On the 99th anniversary of his death at the hands of a mob, a crew of 15 people — many of them members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) — gathered at the tombstone of Wesley Everest, whose name is etched in local history as one of those killed during the Armistice Day Massacre, or Centralia Massacre.
On that day, Nov. 11, 1919, political tension between local IWW members and Centralia’s American Legion reached a boiling point during the Armistice Day Parade.
The IWW hall on North Tower Avenue was on the parade route, and its members — Wobblies, as IWW members are known — were inside and armed, fearing a raid. It was known around town that some kind of attack on the Wobblies’ headquarters was expected, said Phil Reichel Sunday morning, as he scrubbed grime off Everest’s headstone with a sponge. He was preparing for a short commemorative ceremony.
Some historical details are uncertain — like who fired on whom first, but three legionnaires would be dead during the parade, and the Wobbly hall broken into.
Everest was beaten and arrested. He was taken from his cell before any sort of trial, lynched and riddled with bullets.
“I had heard about Wesley Everest, he was the first Wobbly I had really put a name on, besides of course, the famous people … but Wesley Everest, I could identify with him, because I’m an ex-G.I., he’s an ex-G.I. He got drafted, I enlisted for the draft … similar attitudes, similar class backgrounds. I was an East Coast guy, but working class. He was a West Coast guy. And we come to honor his memory,” said Gordon Glick, one of the 15 who gathered in Greenwood Memorial Park Sunday, where Everest is laid to rest.
It’s been a tradition for the past four or five years, said Glick. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of his death, and while plans aren’t pinned down for what that year’s commemoration will look like, Glick said they hope to make it monumental.
“We just want to keep it alive in people’s memory that the labor movement in the United States has a long and storied past,” he said.The gathering was brief, as the members sang some traditional songs — written by or honoring labor movement heroes like Joe Hill, and their ideologies.