Thursday, July 2, 2015

Seeberville Shootings: The Unbelievable Story of Thomas Raleigh

One of the worst early, violent events against organized labor during the strike was the shootings of unarmed striking workers in Seeberville. We examine the event in the book, but found some damning historical documents regarding one of the principle actors in the event: Thomas Raleigh.

For some background on the event...taken from Community in Conflict:

The crowded, hardscrabble back streets of a ramshackle mining location [Seeberville] was the
setting for possibly the most notorious of the Waddell-Mahon men’s exploits. This ghastly event occurred in mid-August 1913, and the labor newspapers were quick to print a nuanced recounting of the event: “The character of these bloodhounds dressed as humans revealed itself for the first time on August 14th when they executed one of the most cold blooded massacres known to the history of the American workers’ battles in Seeberville location near Painesdale.”

Antti Sarell, who wrote for a Finnish-language labor newspaper, Tyomies, further described the event:

For absolutely no reason six crooks identified as sheriff ’s deputies, of which four were Waddell-Mahon’s Detective Agency gun hounds, attacked the men of Croatian Joseph Putrich’s boarding house, driving the men from the courtyard to the inside of the house and after that shooting in through the house’s windows with their revolvers. The consequence was that 18-year-old striker Aloiz Tijan was instantly killed and a striker named Steve Putrich died from gunshot wounds some days later. Two other strikers and the infant who was in the arms of the house’s lady suff ered gunshot wounds, with a shot of the revolver burning the child’s face. After they had committed this cruel deed, the gun hounds went to the road in front of the house where they loaded their revolvers again and jeered amongst themselves 'we wonder how many dead bodies there are in the house.'

Naturally, Sheriff Cruse, who had hired the men, did as much as possible to hinder eff orts to locate the assailants and bring the shooters to justice. After finally rounding up the suspects, the sheriff ordered the arrests of six “murderers”: James Cooper, Arthur Davis, William Groff , Harry James, Edward Polkinghorne, and Thomas Raleigh. According to Sarell, “The hounds that had committed the massacre were let to be on the loose for a long time before the sheriff , pressured by public
opinion, saw that it was better to take them ‘under his surveillance’ in the county jail where they weren’t treated like other prisoners at all, but were allowed to live like kings.”

That was our rendering of events from the historical sources of the labor press. What was especially intriguing was that while five of the men were eventually tried in court for the crime; one, Thomas Raleigh got away. Houghton County officials (including law enforcement, mine managers, and elected officials, who were often mine managers) claimed to have no idea of what happened to Raleigh. The Waddell-Mahon Detective Agency, who employed Raleigh, also was not helpful in determining Raleigh's whereabouts after the shooting.

We found documents that suggested otherwise! I'll include the first round of these documents below and then more in the next post along with more interpretation from Community in Conflict. The documents below were scanned from the originals contained in Tech's Copper Country Historical Collections.

As can be seen from the signature, this was Tom Raleigh reporting back to a handler at Wadell-Mahon regarding activities of organized labor in New York City. Raleigh was even using Waddell-Mahon stationary. The Waddell-Mahon Detective Agency was the company hired by Copper Country mine managers as additional security and company police during the strike. Some of these men were also deputized by Sheriff Cruse to police and ultimately strike-break during the labor action as Houghton County deputy sheriffs. Raleigh was one such deputy and he was one of the shooters during the Seeberville incident. After Fall 1913 Raleigh was a wanted man in the Copper Country--wanted for murder--so it is odd that he was writing to his employer in January of 1914. Amazingly, he was still on the job. So the Waddell-Mahon company was still employing Raleigh, a wanted man, in trying to union bust.

One begins to wonder, who else knew Raleigh was in New York City?

More to come in the next post...

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