Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rebellion in Iron River

Iron River is a small town in northern Michigan on the edge of the vast Ottawa forest. The region, rich in iron, was home to populations of Poles, Austrians, Italians, Hungarians and other immigrant Europeans. In late February of 1920 it was briefly the focus of America in a farcical display of just how toothless the newly passed law was. The rebellion garnered headlines in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times.

The country had been given a year to prepare for the event. The rich stockpiled cases of liquor and wine, including President Harding who had $1800 dollars worth of liquor purchased before January 16th and stockpiled in his living quarters. Harding regularly served alcohol to his dinner guests all through his term.

Headlines proclaimed WHISKEY REBELLION and ARMED FORCE TO DESCEND ON MINING COUNTY. The ‘armed’ invasion consisted of fewer than two dozen federal Prohibition agents led by Leo J. Grove. The raid came about after the local constabulary had seized several barrels of wine from the basement of a grocery store owned by the Scalcuccis brothers and subsequently been forced by the District Attorney Martin S. McDonough to return them to the brothers, claiming the liquor had been seized without a warrant. Informed of this, Grove and his invading army descended on Iron River where he again seized the wine. McDonough ruled the seizure was illegal since at least one of the brothers lived above the grocery and it was legal for people to keep liquor in their residence. McDonough then arrested Grove for transporting liquor.

Released soon after, Grove returned to Chicago and reported the events to Major A.V. Dalrymple, chief Prohibition officer for the mid-western states. Dalrymple declared Iron County was in open revolt and he would put them down and “go up and clean hell of that district or quit trying to enforce this law.”
With 16 men, along with an army of reporters, photographers and newsreel cameramen, he descended on Iron River. By this time the town residents, men, women and children had removed every cask and bottle and hidden them in the surrounding forest and mine shafts.

Dalrymple was able to seize a few barrels of wine which he destroyed with a sledge hammer for the newsmen. Sixteen hours later, on the 25th, he hastily left for Washington on urgent business. The villagers retrieved their hidden booty and Iron River went back to business as usual. Thus did the first salvo in the new war on alcohol end.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Chinese Massacre of 1871

The transcontinental railroad finally reached Los Angeles and mong the other immigrants to arrive on it were the Chinese. They settled in an older area of L.A, away from the Anglos and set up laundries, restaurants and gambling places. In that area was a 500 foot ‘alley’ called the ‘wickedest street on earth’. It was also called Calles de los Negros since many of the residents were the darker-skinned mestizos, Indians and half-breeds. Colloquially, it was called Nigger Alley. It averaged a homicide a night and that tally didn’t include Indians. It was home to brothels, saloons and adobe and wood hovels filled with the dregs of the city. In later years it was renamed and became part of North Los Angeles Street.

On October 26 or 27th a battle between two tongs erupted. When some sheriffs and other Anglos attempted to break up the fight, one of them, a rancher Robert Thompson was killed in the cross-fire.

In his first person account of the Chinese Massacre of 1871, recorded, “News of the attacks and counter-attacks spread like wild-fire, and a mob of a thousand or more frenzied beyond control, armed with pistols, guns, knives and ropes, and determined to avenge Thompson's murder, assembled in the neighborhood of the disturbance.” This mob embarked on a frenzy of lynching, shooting, stabbing and looting every Chinese man they encountered.

In his own words, Newmark said, “Besides Judge Widney, Cameron E. Thom and H. C. Austin displayed great courage in facing the mob, which was made up of the scum and dregs of the city; and Sheriff Burns is also entitled to much credit for his part in preventing the burning of the Chinese quarters. All the efforts of the better element, however, did not prevent one of the most disgraceful of all disturbances which had occurred since my arrival in Los Angeles.”

By morning, 19 Chinese men were laid out on the street near city hall, some still had the ropes they had been hung with around their necks. At the coroner’s inquest it was determined that only 1 of the men had been involved in the original tong war. Around 111 witnesses were called to testify before the Grand Jury. Blame for the incident was originally put on the police for not moving in and controlling the mob sooner. At the time a state law forbade a Chinese man from testifying against an Anglo.

There were 49 men indicted for the deadly attack, 23-25 men were charged with murder or incitement to murder and 7 were found guilty. They were given sentences between 2 and 6 years. The sentences were later over turned on appeal and the blame was shifted to the Chinese for not alerting the authorities sooner.

