Clarence Bagley.

History of Seattle from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 3) online

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Two days after his arrival he saw four hundred United States soldiers quartered in the
Pacific building, transferred hither from Vancouver in response to the governor's call. The
town was commercially dead and the people were divided into two classes, the pro and the
anti-Chinese. The former mostly belonged to the wealthy families who could aflford to
keep Chinese servants and most of them were members of the orthodox Protestant churches,
while tlie opponents of the Chinese were mostly working men and women and the class of
small business men. Years before, in California, Mr. Wegener had had opportunity to see
the evil consequences of unlimited Asiatic immigration. While in the employ of the Central
Pacific Railroad Company he often had hundreds of Chinamen working under him and he
had become thoroughly acquainted with their language and character. He believed that
unless the immigration of Chinese workmen was stopped, the Pacific coast would become a
Chinese colony in which the white people could not live.

Owing to the stagnation in business, Mr. Wegener accepted temporarily the editorship
of a German weekly of Seattle and in its columns expressed his views on the Chinese
question, thus becoming a partisan in the contest between the two opposing elements and
bringing upon himself the bitter opposition of the leading men and organs of the pro-
Chinese faction. He also met with hostility from certain members of the anti-Chinese
element who believed that there was a scheme secretly favored by the big corporations to
replace on the whole Pacific coast white workingmen and women by Asiatics— a scheme
which could only be achieved through a revolution. But the majority of the anti-Chinese
party in Seattle were law-abiding citizens and had no desire to enter upon a revolution.
Mr. Wegener believed that legislation would be enacted in Washington, D. C, against
flooding the land with Chinese labor but advised the anti-Chinese people of Seattle to
organize a political party with a view to electing men of their number to office, which
would prevent the employment of Chinese on public work. The plan found favor with
many, but the revolutionists were antagonistic and prevented the political organization from
becoming a successful project. Every Sunday forenoon the men and women who had
volunteered during the week to gather subscribers to support the anti-Chinese platform and
who would vote for the candidates for office, brought in many names, until it seemed that



the ticket could be elected ; but the opponents were aiso busy as well, politically and other-
wise. It became known that they organized the university students, clerks and other young
men whom they could control in military companies and gave them military drill with arms.
To these young men were turned over the guns which had been loaned by the local authori-
ties to the Grand Army veterans for the purpose of firing volleys over the graves of buried
comrades at their funerals. It also happened that suddenly the governor, who was one of
the leaders of the pro-Chinese element, obtained the withdrawal of half the detachment of
United States soldiers. This peculiar coincidence stirred up the hot-headed men of the
Knights of Labor and the cry "We too must arm !" was raised. Mr. Wegener firmly
objected, claiming that the remaining two hundred United States soldiers would protect
the party at the coming election against any military force, but he did not know that there
were men of violent character in the ranks of the pro-Chinese faction who planned to carry
the election at any price, for on that occasion an entire ticket of city officials was to be

About three weeks before the election, when returning to his office from a trip in the
country, Mr. Wegener found a number of the leading otificials of the Knights of Labor
waiting for him. Greatly excited, they told him that all the United States soldiers were
leaving on a boat at two o'clock the next morning and that their baggage was then being
loaded. The report proved correct, and it was seen that the opponents meant to carry
the election by violence. Only the United States soldiers had a right to keep order, and it
was known that if the military organization of young men were at the polls it would mean
fraud, disorder and violence. Only one man could prevent the success of this scheme of the
pro-Chinese party — the president of the United States, to whom Mr. Wegener at once
telegraphed, e.xplaining the situation and asking him to give the unarmed citizens protection
at the coming election by leaving the United States troops in Seattle, promising at the
same time to send in a few days a petition signed by hundreds of citizens. Half an hour
before the boat was to leave the next morning, by telegraph the president ordered the
soldiers to remain in Seattle. Two days later Mr. Wegener forwarded a petition signed
by over five hundred citizens, and three weeks later there was held a quiet election at
which the entire anti-Chinese ticket was elected. This brought intense hatred down upon
Mr. Wegener, notwithstanding the well known fact that his telegram had prevented a
disgraceful riot on election day and probably the shedding of blood.

