Nathan Wesley Everest was born in 1890 to the parents of Joseph and Isadora (Westfall) Everest in Newberg, Oregon. Wesley, as he preferred to be called, had fought in WWI in France. When he returned home he went to Washington State to work as a Lumberjack and became active in the International Workers of the World (the IWW). They were referred to as the “Wobblies”.
During a Memorial Day parade in 1918 the International Workers of the World Hall in Centralia, Washington, was destroyed and the workers beaten and told to get out of town. Instead the Wobblies, including Wesley rebuilt the hall. At the time it was believed the animosity for the group came from the wealthy timber owners, who saw the group as un-American.
The next year a rumor was circulating that the IWW hall would again be attacked, this time during the Armistice Day parade. The local IWW leader, Britt Smith asked Elmer Smith, their lawyer, what they should do. At first he advised to use no violence- but later agreed with Mr Smith that they did have the right to defend themselves. The Wobblies took this as meaning they could defend themselves with ammunition. Not only did they have armed men in the Hall, but also in a rooming house across the street, a hotel and on Seminary Hill.
On November 11, 1919 as the parade went down Tower Street it stopped in front of the hall. Within the parade was a large group of Centralia Legion members led by Lieutenant Warren Grimm. Here is where the story differs depending on which side told it: the Legion members stated that gun fire erupted from the hall and the hill side unprovoked by them. The Wobblies say that some Legion members broke rank and stormed the Hall breaking windows and the front door and the shots were to defend themselves from bodily injury.
The first person hit and killed by gunfire, in the middle of the street, was Legion Post Commander Warren Grimm. Grimm was a town lawyer, an all-American football and war hero.Many believed he was singled out because he spoke against the IWW, but others dispute that theory because he and Britt Smith were friendly with each other, plus Warren’s brother and law partner had spoken up in town meetings about the IWW legal rights to have meetings and a Hall.
After the shooting of Warren, Legionnaire Elmer Smith was shot in the head. Wesley had left the hall and was in the alley when he saw several men running towards him. He raised his gun and fired hitting Ben Casagranda and John Watt. Quickly he ran towards the river and was stopped by Dale Hubbard. Wesley again raised his gun and shot Dale three times.
Wesley was captured and brought back to the jail with a belt around his neck. Later that afternoon a group of men broke into the jail grabbed Wesley and were going to lynch him from a telephone pole but were calmed down and they put him back in his cell. As the night progressed and the legionnaires who were injured began to die the anger rose. Someone turned the main power off throwing the town in to darkness. Wesley again was taken from his cell and this time he was hung from the Mellen Street bridge. It is said that while hanging his body was shot several times.
His body was brought back to town, the IVV prisoner were forced to build his coffin and bury him. His body was transported in one of Jim Lynch’s moving vans to an unmarked grave in the pauper’s section. On the side of the moving van read the words “Lynch, for quick work call us”.
There was a trail and in time all were pardoned. There have been two book and several articles written about this event. There is a painting in Centralia honoring Wesley Everest as well as a monument honoring the Legion men who died.