The Army’s Timber Industry Union

It is difficult to look back at the old-timers in Trego and not realize how much influence the International Workers of the World (IWW – the wobblies) had on the area.  In the early sixties, terms like “the Wobbly Johnson place” still were part of the directions.  The old airport wasn’t recognizable as an airport . . . if I have the story right, Billy Lloyd flew his loads of whiskey south past Trego to get past the busybodies at the Canadian line during prohibition.

Trego’s labor strife precipitated the timber strike that shut down the woods in 1917 – but the stories never told of any IWW success in getting the 8 hour day, or hot showers, or any of their demands.  I’m not an historian, so I never researched it, until I ran across the term “Spruce Rifle.”  That was worth researching – and I was lucky in timing (a lot of research includes the element of luck – Pasteur phrased it “Fortune favors the prepared mind.”)

In this presentation Ian McCollum tells of the “Spruce Gun” – some 1,800 Winchester 94 carbines in 30-30 that were issued to a special group of soldiers during World War I – The Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen.  The Wobblies basically shut down portions of the timber industry – with the Loyal Legion, the army created its own union, detailing about 28,000 soldiers with lumber, logging and rail experience to the timber companies – where they received both their military pay and company pay for logging and lumber work.  The army union also got the 8 hour day – and I begin to understand how the IWW couldn’t compete with the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen.  Wiki has an article giving more coverage.

Years ago, I had a chance to buy a Spruce Gun – I recall the US marking on the gun – but to me it was just another model 94, not particularly unique, and the story wasn’t offered along with the gun. Now I have the story, but the opportunity is long past.

The Loyal Legion operated more near the west coast – spruce was the species.  The Spruce division of the Army Signal Corps existed to provide material for the World War I airplanes – it is a bit hard to realize that, when that war ended, it was only 15 years after Wilbur and Orville’s first flight.  What would grow into the Air Force was a part of the Signal Corps.  And the conflict between the Army’s union and the IWW – epitomized by 200 US marked Winchester carbines – changed the logging industry.

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