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"History of Northern Wisconsin, 1881"

The Sawdust War

(-as transcribed from page 306)

On Monday, the 11th of July, 1881, with little or no warning as to their purpose, the several hundred men employed by the Eau Claire Lumber Company, after the mills were in operation, at about six o'clock in the morning, suddenly at a given signal quit work, demanding a reduction of the time of labor to ten hours a day. They formed a procession and went the "grand rounds" of the several mills, compelling them all to stop and the men to join the ranks, with the single exception of Sherman's mill.

Here they were met by the gallant and urbane captain, who commanded a halt, and, on learning the nature of the business of the crowd, informed them that he was running on the ten hour system, and supplying them with beer from the contiguous brewery, they moved on.

At some of the mills the fires were put out and considerable physical persuasion used to carry their point. In the evening, and for several days, there were processions and public speeches in the park, their banner bearing the device, "Ten hours, or no sawdust."

There was considerable excitement. A good many threats were made, and, later in the week, Gov. William E. Smith was informed of affairs, and he came in person and looked over the situation, and finally acted on the advice of the mill-owners and others, and ordered the State militia upon the scene. Just before their arrival, on Saturday, several arrests were made of the more boisterous among the strikers.

The following companies promptly responded to the Governor's call, arriving on Saturday, the 23d of July: First battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Britton - Company A, Janesville Guards; company B, Bower City Rifles.

Fourth battalion, Lieutenant Colonel, C. P. Chapman - Company A, Governor's Guards; company B, Guppy Guards; company C, Lake City Guards; company D, Watertown Rifles, embracing about 375 men.

They encamped on the west side park and in the Courthouse, and remained until the 29th and 3oth, having been entertained with a dance by the strikers and a supper by the ladies, and triumphantly carrying home the strikers' flag -- the result of a peaceable negotiation instead of a sanguinary conflict.


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