial towns. Everett had other differences. It had no obvious slums, no “I.W.W. problem,” no blatant poverty, and hardly any transients among its settled, homebody labor force.Lowell S. Hawley and Ralph Bushnell Potts, Counsel for the Damned:A Biography of George Francis Vanderveer (Philadelphia, 1953), p. 172.

The life of the city, of course, depended almost totally upon its lumber and shingle mills, and lumbermen, as might be expected, controlled the economic resources of the community, its retail stores, its banks, most of its real estate.G. R. Leighton, ”Seattle, Washington: The Edge of the Last Frontier,“ Harper’s, (Mar., 1939), p. 428. Lumbermen also comprised the local aristocracy and dominated the social and political life of the city. Fred K. Baker of the F. K. Baker Lumber Company served as president of the Everett Commercial Club.American Lumberman, Nov. 11, 1916, p. 28. David M. Clough, a former Governor of Minnesota and head of the Clough-Hartley Lumber Company, was a leading citizen. His son-in-law and business partner, Roland Hartley, later became Governor of Washington.G. R. Leighton, ”Seattle, Washington: The Edge of the Last Frontier,“ Harper’s, (Mar., 1939), p. 428.

Even before the first appearance of the I.W.W. in Everett, the local community leaders concerned themselves with that potential threat. The news of the I.W.W. troubles in Seattle in 1912 and 1913 and of Colonel Blethen’s crusade against “red flag anarchism” found sympathetic readers in Everett. The International Union of Shingle Weavers, a militant affiliate of the AFL with strong representation in Everett, had also thoroughly aroused the passions of workers and local aristocracy before the first Wobbly appeared.

The Shingle Weavers had organized an independent union as early as 1890. In January 1903, the union affiliated with the AFL under the name International Shingle Weavers of America. For several years, from 1913 to 1915, the AFL granted complete jurisdiction over all regional timber workers to the International Shingle Weavers. The I.W.W. looked covetously toward the union, and from 1908 on tried persistently but unsuccessfully to woo the Shingle Weavers away from the AFL, even introducing a resolution to that effect which was unanimously voted down in the convention of the union in 1912.Industrial Worker, Apr. 12, 1913, p. 1. In the notoriously “open shop” lumber industry the relative success of the International Shingle Weavers, and even the élan which allowed the union to resist the blandishments of the I.W.W., can be explained by the pride of craft that most workers possessed. Shingle weaving was a dangerous trade. Workers manipulated blocks of cedar wood through open saws by hand, somewhat like a butcher slicing bologna. Most veteran Shingle Weavers could be easily identified by their variously mutilated hands — or even handless arms.Cloice R. Howd, Industrial Relations in the West Coast Lumber Industry, U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bulletin No. 349 (Washington, 1924), p. 36-37.

In 1915, the Shingle Weavers in Everett and in their other locals had gone out on strike protesting a twenty per cent cut in wages.Seattle Union Record, Apr. 15, 1916, p. 3; Apr. 22, 1916, p. 1. The strike failed, but the strikers extracted a promise from the mill owners that as soon as the market improved the old wage scale would be restored. When in the spring of 1916 lumber prices again reached the 1914 level, the Shingle Weavers demanded the honoring of the promise.Seattle Union Record, Apr. 15, 1916, p. 3. Most shingle mills in the region granted the raise in wages to the old 1914 level, but the Everett mill owners, the most influential in the industry, refused or delayed. On May 1, 1916, over four hundred Shingle Weavers in Everett left their jobs, beginning a long and bitter strike.Cloice R. Howd, Industrial Relations in the West Coast Lumber Industry, U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bulletin No. 349 (Washington, 1924), p. 61.

For a time, their strike seemed to be succeeding. The Clough-Hartley mill, with an ostentatious disregard for the strike, planned to resume full operations on June 1, with a new open-shop policy. But on June 1, no one showed up for work.Seattle Union Record, Aug. 26, 1916, p. 8. As the weeks passed, however, the Shingle Weavers union began to show signs of disorganization. On August 18, only eighteen pickets appeared for duty on the picket line, and strike breakers spirited these few militants away to a railroad trestle and beat them severely.Seattle Union Record, Aug. 26, 1916, p. 8.

The I.W.W. appeared in Everett in August, as the Shingle Weavers strike seemed to be entering its last bitter stages of defeat. Everett businessmen, determinedly “open shop” in their principles, hostile toward the Shingle Weavers and opposed to the I.W.W. on abstract principle, accused the defeated Shingle Weavers of inviting the Wobbly agitators into Everett as a spiteful act of revenge.American Lumberman, Nov. 11, 1916, p. 28. But Wobblies had needed no formal invitation. They had planned a membership drive for 1916, and the troubled waters of Everett seemed to them an ideal place to angle for new members and an appropriate place to churn up more educative class conflict. On July 31, the headquarters at Chicago sent James Rowan, a black-haired volatile Irishman, to Everett to scout the sentiment for industrial unionism and revolution.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 35. This little book is one of the better I.W.W. pamphlets, tendentious and biased, of course, but argued with an impressive marshalling of facts. Interestingly enough, the facts do not seem to be much in dispute among all the pro- or anti-I.W. W. writers, only the interpretation.

