On Feb. 27, 1921, a strike began on the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad in protest against a 20 percent wage cut. The line--which ran some 365 miles from Joplin, Mo., to Helena, Ark., with headquarters at Harrison, Ark.--continued operating for a time with strikebreakers but had to suspend service at the end of July. Service resumed in May 1922, again using strikebreakers, but repeated vandalism damaged railroad property and hampered operations.

After eight bridges were damaged or destroyed--seven burned and one dynamited--between Jan. 9 and Jan. 12, 1923, Missouri and North Arkansas general manager James Murray issued a statement on Jan. 13, accusing the strikers of sabotage and warning local citizens that it was up to them to protect railroad property if they wanted service to continue.

In response, a mass meeting, organized by the railroad and the Farmers' Bank of Harrison, was held in Harrison on Jan. 16 and attended by an estimated one thousand local citizens determined to end the strike and expel the strikers. Those attending the meeting--referred to as the "Committee of 1,000"--rounded up strikers and their sympathizers, brought them in for questioning by a twelve-member citizens' court set up by the Committee of 1,000, and then demanded that they either renounce the strike or leave the area.

The circuit court and a grand jury in Harrison cooperated with this citizens' court and used its evidence to bring in thirty-six indictments, leading to the arrest of a number of strikers. Two, under duress, pleaded guilty to arson and were sentenced to prison terms. Other citizens' courts were set up in Eureka Springs, Heber Springs, and Leslie, Ark. The strike officially ended on Dec. 21, 1923, when Frank Mulholland, attorney for the strikers, signed an agreement with the prosecuting attorney and the judge of the circuit court quashing the indictments and releasing the two strikers sent to jail.

In the course of this struggle, Edward Charles Gregor, an officer of the local Machinists union, lost his life because he refused to cooperate with the Citizens' Committee. According to one account, he would not leave his house until he was told it would be dynamited if he did not surrender. He reluctantly complied and was marched off to jail; later that night he was hanged from a railroad bridge. Gregor was not involved with the strike and had been working in Branson, Mo., since September 1922, only returning to Harrison at Christmas time to visit his family.

Read Samuel Gompers letter to the Washington Post