The Employers Show Their Fangs
That the Employers' Association was assiduously preparing its members for action suitable for the situation is evidenced by the following quotations from the official bulletin addressed privately "to Members of the Employers' Association of Washington". Note them carefully; they are published as "suggestions to members" over the written signature of George F. Russell Secretary-Manager:
June 25th, 1918.—"Provide a penalty for idleness ... Common labor now works a few days and then loafs to spend the money earned ... Active prosecution of the I.W.W. and other radicals."
April 30th, 1919.—"Keep business out of the control of radicals and I.W.W.... Overcome agitation ... Closer co-operation between employers and employees ... Suppress the agitators ... Hang the Bolshevists."
May 31st, 1919.—"If the agitators were taken care of we would have very little trouble ... Propaganda to counteract radicals and overcome agitation ... Put the I.W.W. in jail."
June 30th, 1919.—"Make some of the Seattle papers print the truth ... Get rid of the I.W.W.'s."
July 2nd, 1919.—"Educate along the line of the three R's and the golden rule, economy and self denial ... Import Japanese labor ... Import Chinese labor."
July 31st, 1919.—"Deport about ten Russians in this community."
August 31st, 1919.—"Personal contact between employer and employee, stringent treatment of the I.W.W."
October 15th, 1919. "There are many I.W.W.s—mostly in the logging camps...."
October 31st, 1919.—(A little over a week before the Centralia raid.) "Run your business or quit ... Business men and tax payers of Vancouver, Washington, have organized the Loyal Citizen's Protective League; opposed to Bolsheviki and the Soviet form of government and in favor of the open shop ... Jail the radicals and deport them ... Since the armistice these radicals have started in again. ONLY TWO COMMUNITIES IN WASHINGTON ALLOW I.W.W. HEADQUARTERS." (!!!)
December 31st, 1919. "Get rid of all the I.W.W. and all other un-American organizations ... Deport the radicals or use the rope as at Centralia. Until we get rid of the I.W.W. and radicals we don't expect to do much in this country ... Keep cleaning up on the I.W.W.... Don't let it die down ... Keep up public sentiment..."
These few choice significant morsels of one hundred percent (on the dollar) Americanism are quoted almost at random from the private bulletins of the officials of the Iron Heel in the state of Washington. Here you can read their sentiments in their own words; you can see how dupes and hirelings were coached to perpetrate the crime of Centralia, and as many other similar crimes as they could get away with. Needless to say these illuminating lines were not intended for the perusal of the working class. But now that we have obtained them and placed them before your eyes you can draw your own conclusion. There are many, many more records germane to this case that we would like to place before you, but the Oligarchy has closed its steel jaws upon them and they are at present inaccessible. Men are still afraid to tell the truth in Centralia. Some day the workers may learn the whole truth about the inside workings of the Centralia conspiracy. Be that as it may the business interests of the Northwest lumber country stand bloody handed and doubly damned, black with guilt and foul with crime; convicted before the bar of public opinion, by their own statements and their own acts.
Failure and Desperation
Let us see for a moment how the conspiracy of the lumber barons operated to achieve the unlawful ends for which it was designed. Let us see how they were driven by their own failure at intrigue to adopt methods so brutal that they would have disgraced the head-hunter; how they tried to gain with murder-lust what they had failed to gain lawfully and with public approval.
The campaign of lies and slander inaugurated by their private newspapers failed to convince the workers of the undesirability of labor organization. In spite of the armies of editors and news-whelps assembled to its aid, it served only to lash to a murderous frenzy the low instincts of the anti-labor elements in the community. The campaign of legal repression, admittedly instituted by the Employers' Association, failed also in spite of the fact that all the machinery of the state from dog-catcher down to Governor was at its beck and call on all occasions and for all purposes.
Having made a mess of things with these methods the lumber barons threw all scruples to the winds—if they ever had any—threw aside all pretension of living within the law. They started out, mad-dog like, to rent, wreck and destroy the last vestige of labor organization from the woods of the Northwest, and furthermore, to hunt down union men and martyrize them with the club, the gun, the rope and the courthouse.
It was to cover up their own crimes that the heartless beasts of Big Business beat the tom-toms of the press in order to lash the "patriotism" of their dupes and hirelings into hysteria. It was to hide their own infamy that the loathsome war dance was started that developed perceptibly from uncomprehending belligerency into the lawless tumult of mobs, raids and lynching! And it will be an everlasting blot upon the fair name of America that they were permitted to do so.
The Centralia tragedy was the culmination of a long series of unpunished atrocities against labor. What is expected of men who have been treated as these men were treated and who were denied redress or protection under the law? Every worker in the Northwest knows about the wrongs lumberworkers have endured—they are matters of common knowledge. It was common knowledge in Centralia and adjoining towns that the I.W.W. hall was to be raided on Armistice Day. Yet eight loggers have been sentenced from twenty-five to forty years in prison for the crime of defending themselves from the mob that set out to murder them! But let us see how the conspiracy was operating in Centralia to make the Armistice Day tragedy inevitable.
The Maelstrom—And Four Men
Centralia was fast becoming the vortex of the conspiracy that was rushing to its inevitable conclusion. Event followed event in rapid succession, straws indicating the main current of the flood tide of labor-hatred. The Commercial Club was seething with intrigue like the court of old France under Catherine de Medici; only this time it was Industrial Unionism instead of Huguenots who were being Marked for a new night of St. Bartholomew. The heresy to be uprooted was belief in industrial instead of religious freedom; but the stake and the gibbet were awaiting the New Idea just as they had the old.
The actions of the lumber interests were now but thinly veiled and their evil purpose all too manifest. The connection between the Employers' Association of the state and its local representatives in Centralia had become unmistakably evident. And behind these loomed the gigantic silhouette of the Employers' Association of the nation—the colossal "invisible government"—more powerful at times than the Government itself. More and more stood out the naked brutal fact that the purpose of all this plotting was to drive the union loggers from the city and to destroy their hall. The names of the men actively interested in this movement came to light in spite of strenuous efforts to keep them obscured. Four of these stand out prominently in the light of the tragedy that followed: George F. Russell, F.B. Hubbard, William Scales and last, but not least, Warren O. Grimm.
The first named, George F. Russell, is a hired Manager for the Washington Employers' Association, whose membership employs between 75,000 and 80,000 workers in the state. Russell is known to be a reactionary of the most pronounced type. He is an avowed union smasher and a staunch upholder of the open shop principle, which is widely advertised as the "American plan" in Washington. Incidentally he is an advocate of the scheme to import Chinese and Japanese cooley labor as a solution of the "high wage and arrogant unionism" problem.
F. B. Hubbard, is a small-bore Russell, differing from his chief only in that his labor hatred is more fanatical and less discreet. Hubbard was hard hit by the strike in 1917 which fact has evidently won him the significant title of "a vicious little anti-labor reptile." He is the man who helped to raid the 1918 Union Hall in Centralia and who appropriated for himself the stolen desk of the Union Secretary. His nephew Dale Hubbard was shot while trying to lynch Wesley Everest.
William Scales is a Centralia business man and a virulent sycophant. He is a parochial replica of the two persons mentioned above. Scales was in the Quartermaster's Department down on the border during the trouble with Mexico. Because he was making too much money out of Uncle Sam's groceries, he was relieved of his duties quite suddenly and discharged from the service. He was fortunate in making France instead of Fort Leavenworth, however, and upon his return, became an ardent proselyte of Russell and Hubbard and their worthy cause. Also he continued in the grocery business.
Warren O. Grimm came from a good family and was a small town aristocrat. His brother is city attorney at Centralia. Grimm was a lawyer, a college athlete and a social lion. He had been with the American forces in Siberia and his chief bid for distinction was a noisy dislike for the Worker's & Peasants' Republic of Russia, and the I.W.W. which he termed the "American Bolsheviki". During the 1918 raid on the Centralia hall Grimm is said to have been dancing around "like a whirling dervish" and waving the American flag while the work of destruction was going on. Afterwards he became prominent in the American Legion and was the chief "cat's paw" for the lumber interests who were capitalizing the uniform to gain their own unholy ends. Personally he was a clean-cut modern young man.
