Hellraisers Journal: Banner at Funeral for John Alar Proclaims Fellow Worker “Murdered by Oliver Gunmen”

Pray for the dead and
fight like hell for the living.
-Mother Jones

Tuesday June 27, 1916
Virginia, Minnesota – Tresca Leads “Eye for Eye” Oath at Funeral

John Alar Funeral, Virginia MN, Tresca Oath, June 26, 1916

From today’s edition of The Duluth News Tribune:


Carlo Tresca Administers Oath of Vengeance
Over Grave of Victim.

John Alar Funeral, Banner, Virginia MN, June 26, 1916

VIRGINIA, June 26.-“Murdered by Oliver Gunmen,” were the words which first greeted the eyes of Virginians as the largest and longest funeral procession ever held in the city of Virginia marched from the Socialist Opera house and over the principal streets of the city to Calvary cemetery, where the body of John Alar, who was killed by [?] in a pitched battle between strikers and mine guards last week, was interred.

The red banner was about 12 feet wide and was carried by woman and children. The band accompanied the parade, playing hymns enroute to the cemetery. Although strict orders had been given to the strikers that they should not have a band or carry music, no interference with the line of march was attempted by police or citizens.

The banner was carried in front of the hearse and was preceded only by Carlo Tresca, Sam Scarlet, Joe Schmidt and other strike leaders with heads bowed and carrying their hats in their hands. Mrs. M. Liberattl, the 16-year-old bride, who had arrived here with her husband just as the strike commenced and who was in the Ludlow strikes, marched before the hearse, carrying a huge wreath of flowers.

The strikers and friends of the dead man numbered between 2,500 and 3,000. They did not march by the most direct route to the cemetery, but after leaving the Socialist hall, marched down Walnut street to Mesaba avenue, then to Poplar street and back to Chestnut street on Wyoming avenue, also marching on Central avenues and at other points where hundreds of Virginians witnessed the parade.

Heated indignation was expressed by a large number of civilians because of the banner carried at the head of the parade. The funeral services were held at the Socialist Opera house, which was filled to overflowing with strikers and sympathizers. Only a few carriages were in the cortege, bearing the relatives of the deceased and his immediate friends.

The services were held at the Socialist hall and it required an hour and a half for Virginia, Eveleth, Buhl, Chisholm and other range people to file past the body of Alar and look for the last time on the face of their “fellow worker.” At each end of the casket was a woman relative of the deceased, dressed in black and with black shawls covering their heads as they sobbed quietly.

Widow Breaks Down.

While the huge crowd was slowly passing the body, the widow, unable to restrain her grief, rushed up to the coffin in an almost hysterical manner, throwing her arms about the dead body of her husband, while her children followed her, crying because of their mother’s outburst, but hardly realizing what the death of the father meant. At Calvary cemetery the widow made one frantic effort to see her husband’s body after it had been lowered into the grave, making a leap to throw herself on top of the coffin, but the hands of women nearby restrained her. Friends of Alar failed in an attempt to procure the services of a Greek Catholic priest to bless the body. Alar was a Greek Catholic, while all priests approached were Roman Catholics.

Services were also held at the grave, and there Sam Scarlet [Scarlett] said:

Although Alar is dead, his spirit, as that of John Brown, goes marching on over the range country and it is teaching the people to realize the benefit which will be theirs because of his death.

Carlo Tresca, Graveside Oath John Alar, June 26, 1916

Tresca Administer Oath.

Carlo Tresca also spoke and had a standing vote, which was unanimously taken, on the carrying out of the “an eye for an eye” policy.

[He said:]

Fellow workers…I want you to take the following oath: “I solemnly swear that if any Oliver gunmen shoot or wound any miner, we will take a tooth for a tooth, and eye for an eye or a life for a life.”

John G. Salties of Minneapolis, a Socialist, spoke, telling of how Alar had left his little town in Europe to come to the land of the free and that he found working conditions on the range worse than in Europe, and that the rule of a czar or a kaiser was comparatively mild.

[He concluded:]

John Alar asked for bread and
they gave him lead.

George Andreytchine and John Laukilla of Duluth and a number of others addressed the horde of people in foreign languages.

Mayor Michael Boylan tonight said:

If we had a charter which gave the mayor authority over the police department, the inflammatory banner, “murdered by Oliver gunmen,” would never have been flaunted in the faces of our citizens and our mining men. I am confident that could I have gone to the strike leaders they would have been willing to discard the banner, but that power has been taken out of my hands and placed in the power of the police and fire commission.


[Emphasis and photograph of mourners with banner added.]


The Duluth News Tribune
(Duluth, Minnesota)
-June 27, 1916
-page 5
(Also source for image of Tresca.)

John Alar Funeral, Virginia MN, Tresca Oath, June 26, 1916
John Alar Funeral, Banner, Virginia MN, June 26, 1916