November 5, 1916 marked the bloodiest battle in Pacific Northwest labor
history. On that day, about 300 members of the Industrial Workers of the
World (the I.W.W.) boarded the steamers Verona and Calista from Seattle
and headed north toward Port Gardner Bay
The I.W.W. (or Wobblies) planned a public demonstration in Everett that
afternoon, to be held on the corner of Hewitt and Wetmore, a spot
commonly used by street speakers. Hoping to gain converts to their dream
of One Big Union, the
began street speaking in Everett during a local shingle weavers' strike,
encountering brutal suppression by local law officers. Free speech soon
became the dominant issue. The number of demonstrators and the violence
of the response from law enforcement grew as the weeks wore on.
On November 5th, word reached Everett that a group of armed anarchists
was coming to burn their town. 200 citizen deputies, under the authority
of Snohomish County Sheriff Donald McRae, met to repel the invaders. The
Verona arrived first, pulling in along side the dock. McRae asked "Who
is your leader?" When he was told "We are all leaders!", he informed
passengers they could not land. A single shot was fired, followed by
minutes of chaotic shooting. Whether the first shot came from boat or
dock was never determined. Passengers aboard the Verona rushed to the
opposite side of the ship, nearly capsizing the vessel. Bullets pierced
the pilot house, and the Verona's captain struggled to back it
of port. The Calista returned to Seattle, without trying to land.
On the dock, deputies Jefferson Beard and Charles Curtis lay dying, and
20 others, including the sheriff, were wounded. On the Verona's deck,
Wobblies Hugo Gerlot, Abraham Rabinowitz, Gus Johnson and John Looney
were dead and Felix Baran was dying. While the official I.W.W. toll was
listed as 5 dead and 27 wounded, as many as 12 Wobblies probably lost
their lives, their bodies surreptitiously recovered from the bay at a
Guard troops were sent to Everett and Seattle, and terror hung over
Everett for days. 74 Wobbly passengers aboard the two steamers were
arrested upon their return to Seattle and were eventually taken to the
Snohomish County jail in Everett. All were released but one--- teamster
Thomas Tracy. He was charged with murdering deputies Curtis and Beard,
but in the dramatic and much-publicized trial that followed, Tracy was
acquitted. Wobbly trial lawyer Charles Vanderveer counted this as one of
the notable victories of his career, and it may have been the high-water
mark of IWW activity in the Northwest.
A confrontation had been in the making for some time. Everett was an
industrial mill town, with a predominance of lumber and shingle mills.
Here workers faced long hours and dangerous working conditions.
Accidents were so common that, it was said, a shingle weaver could be
recognized by his missing fingers, lost in accidents with unguarded
saws. Cedar dust permeated the workplace, and many workers contracted
"cedar asthma". Some lost their lives. The shingle economy operated in
boom and bust cycles and wages were unsteady. For these reasons, much of
the city's male work force was unionized by the early 1900s. Labor
support was so strong in Everett that in January of 1909 the region's
Labor Journal began publication from the local union hall on Lombard,
and Everett gained regional prominence for its union strength.
In spring of 1916, the shingle economy had recovered from a sharp
recession, yet workers in Everett mills were not receiving scale pay.
They struck in hopes of regaining their 1914 wage scale. Proud of their
status as trades workers, they were often at odds with the radical
Wobblies who wanted to create a union that included unskilled workers in
their ranks. The Wobblies had come to Everett to proclaim their message
on numerous occasions. A group of 40 street-speaking Wobblies had been
taken by deputies to an area known as Beverly Park where they were
brutally beaten and told to get out of town. Despite severe injuries,
some were forced to walk the 25-mile interurban track to Seattle. The
Wobblies vowed to return, in greater number, to show solidarity for
their cause. Clearly neither side expected that the escalating
confrontations would culminate in the tragedy remembered as The Everett
Massacre--- Everett's Bloody Sunday.
Mill Town: A Social History of Everett by Norman Clark, University
of Washington Press, 1970
The Everett Massacre: a History of the Class Struggle in the Lumber
Industry, by Walker C. Smith, originally published ca. 1918 by
I.W.W. Publishing Bureau, Chicago, and in reprint by Shorey Book
Three articles published in University of Washington's Pacific Northwest
"Everett's Bloody Sunday" by William Botting, October 1958, Vol. 49,
"Bloody Sunday Revisited" by William J. Williams, April 1980, Vol.
71, Number 2
"The Memoirs of Eleanor Castellan: The Years in the Pacific
Northwest, 1910-1919", edited by James Castellan and Norman Clark,
Winter 1999/2000, Vol. 91, Number 1
The Everett Public Library's special history collections contain
photographs, oral history accounts and documents relating to The Everett
Massacre. For reproductions, contact the Northwest Room.