After this election Mr. Wegener would gladly have withdrawn from comiection with
the troubles, but the people's party believed that there would be no political peace in King
county unless the pro-Chinese party was expelled as well from the county offices, there
being strong indications that the county funds were not honestly handled by the most promi-
nent county officials. Through public opinion, therefore, Mr. Wegener was dragged into
county politics. He worked hard to secure the nomination of good men, which was more
difficult than at the city election, for following the success of the people's party there, a
horde of office seekers had joined them for the sole purpose of winning office, many of
whom were either morally or mentally unfit for the positions they sought. Nevertheless
Mr. Wegener and his associates secured the nomination of a majority of good men and
the probability that they would be elected increased from day to day through the energetic
campaign which was conducted. What hampered them most was a lack of funds to conduct
the campaign. As chairman of the executive committee of his party Mr. Wegener had to
pay not only the campaign expenses but even the traveling expenses of some of the candi-
dates. Beside that, he had to keep the little weekly newspaper alive, which he had bought
for campaign purposes and which did not pay for itself. Four weeks before the election
he found that he was unable to raise any more money for the general campaign, because
the few rich candidates of the people's party were notoriously close and paid only their own
personal campaign expenses. Just at that time a well-to-do man who had retired from
business and was related to one of the oldest and most prominent families of Seattle,
visited Mr. Wegener and counted out twelve hundred dollars before him, which he said
should be Mr. Wegener's if the latter would withdraw from the campaign. He said : "We
must elect our candidate for sheriff, and we can do so if you quit electioneering. If you do,
you'll be one of us. Your family will be made welcome by us and we will support you in
any political aspirations you may have." The offer convinced Mr. Wegener that there was

Vol. Ill— 5


corruption in the courthouse which to cover up the sheriff, who had it in his power to fix
grand and petit jurors, was needed. It is needless to say that Mr. Wegener declined the
offer and on the same day wrote home to his wife, who lived on a timber ranch in Lewis
county, and from money she had received from the sale of her property in Portland, Oregon,
she sent him the money needed for the successful termination of the campaign, which
resulted in the election of the entire people's party ticket save one constable.

On refusing to be bribed Mr. Wegener was made the subject of vile newspaper attacks
which culminated on the day before the election in an editorial of the Post Intelligencer, in
which he was called "an open and avowed enemy of the United States government." He endeav-
ored to get the editor of the paper indicted for criminal libel but failed to get the necessary
twelve votes from the eighteen members of the grand jury. Seven of them evidently thought
that he was a traitor to the United States government because he had helped to defeat the
corrupt members of the King county courthouse ring, two of whom were, under the new
county administration, indicted on eleven charges of forgery and grand larceny for having
stolen from the county treasury sixty-six thousand dollars, of which amount forty-five
thousand dollars was collected from the wealthy bondsman. The criminal charges against
the defaulters were not pressed and the prosecution dropped the cases, but for years Mr.
Wegener was persecuted by the Post Intelligencer, although one of the later proprietors
apologized privately to him and the same editor who in 1886 had termed him "an open and
avowed enemy of the government" wrote him eight years later, on September 6, 1894, a letter
in which, while thanking Mr. Wegener for saving him from a public exposure, he said: "I
may add that I have long regretted the utterances of the paper against you during the
campaign of 1886. I regard you as a good citizen. I have many reasons for feeling kindly
toward you, and some of them I know now for the first time. I am sincerely grateful to
you for not having resurrected. . . ." Public acknowledgment of the wrong done Mr.
Wegener was never made, however, and the persecution continued when the editor of 1886
and 1894 was dead.