Newmark concluded with, “Following this massacre, the Chinese Government made such a vigorous protest to the United States that the Washington authorities finally paid a large indemnity. During these negotiations, Chinese throughout the country held lamentation services for the Los Angeles victims; and on August 2d, 1872, four Chinese priests came from San Francisco to conduct the ceremonies.”

Harris Newmark (1834-1916), son of a modest Prussian Jewish merchant, who arrived in America in 1853 and joined his older brother in Los Angeles.

Ref: American Memory. Sixty years in Southern California, 1853-1913, containing the reminiscences of Harris Newmark. Edited by Maurice H. Newmark; Marco R. Newmark: CHAPTER XXIX THE CHINESE MASSACRE 1871

L.A. El Pueblo Grande by John Weaver, the Ward Ritchie Press, Pasadena, 1973

Monday, November 15, 2010

Prohibition 1920-1933

The 18th Amendment brought in an American-wide Prohibition that lasted 13 years and changed America in ways that are still reverberating, would probably never have happened at any other time in U.S. history, including embedding organized crime into the fabric of America. It was the culmination of a number of historic events and the oddest fusion of parties normally on opposite sides of the political and moral fence. It brought Republicans and Democrats, suffragettes and the KKK, unionists and industrialists together to form uneasy alliances to enact the first Amendment designed to impinge on the individual rights of Americans. The 18th Amendment was actually unconstitutional in doing this.

Racism on many levels played a huge role in the passage of the Amendment. Rotten-borough legislatures in existence which gave unequal voting powers to low population rural over heavily populated urban areas gave the rural, and mostly dry, votes more power than the wet urban groups. This reapportioning would have been corrected following the 1920 Census, at which point urban votes would have overpowered the dry rurals. It was literally city versus country.

That the larger urban areas was made up of immigrant Irish, Italian, German, Greek, Jewish and other alien groups and the rural areas were more often nativists was another huge factor. Heavy drinking was linked with these immigrant groups and they favored saloons and pubs as the center of their community. These places were more than pubs, they were employment centers, mail drops and political stumps. Political alliances and votes could be bought and sold at local saloons. Patrick J. Kennedy owned a pub in Haymarket Square in Boston and from there launched the Kennedy dynasty. Northern Democrats were more often than not supported by these immigrant groups, whereas Southern Democrats were more often made up of conservative nativists who also supported segregation and were dry. On both sides there were wet-drys and dry-wets, those who voted one way or the other depending on political needs and whichever way the wind was blowing.

And in the early 1900s it was blowing a dry wind. There had been numerous ongoing movement toward prohibitions, and many states were already dry by the turn of the century. At the same time there had always been a suffragette movement seeking the vote for women. Prohibition and Votes for women moved along a parallel path. The drys knew they needed the women’s vote to get their measure past. The wets opposed the passage of such a law for the exact same reason.

Rising Anti-Semitism and the hostilities in Europe further played into the hands of the drys. Most distilleries were owned by Jews, and most breweries were in the hands of Germans. The French, Italians and all Catholics were wine drinkers and were disliked by the newly reborn Ku Klux Klan who had more than the now free black population on their minds. Racists and progressives alike saw alcohol as the demon rum that unleashed the simple minds of black men and turned them into animals.

When America was drawn into the First World War ant-German sentiment soared. They were demonized in papers and from pulpits as Reverend Purley A. baker, a methodist minister who was the national superintendent of the Anti-Saloon League, the driving and unifying force being Prohibition, said they were “a race of people... who eat like gluttons and drink like swine.”

Socialists hated alcohol because they thought a mind clouded by intoxicants was more easy to control. Industrialists voted dry because drunken workers cost them money.

One other major event had to occur before Prohibition would be supported by so many. The 16th Amendment. Until an income tax could be levied, the sales tax on liquor was the primary source of revenue for the federal government. The only other income came from import tariffs, which raised the cost of imported items and were unwelcome by consumers, so the sale of alcohol was necessary to fund a federal government. Once that was eliminated, the way was open for a push to prohibit alcohol country wide.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How to Keep the Excitement Alive in a Series

On several lists I’m on I’ve read the question, “When is it Time to End a Series?”

I’ve pondered that and realized that counter to that question is another question, “How do you keep the excitement alive in a series?”

