On July 7, 1912, a violent confrontation occurred between the Galloway Lumber Company and the Brotherhood of Timber Workers.
The labor riot left four men dead and an estimated 50 men wounded.
It was the defining event in the attempt to organize locals and unionize sawmill workers in the State of Louisiana.
The site is on the National Register of Historic Places and is on Beauregard Parish Regional Airport property, south of the airport, adjacent to Grabow Road, off Hwy. 190 West and Hwy. 3099.
Incident,” from the “Chapters in History” booklet, printed by the Beauregard
Parish Historical Society:
With the growth
of industry and the growth of employment also came the growth of the union
movement including the National Socialist I.W.W. and the locally organized B.
of T.W. (Brotherhood of Timber Workers).
developed and culminated in the “Grabow Riot,” an event which set off a claim
of reaction felt throughout the state.
Mae Taylor Jerrell, formerly of Merryville, did her master’s thesis in history
on the Grabow Riot, tracing the cause and effect of this historic and bloody
event. The following are excerpts from her research:
In 1911, union
agitation continued to increase as did the operators’ efforts to crush the
1911, the B of T.W. had presented a series of demands to their employers which
included a wage of $2 a day for a 10-hour day on a bi-monthly pay basis. The Southern
Lumber Association responded by reopening a few mills on such basis while
others did not begin operations until the following February or May.
continued. Conflict seemed to have selected a small sawmill town to strike and
on July 7, 1912, the explosion sounded … that set off a minor political
three miles west of DeRidder on the Santa Fe, the Galloways – owners of a
small, privately-operated mill – had prepared for the worst. Their main office
had been lined with steel circle saws to serve as a barricade during an attack,
and armed guards, who shifted morning and evening, were posted in order to
maintain a 24-hour alert.
reopened in May 1912, after meeting some of the union’s demands. However, in
June, the workers walked off from the mill, only to be replaced by
strike-breakers. Wishing to convert the scabs to the B. of T.W., the union
planned to demonstrate unionism on Saturday evening, July 6, 1912. The meeting
did not materialize and on Sunday morning, July 7, the union leader and some
two hundred men left DeRidder to speak and demonstrate to a crowd of union men
in Bon Ami, three miles south of DeRidder.
by the cool reception, the men moved on to Carson where union leader A.L.
Emerson did speak.
trouble brewing and wishing to avoid it, he and most of his men cut through the
woods to Grabow. A phone call from Carson warned the Galloways of the approach
of the union men. Just before six o-clock, the crowd reached Grabow. The
Galloways had taken refuge in the office and other nearby buildings. A few
guards had been placed about the mill in strategic positions … in the planer,
south of the track, and in empty box cars.
wagon stopped in front of the commissary and he rose to address the crowd …
only to be drowned out by jeering laughter and the beating of tin cans.
began when a man ran out of the office with a gun, aimed it at the speaker and
fired. The bullet clipped the brim of Emerson’s hat. Decatur Hall, from
DeRidder, was standing by the speaker, jumped from the wagon to run. He was
unarmed. The next ten minutes were filled with chaos and confusion. Bullets
flew in every direction as men fired without taking aim … vehicles were
overturned and horses ran wild, many to fall dead during the battle. Union men
ran, seeking cover behind wagons, fallen trees and empty box cars. After 10
fearful minutes, the furor ceased … three men lay dead and many were wounded,
some to die later.
daylight, ten men were arrested by Sheriff Henry Reid from Lake Charles …
including the Galloways and A.L. Emerson. The prisoners were placed in the Lake
Charles Jail and the state militia was ordered out by the Governor to the
Jury set July 15 as the date to investigate the Grabow Incident. By July 26,
Judge E. G. Hunter was engaged as associate counsel for the B. of T.W.
exoneration of the Galloways from the charges of murder and the arrests of 64
union men served to unite the farmers and the timber workers.
Judge E.G. Hunter, the defendants were represented by Hundley and Hawthorne,
also of Alexandria; Cline, Cline and Bellof, of Lake Charles; and Kay and
Jackson, of DeRidder. Congressman A.P. Pujo was allegedly hired by the Southern
Mill Operators to assist District Attorney Moore.
On Nov. 2,
1912, the defendants were acquitted in what was seemingly a victory of the B.
still lingered over the DeRidder-Merryville area. On Sept. 25, 1912, a union
organizer, “Leather Britches Smith,” was shot and killed while allegedly
resisting arrest by nine men … members of the “Good Citizens League.” This made
the situation even more tense.
1,300 men walked off the job at the American Lumber Co. in Merryville. But that
strike soon came to an end, and was the last major strike of the era.
Overton’s request, a committee of inquiry was set up to investigate the
situation of social-economic unrest in Merryville. The committee established
that the trouble was not due to unfriendly relations existing between the B. of
T.W. and the American Lumber Co., but in part was due to the harsh acts committed
by members of the so-called Good Citizens League on one hand, and the continual
agitation by the I.W.W. on the other.