Shame of the Tugboat Edison         

David Winnie

Copyright 2017 by  David Winnie



Newspaper article about the killings.


George Raab was unable to tell if the pounding he heard was from the whiskey he had imbibed the night before or someone’s fist on the door of his room in the Hewitt Avenue flophouse. Opening one eye, he could make out the pale, curved shoulder of a doxie he’d hooked up with the night before.

The incessant knocking was coming from the door, with a shouted voice, “George Raab! This is Deputy Nathan Beard. Sherriff McRae needs to see you, posthaste.”

Deputy Beard spoke funny, thought George. A dandy-boy Sheriff Donald McRae hired five months ago when the millworkers went on strike at the Clough-Hartley shingle factory. Troubles were floating about Everett since; the Black Cats of the Industrial Workers of the World had marched up from Seattle and were holding illegal meetings throughout the city.

“Tell him I’ll meet him at the Edison,” yelled George. He had no stomach to meet with the young coxcomb today. He reached for his trousers, ignoring the nameless woman as he dressed.

Edison pulled away from the south pier at the foot of Hewitt Avenue. The meeting with Sherriff McRae had been short. A steamer, the Verona, was loaded with Wobblies on their way to Everett to cause trouble at the docks. Captain Raab was to intercept them if he could and convince them to turn back.

“I know I’m asking a lot,” declared the Sheriff. “I don’t want any trouble, but I hear they’ve come spoiling for a fight.”

 For not wanting trouble, McRae had put enough guns on his boat. Cecil, his deckhand, took pains to find enough room in the deckhouse and below decks for the ten armed louts. It was mid-November and a series of squalls had worked its way up through the Puget Sound, making for a bone chilling cold.

They cast off and chuffed into the bay. The mists blended with the winter grey sea, broken only by increasing whitecaps. Rain lashed the deck, blown by the bitter wind.

George heard a sound, a defiant tone on the wind of a different storm. He opened the wheelhouse window to the strains of singing in the wind; “We meet today in freedom’s cause, and raise our voices high. We’ll join our hands in Union strong, to battle or to die…”

He turned Edison port and through the mist came the cutter Verona. George placed his megaphone to his mouth and hailed. “Hoy Verona. Captain Wiman.”

“Hoy Edison,” came the reply. “George Raab, is that you?”

“Aye,” called George. “Captain, the Sheriff is waiting at the pier for your lot. He wants you to return to Seattle.”

Hoots and catcalls rang from the steamer. “Not likely, George,” Chance Wiman replied.

“Captain, please!” called George. No use, the steamer was faster than his tug by three knots. He spun Edison about, hoping perhaps when Verona slowed, he could convince them to turn back.

As they approached the pier, the men came out of their shelter. George swung Edison wide, one eye on the events of the pier, the other on the bully-boys on his deck. The singing on Verona died when Sheriff Donald McRae shouted to the boat. George couldn’t make out the conversation, but judging from the shouts and jeers from both sides, Verona was not going to be allowed to dock.

A shot rang out. Then another. Gunfire exploded from the warehouses around the pier. Horrified, George watched his friend, Sheriff McRae, fall. The toughs on his ship fired at Verona as well. The crowd of jeering Wobblies screamed and fell to the deck, bleeding and dying. Somehow, Verona turned and, belching black smoke from her stack, raced away from the volley of fire erupting from the city.

“Follow it!” A scar-faced ruffian had ripped open the wheelhouse door, pointing a tiny pistol at his head.

George stared at the gun for a moment, then back to the fleeing cutter. He saw heads bobbing in the waters behind the fleeing boat, saw another thrashing body roll off the deck into the bay. “Nay,” he shouted, “I have a higher calling.” He pointed to the men in the water. “God demands I do the Christian thing and rescue those men.”

The bully-boy stepped back, a cruel grin forming on his face. “Aye, a Christian duty indeed.” He pocketed his pistol and called to his men. George guided Edison to each head floating in the water, the thugs pulling all on deck.

Three were dead. The hooligan pointed to the head at Mukilteo and ordered, “There, Captain, be quick about it.” Numbly, George headed towards the deep water, his bowels churning as he heard the retort of the pistol twice more.

Cecil produced canvas and quickly stitched the five dead Wobblies into bags weighed with lengths of anchor chain and ballast. One by one, the bodies were dumped unceremoniously into the water, nary even a marker for their graves.

The city was aflame. The newspapers screamed of the Great Everett Massacre, listing deputies Curtis and Beard being felled by the Wobbly fiends. Of the six Wobblies who died on Verona or the five who disappeared, no mention was ever made.

On November 5th, 2016, a marker was laid down at the end of Hewitt Avenue, across the street from Lions Tattoo Parlor, without mention of how the last five Wobblies died.

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