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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Federal agents confiscate guns owned by Germans

The Spokane School Board said it would no longer employ Germans, and federal agents were confiscating guns from Germans, The Spokesman-Review reported on April 24, 2017. (Spokesman-Review archives)
The Spokane School Board said it would no longer employ Germans, and federal agents were confiscating guns from Germans, The Spokesman-Review reported on April 24, 2017. (Spokesman-Review archives)

The panic over “aliens” – that is, Germans living in the U.S. – was becoming more evident in Spokane.

“No more alien teachers will be employed by the Spokane school board,” said what was otherwise a relatively routine story about new teacher hires.

The story noted that the district’s no-alien policy was “pursuant to the recent order of the State Board of Education.”

A second story had the headline, “Woman Resents Giving Up Rifle.”

This was about a recent roundup of weapons conducted by the U.S. marshal and the Spokane Police Department. All “enemy aliens” were required to turn in “what weapons they possess.”

This resulted, inevitably, in some confusion and resentment. In one example, Mrs. Alphonse Obergefell of Peaceful Valley turned in her old Springfield rifle, but exceedingly reluctantly.

She told the marshal that she was an English woman and that her husband was an Alsatian. The marshal explained that “Alsace is listed as an enemy country” and he had no choice but to consider him a German.

“A German?” retorted Mrs. Obergefell. “He is no German. One of his brothers is now fighting in the French army, and as for me, I had one brother killed in the English army in January …”

She went on to say that her husband was “more of a Frenchman than anyone now living in France.”

The marshal remained unmoved and asked Mrs. Obergefell if there were any other Germans in her neighborhood.

“Well, if there are, you can find them yourself,” she replied. “I ain’t telling about them.”

Later in the story, the marshal said he planned to enforce another federal order requiring enemy aliens living within a half-mile of forts or naval bases to move before June 1.

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