Shadows Cast Before
On June 26th, the following notice appeared conspicuously on the first page of the Centralia Hub:
Meeting of Business Men Called for Friday Evening
"Business men and property owners of Centralia are urged to attend a meeting tomorrow in the Chamber of Commerce rooms to meet the officers of the Employers' Association of the state to discuss ways and means of bettering the conditions which now confront the business and property interests of the state. George F. Russell, Secretary-Manager, says in his note to business men: 'We need your advice and your co-operation in support of the movement for the defense of property and property rights. It is the most important question before the public today.'"
At this meeting Mr. Russell dwelt on the statement that the "radicals" were better organized than the property interests. Also he pointed out the need of a special organization to protect "rights of property" from the encroachments of all "foes of the government". The Non-Partisan League, the Triple Alliance and the A.F. of L. were duly condemned. The speaker then launched out into a long tirade against the Industrial Workers of the World which was characterized as the most dangerous organization in America and the one most necessary for "good citizens" to crush. Needless to state the address was chock full of 100% Americanism. It amply made up in forcefulness anything it lacked in logic.
So the "Citizens' Protective League" of Centralia was born. From the first it was a law unto itself—murder lust wearing the smirk of respectability—Judge Lynch dressed in a business suit. The advent of this infamous league marks the final ascendancy of terrorism over the Constitution in the city of Centralia. The only things still needed were a secret committee, a coil of rope and an opportunity.
F.B. Hubbard was the man selected to pull off the "rough stuff" and at the same time keep the odium of crime from smirching the fair names of the conspirators. He was told to "perfect his own organization". Hubbard was eminently fitted for his position by reason of his intense labor-hatred and his aptitude for intrigue.
The following day the Centralia Daily Chronicle carried the following significant news item:
BUSINESS MEN OF COUNTY ORGANIZE
Representatives From Many Communities Attend Meeting in Chamber of Commerce, Presided Over Secretary of Employers' Association.
"The labor situation was thoroughly discussed this afternoon at a meeting held in the local Chamber of Commerce which was attended by representative business men from various parts of Lewis County.
"George F. Russell, Secretary of the Employers' Association, of Washington, presided at the meeting.
"A temporary organization was effected with F. B. Hubbard, President of the Eastern Railway & Lumber Company, as chairman. He was empowered to perfect his own organization. A similar meeting will be held in Chehalis in connection with the noon luncheon of the Citizens' Club on that day."
The city of Centralia became alive with gossip and speculation about this new move on the part of the employers. Everybody knew that the whole thing centered around the detested hall of the Union loggers. Curiosity seekers began to come In from all parts of the county to have a peep at this hall before it was wrecked. Business men were known to drive their friends from the new to the old hall in order to show what the former would look like in a short time. People in Centralia generally knew for a certainty that the present hall would go the way of its predecessor. It was just a question now as to the time and circumstances of the event.
Warren O. Grimm had done his bit to work up sentiment against the union loggers and their hall. Only a month previously—on Labor Day, 1919,—he had delivered a "labor" speech that was received with great enthusiasm by a local clique of business men. Posing as an authority on Bolshevism on account of his Siberian service Grimm had elaborated on the dangers of this pernicious doctrine. With a great deal of dramatic emphasis he had urged his audience to beware of the sinister influence of "the American Bolsheviki—the Industrial Workers of the World."
A few days before the hall was raided Elmer Smith called at Grimm's office on legal business. Grimm asked him, by the way, what he thought of his Labor Day speech. Smith replied that he thought it was "rotten" and that he couldn't agree with Grimm's anti-labor conception of Americanism. Smith pointed to the deportation of Tom Lassiter as an example of the "Americanism" he considered disgraceful. He said also that he thought free speech was one of the fundamental rights of all citizens.
"I can't agree with you," replied Grimm. "That's the proper way to treat such a fellow."
The New Black Hundred
On October 19th the Centralia Hub published an item headed "Employers Called to Discuss Handling of 'Wobbly' Problem." This article urges all employers to attend, states that the meeting will be held in the Elk's Club and mentioned the wrecking of the Union Hall in 1918. On the following day, October 20th, three weeks before the shooting, this meeting was held at the hall of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks—the now famous Elks' Club of Centralia. The avowed purpose of this meeting was to "deal with the I.W.W. problem." The chairman was William Scales, at that time Commander of the Centralia Post of the American Legion. The I.W.W. Hall was the chief topic of discussion. F.B. Hubbard opened up by saying that the I.W.W. was a menace and should be driven out of town. Chief of Police Hughes, however, cautioned them against such a course. He is reported to have said that "the I.W.W. is doing nothing wrong in Centralia—is not violating any law—and you have no right to drive them out of town in this manner." The Chief of Police then proceeded to tell the audience that he had taken up the matter of legally evicting the industrialists with City Attorney C.E. Grimm, a brother of Warren O. Grimm, who is said to have told them, "Gentlemen, there is no law by which you can drive the I.W.W. out of town." City Commissioner Saunders and County Attorney Allen had spoken to the same effect. The latter, Allen, had gone over the literature of the organization with regard to violence and destruction and had voluntarily dismissed a "criminal syndicalist" case without trial for want of evidence.
Hubbard was furious at this turn of affairs and shouted to Chief of Police Hughes: "It's a damned outrage that these men should be permitted to remain in town! Law or no law, if I were Chief of Police they wouldn't stay here twenty-four hours."
"I'm not in favor of raiding the hall myself," said Scales. "But I'm certain that if anybody else wants to raid the I.W.W. Hall there is no jury in the land will ever convict them."
After considerable discussion the meeting started to elect a committee to deal with the situation. First of all an effort was made to get a workingman elected as a member to help camouflage its very evident character and make people believe that "honest labor" was also desirous of ridding the town of the hated I.W.W. Hall. A switchman named Henry, a member of the Railway Brotherhood, was nominated. When he indignantly declined, Hubbard, red in the face with rage, called him a "damned skunk."
The Inner Circle
Scales then proceeded to tell the audience in general and the city officials in particular that he would himself appoint a committee "whose inner workings were secret," and see if he could not get around the matter that way. The officers of the League were then elected. The President was County Coroner David Livingstone, who afterwards helped to lynch Wesley Everest. Dr. Livingstone made his money from union miners. William Scales was vice president and Hubbard was treasurer. The secret committee was then appointed by Hubbard. As its name implies it was an underground affair, similar to the Black Hundreds of Old Russia. No record of any of its proceedings has ever come to light, but according to best available knowledge, Warren O. Grimm, Arthur McElfresh, B.S. Cromier and one or two others who figured prominently in the raid, were members. At all events on November 6th, five days before the shooting, Grimm was elected Commander of the Centralia Post of the American Legion, taking the place of Scales, who resigned in his favor. Scales evidently was of the opinion that a Siberian veteran and athlete was better fitted to lead the "shock troops" than a mere counter-jumper like himself. There is no doubt but the secret committee had its members well placed in positions of strategic importance for the coming event.
The following day the Tacoma News Tribune carried a significant editorial on the subject of the new organization:
"At Centralia a committee of citizens has been formed that takes the mind back to the old days of vigilance committees of the West, which did so much to force law-abiding citizenship upon certain lawless elements. It is called the Centralia Protective Association, and its object is to combat I.W.W. activities in that city and the surrounding country. It invites to membership all citizens who favor the enforcement of law and order ... It is high time for the people who do believe in the lawful and orderly conduct of affairs to take the upper hand ... Every city and town might, with profit, follow Centralia's example."
The reference to "law and orderly conduct of affairs" has taken a somewhat ironical twist, now that Centralia has shown the world what she considers such processes to be.
No less significant was an editorial appearing on the same Date in the Centralia Hub:
"If the city is left open to this menace, we will soon find ourselves at the mercy of an organized band of outlaws bent on destruction. What are we going to do about it?" And, referring to the organization of the "secret committee," the editorial stated: "It was decided that the inner workings of the organization were to be kept secret, to more effectively combat a body using similar tactics." The editorial reeks with lies; but it was necessary that the mob spirit should be kept at white heat at all times. Newspaper incitation has never been punished by law, yet it is directly responsible for more murders, lynching and raids than any other one force in America.
The Plot Leaks Out
By degrees the story of the infamous secret committee and its diabolical plan leaked out, adding positive confirmation to the many already credited rumors in circulation. Some of the newspapers quite openly hinted that the I.W.W. Hall was to be the object of the brewing storm. Chief of Police Hughes told a member of the Lewis County Trades Council, William T. Merriman by name, that the business men were organizing to raid the hall and drive its members out of town. Merriman, in turn carried the statement to many of his friends and brother unionists. Soon the prospective raid was the subject of open discussion,—over the breakfast toast, on the street corners, in the camps and mills—every place.
