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Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Everett Massacre - Nov. 5, 1916





The  S. S. Verona

November 5, 2016 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Everett Massacre. And yet, because it and its aftermath take up four chapters in the novel I recently completed, it feels like yesterday. To quote from the yet unpublished manuscript:


            "On a Sunday in early November, the passenger boat Verona slipped its bowline and chugged away from a Seattle pier, steaming north along Puget Sound’s coastal route, cutting through choppy waters beneath a wind-swept autumn sky, bound for Everett thirty miles away. 
            Coal smoke funneled around Jamieson, making him turn away and hold his breath, waiting for it to swirl off to cloak another section of the crowded open deck.  Two hundred and fifty Wobblies had taken passage for Everett.  Some sought cover below deck, but most pressed lean chest to muscular back around the pilot house, shifting in unison with the roll of the boat."

                Robert Jamieson, my protagonist, a Pinkerton detective, infiltrated the I.W.W. meetings in Seattle to observe what mischief, if any, the I.W.W. planned on this trip to Everett in support of the shingle workers' strike.
         A Wobbly tries to explain to his fellows on the boat a shingle mill worker's job.

A knee-bolter shingle saw
                                                                         
“You ever seen what them shingle weavers do ten hours a day?”  Waited for the shake of the head.  “There’s this upright saw, see, an’ it's slicing through a cedar block sixty times a minute.”  He brought his hand down, again and again.  “The shingle weaver, he grabs the shingle with his left hand and passes it to his right hand.  Now while he’s doing this, at the same time he’s gettin' another shingle off that saw with the left hand.  He’s trimmin’ up the last one with his right and throwin' it down a chute to the packer.  Sixty times a minute, both hands workin’.  Cedar dust so thick ya can’t hardly breathe.  Can't see, neither.”  Ended with, “Ya don’t wonder they’re strikin’ for the pay they deserve.” 
            The youngster flexed his fingers.  “They lose fingers and hands, don’t they.  You’ll never catch me workin’ there.  I’ll stick to pickin' apples up here and oranges in California.” 

                                                                                                         
Shingle Worker Who Lost Fingers

When the Verona steamed up to the Everett docks, the Wobblies were singing "Hold the Fort."
You can listen to it HERE for an idea of how it might have sounded (without instruments).

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.


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



               Sheriff McRae wrestled his gun belt around to reveal the holstered gun, stepped forward and raised a beefy arm to halt the singing.  Men behind him brandished their weapons, noonday light glinting off steel barrels.  Suddenly savvy, Wobblies nearest the wharf broke off the song; singing dwindled behind them as at the end of a child’s round.
            Jamieson caught only McRae’s last word, “leader.”  An answering bellow came from a Wobbly nearest the sheriff.  “We’re all leaders!”
            McRae jerked out his gun and leveled it at the boat.  “You can’t land here!” 
            While men jostled toward the partially lowered gangplank, another Wobbly yelled 

back, “The hell we can’t!”  

        
          Sheriff McCrae had deputized and armed about 200 men, placed behind him on the docks and over to the side.  A barrage of gunfire opened from the docks. When it was over, five Wobblies had been killed; others trying to escape fell overboard and drowned.  Two deputies were killed by their own comrades. When the Verona returned to Seattle, the Wobblies were arrested as they disembarked. 75 were charged with murder some days later. One, Thomas Tracy, was put on trial in Seattle the following spring and found not guilty in May. Charges were dropped against the rest, including my protagonist, Malachi O'Neill.  You can read Wikipedia's account  HERE

Death Masks of the five known Wobbles killed.

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