Recalling Everett’s ‘complicated’ day

“The Everett Massacre was a disaster from any perspective.”

That’s how an essay in the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections, titled “What Happened That Day in Everett,” sums up what occurred on the waterfront here Nov. 5, 1916. It cites “Bloody Sunday Revisited,” a 1980 piece by William J. Williams in the scholarly journal Pacific Northwest Quarterly.

Labor strife that exploded into a gunfight killing at least seven people is now fodder for scholars. But it doesn’t take a scholar to see there were multiple perspectives that day.

There were the Industrial Workers of the World. Known as Wobblies, members of the IWW union were outsiders. They had been coming to town for weeks to speak in support of shingle weavers. Everett’s shingle workers had been on strike over pay.

There was Everett’s ruling class, the wealthy mill owners.

And there was law enforcement, which like the Wobblies suffered tragic losses that day.

Neil Anderson, a member of the Everett Historical Commission, has a unique perspective. He is a descendant of both a mill owner and a mill worker.

His late mother was Jeanne Hartley Anderson. She was the granddaughter of Roland Hartley, a wealthy Everett mill baron who became Everett’s mayor, a state legislator, and Washington’s governor from 1925 to 1933. Anderson remembers his grandfather, Roland Hartley’s son Edward Hartley, talking about 1916. He called his grandfather, who died in 1972, “a walking Everett history book.”

“The concern on the part of the mill owners was that the mills were going to be burned,” said Anderson, who is 61.

On his mother’s side was Everett’s business elite, but Anderson’s paternal grandfather was a millwright. Axel Anderson worked at the Crown Lumber Company in Mukilteo. That mill closed in 1930 as the country slid into the Depression.

“The Everett Massacre: Class War” is the title of an event planned for Thursday evening at Everett’s Anchor Pub. Sponsored by Historic Everett, it will include dinner, a talk by Cascade High School teacher Steve Bertrand, and a walk to a spot near the site of the shootings accompanied by a bagpiper.

Violence was part of the 1916 story even before at least five Wobblies and two local deputies, Jefferson Beard and Charles Curtis, were shot to death. A HistoryLink essay by Everett historian Margaret Riddle tells how 41 Wobblies were beaten by citizen deputies on Oct. 30, 1916, near the Beverly Park interurban station, then south of Everett.

On the Sunday after the beatings, 99 years ago this week, two vessels from Seattle, the Verona and the Calista, voyaged to Everett carrying about 300 Wobblies. It has never been clear which side fired first.

According to the UW essay, Snohomish County Sheriff Don McRae and dozens of armed deputies met the Verona at the dock. That first shot led to more gunfire. Dead were the two deputies and Wobblies Abraham Rabinowitz, Hugo Gerlot, Gus Johnson, Felix Baran and John Looney. Plus, as many as six other IWW members may have drowned or been shot in the water.

It has long been noted that Everett has no marker commemorating the massacre. That may change in time for next year’s 100th anniversary.

Dean Smith, president of Everett’s Port Gardner Neighborhood Association, said his group and the Bayside Neighborhood Association are working on a project to install a marker near the waterfront site. “There are people working on that,” said Smith, whose Federal Avenue home, built in 1901, overlooks the spot where the Verona landed.

Anderson pointed out that an historical display at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s Colby campus includes an account of the shootings. There’s a description handwritten by one of the Sisters of Providence. She recalled what she saw from the old Providence hospital, which overlooked the waterfront.

“Our little city of Everett was today the scene of a serious battle,” she wrote. From her perspective, it appeared the Wobblies shot first, “and the battle started.” She wrote that eight of the injured were brought to Providence. “This afternoon we had a glimpse of what the war in Europe is like,” the nun wrote.

It was the bloodiest day in Northwest labor history, a chapter still steeped in mystery. Who fired first? How many really died?

Anderson remembers childhood tours around town with his grandfather Edward Hartley, “including the waterfront and the old Pier 2, the city dock, where the massacre took place.”

“He always became quite reflective there,” Anderson said. “He plainly told us of those troubled times leading up to the massacre.”

On the labor side, Anderson said, there were issues of wages, working conditions and hours, plus violence against strikers and the Beverly Park beatings. For mill owners, there were production and labor costs, and fierce competition from other Northwest mills.

“They both had valid concerns,” Anderson said. “Without the mill owners who made the investments, built the mills and created the jobs, this town might not be here.”

He agrees with how others have described Nov. 5, 1916: “It was a very complicated day.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Massacre event

“The Everett Massacre: Class War” is an event starting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Anchor Pub. It will commemorate the killings on Everett waterfront Nov. 5, 1916. Sponsored by Historic Everett, it includes: 5:30-7:30 p.m., buffet dinner; 6:30 p.m., Steve Bertrand speaking on “The Everett Massacre: Evolution of a Class War;” 7:30 p.m., Everett trivia; 8:30 p.m., open mic, labor unions and the public invited to speak; 9 p.m., walk from the Anchor to the foot of Hewitt Avenue with Scottish bagpiper James McKnight playing “Amazing Grace.” Cost is $20, includes buffet. The Anchor Pub is at 1001 Hewitt Ave., Everett.

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