So common was the knowledge in fact that many of the craft organizations in Centralia began to discuss openly what they should do about it. They realized that the matter was one which concerned labor and many members wanted to protest and were urging their unions to try to do something. At the Lewis County Trades Council the subject was brought up for discussion by its president, L. F. Dickson. No way of helping the loggers was found, however, if they would so stubbornly try to keep open their headquarters in the face of such opposition. Harry Smith, a brother of Elmer Smith, the attorney, was a delegate at this meeting and reported to his brother the discussion that took place.
Secretary Britt Smith and the loggers at the Union hall were not by any means ignorant of the conspiracy being hatched against them. Day by day they had followed the development of the plot with breathless interest and not a little anxiety. They knew from bitter experience how union men were handled when they were trapped in their halls. But they would not entertain the idea of abandoning their principles and seeking personal safety. Every logging camp for miles around knew of the danger also. The loggers there had gone through the hell of the organization period and had felt the wrath of the lumber barons. Some of them felt that the statement of Secretary of Labor Wilson as to the attitude of the Industrial Workers of the World towards "overthrowing the government," and "violence and destruction" would discourage the terrorists from attempting such a flagrant and brutal injustice as the one contemplated.
Regarding the deportation of I.W.W.'s for belonging to an organization which advocates such things, Secretary of Labor Wilson had stated a short time previously: "An exhaustive study into the by-laws and practices of the I.W.W. has thus far failed to disclose anything that brings it within the class of organizations referred to."
Other of the loggers were buoyed up with the many victories won in the courts on "criminal syndicalism" charges and felt that the raid would be too "raw" a thing for the lumber interests even to consider. All were secure in the knowledge and assurance that they were violating no law in keeping open their hall. And they wanted that hall kept open.
Of course the question of what was to be done was discussed at their business meetings. When news reached them on November 4th of the contemplated "parade" they decided to publish a leaflet telling the Citizens of Centralia about the justice and legality of their position, the aims of their organization and the real reason for the intense hatred which the lumber trust harbored against them. Such leaflet was drawn up by Secretary Britt Smith and approved by the membership. It was an honest, outspoken appeal for public sympathy and support. This leaflet—word for word as it was printed and circulated in Centralia—is reprinted below:
To the Citizens of Centralia We Must Appeal
"To the law abiding citizens of Centralia and to the working class in general: We beg of you to read and carefully consider the following:
"The profiteering class of Centralia have of late been waving the flag of our country in an endeavor to incite the lawless element of our city to raid our hall and club us out of town. For this purpose they have inspired editorials in the Hub, falsely and viciously attacking the I.W.W., hoping to gain public approval for such revolting criminality. These profiteers are holding numerous secret meetings to that end, and covertly inviting returned service men to do their bidding. In this work they are ably assisted by the bankrupt lumber barons of southwest Washington who led the mob that looted and burned the I.W.W. hall a year ago.
"These criminal thugs call us a band of outlaws bent on destruction. This they do in an attempt to hide their own dastardly work in burning our hall and destroying our property. They say we are a menace; and we are a menace to all mobocrats and pilfering thieves. Never did the I.W.W. burn public or private halls, kidnap their fellow citizens, destroy their property, club their fellows out of town, bootleg or act in any ways as law-breakers. These patriotic profiteers throughout the country have falsely and with out any foundation whatever charged the I.W.W. with every crime on the statute books. For these alleged crimes thousands of us have been jailed in foul and filthy cells throughout this country, often without charge, for months and in some cases, years, and when released re-arrested and again thrust in jail to await a trial that is never called. The only convictions of the I.W.W. were those under the espionage law, where we were forced to trial before jurors, all of whom were at political and industrial enmity toward us, and in courts hostile to the working class. This same class of handpicked courts and juries also convicted many labor leaders, socialists, non-partisans, pacifists, guilty of no crime save that of loyalty to the working class.
"By such courts Jesus the Carpenter was slaughtered upon the charge that 'he stirreth up the people.' Only last month 25 I.W.W. were indicted in Seattle as strike leaders, belonging to an unlawful organization, attempting to overthrow the government and other vile things under the syndicalist law passed by the last legislature. To exterminate the 'wobbly' both the court and jury have the lie to every charge. The court held them a lawful organization and their literature was not disloyal nor inciting to violence, though the government had combed the country from Chicago to Seattle for witnesses, and used every pamphlet taken from their hall in government raids.
"In Spokane 13 members were indicted in the Superior Court for wearing the I.W.W. button and displaying their emblem. The jury unanimously acquitted them and the court held it no crime.
"In test cases last month both in the Seattle and Everett Superior Courts, the presiding judge declared the police had no authority in law to close their halls and the padlocks were ordered off and the halls opened.
"Many I.W.W. in and around Centralia went to France and fought and bled for the democracy they never secured. They came home to be threatened with mob violence by the law and order outfit that pilfered every nickel possible from their mothers and fathers while they were fighting in the trenches in the thickest of the fray.
"Our only crime is solidarity, loyalty to the working class and justice to the oppressed."
"Let the Men in Uniform Do It"
On November 6th, the Centralia Post of the American Legion met with a committee from the Chamber of Commerce to arrange for a parade-another "patriotic" parade. The first anniversary of the signing of the armistice was now but a few days distant and Centralia felt it incumbent upon herself to celebrate. Of course the matter was brought up rather circumspectly, but knowing smiles greeted the suggestion. One business man made a motion that the brave boys wear their uniforms. This was agreed upon.
The line of march was also discussed. As the union hall was a little off the customary parade route, Scales suggested that their course lead past the hall "in order to show them how strong we are." It was intimated that a command "eyes right" would be given as the legionaries and business men passed the union headquarters. This was merely a poor excuse of the secret committeemen to get the parade where they needed it. But many innocent men were lured into a "lynching bee" without knowing that they were being led to death by a hidden gang of broad-cloth conspirators who were plotting at murder. Lieutenant Cormier, who afterwards blew the whistle that was the signal for the raid, endorsed the proposal of Scales as did Grimm and McElfresh—all three of them secret committeemen.
Practically no other subject but the "parade" was discussed at this meeting. The success of the project was now assured for it had placed into the hands of the men who alone could arrange to "have the men in uniform do it." The men in uniform had done it once before and people knew what to expect.
The day following this meeting the Centralia Hub published an announcement of the coming event stating that the legionaires had "voted to wear uniforms." The line of march was published for the first time. Any doubts about the real purpose of the parade vanished when people read that the precession was to march from the City Park to Third street and Tower avenue and return. The union hall was on Tower between Second and Third streets, practically at the end of the line of march and plainly the objective of the demonstrators.
"Decent Labor"—Hands Off!
A short time after the shooting a virulent leaflet was issued by the Mayor's office stating that the "plot to kill had been laid two or three weeks before the tragedy," and that "the attack (of the loggers) was without justification or excuse." Both statements are bare faced lies. The meeting was held the 6th and the line of march made public of the 7th. The loggers could not possibly have planned a week and a half previously to shoot into a parade they knew nothing about and whose line of march had not yet been disclosed. It was proved in court that the union men armed themselves at the very last moment, after everything else had failed and they had been left helpless to face the alternative of being driven out of town or being lynched.
About this time eyewitnesses declare coils of rope were being purchased in a local hardware store. This rope is all cut up into little pieces now and most of it is dirty and stained. But many of Centralia's best families prize their souvenir highly. They say it brings good luck to a family.
A few days after the meeting just described William Dunning, vice president of the Lewis County Trades and Labor Assembly, met Warren Grimm on the street. Having fresh in his mind a recent talk about the raid in the Labor Council meetings, and being well aware of Grimm's standing and influence, Dunning broached the subject.
"We've been discussing the threatened raid on the I.W.W. hall," he said.
"Who are you, an I.W.W.?" asked Grimm.
Dunning replied stating that he was vice president of the Labor Assembly and proceeded to tell Grimm the feeling of his organization on the subject.
"Decent labor ought to keep its hands off," was Grimm's laconic reply.
