Walker C. Smith.

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The Everett Massacre

By Walker C. Smith

A History of the Class Struggle in the Lumber Industry

[Illustration: Decoration]

I. W. W. Publishing Bureau
Chicago, Ill.

This book is dedicated to those loyal soldiers of the great class war
who were murdered on the steamer Verona at Everett, Washington, in the
struggle for free speech and free assembly and the right to organize:


and those unknown martyrs whose bodies were swept out to unmarked ocean
graves on Sunday, November Fifth, 1916.



In ten minutes of seething, roaring hell at the Everett dock on the
afternoon of Sunday, November 5, 1916, there was more of the age-old
superstition regarding the identity of interests between capital and
labor torn from the minds of the working people of the Pacific Northwest
than could have been cleared away by a thousand lecturers in a year. It
is with regret that we view the untimely passing of the seven or more
Fellow Workers who were foully murdered on that fateful day, but if the
working class of the world can view beyond their mangled forms the
hideous brutality that was the cause of their deaths, they will not have
died in vain.

This book is published with the hope that the tragedy at Everett may
serve to set before the working class so clear a view of capitalism in
all its ruthless greed that another such affair will be impossible.


With grateful acknowledgments to C. E. Payne for valuable assistance in
preparing the subject matter, to Harry Feinberg in consultation, to
Marie B. Smith in revising manuscript, and to J. J. Kneisle for


By Charles Ashleigh

["* * * and then the Fellow Worker died, singing 'Hold the Fort' * *
*" - From the report of a witness.]

Song on his lips, he came;
Song on his lips, he went; -
This be the token we bear of him, -
Soldier of Discontent!

Out of the dark they came; out of the night
Of poverty and injury and woe, -
With flaming hope, their vision thrilled to light, -
Song on their lips, and every heart aglow;

They came, that none should trample Labor's right
To speak, and voice her centuries of pain.
Bare hands against the master's armored might! -
A dream to match the tools of sordid gain!

And then the decks went red; and the grey sea
Was written crimsonly with ebbing life.
The barricade spewed shots and mockery
And curses, and the drunken lust of strife.

Yet, the mad chorus from that devil's host, -
Yea, all the tumult of that butcher throng, -
Compound of bullets, booze and coward boast, -
Could not out-shriek one dying worker's song!

Song on his lips, he came;
Song on his lips, he went; -
This be the token we bear of him, -
Soldier of Discontent!

[Illustration: Released Free Speech prisoners who visited the graves of
their murdered Fellow Workers at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, May 12, 1917.]

The Everett Massacre



Perhaps the real history of the rise of the lumber industry in the
Pacific Northwest will never be written. It will not be set down in
these pages. A fragment - vividly illustrative of the whole, yet only a
fragment - is all that is reproduced herein. But if that true history be
written, it will tell no tales of "self-made men" who toiled in the
woods and mills amid poverty and privation and finally rose to fame and
affluence by their own unaided effort. No Abraham Lincoln will be there
to brighten its tarnished pages. The story is a more sordid one and it
has to do with the theft of public lands; with the bribery and
corruption of public officials; with the destruction and "sabotage," if
the term may be so misused, of the property of competitors; with base
treachery and double-dealing among associated employers; and with
extortion and coercion of the actual workers in the lumber industry by
any and every means from the "robbersary" company stores to the
commission of deliberate murder.

No sooner had the larger battles among the lumber barons ended in the
birth of the lumber trust than there arose a still greater contest for
control of the industry. Lumberjack engaged lumber baron in a struggle
for industrial supremacy; on the part of the former a semi-blind groping
toward the light of freedom and for the latter a conscious striving to
retain a seat of privilege. Nor can the full history of that struggle be
written here, for the end is not yet, but no one who has read the past
rightly can doubt the ultimate outcome. That history, when finally
written, will recite tales of heroism and deeds of daring and unassuming
acts of bravery on the part of obscure toilers beside which the vaunted
prowess of famous men will seem tawdry by comparison. Today the
perspective is lacking. Time alone will vindicate the rebellious workers
in their fight for freedom. From all this travail and pain is to be born
an Industrial Democracy.

The lumber industry dominated the whole life of the Northwest. The
lumber trust had absolute sway in entire sections of the country and
held the balance of power in many other places. It controlled Governors,
Legislatures and Courts; directed Mayors and City Councils; completely
owned Sheriffs and Deputies; and thru threats of foreclosure, blackmail,
the blacklist and the use of armed force it dominated the press and
pulpit and terrorized many other elements in each community. The sworn
testimony in the greatest case in labor history bears out these
statements. Out of their own mouths were the lumber barons and their
tools condemned. For, let it be known, the great trial in Seattle,
Wash., in the year 1917, was not a trial of Thomas H. Tracy and his
co-defendants. It was a trial of the lumber trust, a trial of so-called
"law and order," a trial of the existing method of production and
exchange and the social relations that spring from it, - and the verdict
was that Capitalism is guilty of Murder in the First Degree.

