Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council
The Centralia Massacre Part 11
Updated On: Nov 19, 2021

At this point in the trial, something very unusual occurred. On March 1st, eighty fully equipped soldiers arrived from a train and set up a campsite in the open space near the city hall. Prosecutor Herman Allen stated that the troops were there pursuant to a request he had made to Governor Hart. Attorney Vanderveer registered an objection in the strongest terms possible to the presence of the soldiers, claiming that they created an atmosphere which tended to indicate that the IWW constituted a threat to the jurors and to the legal system. Judge Wilson took no action on the matter despite the strong objections of defense counsel.

A number of other defendants testified as well as other witnesses who emphasized that the raid on the hall started before any shooting began. Mrs. McAllister, the proprietress of the union hall, pointed out that she had sought protection from the chief of police after she had heard of the danger of a raid. Mr. McAllister also testified as to the presence of Eugene Barnett at the Roderick Hotel, which adjoined the union hall.

One of the important witnesses of the defense was Dr. F.J. Bickford. He admitted that the attack on the hall had begun before he heard any shots fired. Bickford was one of the uniformed paraders, and he admitted actually rushing toward the hall and heard gunfire coming from the hall after someone ahead of him had pushed hard on the door to the hall. His testimony was particularly significant because it repeated the statement he had given at a coroner’s inquest shortly after the massacre and before there was time to “cook up” testimony later on.

By the end of the trial, the defense admitted that the shot which killed Warren Grimm had come from the Avalon Hotel. However, the only person who was in the Avalon Hotel, according to the defendants, was “John Doe” Davis, who had never been apprehended. Two of the witnesses testified to the effect that Warren Grimm or someone resembling him was actively either rushing the union hall or was injured and holding his stomach and running away from the door to the union hall. In other words, they testified as to Grimm’s active involvement in the illegal rush on the hall. The prosecuting attorney’s office immediately issued warrants of arrest for the two who testified, charging them with perjury. This was done in a very public fashion. It was interpreted by Attorney Vanderveer as a trick to frighten other witnesses into not testifying. The two perjury charges were later dropped, lending some credence to this interpretation. When Attorney DeWitt Wycoff helped compose the final report of the Federal Council of Churches, he stated that the judge had the power to find in contempt anyone using improper tactics. This was a strong hint that he felt that such actions taken by the prosecuting attorney should have been punished by contempt of court.

On March 13th, the judge read the instructions to the jury and counsel made final argument. The jury, after deliberating all day, reached the following verdict:

Elmer Smith, acquitted
Mike Sheehan, acquitted
Loren Roberts, guilty, but insane
Britt Smith, guilty of murder in the second degree
D.C. Bland, guilty of murder in the second degree
James McInerney, guilty of murder in the second degree
Bert Bland, guilty of murder in the second degree
Ray Becker, guilty of murder in the second degree
Eugene Barnett, guilty of murder in the third degree
John Lamb, guilty of murder in the third degree.

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

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