The Sunday before the raid a public meeting was held in the union hall. About a hundred and fifty persons were in the audience, mostly working men and women of Centralia. A number of loggers were present, dressed in the invariable mackinaw, stagged overalls and caulked shoes. John Foss, an I.W.W. ship builder from Seattle, was the speaker. Secretary Britt Smith was chairman. Walking up and down the isle, selling the union's pamphlets and papers was a muscular and sun-burned young man with a rough, honest face and a pair of clear hazel eyes in which a smile was always twinkling. He wore a khaki army coat above stagged overalls of a slightly darker shade,—Wesley Everest, the ex-soldier who was shortly to be mutilated and lynched by the mob.
"I Hope to Jesus Nothing Happens"
The atmosphere of the meeting was already tainted with the Terror. Nerves were on edge. Every time any newcomer would enter the door the audience would look over their shoulders with apprehensive glances. At the conclusion of the meeting the loggers gathered around the secretary and asked him the latest news about the contemplated raid. For reply Britt Smith handed them copies of the leaflet "We Must Appeal" and told of the efforts that had been made and were being made to secure legal protection and to let the public know the real facts in the case.
"If they raid the hall again as they did in 1918 the boys won't stand for it," said a logger.
"If the law won't protect us we've got a right to protect ourselves," ventured another.
"I hope to Jesus nothing happens," replied the secretary.
Wesley Everest laid down his few unsold papers, rolled a brown paper cigarette and smiled enigmatically over the empty seats in the general direction of the new One Big Union label on the front window. His closest friends say he was never afraid of anything in all his life.
None of these men knew that loggers from nearby camps, having heard of the purchase of the coils of rope, were watching the hall night and day to see that "nothing happens."
The next day, after talking things over with Britt Smith, Mrs. McAllister, wife of the proprietor of the Roderick hotel from whom the loggers rented the hall, went to see Chief of Police Hughes. This is how she told of the interview:
"I got worried and I went to the Chief. I says to him 'Are you going to protect my property?' Hughes says, 'We'll do the best we can for you, but as far as the wobblies are concerned they wouldn't last fifteen minutes if the business men start after them. The business men don't want any wobblies in this town.'"
The day before the tragedy Elmer Smith dropped in at the Union hall to warn his clients that nothing could now stop the raid. "Defend it if you choose to do so," he told them. "The law gives you that right."
It was on the strength of this remark, overheard by the stool-pigeon, Morgan, and afterwards reported to the prosecution, that Elmer Smith was hailed to prison charged with murder in the first degree. His enemies had been certain all along that his incomprehensible delusion about the law being the same for the poor man as the rich would bring its own punishment. It did; there can no longer be any doubt on the subject.
The Scorpion's Sting
November 11th was a raw, gray day; the cold sunlight barely penetrating the mist that hung over the city and the distant tree-clad hills. The "parade" assembled at the City Park. Lieutenant Cormier was marshal. Warren Grimm was commander of the Centralia division. In a very short time he had the various bodies arranged to his satisfaction. At the head of the procession was the "two-fisted" Centralia bunch. This was followed by one from Chehalis, the county seat, and where the parade would logically have been held had its purpose been an honest one. Then came a few sailors and marines and a large body of well dressed gentlemen from the Elks. The school children who were to have marched did not appear. At the very end were a couple of dozen boy scouts and an automobile carrying pretty girls dressed in Red Cross uniforms. Evidently this parade, unlike the one of 1918, did not, like a scorpion, carry its sting in the rear. But wait until you read how cleverly this part of it had been arranged!
The marchers were unduly silent and those who knew nothing of the lawless plan of the secret committee felt somehow that something must be wrong. City Postmaster McCleary and a wicked-faced old man named Thompson were seen carrying coils of rope. Thompson is a veteran of the Civil War and a minister of God. On the witness stand he afterwards swore he picked up the rope from the street and was carrying it "as a joke." It turned out that the "joke" was on Wesley Everest.
"Be ready for the command 'eyes right' or 'eyes left' when we pass the 'reviewing stand'," Grimm told the platoon commanders just as the parade started.
The procession covered most of the line of march without incident. When the union hall was reached there was some craning of necks but no outburst of any kind. A few of the out-of-town paraders looked at the place curiously and several business men were seen pointing the hall out to their friends. There were some dark glances and a few long noses but no demonstration.
"When do we reach the reviewing stand?" asked a parader, named Joe Smith, of a man marching beside him.
"Hell, there ain't any reviewing stand," was the reply. "We're going to give the wobbly hall 'eyes right' on the way back."
The head of the columns reached Third avenue and halted. A command of 'about face' was given and the procession again started to march past the union hall going in the opposite direction. The loggers inside felt greatly relieved as they saw the crowd once more headed for the city. But the Centralia and Chehalis contingents, that had headed the parade, was now in the rear—just where the "scorpion sting" of the 1918 parade had been located! The danger was not yet over.
"Let's go! At 'em, boys!"
The Chehalis division had marched past the hall and the Centralia division was just in front of it when a sharp command was given. The latter stopped squarely in front of the hall but the former continued to march. Lieutenant Cormier of the secret committee was riding between the two contingents on a bay horse. Suddenly he placed his fingers to his mouth and gave a shrill whistle. Immediately there was a hoarse cry of "Let's go-o-o! At 'em, boys!" About sixty feet separated the two contingents at this time, the Chehalis men still continuing the march. Cromier spurred his horse and overtook them. "Aren't you boys in on this?" he shouted.
At the words "Let's go," the paraders from both ends and the middle of the Centralia contingent broke ranks and started on the run for the union headquarters. A crowd of soldiers surged against the door. There was a crashing of glass and a splintering of wood as the door gave way. A few of the marauders had actually forced their way into the hall. Then there was a shot, three more shots ... and a small volley. From Seminary hill and the Avalon hotel rifles began to crack.
The mob stopped suddenly, astounded at the unexpected opposition. Out of hundreds of halls that had been raided during the past two years this was the first time the union men had attempted to defend themselves. It had evidently been planned to stampede the entire contingent into the attack by having the secret committeemen take the lead from both ends and the middle. But before this could happen the crowd, frightened at the shots started to scurry for cover. Two men were seen carrying the limp figure of a soldier from the door of the hall. When the volley started they dropped it and ran. The soldier was a handsome young man, named Arthur McElfresh. He was left lying in front of the hall with his feet on the curb and his head in the gutter. The whole thing had been a matter of seconds.
"I Had No Business Being There"
Several men had been wounded. A pool of blood was widening in front of the doorway. A big man in officer's uniform was seen to stagger away bent almost double and holding his hands over his abdomen. "My God, I'm shot!" he had cried to the soldier beside him. This was Warren O. Grimm; the other was his friend, Frank Van Gilder. Grimm walked unassisted to the rear of a nearby soft drink place from whence he was taken to a hospital. He died a short time afterwards. Van Gilder swore on the witness stand that Grimm and himself were standing at the head of the columns of "unoffending paraders" when his friend was shot. He stated that Grimm had been his life-long friend but admitted that when his "life-long friend" received his mortal wound that he (Van Gilder), instead of acting like a hero in no man's land, had deserted him in precipitate haste. Too many eye witnesses had seen Grimm stagger wounded from the doorway of the hall to suit the prosecution. Van Gilder knew at which place Grimm had been shot but it was necessary that he be placed at a convenient distance from the hall. It is reported on good authority that Grimm, just before he died in the hospital, confessed to a person at his bedside: "It served me right, I had no business being there."
A workingman, John Patterson, had come down town on Armistice Day with his three small children to watch the parade. He was standing thirty-five feet from the door of the hall when the raid started. On the witness stand Patterson told of being pushed out of the way by the rush before the shooting began. He saw a couple of soldiers shot and saw Grimm stagger away from the doorway wounded in the abdomen. The testimony of Dr. Bickford at the corner's inquest under oath was as follows:
"I spoke up and said I would lead if enough would follow, but before I could take the lead there were many ahead of me. Someone next to me put his foot against the door and forced it open, after which a shower of bullets poured through the opening about us." Dr. Bickford is an A.E.F. man and one of the very few legionaires who dared to tell the truth about the shooting. The Centralia business element has since tried repeatedly to ruin him.
