Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council
The Centralia Massacre by Herb Fuller

Born in Centralia, Washington, in 1928, Herbert H. Fuller attended the University of Washington and Harvard. He served as state chief assistant attorney general for nearly three years. He has argued cases before both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Washington State Supreme Court. Currently he is of counsel with Fuller & Fuller, Attorneys in Olympia, Washington. He is a member and former board member of the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association. His wife and three children are all attorneys.

Mr. Fuller has carefully researched the events of the Centralia Massacre and its aftermath, and has generously given us permission to publish his manuscript. Click the boxes below to read the manuscript.


In American history, there have been several trials that have produced labor martyrs. The case involving Tom Mooney in San Francisco is only one example. The trial arising from the Armistice Day massacre of 1919 in Centralia, Washington would be on many lists of the most important cases arising from labor and management clashes.
The parade was scheduled to begin in the afternoon. In the morning, Attorney Elmer Smith made a trip to the IWW hall to confer again with Britt Smith. Tom Morgan, the IWW member who testified as the state’s witness, claimed to have witnessed this conversation. He testified that he saw Britt Smith pointing to the buildings across the street where IWW riflemen were to be stationed.
Far and away the most authoritative book, and indeed the only book which treats the entire incident, is Wobbly War: The Centralia Story by John McClelland, Jr. The events in Centralia resulting in the trial are best understood by quoting extensively and summarizing the key facts from his book.
By two o’clock the parade was moving—the band, the Boy Scouts, the color bearers, the Elks wearing their jaunty blue caps, a contingent of ex-marines and sailors, the Chehalis Legionnaires and finally the Centralia unit with Lt. Warren Grimm marching at the head.
Everest, in a high state of excitement when he reached the alley behind the hall, turned south, and when he came to the alley’s entrance on Second Street saw two men in uniform running toward him. He fired at both. Casagranda, shot through the stomach, fell on the sidewalk. Watt was hit by a bullet that penetrated his midriff. Everest then turned and started north.
As the crowd outside the jail grew to about thousand and daylight faded, the mayor and the police chief called the state adjutant general of the National Guard for help. Two officers and thirty-five enlisted men from the Tacoma company were assembled and dispatched to Centralia by special train. About seven that night several cars drove up near the jail with their lights out.
One case above all others must have been on the minds of the prosecution, the defense, and the judge himself. This was the famous Everett massacre IWW trial, a nine week trial which took place in early 1917, arising from an exchange of gunfire between IWW members and law enforcement officials. As a result, two law enforcement officials and at least five IWW members or sympathizers were killed.
The Snohomish County prosecutor must have had a difficult time preparing his case for trial, because of the number of parties involved and the knowledge that there would be much contradictory testimony. It would unduly lengthen this discussion to go into detail about where people were standing and where the shots were fired from, but it was controversial.
C.D. Cunningham had the opportunity to interview witnesses, interview the prisoners, and to consider what exhibits would be necessary to build the prosecution’s case. He was faced with a very interesting situation.
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.
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.
Judge Wilson refused to accept the verdict, saying that there is no such thing as “third degree murder.” Nor is manslaughter applicable, because manslaughter pertains to a death resulting from an unintentional and unpremeditated act. The jurors resumed their deliberations for a few hours more, and emerged with a new verdict.



Page Last Updated: Nov 19, 2021 (12:10:52)
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Contact Info
Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council
PO Box 66
Olympia, WA 98507
 

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