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Sunday, August 25, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Mob of soldiers angry at shooting marches to Wobbly hall

An angry mob, led by Fort George Wright soldiers angry at a shooting the day before, marched through the streets of downtown Spokane, heading for the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobbly) hall, The Spokesman-Review reported on April 22, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)
An angry mob, led by Fort George Wright soldiers angry at a shooting the day before, marched through the streets of downtown Spokane, heading for the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobbly) hall, The Spokesman-Review reported on April 22, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)

An angry mob, led by Fort George Wright soldiers, marched through the streets of downtown Spokane, heading for the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobbly) hall.

They were seeking revenge for an incident that had occurred the day before. Private Charles K. Overton, 18, was shot while guarding a Great Northern railroad bridge on the Spokane River. An unknown man emerged from the shadows and shot him in the calf. Railroad workers rushed him to the hospital. It was an “extremely painful wound,” but not life-threatening, and Overton was expected to recover.

Soldiers had been guarding key railroad bridges ever since the U.S. entered the war, because of fears of domestic sabotage.

The next night, a group of 50 artillerymen, apparently convinced that the Wobblies were responsible for the shooting, gathered at Riverside Avenue and Stevens Street, “muttering threats.” The crowd marched through downtown, picking up around 100 civilian supporters along the way.

They were headed for the Wobbly hall where 300 were gathered for a meeting. However, the street mob obviously did not know the whereabouts of the hall, since they marched through the streets for nearly an hour before they found it.

That delay prevented what might have been a bloody clash. During the march, someone called police and said that the mob’s mood was “ugly” and bloodshed would be the likely result.

Police dispatched every available man to the hall, and called the commandant at Fort George Wright, who arrived with a provost guard within 10 minutes.

“They arrived just as the mob was debating whether to rush the building,” reported The Spokesman-Review.

The three leaders of the mob were arrested and taken to Fort George Wright. The rest of the crowd was dispersed and sent home.

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