In trying to present the plea of self defense to the court, Defense attorney Vanderveer stated:
"There was a rush, men reached the hall under the command of Grimm, and yet counsel asks to have shown a specific overt act of Grimm before we can present the plea of self-defense. Would he have had the men wait with their lives at stake? The fact is that Grimm was there and in defending themselves these men shot. Grimm was killed because he was there. They could not wait. Your honor, self defense isn't much good after a man is dead."
The prosecution sought to make a point of the fact that the loggers had fired into a street in which there were innocent bystanders as well as paraders. But the fact remains that the only men hit by bullets were those who were in the forefront of the mob.
Through the Hall Window
How the raid looked from the inside of the hall can best be described from the viewpoint of one of the occupants, Bert Faulkner, a union logger and ex-service man. Faulkner described how he had dropped in at the hall on Armistice Day and stood watching the parade from the window. In words all the more startling for their sheer artlessness he told of the events which followed: First the grimacing faces of the business men, then as the soldiers returned, a muffled order, the smashing of the window, with the splinters of glass falling against the curtain, the crashing open of the door ... and the shots that "made his ears ring," and made him run for shelter to the rear of the hall, with the shoulder of his overcoat torn with a bullet. Then how he found himself on the back stairs covered with rifles and commanded to come down with his hands in the air. Finally how he was frisked to the city jail in an automobile with a business man standing over him armed with a piece of gas pipe.
Eugene Barnett gave a graphic description of the raid as he saw it from the office of the adjoining Roderick hotel. Barnett said he saw the line go past the hotel. The business men were ahead of the soldiers and as this detachment passed the hotel returning the soldiers still were going north. The business men were looking at the hall and pointing it out to the soldiers. Some of them had their thumbs to their noses and others were saying various things.
"When the soldiers turned and came past I saw a man on horseback ride past. He was giving orders which were repeated along the line by another. As the rider passed the hotel he gave a command and the second man said: 'Bunch up, men!'
"When this order came the men all rushed for the hall. I heard glass break. I heard a door slam. There was another sound and then shooting came. It started from inside the hall.
"As I saw these soldiers rush the hall I jumped up and threw off my coat. I thought there would be a fight and I was going to mix in. Then came the shooting, and I knew I had no business there."
Later Barnett went home and remained there until his arrest the next day.
In the union hall, besides Bert Faulkner, were Wesley Everest, Roy Becker, Britt Smith, Mike Sheehan, James McInerney and the "stool pigeon," these, with the exception of Faulkner and Everest, remained in the hall until the authorities came to place them under arrest. They had after the first furious rush of their assailants, taken refuge in a big and long disused ice box in the rear of the hall. Britt Smith was unarmed, his revolver being found afterwards, fully loaded, in his roll-top desk. After their arrest the loggers were taken to the city jail which was to be the scene of an inquisition unparalleled in the history of the United States. After this, as an additional punishment, they were compelled to face the farce of a "fair trial" in a capitalistic court.
But Destiny had decided to spare one man the bitter irony of judicial murder. Wesley Everest still had a pocket full of cartridges and a forty-four automatic that could speak for itself.
This soldier-lumberjack had done most of the shooting in the hall. He held off the mob until the very last moment, and, instead of seeking refuge in the refrigerator after the "paraders" had been dispersed, he ran out of the back door, reloading his pistol as he went. It is believed by many that Arthur McElfresh was killed inside the hall by a bullet fired by Everest.
In the yard at the rear of the hall the mob had already reorganized for an attack from that direction. Before anyone knew what had happened Everest had broken through their ranks and scaled the fence. "Don't follow me and I won't shoot," he called to the crowd and displaying the still smoking blue steel pistol in his hand.
"There goes the secretary!" yelled someone, as the logger started at top speed down the alley. The mob surged in pursuit, collapsing the board fence before them with sheer force of numbers. There was a rope in the crowd and the union secretary was the man they wanted. The chase that followed probably saved the life, not only of Britt Smith, but the remaining loggers in the hall as well.
Running pell-mell down the alley the mob gave a shout of exaltation as Everest slowed his pace and turned to face them. They stopped cold, however, as a number of quick shots rang out and bullets whistled and zipped around them. Everest turned in his tracks and was off again like a flash, reloading his pistol as he ran. The mob again resumed the pursuit. The logger ran through an open gateway, paused to turn and again fire at his pursuers; then he ran between two frame dwellings to the open street. When the mob again caught the trail they were evidently under the impression that the logger's ammunition was exhausted. At all events they took up the chase with redoubled energy. Some men in the mob had rifles and now and then a pot-shot would be taken at the fleeing figure. The marksmanship of both sides seems to have been poor for no one appears to have been injured.
This kind of running fight was kept up until Everest reached the river. Having kept off his pursuers thus far the boy started boldly for the comparative security of the opposite shore, splashing the water violently as he waded out into the stream. The mob was getting closer all the time. Suddenly Everest seemed to change his mind and began to retrace his steps to the shore. Here he stood dripping wet in the tangled grasses to await the arrival of the mob bent on his destruction. Everest had lost his hat and his wet hair stuck to his forehead. His gun was now so hot he could hardly hold it and the last of his ammunition was in the magazine. Eye witnesses declare his face still wore a quizzical, half bantering smile when the mob overtook him. With the pistol held loosely in his rough hand Everest stood at bay, ready to make a last stand for his life. Seeing him thus, and no doubt thinking his last bullet had been expended, the mob made a rush for its quarry.
"Stand back!" he shouted. "If there are 'bulls' in the crowd, I'll submit to arrest; otherwise lay off of me."
No attention was paid to his words. Everest shot from the hip four times,—then his gun stalled. A group of soldiers started to run in his direction. Everest was tugging at the gun with both hands. Raising it suddenly he took careful aim and fired. All the soldiers but one wavered and stopped. Everest fired twice, both bullets taking effect. Two more shots were fired almost point blank before the logger dropped his assailant at his feet. Then he tossed away the empty gun and the mob surged upon him.
The legionaire who had been shot was Dale Hubbard, a nephew of F.B. Hubbard, the lumber baron. He was a strong, brave and misguided young man—worthy of a nobler death.
"Let's Finish the Job!"
Everest attempted a fight with his fists but was overpowered and severely beaten. A number of men clamoured for immediate lynching, but saner council prevailed for the time and he was dragged through the streets towards the city jail. When the mob was half a block from this place the "hot heads" made another attempt to cheat the state executioner. A wave of fury seemed here to sweep the crowd. Men fought with one another for a chance to strike, kick or spit in the face of their victim. It was an orgy of hatred and blood-lust. Everest's arms were pinioned, blows, kicks and curses rained upon him from every side. One business man clawed strips of bleeding flesh from his face. A woman slapped his battered cheek with a well groomed hand. A soldier tried to lunge a hunting rifle at the helpless logger; the crowd was too thick. He bumped them aside with the butt of the gun to get room. Then he crashed the muzzle with full force into Everest's mouth. Teeth were broken and blood flowed profusely.
A rope appeared from somewhere. "Let's finish the job!" cried a voice. The rope was placed about the neck of the logger. "You haven't got guts enough to lynch a man in the daytime," was all he said.
At this juncture a woman brushed through the crowd and took the rope from Everest's neck. Looking into the distorted faces of the mob she cried indignantly, "You are curs and cowards to treat a man like that!"
There may be human beings in Centralia after all.
Wesley Everest was taken to the city jail and thrown without ceremony upon the cement floor of the "bull pen." In the surrounding cells were his comrades who had been arrested in the union hall. Here he lay in a wet heap, twitching with agony. A tiny bright stream of blood gathered at his side and trailed slowly along the floor. Only an occasional quivering moan escaped his torn lips as the hours slowly passed by.
"Here Is Your Man"
Later, at night, when it was quite dark, the lights of the jail were suddenly snapped off. At the same instant the entire city was plunged in darkness. A clamour of voices was heard beyond the walls. There was a hoarse shout as the panel of the outer door was smashed in. "Don't shoot, men," said the policemen on guard, "Here is your man." It was night now, and the business men had no further reason for not lynching the supposed secretary. Everest heard their approaching foot steps in the dark. He arose drunkenly to meet them. "Tell the boys I died for my class," he whispered brokenly to the union men in the cells. These were the last words he uttered in the jail. There were sounds of a short struggle and of many blows. Then a door slammed and, in a short time the lights were switched on. The darkened city was again illuminated at the same moment. Outside three luxurious automobiles were purring them selves out of sight in the darkness.