The conflict began almost quietly, with a face-to-face disagreement between two men and a routine arrest. But even this insignificant event revealed the seeds of obstinacy and anger that eventually flowered into open warfare between battalions of armed men. Rowan began his campaign in Everett by conducting a small street meeting on the night of his arrival. He discussed the exploitative nature of the lumber industry and distributed pamphlets that described the Bureau of Corporations’ investigations of the “lumber trust.”U.S. Dept. of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of Corporations, The Lumber Industry, 2 vols., 4 parts (Washington, 1913-1914). In the course of his harangue he repeated the I.W.W.’s stock criticism of the AFL; its craft organization and its predilection for making deals with employers encouraged workers in different craft to “scab” on each other. It was more rightfully the, “American Separation of Labor.” Jake Michel, an official of the Everett Labor Council, shouted indignantly from the sidewalk audience that Rowan was a liar. Sheriff Donald McRae of Snohomish County, expectantly waiting for trouble in a nearby parked car, offered to arrest Rowan. But Michel, probably a little taken aback by the sheriff’s eagerness, demurred and explained that Rowan had not said anything to warrant arresting him. Nevertheless, McRae pulled Rowan down from his soapbox box and took him to the county jail. There the sheriff blustered and threatened and, after an hour of this lecturing, released the presumably cowed Rowan. But, unimtimidated, Rowan rushed back to the corner and resumed his speech at the point where Michel and the sheriff had interrupted him. An Everett city policeman then arrested him and locked him up in the city jail. The next morning, the judge of the municipal court sentenced him to thirty days in jail for peddling his pamphlets without a license but offered him the alternative sentence of banishment. With the tenacity typical of Wobblies even in defeat, Rowan demanded to be represented by counsel and was refused by the court, demanded a jury trial and was refused, demanded a postponement and was refused. Finally, with no further harassments to draw from his bag of tricks, Rowan chose the alternative sentence of leaving town. He left to get a job in the woods and to familiarize himself with working conditions in the lumber industry.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 35.

The Chicago headquarters of the I.W.W. responded to this first defeat by sending Levi Remick to Everett. Remick talked to sympathetic Shingle Weavers and sold them some I.W.W. pamphlets on the street before the police ordered him also to stop peddling without a license. The city officials quoted him such an exorbitant fee for a license that he left for Seattle to raise funds to open a hall in Everett where he could distribute his literature free from the city licensing regulations. He returned to Everett a few days later and opened an I.W.W. hall on Hewitt Avenue.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 35-36. Through most of August, the police and the sheriff allowed the hall to function unmolested, but the brief calm marked only a breathing spell in the conflict that had already well begun. Both Wobblies and authorities had squared off and were circling each other cautiously.

In the latter part of August, the resolve of both sides produced more open conflict. The I.W.W. decided to sponsor a speech by James P. Olson, one of its better known organizers and a leader of the Spokane free-speech fight of seven years earlier. Various I.W.W. sympathizers, mostly from the Shingle Weavers, had petitioned the Seattle I.W.W. office for such a major speaker. The I.W.W. scheduled Thompson’s speech for August 22. When they found they could not rent a hall in Everett for the meeting, they decided reluctantly to hold it on the street. On the day before the speech, Sheriff McRae and several city policemen stormed into the hall, tore all the advertisements for the meeting from the walls, and warned Remick with colorful expletives that they intended to suppress the meeting. Remick locked the hall and hurried to Seattle for advice.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 37. Shortly after Remick had locked the hall and left for Seattle, Rowan returned to Everett from a job in the woods. Finding the hall locked, he pried his way in and reopened it for business. McRae and a policeman rushed back to the hall within an hour of its reopening and ordered Rowan to leave town immediately or serve his thirty-day jail sentence. Rowan left town. In Seattle, the report made by Remick, and, a few hours later, the corroborative report of Rowan, made the Wobblies even more determined to hold the meeting in Everett.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 38.

According to schedule, Thompson arrived in Everett and began to conduct his meeting, speaking to a large crowd of sympathizers, hecklers, and mere curiosity seekers. He spoke for an uninterrupted half hour before fifteen policemen pushed through the crowd and arrested him. Rowan, back in town for the meeting, took Thompson’s place and began to lead the crowd in singing the “Red Flag.” The police dragged him away. A woman then rushed to replace Rowan and to take up the singing again. She too was arrested. Another woman rushed forward and began to recite the Declaration of Independence, and she too was quickly silenced. Jake Michel, suddenly changing sides from his first position in the conflict, began to speak in protest over the arrests, and he also was arrestedWalker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 38., Seattle Union Record, Aug. 16, 1916, p. 8. Exasperated by all these eager replacements rushing forward to the soapbox box after each arrest, the police devised a system whereby they could capture all the disturbers of the peace at once and thus end the troubles quickly. They joined hands and formed a circle around the speakers and their immediate audience, allowing the innocent bystanders to slip out of the cordon and holding in the suspected Wobblies.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 38., Seattle Union Record, Aug. 16, 1916, p. 8. Then they marched their prisoners through the streets en masse to the city jail. Rowan somehow escaped this police-escorted parade. He rushed back to the comer and resumed the meeting, speaking for almost half an hour before being arrested again.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 38.

The following morning, the police marched the prisoners to the city dock and put them on a passenger boat bound for Seattle, appropriating the thirteen dollars needed to pay the fares from the pocket of one of the more affluent deportees. Upon arriving in Seattle the Wobblies — those who were indeed Wobblies — conferred with the Seattle members at a specially called meeting in the I.W.W. hall. They formed a Free Speech Committee, and volunteers began immediately to conduct street meetings in Seattle to raise funds for the struggle. At the same time, in Everett, the AFL Labor Council passed a stinging resolution condemning Sheriff McRae and the city official for suppressing free speech.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 41.

