Hellraisers Journal: Butte Strikers’ Bulletin Blames Company Gunthugs for Murder of Fellow Worker Frank Little

Don’t worry, fellow-worker,
all we’re going to need from now on is guts.
-Frank Little

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Hellraisers Journal, Saturday August 4, 1917
Butte, Montana – Strikers’ Bulletin Names Names

Frank Little Martyr, Truth Butte Tompkins, 1917, crpd

The Butte Bulletin, voice of the striking metal miners in that city, devoted its entire edition of August 2nd to the lynching of Fellow Worker Frank Little.

One article was entitled: “Frank Little Murdered by Gunmen, Companies in Desperation Resort to Deadly Violence.” William F. Dunn, editor, stated that there is “sufficient evidence to indicate the names of five men who took part, every one of whom is a company stool pigeon. Two of these men are in business, two are gunmen, and one is connected with law enforcement… Every man, woman, and child in this country knows that company agents perpetrated this foulest of all crimes.” The Bulletin went on to name names: “William Oates, Herman Gilles, Pete Beaudin, a rat named Middleton and two dozen others working under a chief gunman named Ryan.”

Funeral to be Held in Butte

From the Seattle Star of August 3, 1917:

HAYWOOD IN CHARGE OF
I. W. W. FUNERAL

By United Press Leased Wire

CHICAGO, Aug. 3.-The funeral of Frank Little, I. W. W. leader, lynched in Butte, probably will be held in Butte tomorrow, Wm. D. Haywood, secretary of the national organization, said today. He received a message from Little’s sister [sister-in-law], Emma Little, of Fresno, Cal., placing arrangements for the funeral in his hands.

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Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin Weighs In

From the Arizona Republican of August 3, 1917:

Jeannette Rankin, Missoulian, Feb 26, 1917

MISS RANKIN TO URGE PROBE
OF LITTLE LYNCHING
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BUTTE. Mont., Aug. 2.-Announcement was made tonight by members of the Industrial Workers of the World that they had received a telegram from [Montana] Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin saying that she was endeavoring to secure a federal investigation of the lynching here yesterday of the I. W. W. leader, Frank Little….

From The Anaconda Standard of August 2, 1917:

BUTTE’S NAME TARNISHED BY THE STAIN OF LYNCH LAW
FRANK LITTLE HANGED FROM TRESTLE BY UNKNOWN MOB

[Continued from yesterday’s Hellraisers…]

Frank Little, Union Hall and Lodging, Lbr Def, Aug 1926

—–

Little was taken [abducted] from room 32 at the Steele block on North Wyoming street, near Finlander hall and only two blocks from the Thornton hotel, shortly after 3 o’clock yesterday [August 1st]. The lynching party drove up in front of the block in a seven-passenger automobile and every step taken after that indicated the affair had been carefully planned and that the men who did the hanging were determined not to be thwarted at any stage. The men were masked. One stood as outside guard in front of the rooming house and no word was spoken. The men had agreed what work each should do before the machine stopped. Five entered the rooming house and the man outside paced up and down in a nervous manner. This section of Wyoming street is used by many men, especially miners.

Got the Wrong Room.

The only mistake made by the party was when the five men with their hands on their revolvers, went to room 30, where they supposed Little was asleep. They forced the door of this room and threw a flashlight onto the bed, which was not occupied. The noise of breaking in the door aroused Mrs. Nora Byrne, the landlady, who slept in an adjoining room close to the front of the building. She opened her door and saw the flashlight.

The men then walked to her door to ask where Little roomed. One of the men said: “There is a mistake somewhere.” Mrs Byrne told the men to wait until she got clothes on and said:

“Who are you men?”

“We are officers and we are after Frank Little,” one of the masked men replied.

Looks at a Revolver.

When Mrs. Byrne had put on a bathrobe she opened the door and one of the men leveled a revolver at her.

“Give me the number of Little’s room,” he demanded.

“He is in room 32,” replied Mrs. Byrne, who was badly frightened by the gun.

All five men ran down the hall quickly and tried to open the door but found it locked. They then kicked in the door and a few seconds later Mrs. Byrne, who was surprised at the manner in which the supposed police officers proceeded with their mission, saw the men coming along with Little. He seemed to be resisting and when they got him to the sidewalk he was being carried. The five men picked up the outside guard and got into the car, the engine of which was running, and the automobile quickly picked up speed and raced down Wyoming street.

Police Are Notified.

Meantime Mrs. Byrne decided to ask for an investigation of the strange actions of the men who had represented themselves as police officers. She waited half an hour after Little was carried from the block before she telephoned the police. Several roomers who had been awakened by the noise advised her to make a report. Within five minutes detectives were at the house and they informed Mrs. Byrne that Little had evidently been deported. Efforts were made to trace the automobile.

From the Milwaukee Trestle.

The first report of finding the body was received at the police station. The body was found about 6 o’clock hanging from the north side of the Milwaukee trestle. Just on the outskirts of Butte and near the centennial brewery. The ties are about 14 feet above the ground, and Little’s feet were about five feet from the ground, the rope having a drop to only a few feet. It was thought that Little had been bound and a towel placed over his mouth to prevent an outcry as he was taken from the rooming house, but no gag was at the scene of the hanging.

The Vigilante Sign.

Frank Little, Take Notice Card, Truth Butte Tompkins, sml

Pinned to the underclothing at the right thigh was a pasteboard placard about six inches high which bore letters and figures. The sign read:

Others take notice. First and last warning. 3-7-77. L. D. C. S. S. W. T.