The only man who had protested the lynching at the last moment was William Scales. "Don't kill him, men," he is said to have begged of the mob. But it was too late. "If you don't go through with this you're an I.W.W. too," they told him. Scales could not calm the evil passions he had helped to arouse.
But how did it happen that the lights were turned out at such an opportune time? Could it be that city officials were working hand in glove with the lynch mob?
Defense Attorney Vanderveer offered to prove to the court that such was the case. He offered to prove this was a part of the greater conspiracy against the union loggers and their hall,—offered to prove it point by point from the very beginning. Incidentally Vanderveer offered to prove that Earl Craft, electrician in charge of the city lighting plant, had left the station at seven o'clock on Armistice day after securely locking the door; and that while Craft was away the lights of the city were turned off and Wesley Everest taken out and lynched. Furthermore, he offered to prove that when Craft returned, the lights were again turned on and the city electrician, his assistant and the Mayor of Centralia were in the building with the door again locked.
These offers were received by his honor with impassive judicial dignity, but the faces of the lumber trust attorneys were wreathed with smiles at the audacity of the suggestion. The corporation lawyers very politely registered their objections which the judge as politely sustained.
The Night of Horrors
After Everest had been taken away the jail became a nightmare—as full of horrors as a madman's dream. The mob howled around the walls until late in the night. Inside, a lumber trust lawyer and his official assistants were administering the "third degree" to the arrested loggers, to make them "confess." One at a time the men were taken to the torture chamber, and so terrible was the ordeal of this American Inquisition that some were almost broken—body and soul. Loren Roberts had the light in his brain snuffed out. Today he is a shuffling wreck. He is not interested in things any more. He is always looking around with horror-wide eyes, talking of "voices" and "wires" that no one but himself knows anything about. There is no telling what they did to the boy, but he signed the "confession." Its most incriminating statement must have contained too much truth for the prosecution. It was never used in court.
When interviewed by Frank Walklin of the Seattle Union Record the loggers told the story in their own way:
"I have heard tales of cruelty," said James McInerney, "but I believe what we boys went through on those nights can never be equaled. I thought it was my last night on earth and had reconciled myself to an early death of some kind, perhaps hanging. I was taken out once by the mob, and a rope was placed around my neck and thrown over a cross-bar or something.
"I waited for them to pull the rope. But they didn't. I heard voices in the mob say, 'That's not him,' and then I was put back into the jail."
John Hill Lamb, another defendant, related how several times a gun was poked through his cell window by some one who was aching to get a pot shot at him. Being ever watchful he hid under his bunk and close to the wall where the would-be murderer could not see him.
Britt Smith and Roy Becker told with bated breath about Everest as he lay half-dead in the corridor, in plain sight of the prisoners in the cells on both sides. The lights went out and Everest, unconscious and dying, was taken out. The men inside could hear the shouts of the mob diminishing as Everest was hurried to the Chehalis River bridge.
None of the prisoners was permitted to sleep that night; the fear of death was kept upon them constantly, the voices outside the cell windows telling of more lynchings to come. "Every time I heard a footstep or the clanking of keys," said Britt Smith, "I thought the mob was coming after more of us. I didn't sleep, couldn't sleep; all I could do was strain my ears for the mob I felt sure was coming." Ray Becker, listening at Britt's side, said: "Yes, that was one hell of a night." And the strain of that night seems to linger in their faces; probably it always will remain—the expression of a memory that can never be blotted out.
When asked if they felt safer when the soldiers arrived to guard the Centralia jail, there was a long pause, and finally the answer was "Yes." "But you must remember," offered one, "that they took 'em out at Tulsa from a supposedly guarded jail; and we couldn't know from where we were what was going on outside."
"For ten days we had no blankets," said Mike Sheehan. "It was cold weather, and we had to sleep uncovered on concrete floors. In those ten days I had no more than three hours sleep."
"The mob and those who came after the mob wouldn't let us sleep. They would come outside our windows and hurl curses at us, and tell each of us it would be our turn next. They brought in Wesley Everest and laid him on the corridor floor; he was bleeding from his ears and mouth and nose, was curled in a heap and groaning. And men outside and inside kept up the din. I tried to sleep; I was nearly mad; my temples kept pounding like sledge-hammers. I don't know how a man can go through all that and live—but we did."
All through the night the prisoners could hear the voices of the mob under their cell windows. "Well, we fixed that guy Everest all right," some one would say. "Now we'll get Roberts." Then the lights would snap off, there would be a shuffling, curses, a groan and the clanking of a steel door. All the while they were being urged to "come clean" with a statement that would clear the lumber trust of the crime and throw the blame onto its victims. McInerney's neck was scraped raw by the rope of the mob but he repeatedly told them to "go to hell!" Morgan, the stool-pigeon, escaped the torture by immediate acquiescence. Someone has since paid his fare To parts unknown. His "statement" didn't damage the defense.
The Human Fiend
But with the young logger who had been taken out into the night things were different. Wesley Everest was thrown, half unconscious, into the bottom of an automobile. The hands of the men who had dragged him there were sticky and red. Their pant legs were sodden from rubbing against the crumpled figure at their feet. Through the dark streets sped the three machines. The smooth asphalt became a rough road as the suburbs were reached. Then came a stretch of open country, with the Chehalis river bridge only a short distance ahead. The cars lurched over the uneven road with increasing speed, their headlights playing on each other or on the darkened highway.
Wesley Everest stirred uneasily. Raising himself slowly on one elbow he swung weakly with his free arm, striking one of his tormentors full in the face. The other occupants immediately seized him and bound his hands and feet with rope. It must have been the glancing blow from the fist of the logger that gave one of the gentlemen his fiendish inspiration. Reaching in his pocket he produced a razor. For a moment he fumbled over the now limp figure in the bottom of the car. His companions looked on with stolid acquiescence. Suddenly there was a piercing scream of pain. The figure gave a convulsive shudder of agony. After a moment Wesley Everest said in a weak voice: "For Christ's sake, men; shoot me—don't let me suffer like this."
On the way back to Centralia, after the parade rope had done Its deadly work, the gentlemen of the razor alighted from the car in front of a certain little building. He asked leave to wash his hands. They were as red as a butcher's. Great clots of blood were adhering to his sleeves. "That's about the nastiest job I ever had to do," was his casual remark as he washed himself in the cool clear water of the Washington hills. The name of this man is known to nearly everybody in Centralia. He is still at large.
The headlight of the foremost car was now playing on the slender steel framework of the Chehalis river bridge. This machine crossed over and stopped, the second one reached the middle of the bridge and stopped while the third came to a halt when it had barely touched the plankwork on the near side. The well-dressed occupants of the first and last cars alighted and proceeded at once to patrol both approaches to the bridge.
Lynching—An American Institution
Wesley Everest was dragged out of the middle machine. A rope was attached to a girder with the other end tied in a noose around his neck. His almost lifeless body was hauled to the side of the bridge. The headlights of two of the machines threw a white light over the horrible scene. Just as the lynchers let go of their victim the fingers of the half dead logger clung convulsively to the planking of the bridge. A business man stamped on them with a curse until the grip was broken. There was a swishing sound; then a sudden crunching jerk and the rope tied to the girder began to writhe and twist like a live thing. This lasted but a short time. The lynchers peered over the railing into the darkness. Then they slowly pulled up the dead body, attached a longer rope and repeated the performance. This did not seem to suit them either, so they again dragged the corpse through the railings and tied a still longer rope around the horribly broken neck of the dead logger. The business men were evidently enjoying their work, and besides, the more rope the more souvenirs for their friends, who would prize them highly.
This time the knot was tied by a young sailor. He knew how to tie a good knot and was proud of the fact. He boasted of the stunt afterwards to a man he thought as beastly as himself. In all probability he never dreamed he was talking for publication. But he was.
The rope had now been lengthened to about fifteen feet. The broken and gory body was kicked through the railing for the last time. The knot on the girder did not move any more. Then the lynchers returned to their luxurious cars and procured their rifles. A headlight flashed the dangling figure into ghastly relief. It was riddled with volley after volley. The man who fired the first shot boasted of the deed afterwards to a brother lodge member. He didn't know he was talking for publication either.