In all the I.W.W. literature Sheriff McRae is identified as a hireling of the “lumber trust,” as a “lackey of the lumber barons,” or with some such ideologically charged names. But McRae had been a member of the International Shingle Weavers union before his elevation to the sheriff’s office, and he had even contributed to the strike fund of his union. Although he gave much trouble to the I.W.W. in Everett, the Wobblies — or someone — gave him tit for tat. He received annoying telephone calls. His property was decorated with I.W.W. propaganda stickers. He received anonymous and threatening mail. He also lost two valuable hunting dogs to poisoners, and this particular sabotage led him to an entirely sincere feeling of outrage against the I.W.W. Perhaps he did not need to be “bought out” by the “lumber trust.”Lowell S. Hawley and Ralph Bushnell Potts, Counsel for the Damned: A Biography of George Francis Vanderveer (Philadelphia, 1953), p. 181.

In spite of the rising tempers of Seattle Wobblies and ample evidence of an increasing toughness on the part of officials in Everett, the conflict subsided. Several militant Wobblies, fired by the meeting at Seattle, did return to Everett the next day. A squad of Sheriff McRae’s deputies met them at the interurban railroad station and sent them back to Seattle. Several days later, however, F. W. Stead, an organizer from Seattle, returned to Everett without meeting any deputies. He reopened the hall and for several weeks kept it open without incident. Rowan, after serving eight days in jail for his part in the Thompson meeting, conducted street meetings for several consecutive evenings without even seeing a deputy or policeman. Somewhat prematurely, the I.W.W. celebrated an easy victory. “Everett Fight an Easy Victory,” the I.W.W. press announced.Industrial Worker, Sept. 2, 1916, p. 1. Subsequent I.W.W. histories, however, explained the strange lull with less self-congratulation. Federal mediators had come to Everett to investigate the labor troubles in the shingle mills, and the Everett authorities during their visit had concealed their real intentions and had behaved with moderation toward the I.W.W. only to make a good impression. During the truce, however, the authorities and the business leaders of the Commercial Club organized their forces and quietly built a formidable army of volunteer deputies, organized into specialized squadrons with such functions as guarding the ingresses to the city or patrolling hobo jungles.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 41.

On September 9, after the mediators had left, the conflict erupted again into violence. Some Wobblies assembled at Mukilteo, a small town about four miles from Everett, and boarded a launch they had rented, the Wanderer. They hoped to smuggle themselves into Everett by avoiding the carefully watched common carriers. As they approached the city dock of Everett, another launch carrying armed deputies pulled abreast of them. The deputies opened fire on the Wanderer, overtook it, and boarded it. After cuffing and manhandling the captured Wobblies to impress a lesson upon them, the deputies took them ashore and locked them up in the county jail. For over a week, the prisoners waited in jail without a hearing and without charges being preferred against them. McRae eventually released them after his deputies had gone over them again to emphasize the lesson that they were unwelcome.Industrial Worker, Sept. 16, 1916, p. 1; Portland Oregonian, Mar. 28, 1917, p. 6.

Two days after the unsuccessful invasion of the Wanderer the few Wobblies still in Everett renewed the conflict by trying once again to hold street meetings. The first attempt produced a small riot. Deputies pulled the first speaker, Harry Feinberg, from the stand and dragged him to the county jail. Instead of booking him and locking him up for trial, they proceeded to beat him up on the steps of the jail. When he broke away and fled down the street, they wildly fired their pistols after him. A second speaker, only a few minutes later, suffered the same fate. John Ovist, the third speaker, took his beating on the street corner without the unnecessary formality of being arrested and taken to the jail. During the fracas at the street corner, which continued after the first few arrests, the deputies put white handkerchiefs around their necks to identify themselves and to avoid hitting each other. The device, however, did not help them to distinguish bystanders from Wobblies, and a number of Everett citizens, in no way connected to the I.W.W., suffered welts and bruises along with the Wobblies.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 58.

As tension increased in Everett, citizens began to choose sides more actively. The I.W.W. even muted its revolutionary message somewhat and began to emphasize the constitutional issues involved, and to point out the decay of law and order, the attack on persons such as Jake Michel, the lack of discrimination by hastily organized deputies. The force of deputies, of course, did not lack for volunteers, but, as in all previous free-speech fights, the I.W.W. won considerable public support and sympathy. One angry citizen, injured by the nondiscriminating deputies at the riot on Hewitt and Wetmore Streets, telephoned the Chief of Police the following morning and lodged a bitter complaint. The chief was — or claimed to be — shocked at the report. But he refused to accept responsibility for the acts of Sheriff McRae’s deputies, insisting that the sheriff’s office and the Commercial Club had bypassed him and had taken over the control of the city.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 38. p. 61; Seattle Union Record, Apr. 7, 1917, p. 4. Merchants in Everett began to display signs in their windows notifying customers that they did not belong to the Commercial Club.Seattle Union Record, Nov. 11, 1916, p. 5.

Public support for the Wobblies — or at the very least, citizens’ opposition to the sheriff’s office — began to organize in September. Two thousand persons gathered at the Everett Labor Temple and planned a mass meeting for all citizens of Everett. About a third of the town — ten thousand people — attended the mass meeting in the city park. McRae and city officials answered complaints and defended their actions. Because of such public pressure, McRae promised to allow the I.W.W. to return to Everett.Industrial Worker, Sept. 23, 1916, p. 1. Not trusting McRae’s contrition but quite willing to test his promise, Wobblies reopened their hall, but several days later McRae and a contingent of deputies pushed their way into the hall and deported the new organizer as peremptorily as his predecessors. The I.W.W. did not for several weeks try again to open the hall.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 63.

