Hellraisers Journal: Plea Deal Reached in Iron Miners’ Cases; Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Bids Mesabi Range Good-Bye

I loved the people on the Range…
the blond children of the Finnish workers,
with their rosy cheeks…
the dark-eyed Italian children,
trying to be friends.
-Elizabeth Gurley Flynn


Hellraisers Journal, Friday December 22, 1916
Mesabi Range – Three Strikers to Be Sent to Prison

From the Bemidji Daily Pioneer of December 16, 1916, we learn the sad news that three strikers will be sent to the state penitentiary in Stillwater as a result of plea deal reached in Duluth:


[*Note: the so-called “sheriff” in the title of this article was actually a deputized company gunthug who committed an illegal and violent raid upon the Masonovich home.]

Masonovich-P. & M. & Boarders, ISR, Sept 1916

Duluth, Dec. 16.-Three of the eight persons indicted for the murder of Deputy Sheriff Thomas James C. Myron during the strike trouble at Biwabik on July 3 last appeared before Judge Cant in district court here and pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter in the first degree. They were each sentenced to terms of not more than 20 years in the state penitentiary at Stillwater.

The prisoners who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree were:

Philip Masonovich, 35; Joe Cernagorcevich, 37, and Joe Nickich, 22.

The murder charge against two others, one a woman, was dismissed and the defendants were given their freedom.

In the three remaining cases which are those pending against the Industrial Workers of the World organizers Carlo Tresca, Sam Scarlet [Scarlett], and Joe Schmidt, continuances were ordered. These three were given their freedom in the mean time.

Masonovich, Cernagorcevich and Nickich admitted having been at the Masonovich home on July 3 when Myron was killed and to have taken part in the fight.

Mrs. Philip Masonovich, mother of five, arrested with her husband, was released.

The case against Tresca, Scarlet and Schmidt, it is understood, will be continued indefinitely. There is speculation as to whether their cases ever will be tried.


[Photograph added.]

According to Indiana’s Indianapolis Star, the three strikers pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter in the Duluth District Court on Friday December 15th and were then sentenced.

From the Duluth News Tribune of December 18, 1916:


Elizabeth G. Flynn Addresses Mesaba
Miners at Virginia Meeting.
Scarlett, Schmidt and Tresca
Return From Duluth;
Take No Part in Proceedings.

(By Staff Correspondent.)

EGF, Tresca, MN Iron Miners Strike, Ev IN, Aug 17, 1916

VIRGINIA, Minn., Dec. 16.-The I. W. W. as represented by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Joe Ettor, James Gilday, Carlo Tresca, Joe (Fellow-worker) Schmidt and Sam Scarlett, has quit the Mesaba and Cuyuna ranges. Announcement was made of the departure-to-be at a meeting held here tonight. No reasons were advanced and no excuses offered by Gurley Flynn, to whom fell the task of telling the miners that the “stuff was off.”

According to Miss Flynn, all of the leaders and paid agitators are leaving, including members of the defense fund committee.

From the same platform in socialist opera house where she aided in inciting miners to strike* last July, appealed for solidarity during the long strike, preached doctrines of the I. W. W. and advocated a second walk-out, Miss Flynn tonight declared wages and labor conditions on the range as being “satisfactory now.” No explanations were forthcoming from her or any of the leaders for the sentencing of the three miners to state’s prison for manslaughter and the continuing of the agitator’s cases.

[Said Miss Flynn:]

The prisoners themselves decided their own fate. I did know what was to take place and am willing to take full responsibility for the guilty pleas were in accordance to their desires. We put it up to them as we had the facts and they were glad to go to prison. They are noble soldiers in the army of labor sacrificing themselves. Not one of the eight wanted liberty, and those freed offered to take the place of those sentenced.

You have got to take it just that way with no explanations. We are not going to explain to you the reasons or wherefore. The union central committee indorsed our action and we are ready to stand back of the decision that we, with the prisoners’ consent, animated in Duluth. There will be a reprot to every I. W. W. member and contributor to the defense fund how it was spent as soon as it can be complied. You know that more than $8,000 was used in the defense of strikers arrested last summer and this does not include what was spent for the disposal of these last cases.

There were no other speakers at the meeting which was a social, the proceeds of which are to be given to the Masonovich family.

