Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council
The Centralia Massacre Part 10
Updated On: Nov 19, 2021

In his opening statement he set forth what he expected to prove. The prosecution planned to bring several witnesses to prove that the person who murdered Warren Grimm was Eugene Barnett. They also planned to show that there was a scheme for firing at the paraders from hotels on the opposite sides of the street, as well from Seminary Hill. Several witnesses were later called in an attempt to identify Eugene Barnett with varying results. Two of the witnesses were not too sure whether Barnett was, in fact, the person who had the gun near the Avalon Hotel. The third witness, Charles Briffett, who was the superintendent of schools of Port Angeles, Washington, seemed quite sure of himself.

It is significant that none of the witnesses picked Mr. Barnett from a photo array. They were, apparently, shown photographs of Eugene Barnett or taken to the jail and it is not known whether Eugene Barnett was specifically pointed out to them. One of the witnesses seemed unsure to the extent that the witness did not point out Mr. Barnett in court. There were several witnesses who testified that the shooting from the hall started before there was any break in the ranks of the paraders. One of those who testified was Clyde Tisdale, who was sitting in a car parked on Second Street at the southwest corner of the intersection with Tower Avenue. He too indicated that the shooting started before there was any break in the ranks. Years later, he signed an affidavit admitting that he had committed perjury by so stating. In fact, he stated in the affidavit that there was a break in the ranks before there was any shooting from the hall.

The prosecution got the statement (termed confession by the newspapers) of Loren Roberts. The statement of Roberts was read to the jury, but the judge stated that Roberts’ statement should be used only with regard to him, Roberts, since insanity was an issue in the case. Tom Morgan, one of the men in the hall, agreed to testify as a state’s witness. Morgan stated that the shots were fired in the hall before the paraders broke ranks. The state attempted to prove by Morgan’s testimony that there was a prearranged plan which involved stationing riflemen in nearby hotels. Morgan testified that on the morning of the parade, Elmer Smith came to the hall and discussed the defense of the hall with Britt Smith. Morgan stated that he saw Britt Smith gesturing across the street toward the Avalon and Arnold Hotels in an effort to indicate that attorney Smith was aware of the plan that would be used to defend the hall.

Towards the end of the state’s case, T.H. McCleary testified that he carried a rope in the parade. He stated he found it in the street between Pine and Main Street, and that he picked it up and Mr. Rhodes took hold of it and it came apart. “We had no idea to hang anybody with the rope,” he added.

At the close of the state’s case, Vanderveer asked that the charges be dismissed against Sheehan, Becker, Faulkner, and McInerney, as well as Elmer Smith. This had previously been denied, but the motion was renewed by Vanderveer. Judge Wilson did grant the motion with regard to Faulkner. From that point on he was no longer a defendant, and was free to go. “Go take a seat in the audience with your mother,” said Vanderveer. Finally, the last of the 147 witnesses for the prosecution was called, and the state rested.

Attorney George Vanderveer stated in his opening statement that he would prove the following facts: First, that Eugene Barnett was not in the Avalon Hotel. Second, that Loren Roberts was insane (and therefore any statements made by him could not be used against any of the other defendants.) Third, that Mike Sheehan was not in the hall before Monday night, and therefore took no part in planning for the defense of the hall. Fourth, he would prove that a raid on the hall was planned a few days before by Commercial Club members and other businessmen, and that the IWW members were fully justified in expecting the raid, and were entitled to make preparations to defend themselves. Finally, that the raid on the hall started before any guns were fired, and that Warren Grimm was one of the raid’s leaders.

The trial was unusual in that all of the defendants testified except for Loren Roberts, who was supposedly insane, and Ray Becker. Eugene Barnett himself led off for the defense and denied that he was in the Avalon Hotel at any time. He stated that he was in the hotel adjoining the union hall with the hotel owners, Mr. and Mrs. McAllister. He was present there when the raid on the hall took place. He claimed he knew nothing about the proposed defense on the union hall, and took no part in it. Other witnesses were called to back up Barnett’s version.


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Contact Info
Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council
PO Box 66
Olympia, WA 98507
 

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