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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Wobblies arrested after rail car fracas on Great Northern train

About 27 Wobblies were arrested by Fort George Wright military authorities after they allegedly fomented a “riot” on the Great Northern passenger train between Troy, Mont., and Spokane, The Spokesman-Review reported on Aug. 30, 1917. The newspaper also reported that the state Supreme Court rejected the argument that producing liquor for private use was allowed under Washington prohibition based on the placement of a comma in the law’s wording. (Spokesman-Review archives)
About 27 Wobblies were arrested by Fort George Wright military authorities after they allegedly fomented a “riot” on the Great Northern passenger train between Troy, Mont., and Spokane, The Spokesman-Review reported on Aug. 30, 1917. The newspaper also reported that the state Supreme Court rejected the argument that producing liquor for private use was allowed under Washington prohibition based on the placement of a comma in the law’s wording. (Spokesman-Review archives)

About 27 Wobblies were arrested by Fort George Wright military authorities after they allegedly fomented a “riot” on the Great Northern passenger train between Troy, Mont., and Spokane.

The men had been fighting forest fires near Libby, Mont., and were headed back to Spokane. Authorities suspected the men might cause trouble, so they dispatched a Libby deputy sheriff and a “special agent of the Great Northern,” R.C. Courtright, to ride along on the train.

This plan backfired spectacularly.

In fact, Courtright started drinking with the Wobblies and then started “defending them against the trainmen.”

“During a general fight after the train had left Newport, Courtright is alleged to have pulled his revolver on Deputy Sheriff William L. Pratt of Libby,” said The Spokesman-Review.

Courtright hastily departed the train at Hillyard.

When the train pulled into the Spokane depot, a detachment of Spokane police was waiting. The Wobblies were “marched to the police station and later turned over to Major Clement Wilkins of the Idaho national guard, who took them as military prisoners.” They were then escorted to the county jail by a detachment of 50 guardsmen.

As in all controversies involving the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World), there were competing narratives.

“A number of the men arrested maintained that they had no connection with the I.W.W. and were only riding in the smoking car” when a fight broke out around them. A few were released before the army officers arrived.

The man who allegedly started the fight, Eugene Delvoy, was carrying a great deal of Wobbly literature and admitted being a Wobbly organizer.

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