To get even a glimpse into the deeper meaning of the case that developed
from the conflict at Everett, Wash., it is necessary to know something
of the lives of the migratory workers, something of the vital necessity
of free speech to the working class and to all society for that matter,
and also something about the basis of the lumber industry and the
foundation of the city of Everett. The first two items very completely
reveal themselves thru the medium of the testimony given by the
witnesses for the defense, while the other matters are covered briefly

The plundering of public lands was a part of the policy of the lumber
trust. Large holdings were gathered together thru colonization schemes,
whereby tracts of 160 acres were homesteaded by individuals with money
furnished by the lumber operators. Often this meant the mere loaning of
the individual's name, and in many instances the building of a home was
nothing more than the nailing together of three planks. Other rich
timber lands were taken up as mineral claims altho no trace of valuable
ore existed within their confines. All this timber fell into the hands
of the lumber trust. In addition to this there were large companies who
logged for years on forty acre strips. This theft of timber on either
side of a small holding is the basis of many a fortune and the
possessors of this stolen wealth can be distinguished today by their
extra loud cries for "law and order" when their employes in the woods
and mills go on strike to add a few more pennies a day to their beggarly

Altho cheaper than outright purchase from actual settlers, these methods
of timber theft proved themselves quite costly and the public outcry
they occasioned was not to the liking of the lumber barons. To
facilitate the work of the lumber trust and at the same time placate the
public, nothing better than the Forest Reserve could possibly have been
devised. The establishment of the National Forest Reserves was one of
the long steps taken in the United States in monopolizing both the land
and the timber of the country.

The first forest reserves were established February 22, 1898, when
22,000,000 acres were set aside as National Forests. Within the next
eight years practically all the public forest lands in the United
States that were of any considerable extent had been set off into these
reserves, and by 1913 there had been over 291,000 square miles included
within their confines.[1] This immense tract of country was withdrawn
from the possibility of homestead entry at approximately the time that
the Mississippi Valley and the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains had
been settled and brought under private ownership. Whether the purpose
was to put the small sawmills out of business can not be definitely
stated, but the lumber trust has profited largely from the establishment
of the forest reserves.

So long as there was in the United States a large and open frontier to
be had for the taking there could be no very prolonged struggle against
an owning class. It has been easier for those having nothing to go but a
little further and acquire property for themselves. But on coming to
what had been the frontier and finding a forest reserve with range
riders and guards on its boundaries to prevent trespassing; on looking
back and seeing all land and opportunities taken; on turning again to
the forest reserve and finding a foreman of the lumber trust within its
borders offering wages in lieu of a home, it was inevitable that a
conflict should occur.

With the capitalistic system of industry in operation, the conflict
between the landless homeseekers and the owners of the vast
accumulations of capital would inevitably have taken place, but this
clash has come at least a generation earlier because of the
establishment of the National Forests than it otherwise would. The land
now in reserves would furnish homes and comfortable livings for ten
million people, and have absorbed the surplus population for another
generation. It is also true that the establishment of the National
Forests has been one of the vital factors that made the continued
existence of the lumber trust possible.

Prior to 1895 the shipments of lumber to the prairie states from west of
the Rocky Mountains were very small, and of no effect on the domination
of the lumber industry by the trust. Also, prior to that date but a
small part of the valuable timber west of the Rocky Mountains had been
brought under private ownership. But about this time the pioneer
settlers began swarming over the Pacific Slope and taking the free
government land as homesteads. As the timber land was taken up, floods
of lumber from the Pacific Coast met the lumber of the trust on the
great prairies. The lumber trust had looted the government land and the
Indian reservations in the middle states of their timber, and had almost
full control of the prairie markets until the lumber of the Pacific
Slope began to arrive. In 1896 lumber from the Puget Sound was sold in
Dakota for $16.00 per thousand feet, and it kept coming in a constantly
increasing volume and of a better quality than the trust was shipping
from the East. It was but natural that the trust should seek a means to
stifle the constantly increasing competition from the homesteads of the
West, and the means was found in the establishment of the National
Forest Reserves.

