Interestingly, I had yesterday, for the first time in a good while, a
strong Seattle feeling -- a feeling from a very old and extremely
important Time. Perhaps the atypical fog outside, rather rare in
Southeastern Idaho, had something to do with it. But then this morning,
I received a good letter from a university student in the Canadian
West. He was interested in a major figure of the Old I.W.W. -- the
Industrial Workers of the World [Wobblies.] And that,
for me, struck a great note of personal resonance:
Good to hear from you and to get your query about Fellow Worker
C.E. "Stumpy" Payne. I can tell you a few first hand things and,
although to do so, I have to go back to early 1955, that
particular seminal epoch remains extremely clear and vivid.
At the beginning of 1955, I got out of the Army -- served a full
hitch, and very honorably by the Army's standards. I was turning 21.
But, even as I was leaving the military, I was also in the process of
much personal change. Before I returned to my native Northern Arizona,
I spent some time in Seattle [later in the Intermountain West.] In
Seattle, I found the bastion of the IWW down in the always fascinating
Skid Road setting. I had heard of the Wobblies at many points in my
earlier years and that which I had heard -- from those whose perceptions
I respected -- had always been good. I had no problem joining up with
Most who gathered daily at the rather small hall/office to drink
coffee, play cribbage, and talk were much, much older than I -- though
there were younger people [and most of those were working during the
day.] The old-timers were delighted with me and I with them. From
them, I heard rich, long and detailed accounts of major social justice
struggles [and fights over various issues] -- and a great deal of all of
this was first-hand in the most primary sense. Throughout my life,
right to the very moment -- probably because of my Native and
rural Western background -- I have never asked personal questions of
anyone. With the Old Wobblies, I listened carefully, occasionally asking
a question about specific tactics and strategies. On the other hand, on
their own, they told me matters relating to personal background.
Early on, I met Stumpy Payne, C.E. At that point, he was almost
90 -- vigorous, sharp, alert, contemporary. Like many of the old
radicals, he dressed rather formally. [I looked like a cowpuncher.] He
was interested in my youth and Indian background and, with no false
modesty, I think he [like the others] felt they were encountering a kid
with considerable activist potential. Others told me he had been at the
founding convention of the IWW in 1905, had always been an extremely
capable speaker [hence the moniker, "Stumpy"], a first rate organizer,
writer, editor. I also heard from at least one and possibly two of the
really old-timers, that Stumpy Payne was born the son of a Georgia
plantation owner. I could never find anything more on that. [He had no
Southern accent, but of course he'd lived in the Far West for virtually
his whole life.]
He gave me a copy of his little pamphlet -- by then, it had been
out for a few years -- Industrial Government [priced at a symbolic one
cent.] It was cleanly organized and clearly written and, of course, had
little to do with "government" as the term is widely used. It was very
much a proposal for a somewhat more structured version of the IWW's
basic "frontier syndicalism" [my term.] [Syndicalism, of
course, involves the primacy of democratic revolutionary unions --
grouped into One Big Union -- in effecting systemic change and
administering the new cooperative society.]
But of especial interest to me was the fact that it drew heavily
from Native American tribal communalism. Stumpy had spent many years in
Northeastern Washington state -- close to the Idaho Panhandle -- where
he had had many congenial relationships with Indian people, tribes and
cultures -- and he certainly had those with tribes and individuals in
the coastal sections of Washington.
Stumpy had worked with just about every luminary in the Wobbly
World. He thought pretty well of Bill Haywood but remarked to me that,
"Bill was really never an office man. Careless with his papers. Had
the habit of folding and putting important letters in the inside rim of
his Stetson." I grinned on that one which essentially summed me up as
And Stumpy was certainly no office man, either. Few
Old Wobblies ever were.
From every perspective, they were -- in the very best sense --
One afternoon a friend of mine -- a few years older than I and
an IWW and grad student at University of Washington -- was in the Wobbly
bastion. The friend happened to remember that James P. "Red Jim"
Cannon, the Trotskyist, was speaking that night at a public meeting. He
wondered if anyone was interested -- and indicated he was going to it.