In October, the struggle settled into a dogged and vigilant stalemate, the Wobblies making persistent efforts to infiltrate the city, the deputies guarding the ingresses turning back the Wobblies with fists and clubs. During the month, the deputies deported between three and four hundred real or suspected Wobblies. They also enlisted the aid of railroad detectives, who became unusually severe with transients who had previously ridden in empty freight cars with little interference.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 72-75. On October 30, the I.W.W. made a major effort to break the blockade. Forty-one Wobblies, many just off the harvest fields of the Pacific Northwest, boarded a passenger boat in Seattle to try to break into Everett in force. The contingent was at least twice as big as any earlier one. Deputies with their identifying white handkerchiefs around their necks met the boat at the city dock. They sifted the forty-one Wobblies from among the other passengers and then proceeded to beat them mercilessly with clubs and revolver butts. In the excitement, as horrified passengers scurried to get away, the deputies clouted Wobblies, some of the passengers, and even some of themselves, as they flailed wildly and drunkenly on the congested dock. One deputy, Joe Schofield, opened the scalp of another deputy as he swung his revolver butt enthusiastically but with uncertain aim among the crowd.Industrial Worker, Nov. 4, 1916, p. 1.

The deputies loaded their battered prisoners into waiting trucks and automobiles and drove them through the gathering dusk to Beverly Park, a lonely wooded area outside Everett and on the railroad tracks leading to Seattle. There the deputies deployed themselves into two lines facing each other and forced the Wobblies, one by one, to run the gauntlet. In a cold, penetrating rain they beat the Wobblies with clubs, blackjacks, and revolver butts, and fired after them if they broke through the lines and tried to escape.Industrial Worker, Nov. 4,1916, p. 1. Portland Oregon Daily journal, Nov. 6, 1916, p. 13; Portland Oregonian, Mar. 13, 1917, p. 6. After the night’s work was done, when the bruised and bleeding Wobblies assembled on the interurban train for Seattle, the startled passengers wondered if there had just been a train wreck in the vicinity.

The following morning, and for the next few days, Everett seethed with curiosity and indignation. Deputies, patrolling their beats, stopped citizens on the street to deny gratuitously any part in the affair at Beverly Park. A committee of Everett clergymen and other citizens assembled to discuss the affair and to appoint a team of investigators to go out to Beverly Park to inspect the grounds.Seattle Union Record, Apr. 21, 1917, p. 5. The committee also discussed the urgent need to get the affairs of the city back into the hands of responsible officials. It proposed another mass meeting in the city park. One clergyman left for Seattle to get the support of the I.W.W. in the proposed mass meeting. The committee decided such a meeting was necessary because the Everett press had carried no reports of the I.W.W. troubles nor of the Beverly Park beatings.Anna Louise Strong, ”The Verdict at Everett,“ Survey (May 19, 1917), p. 161. The local Everett newspaper is indeed a worthless source on the I.W.W. troubles.

The I.W.W. needed no urging by the visiting clergyman to take part in the proposed meeting. In fact, the Seattle I.W.W. promptly usurped the planning for the meeting. The I.W.W. decided to hold the meeting on the following Sunday afternoon, November 5, in the city park of Everett.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 79-80. It notified all I.W.W. branches and locals in the region of the plans and began publishing handbills and circulars for distribution in Everett. It also notified the authorities in Everett of its plan, in none too diplomatic terms, and it invited reporters from the Seattle daily newspapers to accompany the Wobbly army. Organizers began to sign up recruits in the Seattle hall for the excursion.Charles Ashleigh, ”Defense Fires Opening Guns,“ International Socialist Review (May 1917), p. 673. Sheriff McRae and the Commercial Club made their preparations also for the threatened invasion. On November 4, the day before the scheduled mass meeting, McRae stormed into the I.W.W. hall and arrested all the Wobblies he found there. He boasted to Chester Micklin, the Wobbly in charge, that the meeting the next day would not be held. He offered Micklin a bet of a hundred dollars that it would not be held.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 82. In the evening, three hundred deputies met in the Commercial Club to form the Everett Open Shop League, a name that made no pretense, obviously, of concealing the alliance of economic interest and law and order. Leigh H. Irvine, director of the Employers’ Association of Washington, a violently anti-union body, exhorted the meeting of deputiesAmerican Lumberman, Nov. 11, 1916, p. 28. and after his speech, the deputies received their arms and their instructions to assemble the next day on the call of the mill whistles.Seattle Union Record, Apr. 28, 1917, p. 4. At almost the last minute, the I.W.W. leaders in Seattle decided to transport their army to Everett by boat. The interurban railroad could not supply enough extra coaches, and the I.W.W. could not assemble enough automobiles or trucks. On Sunday morning, November 5, three hundred singing Wobblies, marching four abreast, paraded through the streets of Seattle to the waterfront. About two hundred and fifty filed aboard the Verona, a regular passenger boat, at the Colman Dock. Thirty-eight other Wobblies had to wait half an hour to board the Calista, the next scheduled passenger boat for Everett.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 88.

