November 13th and 14th: Commemoration of the 1919 Centralia Tragedy

The Centralia Tragedy of 1919 is a major event in U.S. labor history. On November 11, 1919, there was a showdown in Centralia, WA between members of the American Legion and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Four Legionnaires were killed and an IWW organizer, Nathan Wesley Everest, was tortured and lynched. Eight IWW members were sentenced to 25-40 years in prison for shooting the Legionnaires, but no community members were ever brought to trial for the lynching of Everest.

2009 marks the 90th anniversary of this tragedy. Lewis County residents, the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association, regional labor unions, the Labor Center, staff and faculty from Centralia College, and rank-and-file union workers have put together a series of events to commemorate the Centralia Tragedy and to honoring the struggle we in the working class continue to fight against those who put profits before people.

The commemoration will host musical performances by folk musicians, film screenings, panels, workshops, and discussions ranging from music and activism, immigration, unions, and community organizing, concluded with an historical walking tour of Centralia.


Friday, 11/13
Corbet Theater, Centralia College
7:00 – 9:30 pm

The Centralia Tragedy long remained a painful event that Centralia community members were reluctant to discuss. This began to change in 1997 with the painting of a mural, “The Resurrection of Wesley Everest,” on the side of a former Elks Lodge. The making of the mural is the subject of “Lewis County: Hope and Struggle,” which also examines what took place in 1919 and interviews community residents about economic changes that have occurred over time in Lewis County.

The screening will be preceded by a musical performance by folk legend Mark Ross, a film trailer, The Forgotten: Armistice Day 1919, and followed by a discussion.


Saturday 11/14
(All Saturday events are at Washington Hall, Centralia College)

Events resume with a musical performance by Brendan Phillips. A panel presentation and workshops that focus on what happened in 1919 and why the Tragedy is relevant to today’s labor and workplace issues follow.

During the walking tour we will visit sites related to the Centralia Tragedy. These sites include the 1997 mural (“The Resurrection of Wesley Everest”); the Sentinel statue and other markers in Centralia’s downtown park; the old Elks Lodge where the Legionnaires planned their parade; the old city hall, site of the former jail; the Rainier Grand Hotel, where there will be historical displays, women in vintage costume, and refreshments; and the office of Elmer Smith, the attorney who was counsel to the IWW. The day will conclude with a visit to Wesley Everest¹s gravesite, located in the pauper¹s section of the local cemetery.

The year 2009, is an anniversary year for several other significant labor events in Washington state: the Spokane Free Speech fight of 1909, the Seattle General Strike of 1919, the West Coast Waterfront Strike of 1934, and the World Trade Organization demonstrations of 1999. Commemorations of all these events have been or are being organized in several locations around Washington State.

9:30 am - 10:00 am
Live music with Brendan Phillips
10:00 am - 11:00 am
Overview of the IWW: The Broader Context - Aaron Goings
The Centralia Tragedy - An Overview - Anne Fischel
Documents That Tell the Story - Sandy Polishuk

11:00 am
Roundtable Discussions

A) WalMart and
Retail Organizing - Gary Lyle, UFCW
Organizing in the Woods - Steve Fluke, Bill Street, Chip Elliott (IAM/IWA)

B) The IWW Today - Brendan Maslauskas Dunn and the Olympia IWW

C) Organizing at Fort Lewis - Josh Simpson, IWW

D) Immigrant Workers and Immigrant Rights - Antonio Flores, El Comité Pro-Reforma Migratoria y Justicia Social (In Spanish)

E) Songs of the Wobblies - Patrick Edalbacher, Brendan Phillips, Mark Ross

F) The Ghost of Hangman's Bridge - View of a developing feature film-Ursula Richards Coppola

G) Dramatic reading/performance of affidavits of witnesses, jurors, journalists, arrestees, legionnaires, & Wobblies collected by Wobbly defense committees: Sandy Polishuk and Johnny Stallings.

12:30 - 1:00 pm
Box Lunch

1:00 - 3:30 pm
Walking/Busing Labor History Tour of Centralia (gather at the Centralia College Diversity Tower)

8:00 pm, Olympia, at the Alexander Berkman Collective
Mark Ross and Brendan Phillips in Concert. For more information, email

For more information on the commemoration, contact Peter Kardas, Director of The Evergreen State College Labor Center, at 360-867-6526 or

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