The three released agitators were not greeted over warmly in Virginia at any time today. The miners failed to flock to the I. W. W. meeting place in the expected throngs nor did they exhibit an abundance of enthusiasm over their home-coming. They were welcomed by the Central I. W. W. and Metal Workers’ union in the afternoon. There were not more than 60 miners at the hall during the entire afternoon. In the evening there were as many empty chairs as those occupied and approximately 200 persons in attendance.

Only once did Gurley Flynn receive any applause, the attitude of the miners was indifference in most instances. Compared to other meetings the “swan-song” session was flat, developing only mild interest. Following the program there was many missing faces. In the audience was Judge O. N. Hilton, attorney for the I. W. W.’s who entered the guilty pleas. He had nothing to say. The final word passed out to the miners by Miss Flynn was to keep organized and not be satisfied

[Closed Miss Flynn:]

I am coming back just as soon as it gets hot again up here. We wish you a fully organized New Year’s.

She is to leave for New York, her home, for the holidays, before starting to Washington.


[Photograph added.]

*Note: The I. W. W. did not start the strike; I. W. W. assistance was sought after the strike had already begun. We remind our readers that Miss Flynn is here being quoted by a newspaper that has been fiercely opposed to the I. W. W. and the miner’s strike.

The following story from the Duluth Labor World of December 16th was obviously written without knowledge of the plea having been reached, but is offered, nevertheless, as an example of the tactics of the famous attorney, O. N. Hilton. Attorney Hilton arrived on the Range during the first week of December; the plea deal was reached on December 15th.


MN Iron Range Strike, Tresca Scarlett Schmidt Button, 1916

Sheriff John Meining of St. Louis County, will be the target of charges of prejudice and bias in Judge Hughes’ court in Virginia at a later date when the cases of Carlo Tresca, Sam Scarlett and Joe Schmidt come before the court for a hearing. Judge O. N. Hilton, associate counsel for the defense will ask Judge Hughes to remove the sheriff from all contact with the prisoners and that he shall have nothing to do with the serving of processes for prospective jurors.

In a burning letter to the sheriff for alleged annoyances and persecutions of the prisoners. Judge Hilton calls Meining an “official scamp” and a “physical coward and a poltroon.”

The letter follows:

Duluth, Minn., Dec. 11, 1916.

John R. Meining, Esq.,
Sheriff St. Louis County,
Court House, City.


Since coming to Duluth. to assist in the defense of Carlo Tresco, and his associates, confined under you in the county jail, charged with murder, I have been repeatedly informed of certain petty and detestable annoyances and persecutions to which you have been subjecting them, particularly Tresco, such as calling them vile names and withholding and examining their mail.

You certainly ought to realize that these men are as yet unconvicted and that it is always the mark of a gentleman and the humane official to treat his prisoners kindly and considerately and give them the benefit of this presumption of innocence, which always obtains until they are convicted. Any official who takes advantage of the power conferred on him to distress unfortunates so temporarily committed to his care and custody, is either a scoundrel or a coward and judging from all the facts that I can gather if true, you are unmistakably both—for these reasons. First. You have no right, legally or otherwise, to detain or open any prisoner’s mail and you commit a gross violation of the Federal statutes when you do so. That you know this as sheriff, I am convinced, and so I say to you that in my judgment you are an official scamp. Second. That it is equally true that you are a physical poltroon and coward, it is perhaps noteworthy that whenever you amuse yourself by calling these men approbrious names, you are careful to ascertain that the iron door between you and them is securely closed and locked and that you refuse to open it by urgent invitation. Any official who is debased enough to resort to this procedure would of course not desist from it by any insistence of mine as counsel for these defendants, but I will assure you now that we shall take immediate steps to have you removed from the position you so palpably disgrace, insofar as this particular case and its trial is involved.

Very truly yours,
Of Counsel for Carlo Tresto et. al


[Photograph added.]



The Bemidji Daily Pioneer
(Bemidji, Minnesota)
-Dec 16, 1916

The Indianapolis Star
(Indianapolis, Indiana)
-Dec 16, 1916

The Duluth News Tribune
(Duluth, Minnesota)
-Dec 18, 1916, pages 1 & 6

The Labor World
(Duluth, Minnesota)
-Dec 16, 1916

Masonovich-P. & M. & Boarders, ISR, Sept 1916
EGF, Tresca, MN Iron Miners Strike, Ev IN, Aug 17, 1916
MN Iron Range Strike, Tresca Scarlett Schmidt Button, 1916

See also:
Tag: Minnesota Iron Miners Strike of 1916