At about one o’clock in the afternoon, the mill whistles in Everett summoned the deputies to the Commercial Club. The Seattle police had telegraphed officials in Everett that the Wobbly army had left by boat. Although the I.W.W. had certainly not concealed its departure or its aim, news of the embarkation reached Everett in garbled form. Relayed through two or three officials, the news reached the assembled deputies in a frightening form. They heard that a boatload of Wobblies, armed to the teeth, had left Seattle determined to avenge the Beverly Park beatings.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 85.; Portland Oregon Daily Journal, Nov. 6, 1916, p. 13. The deputies then apparently fortified themselves with liquor and marched to the city dock to await the Verona. Hundreds of Everett citizens, familiar with the plans for the forthcoming meeting in the city park, also came to the city dock to wait for the Wobblies. Roped away from the dock itself, they found vantage points on adjacent docks and on the low hill overlooking the harbor. The deputies took up defensive positions inside the warehouse at the end of the dock and Sheriff McRae and two deputies took up a position out in the open on the dock. It was hardly a military deployment. McRae and the two deputies were in the line of fire from the concealed deputies behind them. A tugboat in the harbor, filled with deputies, also directed its fire toward the men on the dock and in the warehouse. Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 85-87. As the Verona neared the dock, the two hundred and fifty Wobbly passengers crowded the main deck. A few had climbed up onto the cabin and one Wobbly, Hugo Gerlot, had scaled the mast and was waving at the crowd of spectators on the hill as the boat cut through the harbor. He and the other Wobblies on the main deck were singing the English Transport Workers’ song, “Hold the Fort”:

We meet today in Freedom’s cause,
And raise our voices high,
We’ll join our hands in union strong,
To battle or to die.

Hold the fort for we are coming,
Union men be strong.
Side by side we battle onward,
Victory will come.

The bowline of the Verona had been made fast before McRae, standing on the dock, raised his hand to silence the singing and shouting. “Who is your leader?” he shouted. “We’re all leaders!” the men on the deck chorused. “You can’t land here,” McRae announced. “The hell we can’t!” the Wobblies shouted as they crowded the deck around the gangplank, ready to leave the boat. Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 88.

At that instant a shot split the tense momentary silence. Immediately, whole volleys cracked through the air. Many of the crowded Wobblies on the deck crumpled under the fire. The rest rushed frantically toward the sheltered side of the cabin, starting a panic rush that threatened to capsize the boat. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Apr. 14, 1917, p. 5. Some Wobblies tried to slide across the deck to unfasten the bowline but were driven back by the heavy fire. Ernest Shellgren, the engineer of the Verona, backed the boat away from the dock at full power, snapping the bowline. After almost ten minutes of gun fire, the Verona churned out into the harbor and out of range. On its melancholy return to Seattle the defeated Verona met the Calista, and the battered and wounded Wobblies warned their comrades not to proceed. Walker C. Smith, ”The Voyage of the Verona,“; International Socialist Review, (Dec. 1916), p. 342.

The unwounded Wobblies gave crude first-aid to the thirty-one wounded men aboard, three of whom had been ordinary passengers of the Verona. They carried their dead
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to the cabin: Hugo Gerlot, John Looney, Gustav Johnson, and Abraham Rabinowitz. One of the wounded, Felix Baron, was to die later in Seattle. The I.W.W. claimed subsequently that at least half a dozen other Wobblies, unidentified free-speech fighters, had been killed and had fallen into the harbor from the boat. Rumors later circulated that residents of Everett had found bodies washed up on the shore.Seattle Union Record, Dec. 9, 1916, p. 1. Back on the Everett dock, the deputies counted their dead and wounded.

Lieutenant C. O. Curtis and Deputy Jefferson Beard were dead. Nineteen others were wounded. Sheriff McRae, one of the nineteen, had gunshot wounds in his left leg and heel. The battle had been confused. During its height one frightened deputy had fled from the warehouse at the end of the dock, wounded slightly in the ear. He took refuge among the bystanders on an adjacent dock, shouting hysterically, “They’re crazy in there, firing in all directions!”Portland Oregonian, Apr. 20,1917, p. 6.

When the Verona reached Seattle, scores of policemen swarmed aboard to take the dead to the morgue, separate the wounded for medical care, and arrest all the other Wobblies. At the jail, police proceeded to sift out the most culpable conspirators from the crowd of over two hundred prisoners. A private detective, for many weeks a paid violence-advocating agent provocateur among the Wobblies, from a darkened cell picked out seventy-four ringleaders as the crowd of prisoners filed past.Seattle Union Record, Apr. 28, 1917, p. 4. The state charged these men with murder, for “having assisted, counseled, aided and abetted and encouraged some unknown person to kill Jefferson Beard on the fifth of November, 1916.”Lowell S. Hawley and Ralph Bushnell Potts, Counsel for the Damned:A Biography of George Francis Vanderveer (Philadelphia, 1953), p. 193. The initial, informal charge to the press had mentioned both of the dead deputies, Curtis as well as Beard, but the District Attorney requested that the killing of C. 0. Curtis be dropped from the formal charge. The prosecution thereafter never referred to Curtis. The I.W.W. requested a new coroner’s inquest, claimed that the state had dropped the name of Curtis from the charge because Curtis had been killed by a rifle bullet and only the deputies had been using rifles.Seattle Union Record, Nov. 11, 1916, p. 5; Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 141. The I.W.W. also claimed that it could produce several witnesses to testify that Curtis on his death bed had actually identified the fellow deputy who had shot him. Solidarity, Jan. 13, 1917, p. 1. If the prosecution in the face of these facts tacitly admitted the innocence of the I.W.W. in the death of Curtis, the I.W.W. asked, could not Beard have met his death in the same way?