On the following morning the corpse was cut down by an unknown hand. It drifted away with the current. A few hours later Frank Christianson, a tool of the lumber trust from the Attorney General's office, arrived in Centralia. "We've got to get that body," this worthy official declared, "or the wobs will find it and raise hell over its condition."
The corpse was located after a search. It was not buried, however, but carted back to the city jail, there to be used as a terrible object lesson for the benefit of the incarcerated union men. The unrecognizable form was placed in a cell between two of the loggers who had loved the lynched boy as a comrade and a friend. Something must be done to make the union men admit that they, and not the lumber interests, had conspired to commit murder. This was the final act of ruthlessness. It was fruitful in results. One "confession," one Judas and one shattered mind were the result of their last deed of fiendish terrorism.
No undertaker could be found to bury Everest's body, so after two days it was dropped into a hole in the ground by four union loggers who had been arrested on suspicion and were released from jail for this purpose. The "burial" is supposed to have taken place in the new cemetery; the body being carried thither in an auto truck. The union loggers who really dug the grave declare, however, that the interment took place at a desolate spot "somewhere along a railroad track." Another body was seen, covered with ashes in a cart, being taken away for burial on the morning of the twelfth. There are persistent rumors that more than one man was lynched on the eve of Armistice day. A guard of heavily armed soldiers had charge of the funeral. The grave has since been obliterated. Rumor has it that the body has since been removed to Camp Lewis. No one seems to know why or when.
"As Comical as a Corner"
An informal inquest was held in the city jail. A man from Portland performed the autopsy, that is, he hung the body up by the heels and played a water hose on it. Everest was reported by the corner's jury to have met his death at the hands of parties unknown. It was here that Dr. Bickford let slip the statement about the hall being raided before the shooting started. This was the first inkling of truth to reach the public. Coroner Livingstone, in a jocular mood, reported the inquest to a meeting of gentlemen at the Elks' Club. In explaining the death of the union logger, Dr. Livingstone stated that Wesley Everest had broken out of jail, gone to the Chehalis river bridge and jumped off with a rope around his neck. Finding the rope too short he climbed back and fastened on a longer one; jumped off again, broke his neck and then shot himself full of holes. Livingstone's audience, appreciative of his tact and levity, laughed long and hearty. Business men still chuckle over the joke in Centralia. "As funny as a funeral" is no longer the stock saying in this humorous little town; "as comical as a coroner" is now the approved form.
Acting on the theory that "a strong offensive is the best defense," the terrorists took immediate steps to conceal all traces of their crime and to shift the blame onto the shoulders of their victims. The capitalist press did yeoman service in this cause by deluging the nation with a veritable avalanche of lies.
For days the district around Centralia and the city itself were at the mercy of a mob. The homes of all workers suspected of being sympathetic to Labor were spied upon or surrounded and entered without warrant. Doors were battered down at times, and women and children abused and insulted. Heavily armed posses were sent out in all directions in search of "reds." All roads were patrolled by armed business men in automobiles. A strict mail and wire censorship was established. It was the open season for "wobblies" and intimidation was the order of the day. The White Terror was supreme.
An Associated Press reporter was compelled to leave town hastily without bag or baggage because he inadvertently published Dr. Bickford's indiscreet remark about the starting of the trouble. Men and women did not dare to think, much less think aloud. Some of them in the district are still that way.
To Eugene Barnett's little home came a posse armed to the teeth. They asked for Barnett and were told by his young wife that he had gone up the hill with his rifle. Placing a bayonet to her breast they demanded entrance. The brave little woman refused to admit them until they had shown a warrant. Barnett surrendered when he had made sure he was to be arrested and not mobbed.
O.C. Bland, Bert Bland, John Lamb and Loren Roberts were also apprehended in due time. Two loggers, John Doe Davis and Ole Hanson, who were said to have also fired on the mob, have not yet been arrested. A vigorous search is still being made for them in all parts of the country. It is believed by many that one of these men was lynched like Everest on the night of November 11th.
Hypocrisy and Terror
The reign of terror was extended to cover the entire West coast. Over a thousand men and women were arrested in the state of Washington alone. Union halls were closed and kept that way. Labor papers were suppressed and many men have been given sentences of from one to fourteen years for having in their possession copies of periodicals which contained little else but the truth about the Centralia tragedy. The Seattle Union Record was temporarily closed down and its stock confiscated for daring to hint that there were two sides to the story. During all this time the capitalist press was given full rein to spread its infamous poison. The general public, denied the true version of the affair, was shuddering over its morning coffee at the thought of I.W.W. desperadoes shooting down unoffending paraders from ambush. But the lumber interests were chortling with glee and winking a suggestive eye at their high priced lawyers who were making ready for the prosecution. Jurymen were shortly to be drawn and things were "sitting pretty," as they say in poker.
Adding a characteristic touch to the rotten hypocrisy of the situation came a letter from Supreme Court Judge McIntosh to George Dysart, whose son was in command of a posse during the manhunt. This remarkable document is as follows:
Kenneth Mackintosh, Judge The Supreme Court, State of Washington Olympia.
George Dysart, Esq., Centralia, Wash. My Dear Dysart:
November 13, 1919.
I want to express to you my appreciation of the high character of citizenship displayed by the people of Centralia in their agonizing calamity. We are all shocked by the manifestation of barbarity on the part of the outlaws, and are depressed by the loss of lives of brave men, but at the same time are proud of the calm control and loyalty to American ideals demonstrated by the returned soldiers and citizens. I am proud to be an inhabitant of a state which contains a city with the record which has been made for Centralia by its law-abiding citizens.
Sincerely, (Signed) Kenneth MacKintosh.
"Patriotic" Union Smashing
Not to be outdone by this brazen example of judicial perversion, Attorney General Thompson, after a secret conference of prosecuting attorneys, issued a circular of advice to county prosecutors. In this document the suggestion was made that officers and members of the Industrial Workers of the World in Washington be arrested by the wholesale under the "criminal syndicalism" law and brought to trial simultaneously so that they might not be able to secure legal defense. The astounding recommendation was also made that, owing to the fact that juries had been "reluctant to convict," prosecutors and the Bar Association should co-operate in examining jury panels so that "none but courageous and patriotic Americans" secure places on the juries.
This effectual if somewhat arbitrary plan was put into operation at once. Since the tragedy at Centralia dozens of union workers have been convicted by "courageous and patriotic" juries and sentenced to serve from one to fourteen years in the state penitentiary. Hundreds more are awaiting trial. The verdict at Montesano is now known to everyone. Truly the lives of the four Legion boys which were sacrificed by the lumber interests in furtherance of their own murderous designs, were well expended. The investment was a profitable one and the results are no doubt highly gratifying.
But just the same the despicable plot of the Attorney General is an obvious effort to defeat the purpose of the courts and obtain unjust convictions by means of what is termed "jury fixing." There may be honor among thieves but there is plainly none among the public servants they have working for them!
The only sane note sounded during these dark days, outside of the startling statement of Dr. Bickford, came from Montana. Edward Bassett, commander of the Butte Post of the American Legion and an over-seas veteran, issued a statement to the labor press that was truly remarkable:
"The I.W.W. in Centralia, Wash., who fired upon the men that were attempting to raid the I.W.W. headquarters, were fully justified in their act.
"Mob rule in this country must be stopped, and when mobs attack the home of a millionaire, of a laborer, or of the I.W.W., it is not only the right but the duty of the occupants to resist with every means in their power. If the officers of the law can not stop these raids, perhaps the resistance of the raided may have that effect.
"Whether the I.W.W. is a meritorious organization or not, whether it is unpopular or otherwise, should have absolutely nothing to do with the case. The reports of the evidence at the coroner's jury show that the attack was made before the firing started. If that is true, I commend the boys inside for the action that they took.
"The fact that there were some American Legion men among the paraders who everlastingly disgraced themselves by taking part in the raid, does not affect my judgment in the least. Any one who becomes a party to a mob bent upon unlawful violence, cannot expect the truly patriotic men of the American Legion to condone his act."