While the greater portion of North America was yet a wilderness, the
giving of vast tracts of valuable land on the remote frontier to private
individuals and companies could be accomplished. But at this time such a
procedure would have been impossible, tho it was imperative for the life
of the trust that the timber of the Pacific Slope should be withdrawn
from the possibility of homestead entry. In order to carry out this
scheme it was necessary to raise a cry of "Benefit to the Public" and
make it appear that this new public policy was in the interest of future
generations. The cry was raised that the public domain was being used
for private gain, that the timber was being wastefully handled, that
unnecessary amounts were being cut, that the future generations would
find themselves without timber, that the watersheds were being denuded
and that drought and floods would be the certain result, that the nation
should receive a return for the timber that was taken, together with
many other specious pleas.

That the public domain was being used for private gain was in some
instances true, but the vast majority of the timber land was being taken
as homesteads, and thus taking the timber outside the control of the
trust. That the timber was being wastefully handled was to some extent
true, but this was inevitable in the development of a new industry in a
new country, and so far as the Pacific Slope is concerned there is but
little change from the methods of twenty years ago. That unnecessary
amounts were being cut was sometimes true, but this served only to keep
prices down, and from the standpoint of the trust was unpardonable on
that account alone. The market is being supplied now as formerly, and
with as much as it will take. The only means that has been used to
restrict the amount cut has been to raise the price to about double what
it was in 1896. The denuding of the watersheds of the continent goes on
today the same as it did twenty-five years ago, the only consideration
being whether there is a market for the timber. Some reforesting has
been done, and some protection has been established for the prevention
of fires, but these things have been much in the nature of an
advertisement since the government has taken charge of the forests, and
was done automatically by the homesteaders before the Reserves were
established. There has never been any restriction in the amount of
timber that any company could buy, and the more it wanted, the better
chance it had of getting it. The nation is receiving some return from
the sale of timber from the government land, but it is in the nature of
a division of the spoils from a raid on the homes of the landless.

When the Reserve were established, the Secretary of the Interior was
empowered to "make rules and regulations for the occupancy and the use
of the forests and preserve them from destruction." No attempt was made
in the General Land Office to develop a technical forestry service. The
purpose of the administration was mainly protection against trespass and
fire. The methods of the administration were to see to it first that
there were no trespassers. Fire protection came later. When the Reserves
were established, people who were at the time living within their
boundaries were compelled to submit the titles of their homesteads to
the most rigid scrutiny, and many people who had complied with the
spirit of the law were dispossessed on mere technicalities, while before
the establishment of the Reserve system the spirit of the compliance
with the homestead law was mainly considered, and very seldom the
technicality. And while the Forestry Service was examining all titles to
homesteads within the boundaries of the Reserve with the utmost care,
the large lumbering companies were given the best of consideration, and
were allowed all the timber they requested and a practically unlimited
time to remove it.

The system of dealing with the lumber trust has been most liberal on the
part of the government. A company wanting several million feet of timber
makes a request to the district office to have the timber of a certain
amount and on a certain tract offered for sale. The Forestry Service
makes an estimate of the minimum value of the timber as it stands in the
tree and the amount of timber requested within that tract is then
offered for sale at a given time, the bids to be sent in by mail and
accompanied by certified checks. The bids must be at least as large as
the minimum price set by the Forestry Service, and highest bidder is
awarded the timber, on condition that he satisfies the Forestry Service
that he is responsible and will conduct the logging according to rules
and regulations. The system seems fair, and open to all, until the
conditions are known.

But among the large lumber companies there has never been any real
competition for the possession of any certain tract of timber that was
listed for sale by request. When one company has decided on asking for
the allotment of any certain tract of timber, other companies operating
within that forest seldom make bids on that tract. Any small company
that is doing business in opposition to the trust companies, and may
desire to bid on an advertised tract, even tho its bid may be greater
than the bid of the trust company, will find its offer thrown out as
being "not according to the Government specifications," or the company
is "not financially responsible," or some other suave explanation for
refusing to award the tract to the competing company. On the other hand,
when a small company requests that some certain tract shall be listed
for sale, it very frequently happens that one of the large companies
that is commonly understood to be affiliated with the lumber trust will
have a bid in for that tract that is slightly above that of the
non-trust company, and the timber is solemnly awarded to "the highest

When a company is awarded a tract of timber, the payment that is
required is ten per cent of the purchase price at the time of making the
award, and the balance is to be paid when the logs are on the landing,
or practically when they can be turned into ready cash, thus requiring
but a comparatively small outlay of money to obtain the timber. When the
award is made, it is the policy of the Forestry Service to be on
friendly terms with the customers, and the men who scale the logs and
supervise the cutting are the ones who come into direct contact with the
companies, and it is inevitable that to be on good terms with the
foreman the supervision and scaling must be "satisfactory." Forestry
Service men who have not been congenial with the foremen of the logging
companies have been transferred to other places, and it is almost
axiomatic that three transfers is the same as a discharge. The little
work that is required of the companies in preventing fires is much more
than offset by the fact that no homesteaders have small holdings within
the area of their operations, either to interfere with logging or to
compete with their small mills for the control of the lumber market.

