For most of the men who were on the receiving end of the Bisbee Deportation, the stories were similar: rounded up at their residences or on picket duty, marched down to the Warren Ballpark, put into box or cattle cars and shipped by rail to New Mexico.
There were some stories that took different routes, including that of one Walford E. Holm, according to a story in the July 20 issue of the Arizona Labor Journal, a weekly (so its articles aren’t as timely) which provides a counterpoint of information to the Bisbee Daily Review.
The Deportation was on a Thursday, and by Saturday, Holm was in Phoenix addressing Gov. Thomas E. Campbell. In the company of others, including the editor of the Journal and a labor attorney, he told the governor of his experience with the events in Bisbee that week.
“To be brief,” the Journal reported, “nothing came of the visit to the governor” because he was “helpless” in the situation.
But the lengthy article included a letter Holm had written to George W.P. Hunt, former and future governor of Arizona and then a federal mediator. In it, he described his own “deportation.”
A six-year resident of Bisbee, then employed by the Bisbee-Ajo Copper Co., he had come down from his residence on O.K. Street about 10 a.m. on the day of the Deportation, and as he was heading to the post office, “I was accosted by one of the company gunmen by the name of David Playfair, who took me by the shoulder and shoved me to one said and made the following remark: ‘Get in line there, you G– D— Wobbly.’
“At the same time showing [probably should have been ‘shoving’] an army rifle in my side. Then he stated to the balance of his crew, numbering possibly 25, at this point. ‘Here is another Wobbly; take him out of town.’
Held prisoner for two hours
“I was held a prisoner by these gunmen at the corner of the Phelps Dodge store for about two hours with a number of others. During this time many were rounded up and escorted to the Warren Ballpark, a distance of about three miles down the canyon.”
Holm describes many of the others and their treatment, but to the point of his own deportation, he states that he wasn’t marched to Warren, but, at about 12:30 p.m., “was placed on board one of their street cars and taken to the Warren Ballpark where they held possibly 2,000 prisoners.”
Holm described what he believed would be his ride out of town: “On the side track was a train consisting of 23 cattle cars, in some of which there were three inches of manure.”
Some of his report to Hunt was based on rumor: “I know from their [the Loyalty League, one supposes] reports that two men were killed during this round-up; and I also understand that others were shot in cold blood by these hirelings, who are giving out no reports and no one will know the number killed.”
Two indeed died during the event; it’s unlikely that with the amount of investigation any other deaths would have gone unnoticed.
No room on the train
The train, however, was overloaded, Holm reported. “I with many others was permitted to return at large again. I returned to Bisbee about three o’clock and went to get something to eat.”
A couple of hours later, at 5 p.m., Holm said he “went to the post office to mail a letter [perhaps the one he never got to mail that morning] and I stopped to talk to one of the employees in the post office when two men tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘We want you.'”
He was escorted to the Copper Queen dispensary, “where the court martial officials were occupying their respective stations. I was introduced by my name, and the chairman, one Miles Merrill, asked me what I had to say for myself.”
(In a 1921 article for The Nation, George Soule wrote that Merrill had told another journalist that he was author of the deportation plan. Soule referred to Merrill as presiding justice of the kangaroo court which Bisbee had at the time of the Deportation.)
Not a Wobbly
“I told him that I was strictly opposed to any such outrages as had been committed in Bisbee during the day upon lawful American citizens.” Holm was asked whether he was a Wobbly and replied that he was not.
Despite his protestation, Holm said Merrill “insisted that I was one and I again informed him that I was not, at the same time I stated that they had made more I.W.W.s during the day than a thousand organizers could make in a thousand years.”
At that point, Holm said, Dr. Nelson A. Bledsoe, chief surgeon for the Calumet & Arizona hospital, “made a motion to give me until the next train left to get out of town.” Trains left Bisbee several times each day.
“The motion was put and carried and I was told to get, and get quick. I, with many others that were given their walking papers in the same manner, left last evening.” (It’s not stated when the letter to Hunt was composed, so they could have left on Thursday or on Friday, several trains later than the “next” after the hearing.
“We are now at this place, stranded, and know not what to do,” he concluded in his letter to Hunt.
This is an important description of the events of July 12 since it’s probably the first first-person report that was penned, only a couple of days later, with some of it perhaps being written on the train out of Bisbee.
We know that memories fade, and imagination enlarges, as time passes.