After the firing had ceased on November 5, and after the Verona had disappeared from the harbor, a stunned quiet descended upon Everett. The temper of some of the people, seething since the episode at Beverly Park, now boiled over into angry condemnation of McRae’s regime. The deputies had gone much too far. Seattle Union Record, Nov. 11, 1916, p. 5. Some citizens growled openly to their neighbors that the I.W.W. should come back again in force and clean up the town. The I.W.W., perhaps with a certain amount of romantic wishful thinking, reported the mayor to be suffering from deep remorse. He had visited the International Shingle Weavers picket line, a rifle tucked under his arms, and had urged the pickets to separate as a precaution against possible sniping from the deputies. He also publicly donned a hair shirt by speaking on the corner of Hewitt and Wetmore to a street meeting, disclaiming any responsibility for the bloodshed at the city dock and attacking the Commercial Club as the culprit. Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 99; letter from Mayor D. O. Merrill to Herbert Mahler, Aug. 28, 1916, Labor History Archives, Wayne State Univ. Library, Accession No. 130, Series 7, Box 3. But apparently his disclaimer, even in these perhaps less-than-trustworthy I.W.W. reports, did not represent real contrition. Two hours after the battle at the dock, three Everett Wobblies came out from their hiding and with typical bravado or itch for martyrdom, delivered speeches from the corner of Hewitt and Wetmore Streets. Deputies arrested them immediately. The I.W.W. account claims that the mayor visited the three prisoners in the jail that same evening and personally inflicted a cruel “third degree” upon one of them, crushing the prisoner’s fingers under the legs of the cot and beating his head against the cement floor.Seattle Union Record, Nov. 18, 1916, p. 1.

Within a few days after the climactic fury at the dock, Wobblies organized to defend their comrades in jail and to make telling propaganda out of their “martyrdoms.” A defense committee in Seattle solicited funds for the legal defense, and Herb Mahler, the chairman of the committee, sent urgent appeals to most of the liberal and radical periodicals all over the nation. Charles Ashleigh, an English hobo-intellectual and poet, appropriately enough made the appeal to the radical and bohemian Masses magazine of Max Eastman in Greenwich Village.Seattle Union Record, Nov. 18, 1916, p. 1. In Seattle and Everett, the committee sponsored numerous “mass meetings” to arouse popular indignation and to stiffen the morale of all radical supporters. In Seattle, the I.W.W. committee leased the giant Dreamland Rink for a series of protest meetings. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn led one of the enthusiastic meetings there in January 1917, before the trial began.Industrial Worker, Jan. 27, 1917, p. 1.

The I.W.W. also accepted material and moral support from unexpected sources it did not have to cultivate with mass meetings and revivalistic speeches. Mayor Gill of Seattle, back in office at the head of a “reform” administration, infuriated conservatives and surprised even the Wobblies by making a public statementSeattle Union Record, Nov. 11, 1916, p. 1. exonerating the Wobbly prisoners and condemning the Everett officials:

In the final analysis it will be found that these cowards in Everett who, without right or justification, shot into the crowd on the boat, were murderers and not the I.W.W.s . . . McRae and his deputies had no legal right to tell the I.W.W.s or any one else that they could not land there. When the sheriff put his hand on the butt of his gun and told them they could not land, he fired the first shot, in the eyes of the law, and the I.W.W.s can claim that they shot in self-defense . . . If I were one of the party of forty I.W.W.s who was almost beaten to death by 300 citizens of Everett without being able to defend myself, I probably would have armed myself if I intended to visit Everett again . . . Seattle Daily Times, Nov. 8, 1916, p. 1.

Gill also sent a supply of tobacco to the Wobblies in the Seattle jail and ordered three hundred blankets distributed to them. His political enemies, preparing another indictment of him and his administration as in 1912, took this shameless defense of the hapless Wobblies as just another evidence of his depravity. In the popular amalgam, corrupt politics, vice, and skid road and its denizens were all mixed up together, as to a degree they were.

The Seattle Central Labor Council volunteered practical aid to the defense by setting aside a hundred dollars for the I.W.W. defense committee and even forming its own ad hoc defense committee to help the prisoners;Seattle Union Record, Nov. 11, 1916, p. 1."; note[67]="67 Lowell S. Hawley and Ralph Bushnell Potts, Counsel for the Damned:A Biography of George Francis Vanderveer (Philadelphia, 1953), p. 191-192. the AFL in Seattle was considerably more to the left than the organization in most other cities of the nation. The authorities at Seattle eventually returned the seventy-four Wobblies to the Snohomish County jail in Everett, where they remained throughout the trial. The chief defense attorney, Fred H. Moore of Los Angeles, a famous and colorful defender of Wobblies and radicals on other occasions, secured a change of venue to King County in Seattle. George F. Vanderveer, a Seattle lawyer and former prosecuting attorney of King County, joined the defense and helped secure the change of venue. The two attorneys agreed to a division of labor. Moore, much the more famous of the two at this time, would handle the “class war” or propaganda side of the defense, the part of the trial dearest to the heart of the Wobblies themselves. In fact, to facilitate this part of the defense, the I.W.W. actually forwarded I.W.W. literature anonymously to the prosecution attorneys to make sure it would be introduced into the case. Vanderveer would handle the cross-examination of prosecution witnesses and the more prosaic job of trying to find and present evidence to prove their client innocent.Lowell S. Hawley and Ralph Bushnell Potts, Counsel for the Damned:A Biography of George Francis Vanderveer (Philadelphia, 1953), p. 191-192.

On March 5, 1917, the state brought Thomas Tracy, the first of the seventy-four Wobblies, to trial before Superior Court Judge J. T. Ronald. Two months later, when public interest in the case had been dissipated by the increased international tensions and the American declaration of war, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The weary prosecution thereupon released the other seventy-three prisoners awaiting trial in the jail in Everett. Tracy’s trial alone had cost the state over twenty thousand dollars, and the cases against the other Wobblies were weaker than the case against Tracy.Anna Louise Strong, 'The Verdict at Everett,' Survey (May 19, 1917), p. 38. The local Everett newspaper is indeed a worthless source on the I.W.W. troubles. For a brief period, after the acquittal but before the release of the seventy-three prisoners, the I.W.W. worried. Perhaps, Wobblies feared, the state intended to go through with the separate trials, relentlessly draining the I.W.W. of funds and destroying the organization by a kind of adaptation of the free-speech tactic of attrition.Lowell S. Hawley and Ralph Bushnell Potts, Counsel for the Damned:A Biography of George Francis Vanderveer (Philadelphia, 1953), p. 211-212.

