Part 14 - 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 by-standers 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.
Next page: Part 15 - Wesley Everest