Don’t worry, fellow-worker,
all we’re going to need from now on is guts.
Fellow Worker Verner Nelson
Martyr of the Industrial Workers of the World
On October 4, 1917, Fellow Worker Verner Nelson was gunned down on the streets of Butte, Montana. His crime was that he had called a scab a scab.
Nelson was about 26 years of age and a card carrying member of the Industrial Workers of the World. At the time of his death, his Red Card proved that his dues were paid up in full, and that he had joined the Agricultural Workers’ Union (IWW) of Larimore, N. D.
A note found on his body read: “In case of accident, notify Tom Nelson of Erie, Pa.”
From The Butte Daily Post of October 5, 1917:
NELSON INQUEST IS HELD TODAY
Conflicting Evidence Over the Death
of I. W. W. Who Was Shot.
Verner Nelson, the I. W. W. leader shot by Ziki Savichevich on South Arizona street yesterday afternoon after he had called the latter a “scab,” received the gunshot wound which caused his death while he was in flight from Savichevich, according to the testimony of Joseph Schellhorn before a coroner’s jury this afternoon.
This testimony, however, was in direct conflict with that of Dr. H. A. Maillet, who, with City Physician W. C. Matthews, performed an autopsy on the body of Verner an hour after he died. Dr. Maillet testified that Nelson was shot twice in the chest on the right side. He further testified that from the position of the wound which caused death Verner was shot while he faced his opponent.
Fifteen witnesses have been summoned for the inquest. Because of the long array it is possible that it will not be finished this afternoon.
Schellhorn was the first witness called. He is the owner of a butcher shop and grocery at 429 South Arizona street. He testified that he was inside his shop cutting pork chops when he heard a shot ring out. At the same time he saw a man running past his store. He rushed to the door, when he declared he saw another man running past with a revolver in his hand, yelling: “Stop; I’ve got you.”
“When the man with the gun was 40 feet down the street after passing my place he shot again,” testified Schellhorn, adding that this shot missed the fleeing man but struck Neil F. Carr, the real estate man, an innocent bystander, who was wounded in the right leg.
Schellhorn testified that three shots were fired, the last one after Nelson had run almost a block down the street and entered a restaurant to escape his pursuer. After the shooting, Schellhorn declared the man with the gun stepped to the east side of Arizona street where there were no pedestrians and backing away commanded to men who sought to take his gun away: “Step back! Step back!” Eventually Savichevich surrendered to Special Officer Chappee of the Northern Pacific railroad….
The shooting occurred in the 300 block on South Arizona street late yesterday afternoon [October 4th]. Nelson was shot twice. After being hit the first time, Nelson started down Arizona street, with Savichevich a short distance behind him. In order to escape, Nelson ran into a restaurant. As Savichevich reached the door, he fired through the restaurant window at the fleeing man, wounding him again. Despite his two wounds, Nelson continued through the cafe to the alley in the rear and down to Platinum street, where he dropped from exhaustion. As Nelson fell, Savichevich turned into Platinum street, encountering L. C. Chappee, a special officer employed by the Northern Pacific, who placed him under arrest and took him to the county jail. Nelson was sent to the emergency hospital, where he died a half hour later.
Arizona street was well filled during the shooting and one of the shots struck Neil F. Carr, a pedestrian, in the right leg a few inches above the ankle. Carr was also taken to the emergency hospital, where his wound was treated by Dr. Matthews. The physician found that the bullet had shattered the bone, passing entirely through the leg. While the wound is serious, it is not considered dangerous. Carr is a real estate agent living at the Commercial hotel, 901 South Utah avenue…..
His I. W. W. Card
The identity of the dead man was established through a memorandum book, which stated that his name is Verner Nelson. “In case of accident,” was written in the book, “notify Tom Nelson of Erie, Pa.” Secreted in the underwear of Nelson was found an I. W. W. red card made out to Verner Nelson by the I. W. W. Agricultural Workers’ union of Larimore, N. D. The card showed that Nelson had paid his dues until Nov. 1.
In an inside coat pocket fastened with pins was a flashlight, also a late issue if “Solidarity,” the official organ of the national I. W. W. organization. In addition there was found a millworkers’ time label, a pocketknife and $10 in money. The dead man was about 26 years old.
When examined at the county jail by Dr. McCarthy, Savichevich was found to have several bruises about his face, also on one of his elbows, indicating that he had been in a scuffle.
County Attorney Jackson declared today that he will file a first degree murder charge against Savichevich.
[Photograph of Red Card added.]
The Butte Daily Post
-Oct 5, 1917
IWW Membership Card, Red Card
Note: The murder of FW Verner Nelson was reported in the Oct 6, 1917, edition of the Industrial Worker (sadly cannot be found online at this time.)
Page 7: “In November Who Do We Remember?”
-Apr 5, 1918, page 7
Note: Despite the fact that Savichevich, the scab, had chased FW Verner Nelson down the street while shooting at the fleeing man, the gunman was, nevertheless, found not guilty of murder at the trial held in Butte the following April:
MAN WHO KILLED NELSON IS FOUND NOT GUILTY