There was a circle about the letter L. The letters do not have any significance in a vigilance notice, and as there were seven men concerned in the hanging it was at first presumed that the letters are fictitious initials for the men concerned in the lynching [i.e., the murders]. The letters had been made carefully. On the back of the placard was a smear of blood.

Body Still Warm.

The body was found by Robert W. Brown of 1917 South Montana street. He was on his way to work when he saw the scantily clad body swinging from the trestle. He notified Desk Sergeant William Taylor and Chief Murphy was called from his home to take personal charge of the investigation. The body was not cut down until coroner Lane arrived, and it was about 7 a. m. before the rope was cut. The body was still warm when Detective White, Patrol Driver Ralph Wynne and Chauffeur Kimball arrived.

Recognizes the Warning.

Patrol Driver Wynne first recognized the significance of the numbers “3-7-77.” He was reared near Virginia City, where the road agents met the fate Little did in the early days when the vigilantes organized to rid the territory of unlawful men.

“That’s the vigilante sign,” said Wynne, whose father was one of the men who figured in the “clean-up” days in Alder gulch.

The body was brought to the city and taken to Sherman & Reed’s undertaking rooms. Soon members of the Metal Mine Workers’ union heard of the lynching and they had the body removed to Duggan’s undertaking rooms and before the body could be prepared for burial hundreds of men wanted to get a glimpse of it. Many of these were attracted to the morgue out of morbid curiosity.

As soon as the body was brought uptown the investigation began.

Hit Over the Head.

An autopsy was held and it was found that death was due to strangulation, the neck not being broken. There was a mark on the back of the head, probably inflicted with some blunt instrument, perhaps a gun. Blood had run down on the shoulder. There were marks on the left shin and leg.

One of the first men to arrive at the spot said the body had appearance of having been placed there after Little had been knocked unconscious by the blow. There was no evidence of a struggle. The mouth was not open and there were other evidences that the lynchers had struck their victim so that his death struggle was not a lingering one. Little was a slight man, weighing about 155 pounds. He was 5 feet 10 inches tall. The body was clad in a very light suit of summer underwear, cut short at the knees and shoulders.

Body Pulled Up.

Evidence gathered at the scene of the hanging showed that the automobile was driven under the trestle, which is 300 feet from the regular highway and in an open space, where every move could be seen if any one was about. The rope was evidently placed about Little’s neck as he sat or stood in the machine. It is apparent that he was not taken on top of the trestle, hit over the head and the body pulled up by men who held the rope on the other side of the trestle. The rope was 25 feet long.

The automobile then turned around and went back onto the county road. There the tracks were lost. The autopsy report showed that there were no bullets fired into the body.

Coroner Lane took Little’s effects from the Steele block. He had a few dollars in change in his clothing. His suitcase contained I. W. W. literature and membership books, with letters from various organizers in the country. Several letters from W. H. Haywood were in the grip. A telegram informing Little of the death of his mother at Perkins Okla., on June 8 was also found. Letters from a brother, William, from Perkins and from a brother, Henry, in Seattle, were found. Henry Little is also connected with the I. W. W. and was arrested in Seattle June 30 on a charge of inciting to riot. The defense of the brother was that he was simply reading a list of unfair places to a group of friends and that he was placed in a cell with “dope fiends.” Little’s effects will be turned over to relatives.

[…]

[Photographs added.]

Note: Frank Little is survived by two brothers, Alonzo Little of Oklahoma and Fred Little of California. Notes found from a William and a Henry, could, perhaps, be from union brothers, but they are not his biological brothers.

He is also survived by his sister, Bessie Little Courtright, of Oklahoma, and sister-in-law, Emma Little, of Fresno.

The Mutilate Body of Fellow Worker Frank Little:

Frank Little Body, Truth Butte Tompkins

The Death Mask of Frank Little:

Frank Little Mask, Lbr Def Aug 26, 1917 mrx dot org, crpd


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SOURCES

Montana’s Agony:
Years of War and Hysteria, 1917-1921

-by Arnon Gutfeld
U of Florida, 1979
(See page 29.)
https://books.google.com/books?id=ODo9PQAACAAJ

The Seattle Star
(Seattle, Washington)
-Aug 3, 1917
https://www.newspapers.com/image/145484865

The Arizona Republican
(Phoenix, Arizona)
-Aug 3, 1917
https://www.newspapers.com/image/119211307/

The Anaconda Standard
(Anaconda, Montana)
-Aug 2, 1917, pages 1 & 2
http://www.genealogybank.com/

Frank Little and the IWW:
The Blood That Stained an American Family
-by Jane Little Botkin
(Great Grand Niece of FL)
Note: none of Frank’s possessions were ever
offered to his family.
University of Oklahoma Press, May 25, 2017
https://books.google.com/books?id=gBskDwAAQBAJ

IMAGES

Frank Little Martyr, Truth Butte Tompkins, 1917
Frank Little, Take Notice Card
Frank Little’s Body
http://cdm16013.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p267301coll1/id/4294

Jeannette Rankin, Missoulian, Feb 26, 1917
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83025316/1917-02-26/ed-1/seq-1/

Frank Little, Union Hall and Lodging
-Labor Defender, Aug 1926
Frank Little Death Mask
https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/labordefender/1926/v01n08-aug-1926-LD.pdf

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