1919: The murder of Wesley Everest

The burial of Wesley Everest

Howard Zinn's account of the lynching of the American revolutionary unionist and former soldier Wesley Everest by "patriots."

It should be noted that this account contains numerous inaccuracies, which are discussed in the comments below. For an accurate account of the events, see this text by Tom Copeland.

Death of a Wobbly
Following the Seattle General Strike of 1919, in which the revolutionary rank-and-file union the Industrial Workers of the World was a key player, bosses and the US government stepped up the repression of the IWW.

In Centralia, Washington, where the IWW had been organising lumber workers, the lumber interests made plans to get rid of the IWW. On November 11, 1919, Armistice Day, the Legion [a "patriotic" group] paraded through town with rubber hoses and gas pipes, and the IWW prepared for an attack. When the Legion passed the IWW hall, shots were fired - it is unclear who fired first. They stormed the hall, there was more firing, and three Legion men were killed.

Inside the headquarters was an IWW member, a lumberjack named Wesley Everest*, who had been in France as a soldier while the IWW national leaders were on trial for obstructing the war effort. Everest was in army uniform and carrying a rifle. He emptied it into the crowd, dropped it, and ran for the woods, followed by a mob.

He started to wade across the river, found the current too strong, turned, shot the leading man dead, threw his gun into the river, and fought the mob with his fists. They dragged him back to town behind an automobile, suspended him from a telegraph pole, took him down, locked him in jail. That night, his jailhouse door was broken down, he was dragged out, put on the floor of a car, his genitals were cut off, and then he was taken to a bridge, hanged, and his body riddled with bullets.

No one was ever arrested for Everest's murder, but eleven Wobblies (IWW members) were put on trial for killing an American Legion leader during the parade, and six of them spent fifteen years in prison.

This article was taken from Howard Zinn’s excellent A People's History of the United States.
We heartily recommendyou buy A People's History of the United States now.
OCRed by Linda Towlson and lightly edited by libcom - US to UK spelling, additional details, clarifications and links added.

* Zinn mistakenly refers to Wesley Everest as Frank Everett.


Apr 4 2010 16:12

I think if you try, you will find out many of the veterans who belonged to the Wabbli's in 1919 were combat veterans who were gassed during the first world war in the trenches trying to support their families on starvation wages. Many of the owners and companies at the time had "Robber Barron" mentalities. I am sure they had no compassion for the poor. They used the American Legion for their own self righteous greed. . I am sure most Wabblis' came to the war right off the farm, or out of school, with minimal job skills..

I am also sure most of the veterans who belonged to the American Legion were no, to few combat officers, and if they had combat behind them they went from war in Europe to good paying jobs. Kind of like pilots during the Vietnam war. Yes they saw combat, but they were a privileged group who could afford the transition to civilian culture, making enough money to support his family. Not like the dirty soldier or Marine slugging it out in Vietnam's jungles.

Like John McCain. John McCain is privileged and certainly never had to worry about making money. Over the years he has shown himself to be against any program that helped combat veterans coming from poverty or having problems adapting to the culture good economics of the time. John McCain loves to wear the American legion gunny hat at veterans conventions.

John McCain thinks of himself as kind of nobility, just like Warren Grimm one of the people Wesley Everest was suppose to have killed. You see like John McCain like Grimm thought he was the super patriot while those scum of unemployed or under employed trench veterans at best were are moochers and suckers.

Apr 4 2010 23:25

thanks steven, everest is a favorite of mine.

"I fought for democracy in France and I'm going to fight for it here. The first man that comes in this hall, why, he's going to get it."
May 31 2010 21:35

The Centralia Conspiracy by Ralph Chaplin is a contemporary account that was republished in the early 1970s by Charles H. Kerr Publishers. I recommend it to anyone who wants to get a taste of what it is like at the time to be a a militant Wobbly.

Nov 17 2011 02:02

A few corrections:
Everest was not in France as a soldier in WWI. He served in the Spruce Production Division (which supplied timber for the war effort) and remained in Washington and Oregon throughout the war. He spent most of his time in the Vancouver stockade for refusing to salute the American flag.

Contrary to popular myth, Everest was not castrated. A police report that contained his fingerprints and a description of his body after he was hung and returned to the jail does not mention castration. No reports of this story were made by those at the lynching, by the deputies who brought his body back to jail, by the prisoners in the jail who saw his body, or by those who placed his body in the coffin. The IWW lawyers did not bring this up at the trial in 1920. Rumors of castration began four months after his lynching and reached a national audience with the publication of Ralph Chaplin's book "The Centralia Conspiracy." Chaplin was not in Centralia in 1919 and he admitted his book was not objective.

Seven Wobblies were found guilty of second-degree murder for the shooting of the American Legion member Warren Grimm. One died in jail, two were released after eleven years in jail, three after thirteen years, and one after sixteen years.

I wrote an article "Wesley Everest, IWW Martyr" for the Pacific Northwest Quarterly, October 1986 that sets the record straight.

Nov 17 2011 18:44

Hi Tom, many thanks for those informative comments. Do you have any references so that we can check them out make corrections to the text as necessary?

Nov 17 2011 20:24

I would imagine the reference to check would be his article.

It's available on Jstor which I have access to ATM.

Nov 17 2011 21:18

Ideally we could have that article up on libcom then - tasty would you be happy to post it up into the history section?

Nov 17 2011 22:28

Sure, I haven't read it yet though. Hopefully Tom is ok with it grin

Nov 21 2011 17:45

I'm thrilled that you posted my article for the Pacific Northwest Quarterly! Now I can email to friends and others who've asked about it over the years, rather than sending them a hard copy.

So, are you going to correct your posting? Or would you like me to edit it?

BTW - I had corresponded with Howard Zinn about correcting the errors about Everest in his book. He did correct it for one edition, but the errors came back in a later edition!

May 6 2012 17:09

Here is a link to recordings made by Eugene Barnett, one of the convicted Wobblies and an eye witness to the events...Hear it from the horse's mouth...and Then...jump to conclusions.
(click on the WAV icons)


Feb 14 2013 12:26

Mr. Copeland,

I have read most of the court documents, Bureau of Investication documents, books etc...

"Ghost of Hangman's Bridge", What really happened to Wesley Everest!
After Wesley's multiple lynching and bullet holes throughout his body, a person can only imagine how he could comit sucide. A witness stated during the early 19 Century trial. The courthouse went crazy and Judge Wilson almost stood up and looked at the witness, confussed....

Take a look what I found:
After the Armistice Day Parade gun battle


Did you know a photographer took pictures of the actual parade during the gun battle? I am on the hunt!

I have researched about the many deaths of Wobblies for the past 15 years. I have thousands of documents, photos and interviews of witnesses (some are still alive). One lady I interviewed passed away last year, she was 105 years old.

How I came across this story? I was looking for my great-grandparents house and the house my grandmother was born in in Centralia, WA.

I would love to interview you sir.

I have a question, what does Aero SQ (cons) means? I have Wesley's honorable dischard papers. He entered the war on Sept 18, 1917 and was discharged on Jan 9, 1919. I am hopeful to recieve more of his military records.