Vanderveer's Opening Speech
Defense Attorney George Vanderveer hurried across the continent from Chicago to take up the legal battle for the eleven men who had been arrested and charged with the murder of Warren O. Grimm. The lumber interests had already selected six of their most trustworthy tools as prosecutors. It is not the purpose of the present writer to give a detailed story of this "trial"—possibly one of the greatest travesties on justice ever staged. This incident was a very important part of the Centralia conspiracy but a hasty sketch, such as might be portrayed in these pages, would be an inadequate presentation at best. It might be well, therefore, to permit Mr. Vanderveer to tell of the case as he told it to the jury in his opening and closing arguments. Details of the trial itself can be found in other booklets by more capable authors. Vanderveer's opening address appears in part below:
May it please the court and gentlemen of the jury:—As you have already sensed from our examination of you and from a question which I propounded to counsel at the close of his statement yesterday, the big question in this case is, who was the aggressor, who started the battle? Was it on the one side a deliberately planned murderous attack upon innocent marchers, or was it on the other side a deliberately planned wicked attack upon the I.W.W., which they merely resisted? That, I say, is the issue. I asked counsel what his position would be in order that you might know it, and that he said was his position, that he would stand and fall and be judged by it, and I say to you now that is our position, and we will stand or fall and be judged by that issue.
In order that you may properly understand this situation, and the things that led up to it, the motives underlying it, the manner in which it was planned and executed, I want to go just a little way back of the occurrence on November 11th, and state to you in rough outline the situation that existed in Centralia, the objects that were involved in this case, the things each are trying to accomplish and the way each went about it. There has been some effort on the part of the state to make it appear it is not an I.W.W. trial. I felt throughout that the I.W.W. issue must come into this case, and now that they have made their opening statement, I say unreservedly it is here in this case, not because we want to drag it in here, but because it can't be left out. To conceal from you gentlemen that it is an I.W.W. issue would be merely to conceal the truth from you and we, on our part, don't want to do that now or at any time hereafter.
The I.W.W. is at the bottom of this. Not as an aggressor, however. It is a labor organization, organized in Chicago in 1905, and it is because of the philosophy for which it stands and because of certain tactics which it evolves that this thing arose.
A Labor Movement on Trial
The I.W.W. is the representative in this country of the labor movement of the rest of the world It is the representative in the United States of the idea that capitalism is wrong: that no man has a right, moral or otherwise, to exploit his fellow men, the idea that our industrial efforts should be conducted not for the profits of any individual but should be conducted for social service, for social welfare. So the I.W.W. says first, that the wage system is wrong and that it means to abolish that wage system. It says that it intends to do this, not by political action, not by balloting, but by organization on the industrial or economical field, precisely as employers, precisely as capital is organized on the basis of the industry, not on the basis of the tool. The I.W.W. says industrial evolution has progressed to that point there the tool no longer enforces craftsmanship. In the place of a half dozen or dozen who were employed, each a skilled artisan, employed to do the work, you have a machine process to do that work and it resulted in the organization of the industry on an industrial basis. You have the oil industry, controlled by the Standard Oil; you have the lumber industry, controlled by the Lumbermen's Association of the South and West, and you have the steel and copper industry, all organized on an industrial basis resulting in a fusing, or corporation, or trust of a lot of former owners. Now the I.W.W. say if they are to compete with our employers, we must compete with our employers as an organization, and as they are organized so we must protect our organization, as they protect themselves. And so they propose to organize into industrial unions; the steel workers and the coal miners, and the transportation workers each into its own industrial unit.
This plan of organization is extremely distasteful to the employers because it is efficient; because it means a new order, a new system in the labor world in this country. The meaning of this can be gathered, in some measure, from the recent experiences in the steel strike of this country, where they acted as an industrial unit; from the recent experiences in the coal mining industry, where they acted as an industrial unit. Instead of having two or three dozen other crafts, each working separately, they acted as an industrial unit. When the strike occurred it paralyzed industry and forced concessions to the demands of the workers. That is the first thing the I.W.W. stands for and in some measure and in part explains the attitude capital has taken all over the country towards it.
In the next place it says that labor should organize on the basis of some fundamental principle; and labor should organize for something more than a mere bartering and dickering for fifty cents a day or for some shorter time, something of that sort. It says that the system is fundamentally wrong and must be fundamentally changed before you can look for some improvement. Its philosophy is based upon government statistics which show that in a few years in this country our important industries have crept into more than two-thirds of our entire wealth. Seventy-five per cent of the workers in the basic industry are unable to send their children to school. Seventy-one per cent of the heads of the families in our basic industries are unable to provide a decent living for their families without the assistance of the other members. Twenty-nine per cent of our laborers are able to live up to the myth that he is the head of the family. The results of these evils are manifold. Our people are not being raised in decent vicinities. They are not being raised and educated. Their health is not being cared for; their morals are not being cared for. I will show you that in certain of our industries where the wages are low and the hours are long, that the children of the working people die at the rate of 300 to 350 per thousand inhabitants under the age of one year because of their undernourishment, lack of proper housing and lack of proper medical attention and because the mothers of these children before they are born and when the children are being carried in the mother's womb that they are compelled to go into the industries and work and work and work, and before the child can receive proper nourishment the mother is compelled to go back into the industry and work again. The I.W.W.'s say there must be a fundamental change and that fundamental change must be in the line of reorganization of industry, for public service, so that the purpose shall be that we will work to live and not merely live to work. Work for service rather than work for profit.
To Kill an Ideal...
Some time in September, counsel told you, the I.W.W., holding these beliefs, opened a hall in Centralia. Back of that hall was a living room, where Britt Smith lived, kept his clothes and belongings and made his home. From then on the I.W.W. conducted a regular propaganda meeting every Saturday night. These propaganda meetings were given over to a discussion of these industrial problems and beliefs. From that district there were dispatched into nearby lumber camps and wherever there were working people to whom to carry this message—there were dispatched organizers who went out, made the talks in the camps briefly and sought to organize them into this union, at least to teach them the philosophy of this labor movement.
Because that propaganda is fatal to those who live by other people's work, who live by the profits they wring from labor, it excited intense opposition on the part of employers and business people of Centralia and about the time this hall was opened we will show you that people from Seattle, where they maintain their headquarters for these labor fights, came into Centralia and held meetings. I don't know what they call this new thing they were seeking to organize—it is in fact a branch of the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association of the United States, a national organization whose sole purpose is to fight and crush and beat labor. It was in no sense a local movement because it started in Seattle and it was organized by people from Seattle, and the purpose was to organize in Centralia an organization of business men to combat this new labor philosophy. Whether in the mouths of the I.W.W., or Nonpartisan League, or the Socialists, it did not make any difference; to brand anybody as a traitor, un-American, who sought to tell the truth about our industrial conditions.
The Two Raids
In the fall of 1918, the I.W.W. had a hall two blocks and a half from this hall, at the corner of First and B streets. There was a Red Cross parade, and that hall was wrecked, just as was this hall. These profiteering gentlemen never overlook an opportunity to capitalize on a patriotic event, and so they capitalized the Red Cross parade that day just as they capitalized the Armistice Day parade on November 11, and in exactly the same way as on November 11.
And that day, when the tail-end of the parade of the Red Cross passed the main avenue, it broke off and went a block out of its way and attacked the I.W.W. hall, a good two-story building. And they broke it into splinters. The furniture, records, the literature that belongs to these boys, everything was taken out into the street and burned.
Now, what was contemplated on Armistice Day? The I.W.W. did as you would do; it judged from experience.
Patience No Longer a Virtue
When the paraders smashed the door in, the I.W.W.'s, as every lover of free speech and every respecter of his person—they had appealed to the citizens, they had appealed to the officers, and some of their members had been tarred and feathered, beaten up and hung—they said in thought: "Patience has ceased to be a virtue." And if the law will not protect us, and the people won't protect us, we will protect ourselves. And they did.
And in deciding this case, I want each of you, members of the jury, to ask yourself what would you have done?
There had been discussions of this character in the I.W.W. hall, and so have there been discussions everywhere. There had never been a plot laid to murder anybody, nor to shoot anybody in any parade. I want you to ask yourself: "Why would anybody want to shoot anybody in a parade," and to particularly ask yourself why anyone would want to shoot upon soldiers?
He who was a soldier himself, Wesley Everest, the man who did most of the shooting, and the man whom they beat until he was unconscious and whom they grabbed from the street and put a rope around his neck, the man whom they nearly shot to pieces, and the man whom they hung, once dropping him ten feet, and when what didn't kill him lengthened the rope to 15 feet and dropped him again—why would one soldier want to kill another soldier, or soldiers, who had never done him nor his fellows any harm?