One thing I’ve noticed in a couple of ongoing series is that sometimes the main character never changes, and I think this can be deadly. Though the hero or heroine may have the same job, the events he or she lives through must have some effect on him or her. All of us grow and change because of both the good things and the crises that happen in our lives; so it should be for the on-going characters in a series.

Invisible Path is either the ninth or tenth book in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. The publisher, Mundania Press, says ninth, but in fact there have been ten including the prequel, Deadly Trail, published by Hard Shell Word Factory, now a part of Mundania. I suspect one of these days the prequel will appear with the other Tempe books on Mundania’s website.

In the prequel, Tempe is a widowed mom of a young teenaged son though she is dating the minister of the local church, but wedding plans are interrupted because of a murder—of course.

In subsequent books, Tempe and Hutch are married, most of the time happily though they do clash at times--mostly on spiritual matters. Tempe’s son, Blair grows older, graduates from high school and goes onto college to pursue his love of firefighting. Because of her job as resident deputy, Tempe must takes risks, often putting her own life in jeopardy. At the start of their married life, Hutch has trouble understanding and fears for Tempe. As time passes, though he never likes it, he is able to come to terms with what goes along with his wife’s job.

Even less major but ongoing characters change. Detective Morrison who in many books has little respect for Tempe, partly because she’s female and partly because of her Native American heritage, starts to accept Tempe as a competent law enforcement officer.

Though most of the books are set in the Southern Sierra in and around the fictitious town of Bear Creek, Tempe’s investigations take her into new areas of the mountains and the Bear Creek Indian Reservation. The town of Bear Creek and the reservation have an uncanny resemblance to the little town where I live and the nearby Indian reservation.

Most of the books have a bit of Indian mythology or legend as part of the plot, which I hope will intrigue the readers of the series and keep them coming back to find out more.

To be perfectly honest with you, I won’t quit writing the series until I don’t have any more dilemmas to confront Tempe with or murders for her solve. I face each new book wondering what will happen to Tempe. She and her husband and the people who populate Bear Creek and the Bear Creek Indian Reservation are as real to me as my own family and friends. Because I am excited about what is going to happen to them next, I hope my readers will be too.

Invisible Path can be purchased as a trade paperback or e-book from or any of the usual online bookstores.


“Jesus, I need to talk to you.”

My grandma was the only one who could get away with pronouncing my name like Jesus in the Bible. My friends say it like “Hay-soos.” Grandma didn’t like it when she heard someone say my name like that. She usually corrected whoever it was by saying, “My grandson is not Mexican, he is Indian. His name is Jesus Running Bear.”

I don’t know what inspired my mother to give me such a name, and she wasn’t around to ask.

Grandma fixed her small dark eyes on me. When she smiled her eyes became crescent moons. She wasn’t smiling now. Whatever it was she wanted to say, it had to be important.

I put down the bowl I’d gotten out of the cupboard. Breakfast would have to wait.

“You’ve been thinking about something a lot. Something that’s going to give you problems.” Grandmother’s face was round, weathered, and brown as a nut. Her gray hair was pulled straight back and arranged in a bun. Wiry strands escaped and poked out around her ears and the nape of her neck. She wore a man’s red plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, over a pair of faded blue jeans. Beneath the baggy clothes, she was slim and muscled. Her toes peeked out from a pair of worn leather sandals.

I loved my grandma; after all she was the one who raised me after my mother left me alone while she went on a three day drunk. My uncle found me and brought me to grandmother’s house where I’ve been ever since. No, I don’t miss my mother because I don’t even remember her. I only know what I’ve been told about her—not much of it good.

I wasn’t sure what kind of problem Grandma meant. Sure, I’d been going down to the beer joints with my cousin and friends even though I knew she didn’t want me drinking. Maybe that’s what this was about. I respected my grandmother, but I hadn’t obeyed her warning about never touching alcohol. She hated alcohol. Grandfather had died from drinking too much. Maybe my mother was dead too. No one had heard from her in years.

“Come. Sit down.” She motioned to the chair where I usually sat. In front of her was a cup of tea. “We’re going to find out exactly what is going on with you.”

I sat on the edge of the seat. She was going to do some weird Indian stuff. We were Miwok—though we didn’t live on or near a reservation. We lived in a small town in the foothills above Modesto which is in the Central Valley of California. Frankly, I didn’t know much about my heritage except what my grandma told me.