The state presented two somewhat disparate cases to the jury: one against the I.W.W. as an organization of criminal conspirators, the other against the individual defendant, Tracy. The division of labor in the defense between Moore and Vanderveer more or less matched the divided case presented by the prosecution. Moore defended the I.W.W.; Vanderveer defended Tracy. Perhaps to suggest the homicidal intent of the defendant, the state presented voluminous evidence to show that the I.W.W. was a society of conspirators advocating violence and sabotage. The jury heard many samples of I.W.W. propaganda from organizational newspapers and pamphlets.Portland Oregonian, Mar. 16, 1917, p. 6. Because the trial ended in an acquittal and was, of course, not appealed, the official court records are very rudimentary, including nothing more than the subpoena lists and the venue list. In August 1916, for example, The Industrial Workerhad published the following ambiguous but ominous threat: “Everett needs a lesson. Its mayor needs a lesson, and the chief of police will be educated. . . . The working class must win and through the use of tactics that will be extremely unpleasant to the city of Everett and enjoyable to the I.W.W., the fight can be won quickly.”Industrial Worker, Aug. 26,1916, p. 1.

A cartoon on the front page of the Industrial Worker, also presented to the jury for its consideration, pictured a crouched cat, the symbol for sabotage. The text underneath the picture read: “Sabotage is the weapon of the disinherited. It is a shield of defense and protection against the usuries and vexations of the bosses.” Over the picture was a further suggestion: “A good hint; use it!”Industrial Worker, Sept. 23, 1916, p. 1. A few weeks later, the Industrial Worker published another cartoon with a similar message. The cartoon pictured a wasps’ nest with a stream of wasps issuing from it and pursuing a man labeled “Everett.” The explanation read: “New tactics have been used and are being used as the workers have realized that saying, ’Here is my head, hit it,’ can no longer win fights for the movement. Industrial Worker, Oct. 7, 1916, p. 1. Even while the trial was in progress, the prosecution could have used more current examples of I.W.W. incitation to sabotage. The Chicago I.W.W. newspaper, Solidarity, printed a threatening cartoon that pictured a group of black cats intently watching a mouse hole labeled “Everett trial.” Solidarity, Mar. 10, 1917, p. 1.

In its indictment of the I.W.W. as a criminal organization, the state examined witnesses who testified that Wobbly street-corner agitators had advocated sabotage and violence; others, including the mayor, who testified to an increase in the number of suspected cases of arson in Everett during the free-speech fight; and still others, who testified that the Wobblies on board the Verona had been heavily armed and grimly determined to pay back the brutality of police and deputies. Conservative publicists outside the court room also presented a similar case against the I.W.W. in newspapers and magazines. Wobbly orators had been “crude, vulgar, often foul-mouthed but always effective.” These “insolently grinning, defiant agitators” had deliberately provoked the violence by insisting upon speaking at the proscribed street corner when they had “twenty square miles upon which to indulge in free speech without let or hindrance.”W. V. Woehlke, 'The I.W.W. and the Golden Rule,' Sunset (Feb. 1917), p. 17-18. This article is perhaps the best non-I.W.W. account of the Everett troubles, an account that admits most of what can be found in Walker C. Smith’s I.W.W. pamphlet but tries to explain and to justify the violence against the Wobblies. Wobblies, of course, had been permitted to use the city park without interference during the meeting of Everett citizens that had questioned Sheriff McRae and other officials. But the Wobblies’ intransigence angered the Everett businessmen, already furious from the International Shingle Weavers strike, and they had justifiably “drifted into a dangerous state of mind.”W. V. Woehlke, 'The I.W.W. and the Golden Rule,' Sunset (Feb. 1917), p. 67.

Vanderveer cross-examined the early prosecution witnesses vigorously. After Owen Clay, a special deputy and prosecution witness, had been led through his story, Vanderveer asked him only two simple questions on cross-examination:

“Who shot Jeff Beard?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you do it?“
“I don’t know,” the witness replied in an agonized whisper.

Dramatically, Vanderveer had impressed upon the jurors all the confusion, the drunken cross-fire, the irresponsibility on the city dock as the Verona tied up.Lowell S. Hawley and Ralph Bushnell Potts, Counsel for the Damned: A Biography of George Francis Vanderveer (Philadelphia, 1953), p. 1963.

After Mayor D. D. Merrill had testified to the spate of mysterious fires in Everett during the troubles, implying a campaign of I.W.W. arson, Vanderveer got him to admit that the record for fire losses in the city was, if anything, lower than for any other year in the city’s history and that only two fires could possibly be suspected as instances of arson. Vanderveer also managed to leave the impression with the jurors, in spite of prosecution objections, that even those two cases of possible arson were acts committed by the agents provocateur planted inside the I.W.W. by its enemies. Repeatedly, Vanderveer queried prosecution witnesses about the position of the Verona while it was tied to the bollard on the dock, getting into the record the prosecution’s consensus on the precise position of the boat. The Verona apparently had been nosing the dock with its stern drifting vertically into the harbor.Lowell S. Hawley and Ralph Bushnell Potts, Counsel for the Damned:A Biography of George Francis Vanderveer (Philadelphia, 1953), p. 1963.