When the election was over Mr. Wegener reviewed his situation. The whole pro-
Chinese faction held him responsible for its defeat and as it was composed of the wealthy
class and the members of corporations, the very people who would mostly need the services
of a civil engineer, he could easily see that if he opened an office in Seattle that element
would boycott him. While considering the possibility of overcoming that antagonism, he
met one of the officials of the Vancouver United States land office, who asked if Mr.
Wegener could assist in having their district enlarged by abolishing the Olympia office and
opening one in Seattle. He had been in Olympia on land-office business and became con-
vinced that it was an impractical place for that purpose because the town had the least
possible means of transportation and the cost to the settler of going there to file on land
was consequently so high as to prevent the settlement of the land in the northwestern part
of the territory. Mr. Wegener also recognized that Seattle would be a far superior loca-
tion for the United States land office and that the change from Olympia to Seattle would
benefit the entire Puget Sound country generally and Seattle and King county especially.
He thought too, that if he could bring about that change, Seattle's population would owe
him a debt of gratitude which would wipe out all the antagonism of his former political
opponents. To carry out the plan he made use of his appointment as representative of the
coal miners of King county at the industrial convention to be held in Cincinnati, went to
the convention and then on to Washington, where he told Mr. Voorhees, representative from
the district, of his mission. He was informed that General Lamar, secretary of the interior,
and also the commissioner of the general land office, were opposed to the removal of the
Olympia land office. Mr. Wegener then interviewed General Lamar, who after fifteen
minutes discussion of the matter, agreed that the office should be moved to Seattle, but
the land commissioner opposed the change, saying that Mr. Voorhees opposed it and that
Mr. Wegener was nothing but a private citizen, having no legal authority to represent the
Puget Sound people. The request was therefore refused.

While in Washington, Mr. Wegener was invited by the labor unions to give a lecture
on the Chinese immigration question. He did so and embraced the opportunity to discuss
also the iniquities of the tariff. At that time congressional investigations regarding the
cause of the prevailing hard times were being made and Mr. Wegener's lecture was favorably


commented upon by the Washington Post and other papers and he was invited by several
United States senators to discuss the labor question with them. Finally, at an audience with
the president, he was requested by him to prepare a written statement about the cause
of the industrial depressions of 1884 to 1886. On another occasion the president asked
particulars regarding the martial law period of Seattle, and when Mr. Wegener thanked
him for granting the telegraphic request not to remove the troops from Seattle until after
election, he heartily laughed and said there was a joke about the matter which Mr.
Wegener did not know. While he and the leading Knights of Labor had asked for the
protection of the soldiers against the pro-Chinese faction, who had first called for the
soldiers for their own protection, the Chinese had in the same night telegraphed to him,
also asking that the soldiers might stay in Seattle to protect the Chinese against any possible
violence on the part of the Knights of Labor. It seemed to be the desire of the majority
of the people to keep the soldiers, consequently they were ordered to remain, although the
president was not in favor of martial law. -A. few days later, when Mr. Wegener called
upon the secretary of the interior again to get his consent to the change of the United
States land office, he refused to grant this in face of the open opposition of the general
land commissioner and the secret objection of Mr. Voorhees, but said that Mr. Wegener
could have the office of governor of Washington Territory in place of Governor Squires,
who was to be removed — that the president was willing to make the appointment. Mr.
Wegener declined for three reasons: first, he had promised Mr. Semple to support his
candidacy; second, he knew that the pro-Chinese faction of Seattle would leave nothing
undone to prevent the senate from confirming the appointment; and third, because he
thought he could do more good to Seattle and himself by getting the land office established
there than if he was made governor. At another meeting with General Lamar he was
again offered the governorship, which he said the president wished to bestow upon him
as a reward for telegraphing to him to prevent riot and bloodshed at the election, but he
declined in favor of Mr. Semple and returned to Seattle.

