Chapter 48

The story so far: Mass arrests follow the incident at the Kovich house.


Jails across the Range were full.

Sheriff Turner and Mr. Stone were delighted. The incident at the Kovich house had given them an excuse to break the leadership of the strike. More than fifty strike organizers had been found and arrested. Outside the jails that dotted Blood Red Road, crowds formed. The men, women and children — together with the business owners — rallied to free the prisoners. In Biwabik, Katka tried unsuccessfully to get inside to see Lily, Anton and Paul. Like scores of other women, she left food with the names of people she loved at the entrance to the prison.

Fearing mutiny, Sheriff Turner finally decided to let most of the men and women go. The remaining, he moved to the county jail in Duluth, loading them up in cars that came like locusts in the middle of the night. Ten prisoners in all were transported. Paul, Anton, Lily, Samo and Dusca were among them. Katka never got to say goodbye. None was officially charged with the death of Moose Jackson, yet the Steel Trust was still assembling a grand jury to indict them and it had stumbled across a few roadblocks.

The coroner who examined Moose Jackson’s body stated, on the record, that it was impossible to accurately determine who was responsible for the deputy’s death. But he did report that Moose Jackson had been killed by a weapon owned by one of the company deputies. He refused to recant or amend his statement. In addition, Dr. Payne, the only medical man on the scene, agreed to testify only on the condition that he also testify about the death of Andy Lamppi, whose young boys played baseball with his own sons, and also about the wounds inflicted upon the miners and Mrs. Kovich. As a possible witness, he was determined unreliable and he was dismissed.

The imprisonment of the IWW leaders and the miners received international attention. U.S. Steel sought to portray the miners and their organizers as violent men who refused to respect the law of the land. They hired the greatest legal team they could find, led by prosecuting attorney Warren H. Greene. There were rumors that the grand jurors had been bribed.

In the meantime, Anton, Samo, Dusca and Lily — who all witnessed the shooting — sat in jail in Duluth. They were allowed no visitors, no information. Although Frank Little and Arthur Boose had been released, Wobbly organizers Carlo Tresca, Sam Scarlett and Paul Schmidt were not. Local organizer Adeline Sherek, who had been delivering a baby at the time of the incident, had also been arrested. She shared a jail cell with Lily and baby Gregor. Protesters arrived every day and picketed the prison. They were joined by union members from Duluth and Minneapolis. To appease the protesters, Adeline Sherek was released. Lily Kovich was not.

The IWW assembled a team of defense lawyers, but they were denied access to any official reports, eyewitness accounts or testimony. Because no charges had been officially filed, the IWW lawyers found it impossible to prepare a case. Finally, several weeks after they were arrested, Anton, Lily, Samo and Dusca were indicted in the killing of a deputy sheriff with a dangerous weapon. Carlo Tresca, Sam Scarlett and Paul Schmidt were charged with inciting murder by their speeches. The trial date was not yet determined.

Meanwhile, baby Gregor, skinny and dirty, had learned how to smile in a six-by-eight-foot prison cell.


Tomorrow: Chapter 49 begins.