She was an amazing woman, and could do so many things. I was proud of most of what she did. She knew how to gather herbs that could cure most sicknesses. She wove beautiful baskets that she sold at Pow Wows and to tourists in gift shops in Yosemite and other places.

When I was a kid, she took me on camping trips into the back country. She could out hike me even today. But I wasn’t crazy about all the Indian stuff she did that I didn’t understand.

Grandma stared into the cup and began speaking in her native language. That’s what she always did when she was concentrating on something.

She lifted her head and fixed her eyes on me again. “You’re looking for a girlfriend. That’s it, isn’t it?”

Well, sure. What young guy isn’t trying to find a girl? But for once I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut.

Again, she peered into the cup. “I see all kinds of women. Be careful not to choose the wrong one. If you do, you’ll be miserable.”

She stared and her eyes looked funny, like she was seeing something far, far away.

I squirmed, wondering where this was leading. Maybe she already had someone picked out for me.

“I see a pretty girl with a nice figure. She has long straight hair, clear down to her waist. She’ll wiggle her plump bottom and you won’t be able to think. Women have power–especially young pretty ones. Don’t you so much as give her more than a passing glance. If you do, you’ll be miserable your whole life.” Grandma didn’t look up.

In my mind I could see the pretty girl walking down the street, her shiny black hair swinging back and forth like her hips.

After a few minutes my day dream ended when Grandma said, “There’s another one. Short and skinny like I was when I was young. But beware, she’s nothing like me. This one is sneaky. She’ll act like she cares for you when she has lots of other men.”

Interesting. This was more fun than I’d expected.

“I see another one, curly headed and laughing. She’ll welcome you to her bed.”

This was sounding better and better, and I risked a smile.

“Take my warning, grandson. Don’t marry her. She knows nothing about being a wife or taking care of children. She only knows how to have fun. She only wants to party, party, party. She’s not for you.”

I was beginning to wonder if there was anyone Grandma would see in that teacup who was good enough for me.

“Ah, there’s the one you must look for. She’s a sweet girl, with dark brown wavy hair and a dimple in one cheek. She knows and respects the old ways.”

“Where is she? Does she live around here?” I was ready to introduce myself to this wonderful woman.

“No, she lives far away. It may take a long, long while before you meet her.”

That wasn’t such good news. “How will I find her?”

“The path lies straight ahead. Sometimes it will be invisible, but it’s always there.”

Grandma’s discussion about my future seemed to be over.

She picked up the cup and dumped the dregs in the sink. Wiping her hands on a tea towel that had been draped through the handle of the old refrigerator, she asked, “Are you ready to eat?”

* * *

I almost forgot about Grandma’s predictions, because I started drinking more and more with my buddies. I became an embarrassment to her and my other relatives, and I didn’t care.


Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Invisible Path from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, An Axe to Grind is the latest from Oak Tree Press.

She is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at her website and her blog

Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Invisible Path from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, An Axe to Grind is the latest from Oak Tree Press.
She is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America.

Sunday, November 7, 2010



IN his baccalaureate address as President of Yale University, in June, 1922, Dr. Angell felt called upon to say that in this country "the violation of law has never been so general nor so widely condoned as at present," and to add these impressive words of appeal to the young graduates:

This is a fact which strikes at the very heart of our system of government, and the young man entering upon his active career must decide whether he too will condone and even abet such disregard of law, or whether he will set his face firmly against such a course.

Monday, November 1, 2010

If you love America, vote!

Something to remember when you go to the polls tomorrow:

Before he’d served even one year President Obama lost the support of the easily distracted left and engendered the white hot rage of the hate-filled right. But some of us, from all walks of life and ideological backgrounds -- including this white, straight, 57-year-old, former religious right wing agitator, now progressive writer and (given my background as the son of a famous evangelical leader) this unlikely Obama supporter -- are sticking with our President. Why?-- because he is succeeding.

Read the rest of the article:

We faithful Obama supporters still trust our initial impression of him as a great, good and uniquely qualified man to lead us.

Obama’s steady supporters will be proved right. Obama’s critics will be remembered as easily panicked and prematurely discouraged at best and shriveled hate mongers at worst.

Obama Will Triumph — So Will America