Arrived in Seattle, Mr. Wegener immediately interested the county commissioners in
the change of the land office from Olympia to Seattle and they passed a resolution authoriz-
ing him to bring the matter before the president. During the next few days he obtained
a number of letters to prominent men in -Washington who were to speak to the president
about the necessity of establishing the land office in Seattle. He then returned to the capital
at his own e.xpense, was granted an interview with the? president, to whom he explained
the whole matter — the opposition of Voorhees and the land commissioner, the conditional
approval of the secretary of the interior and the necessity of the change. In less than
half an hour the president agreed to give Seattle the land office, but Mr. Wegener was
warned by men in a position to know what was going on in the land commissioner's office
that extraordinary efforts were made to influence the president against him and the proposed
change. One claim was that there was no money on hand to make the change and Mr.
Wegener settled that by agreeing to move the office from Olympia to Seattle for one dollar
and give bonds for the proper performance of the contract. After having become con-
vinced that the president and secretary were not to be influenced against the establishment
of the land office, he left Washington, where he had remained for three months. He had
to remain in the east for several months more on private business, and when he returned
to Seattle the land office was established and in full operation. The new location of it
increased the number of applicants for land from the adjoining and also from the north-
erly counties and caused many residents of Seattle and other places to take up home-
steads, timber and coal lands who would never have gone to Olympia for the purpose,
while the money brought to the Seattle lodging houses, hotels and restaurants by the
strangers who visited the land office, increased business in Seattle in a marked degree.
Owing to the factional bitterness which had been engendered at the time of the anti-
Chinese riots, Mr. Wegener never received credit for what he accomplished in connection
with the land office, which has been of immense benefit to Seattle.

Mr. Wegener was connected with another event of public interest. In 1894 a German
woman, with her year and a half old child, was murdered near South Seattle and several
hundred dollars stolen from the premises. Her husband, Muller by name, was an employe
of the Hemrich brewery, having been engaged to take the place of Henry Craemer, another


German worker. The latter, who was in very straightened circumstances, was arrested on
suspicion that he was the murderer. Three weeks later, when Mr. Wegener read in the
morning paper tliat the accused man had been convicted of murder in the first degree and
would be hanged and that he had three little children and a wife who could not speak
English, he determined to go and see the family and help them if they needed it. He met
the woman at the house where they lived in South Seattle. She had not heard of her
husband's conviction and when asked if she were in need, she said she had a few dollars
and the county commissioners had promised to give her four dollars' worth of groceries
a month. Mr. Wegener saw that the children were, like the mother, very small and unable
to work yet except to sell newspapers. They were a girl of twelve, a boy of ten and a girl of
six. The small size of the children aroused his pity and he told the woman that he would
help her and the children so that they would not suffer. She accepted the ofier but asked
also if Mr. Wegener would see that her husband would get an appeal or a new trial. He
had no intention of interfering with the legal proceedings, believing that the accused was
guilty, but out of pity for the family he went to the attorney for the defense and asked
what the cost of appeal would be. The reply was two hundred and fifty dollars for the
writing out of the court proceedings, besides the lawyer's fee. He was also told that in
case of the convicted person being impecunious, the county was accustomed to pay the cost of
court but it was necessary to get the recommendation of the trial judge, which was always
given in cases of that kind when the appellant's life was at stake. After an absence of
several days from town, the lawyer informed Mr. Wegener that the judge had refused
to let the county pay the cost of the court, adding in language that was neither choice nor
•elegant, "Let the man hang!" This showed prejudice on the part of the judge, and when
Mr. Wegener informed himself about his previous action in the case he found that Craemer
had not been given a fair trial by any means, as could be shown from the court records.
Thirteen days after his arrest he was arraigned for murder in the superior court and the
court appointed a lawyer for his defense and gave him nine days' time, which included two
Sundays, to prepare for trial. On the day set the lawyer said : "As I had neither time nor
money to prepare my defense and round up my witnesses, I ask for two months' time."
The prosecuting attorney replied that "the lawyer had used no diligence to prepare himself
for the trial and asked the judge not to give the' defense more time." The judge consented
to this request and the trial was commenced at once. Craemer had no witness but his wife
and was found guilty of having murdered the woman and robbed her of something over
two hundred dollars. The whole town had been against him since the third day after his
arrest. When the wife visited him in jail, asking him repeatedly in the presence of seyeral
witnesses where he had been on the evening of the murder, and when he answered in a
low voice, "Tacoma," she told him if he had committed the murder he should hang for it.
The interview was reported in all the Seattle papers. On the same day a news item was
given out by the chief of police stating that a man by the name of Jack Quincy in whose
company Craemer claimed to have been in Tacoma on the afternoon of the day of the
murder, was not known there according to a thorough search made by a Seattle police
oiBcer. This news item was also published in the Seattle papers, read by every juror, the
judge and the people and, not being proved to be false by the defenseless prisoner, was
generally believed. Craemer's wife testified at the trial that she had known for two weeks
that her husband would go to Tacoma on the day on which later he was accused of having
murdered Mrs. Muller, but her testimony was not believed after what she had asked and
told Craemer in jail. These two news items, more than anything else, convicted Craemer,
although there was also evidence given by him about his visit in Tacoma which was flatly
contradicted by a reputable witness and which leaves a serious doubt to this day whether
he is guilty or not. But in a case where a man's life is at stake, the court should give the
accused time for a defense and a lawyer who will "use diligence." This was not done
because the two news items mentioned had convinced the court and the jury long before
the trial that he was guilty. Mr. Wegener thought so, too, but also knew that Craemer had
not been given a chance to defend himself. He had neither time nor money to do so. Mr.
Wegener considered the trial an iniquitous farce and determined to take up the man's
defense. He paid the cost of court, hired lawyers to appeal the case and supported the
family, which required every cent that he and all the members of his family earned to do


