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Saturday, August 24, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Montana: Arson suspected in loss of 23 Great Northern Railway freight cars

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 22, 2017, 10:03 p.m.

The Great Northern Railway lost 23 freight cars to arson in one day, and authorities suspected that it might be the work of the Wobblies, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on Aug. 22, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)
The Great Northern Railway lost 23 freight cars to arson in one day, and authorities suspected that it might be the work of the Wobblies, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on Aug. 22, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)

The Great Northern Railway lost 23 freight cars to arson in one day, and authorities suspected that it might be the work of the Wobblies.

The fires broke out simultaneously in several freight cars at the Judith Gap, Montana, rail yard. Authorities found that fires were started with fuel-saturated material.

“It was freely expressed here this morning that the plan was an attempt to destroy the roundhouse, entire yard and station building of the railway company,” reported the Spokane Daily Chronicle.

A posse was organized and the county was being searched for suspects. Some people in Judith Gap believed the arson stemmed from previous difficulties with the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies).

From the court beat: Two of the 27 men arrested in the raid on the Industrial Workers of the World headquarters in Spokane were released after a hearing before a military tribunal.

The public was not admitted into the hearing, so details were sparse. However, it seemed the two men were deemed to be small fish and not worth detaining,

Major Clement Wilkins of Fort George Wright, who conducted the raid, had earlier said that each case would be investigated carefully and if some were wrongfully held, they would be released immediately.

Meanwhile, attorney Sam T. Crane was attempting to secure the release of the other 25 Wobblies. He submitted a writ for a petition of habeas corpus.

A judge granted the writ and a hearing was scheduled.

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