That the forest lands of the nation were being denuded, and that this
would cause droughts and floods was a fact before the establishment of
the Reserves, and the fact is still true. Where a logging company
operates, the rule is that it shall take all the timber on the tract
where it works, and then the forest guards are to burn the brush and
refuse. A cleaner sweep of the timber could not have been made under the
old methods. The only difference in methods is that where the forest
guards now do the fire protecting for the lumber trust, the homesteaders
formerly did it for their own protection. In January, 1914, the Forestry
Service issued a statement that the policy of the Service for the
Kaniksu Forest in Northern Idaho and Northeastern Washington would be to
have all that particular reserve logged off and then have the land
thrown open to settlement as homesteads. As the timber in that part of
the country will but little more than pay for the work of clearing the
land ready for the plow, but is very profitable where no clearing is
required, it can be readily seen that the Forestry Service was being
used as a means of dividing the fruit - the apples to the lumber trust,
the cores to the landless homeseekers.

One particular manner in which the Government protects the large lumber
companies is in the insurance against fire loss. When a tract has been
awarded to a bidder it is understood that he shall have all the timber
allotted to him, and that he shall stand no loss by fire. Should a tract
of timber be burned before it can be logged, the government allots to
the bidder another tract of timber "of equal value and of equal
accessibility," or an adjustment is made according to the ease of
logging and value of the timber. In this way the company has no expense
for insurance to bear, which even now with the fire protection that is
given by the Forestry Service is rated by insurance companies at about
ten per cent. of the value of the timber for each year.

No taxes or interest are required on the timber that is purchased from
the government. Another feature that makes this timber cheaper than that
of private holdings, is that to buy outright would entail the expense of
the first cost of the land and timber, the protection from fire, the
taxes and the interest on the investment. In addition to this there is
always the possibility that some homesteader would refuse to sell some
valuable tract that was in a vital situation, as holding the key to a
large tract of timber that had no other outlet than across that tract.
There has been as yet no dispute with the government about an outlet for
any timber purchased on the Reserves; the contract for the timber always
including the proviso that the logging company shall have the right to
make and use such roads as are "necessary," and the company is the judge
of what is necessary in that line.

The counties in which Reserves are situated receive no taxes from the
government timber, or from the timber that is cut from the Reserves
until it is cut into lumber, but in lieu of this they receive a sop in
the form of "aid" in the construction of roads. In the aggregate this
aid looks large, but when compared with the amount of road work that the
people who could make their homes within what is now the Forest Reserves
could do, it is pitifully small and very much in the nature of the
"charity" that is handed out to the poor of the cities. It is the
inevitable result of a system of government that finds itself compelled
to keep watch and ward over its imbecile children.

So in devious ways of fraud, graft, coercion, and outright theft, the
bulk of the timber of the Northwest has been acquired by the lumber
trust at an average cost of less than twelve cents a thousand feet. In
the states of Washington and Oregon alone, the Northern Pacific and the
Southern Pacific railways, as allies of the Weyerhouser interests of St.
Paul, own nearly nine million acres of timber; the Weyerhouser group by
itself dominating altogether more than thirty million acres, or an area
almost equal to that of the state of Wisconsin. The timber owned by a
relatively small group of individuals is sufficient to yield enough
lumber to build a six-room house for every one of the twenty million
families in the United States.

Why then should conservation, or the threat of it, disturb the serenity
of the lumber trust? If the government permits the cutting of public
timber it increases the value of the trust holdings in multiplied ratio,
and if the government withdraws from public entry any portion of the
public lands, creating Forest Reserves, it adds marvelously to the value
of the trust logs in the water booms. Even forest fires in one portion
of these vast holdings serve but to send skyward the values in the
remaining parts, and by some strange freak of nature the timber of trust
competitors, like the "independent" and co-operative mills, seems to be
more inflammable than that of the "law-abiding" lumber trust. And so it
happens that the government's forest policy has added fabulous wealth
and prestige and power to the rulers of the lumber kingdom.

But whether the timber lands were stolen illegally or acquired by
methods entirely within the law of the land, the exploitation of labor
was, and is, none the less severe. The withholding from Labor of any
portion of its product in the form of profits - unpaid wages - and the
private ownership by individuals or small groups of persons, of timber
lands and other forms of property necessary to society as a whole, are
principles utterly indefensible by any argument save that of force. Such

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Online LibraryWalker C. SmithThe Everett Massacre: A history of the class struggle in the lumber industry → online text (page 1 of 21)