this. He tried to get the assistance of the Germans but failed. For Craemer's defense he
received thirteen dollars and fifty cents and for his family the German Ladies Aid Society
.gave five dollars, while five American women each gave twenty-five cents. Craemer's
relatives in Germany refused to contribute anything, but two years later, after Mr. Wegener
had threatened to expose them and had carried on an appeal at an expense of thousands
of dollars, they sent seventy-five dollars, although some of them were able to pay ten times
as much.

After his appeal to the supreme court had failed to give Craemer a new trial, Mr.
Wegener would have abandoned the fight, but just at that time he obtained evidence from
Tacoma which showed that the news item published by the chief of police of Seattle in all
the city papers regarding the non-existence of Jack Quincy was false. The assistant
postmaster of Tacoma made an affidavit stating that Jack Quincy was well known to him,
that he had got his mail for months in the Tacoma postoffice and up to within a few days
after the report of the murder of Mrs. Muller had appeared in the Tacoma newspapers.
He furthermore stated in his affidavit that he had informed the Seattle police officer to that
effect a few days after Craemer's arrest. The police officer, after Craemer had been sent
to the penitentiary, acknowledged the truth of the postmaster's affidavit and stated that
he had given the chief of police, Rogers, the information obtained in the Tacoma postoffice.
When Mr. Wegener learned this in 1895. a year after Craemer's conviction, he was con-
vinced that while the suppressed information about Quincy did not prove Craemer's inno-
cence, it proved that the chief of police had contributed to his conviction by suppressing
evidence in favor of Craemer and publishing false news in the Seattle papers about the
latter while he was helpless in jail. Mr. Wegener discussed the matter with F. W. Duenkel
of Tacoma, a well-to-do druggist, and with A. Weichbrodt, owner of the Tacoma German
newspaper, and they decided to form a Craemer defense committee and to endeavor to the
best of their ability to obtain a new trial or secure pardon for the man. As times were

Online LibraryClarence BagleyHistory of Seattle from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 3) → online text (page 12 of 142)