Century of Butte Stories



By John Astle

(A column featuring stories from Butte's newspapers during the past 100 years).

On July 4, 1894, from Missoula gulch on the west to the city limits on the east, and from South Butte to Dublin Gulch on the north, all the homes were decorated red, white, and blue. Residents were ready to celebrate Independence Day. In the heart of Butte, business blocks, markets, banks, and bars were all decorated for the big day. The main fire station was adorned with flags, bunting, and other patriotic paraphernalia, arranged both inside and outside of the station.

Activities included a parade, circus, a baseball game between Butte and Anaconda, a boxing match with George Kessler and Jack Francis at the Centerville amphitheater, and bicycle and horse races. One of the main attractions of the day was an exhibition by some of the area's American Indians scheduled for the evening at the Auditorium. But most of the celebration was not to be.

During the afternoon of July 3, Simon Hauswirth, owner of the Columbia saloon on West Broadway, began to decorate. He took the red, white, and blue bunting and formed them into a giant "A.P.A." on the two large front windows and main door to the saloon.

A Butte lodge of the American Protective Association (A.P.A.) was organized in August 1893. It had grown to about 2,000 members. The A.P.A. was founded at Clinton, Iowa in 1887 as a secret society to oppose Catholics. They were opposed to everything Catholic: schools, teachers in public schools, holding political office, tax exemptions for
the church, etc. The organization peaked in 1894 - 1895, but like similar organizations, when it could neither influence legislation nor deliver votes for its favorite candidates, it went into a rapid decline.

Trouble in Butte began the evening of July 3, when news of the offensive' letters spread quickly throughout the city. About 3 o'clock in the morning of July 4, someone placed two sticks of dynamite on the sidewalk in front of Hauswirth's saloon. The explosion rocked West Broadway, shattering the boardwalk and the saloon windows. Seven or eight customers inside were uninjured.

Small groups of men gathered along the parade route the next morning. The atmosphere was anything but cheerful, and celebrating the 4th of July was not high on the agenda. Shortly after noon, following the patriotic program at the Auditorium, a crowd began gathering in front of Hauswirth's saloon. The crowd grew larger, and there were shouts to pull down the letters. Then the first of numerous fights broke out. From Main street to Academy (Dakota) on West Broadway there were at least a dozen fights going on simultaneously and continually.

As the fighting continued up and down Broadway, William Page, a miner, walked into Hauswirth's saloon and bought a drink. When he came out, he noticed the broken windows from the explosion and asked how it had happened. Someone in the crowd shouted, "Some Papist, Irish son-of-a-bitch did it."

"What's that?" Page said, and the remark was repeated.

Page went after the spokesman with fists flying. In the midst of the free-for-all that commenced, someone shot a pistol from inside the saloon. The bullet grazed Page's forehead and hit a man in the street. Page was taken to a doctor. Meanwhile, Police Officer Reardon arrested William Ferguson and charged him with attempted murder.

Mayor Dugan and Sheriff Reynolds were on the scene immediately and went inside the saloon and asked Hauswirth to remove the letters. He told them, "This is a free country, and I have just as much right to decorate my windows with the letters A.P.A. in flags as Pat Hamilton has to put a harp on the top of his building." But, he finally agreed, "in the interests of peace," to take the letters down.

The crowd then noticed an identical sign on Sazerac's saloon at the southeast corner of Broadway and Academy. Instantly a large crowd gathered in front of Sazerac's. Fighting started again. Police tried to keep order, but it was impossible. Mayor Dugan swore in 20 special deputies. It was no use, the fighting continued. Dugan, Dan Hennessey, and other citizens went into Sazerac's by the back door because the front door had been locked. They asked that the letters be taken down. They thought they had the owner convinced, but patrons in the saloon told the owner, V. V. Keeton, not to take them down for any reason.

Keeton said to Dugan and Hennessey, "I don't care if the whole town burns down, the letters are going to stay."

Judge J. J. McHatton then climbed onto the balcony of the Morier Building, in which Sazerac's saloon was located. He begged the crowd to disperse. He told them they were not acting like American citizens. "Will the letters come down if we leave?" someone shouted. McHatton said he would do what he could to have the letters removed, but that the crowd should disperse in order that Butte's name not be discredited. As Judge McHatton was speaking a woman appeared at a 2nd floor window and tore down a picture of George Washington that was hanging there. The crowd was wild with indignation and demanded the picture be put back. Someone replaced it.

Mayor Dugan then appeared on the balcony and made a similar speech. The letters, however, were not taken down. He told the mob if they did not disperse he would call the militia and have the objectionable letters removed. As soon as the mayor stopped talking, the crowd began to throw rocks through the windows of the saloon. One of the stone throwers was arrested. As the police officer was taking him away, another policeman, Dennis Daly, 37, was shot.

Daly had been sworn in as a special deputy by Mayor Dugan to assist in preserving the peace. He was a regular policeman, but was suspended and awaiting action by the police commission. Daly had been instructed to keep the sidewalk clear. He was stationed in front of the Odd Fellows hall. He was attempting to clear the way for the police officer who had the stone thrower in custody, and he pushed a man away. The man pulled a revolver. Daly tried to take it away from him and the man began shooting. The first shot hit Daly in the heart and he died instantly. William White, a witness, said "after Daly was shot he staggered back and fell into my arms. As he fell he looked me straight in the eye and said, My God, kid, I'm gone.' "

The second shot hit Sam Dunn in the left side. Dunn, 43, and the father of seven children, died the next day. The other two shots went into the ground. Several men grabbed the assailant, Frank Monford, and he was arrested and taken to jail.

Panic and pandemonium took hold of the crowd. There were wild cries of revenge. The mob was doing as it pleased, the police were powerless. At 2:30, the governor had been asked to call out the militia, but it was a prolonged process, and was awhile before they arrived.

Meanwhile the Butte fire department was called out. The hoses were turned on Hauswirth's saloon and the bunting washed off. Then the hose was next turned on Sazerac's and aimed through the windows into the saloon. As the water was directed into the building, shots were fired at the firemen from inside, but no one was hit. After
firemen had poured a substantial amount of water into the saloon, they took the hose cart and ran it up and down Broadway spraying the crowd, trying to disperse the mob. It didn't work.

Then the militia began to arrive. Only 18 of them showed up at first, and were greeted with cheers. The total number eventually reached 35. Just their presence on the streets began to calm the rioters. With fixed bayonets, the militia drove the mob back to Main street on one end of Broadway, and to Academy on the other. Even then it took more than half an hour to clear the street. There were numerous fights and more than a few severe bayonet thrusts.

Guards were placed at Utah street and at all the alleys. No one was allowed to walk within the block-off area. Those who tried were stuck with a bayonet. The militia, assisted by the police, were successful in stopping further trouble. They militia and police were on duty until 7 o'clock the next morning, July 5. Over 70 were arrested during the riot. Twelve deputies, armed with Winchester rifles, were on guard all night at the county jail.

Testimony at the coroner's inquest was varied and inconsistent. There were as many stories about what happened that day as there were witnesses. No two people saw the same thing. Many volunteers came forward to swear that the two men arrested for the murders did not fire the guns. Both juries at the two inquests came back with identical
verdicts. The two men were shot by someone unknown to the jury.

Copyright 2000-2002 John Astle


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