This testimony on the position of the ship, together with other testimony as to Tracy’s position on the ship, persuaded the jury of Tracy’s innocence. Although the prosecution’s case against the I.W.W. as a criminal organization bore little relevancy to the question of Thomas Tracy’s guilt or innocence, the defense, when its time came, devoted a great deal of time in an effort to refute it. Fred Moore, of course, put a brighter interpretation on many matters introduced by the prosecution with innuendo or outrage. Defense witnesses testified in rebuttal that Everett had not experienced any unusual numbers of fires. They testified to the moderation of I.W.W. speakers and pointed to their passive acquiescence to arrest.Seattle Union Record, May 7, 1917, p. 4. Indeed, the undisputed exhortations to violence had come from the Pinkerton spy, and Wobblies had quickly pulled him off the soapbox box themselves.Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 6, 1917, p. 7.

The defense also pointed to the open and unconspiratorial preparations in Seattle for the voyage of November 5, and also to the shock and panic on the deck of the Verona when the firing began, as evidence of the peaceful intentions of the invading Wobblies. As to the question of sabotage, the defense brought I.W.W. “experts” to the stand to lecture the jury on the theory and practice of sabotage or “direct action.” The secret wrecker with bomb and faggot portrayed by the prosecution was a bogey, these witnesses explained. Sabotage meant only the withdrawal of efficiency on the job or other innocent pranks to disconcert the boss.Walker C. Smith, The Everett Massacre (Chicago, n.d.) p. 179. This little book is one of the better I.W.W. pamphlets, tendentious and biased, of course, but argued with an impressive marshalling of facts. Interestingly enough, the 'facts' do not seem to be much in dispute among all the pro- or anti-I.W.W. writers, only the 'interpretation.'

In this aggressive defense of the I.W.W. as an organization, Moore presented a parade of Wobbly witnesses beginning with Herbert Mahler, the secretary of the Seattle branch. Mahler, James Thompson, and others read the I.W.W. preamble to the jury and explained it. They lectured the court on the sectarian distinctions between De Leon and themselves or between Socialists and themselves. Then defense witnesses testified more specifically to the role of the Commercial Club in organizing the army of special deputies.Portland Oregonian, Mar. 11, 1917, p. 8. The defense dwelt at length on the Beverly Park beatings, implicating both Sheriff McRae and the Commercial Club. The defense also tried to associate the prosecution at the trial with the guilty plutocracy of Everett. Vanderveer tried to question H. D. Cooley, one of the associate prosecution attorneys, asking him in an insinuating tone who had retained his services. The court sustained an objection to the question just as Vanderveer had anticipated, Actually, Attorney Cooley had been retained by Snohomish County in a quite ordinary way, but the question and the objection left the impression that the “lumber trust” had hired him. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Apr. 21, 1917, p. 2; Lowell S. Hawley and Ralph Bushnell Potts, Counsel for the Damned:A Biography of George Francis Vanderveer (Philadelphia, 1953), p. 204.

The prosecution tried vigorous cross-examination of the defense witnesses, aware that Vanderveer had scored most of his points for the defense with his implacable questioning of prosecution witnesses. On one occasion, the tactic backfired. Pressing a defense witness hard to get him to admit that in Seattle, while walking the decks of the Verona, he had found shells and cartridges, the witness finally blurted out to the horror of the court, “An eye! I found a human eye.”Lowell S. Hawley and Ralph Bushnell Potts, Counsel for the Damned:A Biography of George Francis Vanderveer (Philadelphia, 1953), p. 205.

Neither the portrait of the Wobbly delineated by the prosecution nor that presented by the defense seemed entirely real. The real Wobbly resembled neither the cunning villain of the prosecution nor the lovable Huck Finn of the defense. Those delineations of character, however, consumed time and public money without having much bearing on the question of the defendant’s guilt or innocence. The prosecution examined many witnesses, Sheriff McRae among them, who positively identified Tracy as the Wobbly who had fired the first shot from the cabin window of the Verona. The defense had little difficulty in demolishing this testimony, the crux of the case against Tracy. The court adjourned to the city dock of Everett and witnessed a reenactment of the battle of November 5. Vanderveer then demonstrated that, given the position of the Verona at the dock as described by almost all the prosecution witnesses, it was impossible for the witnesses to have seen Tracy or anyone else in the cabin window.Seattle Union Record, Apr. 21, 1917, p. 5. Vanderveer’s persistent cross-examination on this point undoubtedly won Tracy his freedom.

Reports of the trial soon found their way into the back pages of the newspapers, even in the papers of the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately for the I.W.W. propaganda aims, the defense began to present its case on April 2, 1917, the same day that President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to ask for a declaration of war. Hence, in spite of the regular mass meetings in Seattle, in spite of the propaganda of the conscientious defense committee, the long trial sank into anticlimax. As the defense and prosecution attorneys delineated their respective villains for the jury, the ruthless plutocrat and the furtive bomber and arsonist, the attention of the public wandered. But later, after it had assimilated the shock of war and had committed itself with crusading ardor to the war effort, the public returned to the Wobbly portrait drawn by the prosecution at the trial of Thomas Tracy and by many other like-minded artists. The conflict at Everett thus summed up a decade of agitation by the I.W.W. and helped to fix the image of an internal enemy within our embattled society.

Perhaps the more realistic picture emerging from the “massacre” and the trial is of a town torn between its dominating business establishment and its polar antagonists, the Wobbly outsiders. The townspeople, in between turned angrily against one side and then the other, really liking neither side, finding both sides threatening to their mythic “way of life,” but caught between “lumber barons” and a jacquerie. In the coming months, this “middle” would vacillate less and would fall in behind a violent crusade for “Americanism” against the I.W.W.

Footnotes