Bisbee Deportation Case

Title

Bisbee Deportation Case

Description

The Bisbee Deportation of 1917 is the signature event in Arizona’s troubled labor/management history. Arizona’s rich copper deposits were first mined in Ajo in 1854. Copper production and copper companies eventually dominated Ajo, Globe, Jerome, Clifton-Morenci, and Bisbee, company towns whose mines attracted mineworkers of many ethnicities. Copper-mining companies were hardly united as a group, but they nevertheless had similar problems with unionizing workers during the course of the early 20th century. When the United States entered World War I in the spring of 1917 and needed Arizona copper in weapons, cables, and wire, booming copper companies were reluctant to share wartime profits or otherwise bargain with striking workers. Forced deportations of troublemakers from Jerome and Bisbee were effective tactics in an ongoing battle for maximum control of production and money.

In the early morning hours of July 12, 1917, two thousand armed vigilante “deputies” under the command of Sheriff Harry Wheeler of Cochise County, Arizona, rounded up some two thousand striking workers in the copper town of Bisbee. Marching the captives to a ball park in nearby Warren, the vigilantes later in the day loaded 1,186 men into boxcars of copper company Phelps Dodge’s own railroad, the El Paso and Southwestern. The deportees were deposited in the New Mexico desert at Hermanas, approximately 20 miles from Columbus. Some deportees drifted back to Bisbee, but labor never recovered effective power.

There were, to be sure, legal actions. Felix Frankfurter headed a federal investigative commission which declared the Deportation illegal. The U.S. Department of Justice indicted twenty-one men, including Sheriff Wheeler and Phelps Dodge’s Walter Douglas. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court supported the argument that no federal laws were broken—the case should be heard in state court. Thus the State of Arizona assumed the responsibility for criminal prosecutions. In 1920 the State of Arizona brought criminal charges against Harry E. Wootton (an ad hoc deputy on that July morning, a Phelps Dodge copper company employee and Bisbee Loyalty League member) as a single representative for 210 other defendants. He was acquitted. No other criminal charges were ever brought. Civil actions resulted in a few, tiny awards of damages to deportees.

The documents in this digital collection are from carbon copies of typed transcripts of testimony taken from Bisbee inhabitants by Cochise County Attorney John F. Ross and successor Robert N. French during the summer of 1919 in anticipation of the 1920 criminal trial. As one reads attorney questions and witness testimony, the flavor of the day of July 12, 1917, is revealed along with witness accounts of the actions of the men involved. Much is also revealed of the lives of citizens of Bisbee in the early part of the last century. The transcripts were given to the Cracchiolo Law Library by the firm of Knapp, Boyle, Bilby and Thompson.

Contributor

University of Arizona Law Library

Items in the Bisbee Deportation Case Collection

Bisbee Deportation Case (1919), Part 1, Volume 1
Transcripts of preliminary hearings held before the Hon. William C. Jack, Justice of the Peace, Precinct no. 4, Cochise County, Arizona in July-August, 1919 dealing with the Bisbee Deportation Case.

Bisbee Deportation Case (1919), Part 1, Volume 2
Transcripts of preliminary hearings held before the Hon. William C. Jack, Justice of the Peace, Precinct no. 4, Cochise County, Arizona in July-August, 1919 dealing with the Bisbee Deportation Case.

Bisbee Deportation Case (1919), Part 1, Volume 3
Transcripts of preliminary hearings held before the Hon. William C. Jack, Justice of the Peace, Precinct no. 4, Cochise County, Arizona in July-August, 1919 dealing with the Bisbee Deportation Case.

Bisbee Deportation Case (1919), Part 1, Volume 4
Transcripts of preliminary hearings held before the Hon. William C. Jack, Justice of the Peace, Precinct no. 4, Cochise County, Arizona in July-August, 1919 dealing with the Bisbee Deportation Case.

Bisbee Deportation Case (1919), Part 1, Volume 5
Transcripts of preliminary hearings held before the Hon. William C. Jack, Justice of the Peace, Precinct no. 4, Cochise County, Arizona in July-August, 1919 dealing with the Bisbee Deportation Case.

Bisbee Deportation Case (1919), Part 1, Volume 6
Transcripts of preliminary hearings held before the Hon. William C. Jack, Justice of the Peace, Precinct no. 4, Cochise County, Arizona in July-August, 1919 dealing with the Bisbee Deportation Case.

Bisbee Deportation Case (1919), Part 1, Volume 7
Transcripts of preliminary hearings held before the Hon. William C. Jack, Justice of the Peace, Precinct no. 4, Cochise County, Arizona in July-August, 1919 dealing with the Bisbee Deportation Case.

Bisbee Deportation Case (1919), Part 2, Volume 1
Transcripts of preliminary hearings held before the Hon. William C. Jack, Justice of the Peace, Precinct no. 4, Cochise County, Arizona in July-August, 1919 dealing with the Bisbee Deportation Case.

Bisbee Deportation Case (1919), Part 2, Volume 2
Transcripts of preliminary hearings held before the Hon. William C. Jack, Justice of the Peace, Precinct no. 4, Cochise County, Arizona in July-August, 1919 dealing with the Bisbee Deportation Case.

Bisbee Deportation Case (1919), Part 2, Volume 3
Transcripts of preliminary hearings held before the Hon. William C. Jack, Justice of the Peace, Precinct no. 4, Cochise County, Arizona in July-August, 1919 dealing with the Bisbee Deportation Case.