I really wasn't all that attracted to that and, while my mind was
considering it, Stumpy came to the fore and said, grinning, "John can't
go with you. I'm taking him with me." I didn't even ask where we were
Where we went was off to hear a primary leader of the state
ACLU, speaking in the context of a Humanist gathering. I was a big kid,
slightly over six feet [still am] and Stumpy was probably about five
feet, nine inches -- maybe even a little shorter. I was obviously very
young and he visibly much, much older. It occurred to me later, when we
got to the august meeting, that they may have initially felt I was a
body-guard of some kind. The speaker was a Professor Gottfried from the
Political Science department at University of Washington -- and he gave
a good talk on civil liberties issues and ACLU's role. The shadow of
the Red Scare hung over the nation at that point -- and some attendees
seemed a bit reluctant to talk.
Stumpy Payne was not reluctant. Without in any sense seeking to
dominate the meeting, he asked sharp and pertinent questions, politely
challenging the then relativism of the ACLU. While not a Communist [no
Wobblies were], Stumpy was critical of ACLU's then reluctance to defend
CPs -- clearly thinking broadly in terms of "An injury to one is an
injury to all." The discussion picked up markedly after Stumpy --
always politely -- broke the ice. It was clear from the outset that
several there had seen him before. But I was intrigued by the fact
that, when they addressed him, it was as a "Mr._____" and not his proper
name. I never, of course, asked Stumpy, Why the alias? That was his
business. But then I felt -- and feel now -- that it was a reasonable
precaution, given the times, and certainly the experiences with the most
brutal and multi-faceted repression through which the Old Timers had
passed, not just for brief periods -- but for long hard epochs.
My earliest hardbound IWW book [there were always pamphlets],
was Walker C. Smith's The Everett Massacre: A History of the Class
Struggle in the Lumber Industry. Published by the IWW in 1917, it's a
stirring and detailed account, with fascinating photos, of that bloody
attack on the IWW in 1916 as the Wobblies attempted a Free Speech
landing-by-boat at the Western Washington town. [My mother was born at
Everett in 1906.] It carried a fine, clear and vigorous
preface/foreword by Stumpy Payne. I have my first edition, but it was
reprinted in the 1980s or so. You may have it or at least have access
to it. When I look at that book, I always read Stumpy's great words at
the very outset:
"In ten minutes of seething, roaring hell at the Everett dock on
the afternoon of Sunday, November 5, 1916, there was more of the age-old
superstition regarding the indentity of interests between capital and
labor torn from the minds of the working people of the Pacific Northwest
than could have been cleared away by a thousand lecturers in a year.
It is with regret that we view the untimely passing of the seven or more
Fellow Workers who were foully murdered on that fateful day, but if
the working class of the world can view beyond their mangled forms the
hideous brutality that was the cause of their death, they will not have
died in vain.
This book is published with the hope that the tragedy of Everett
may serve to set before the working class so clear a view of capitalism
in all its ruthless greed that another such affair will be impossible.
After some fascinating time in Seattle -- the highlight always
being for me the Old Wobblies -- I got back to Arizona. I kept in touch
with several of them by mail and at least once I got a very kind note
In time, he and they all passed -- leaving me with many
extraordinarily fine and deeply treasured memories. A few of my old
fellow workers lived long enough to very approvingly note my work with
the Southern Movement. I think they all felt that the great faith they
had in a scruffy kid had been very well placed.
Those memories include true and loyal friendship.
And they also include Lessons and a Mandate.
Hope this has been of some help.
In Solidarity, Hunter [Hunter Bear]
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
Yesterday I posted our new webpage, Wobbly Mentor,
and sent the specific link around. [It's already been well visited.]
I explained that its genesis lay in an excellent set of questions
posed by a student at a university in the Canadian West. Our
website is huge, diverse, well visited -- and I often get queries,
all of which I answer. And I get many kind notes of thanks. I am
especially pleased to pass this one around -- the Old Wobblies are
close to my heart, and a professor [even one who is an organizer]
never stops professing.
Thank you so much for all the great information and stories you've
provided about Stumpy. I'm very much indebted to you, as are all
young activist scholars who can draw upon your life (and now your
website) for inspiration.
I've been interested in Stumpy for almost a decade now. His were
the first IWW writings I ever encountered. While researching a
paper on the Aberdeen, Washington, free speech fight of 1911-1912, I
came across him writing letters to the editor of the Industrial
Worker and Solidarity telling of the brutalities committed against
the workers, and the inspirational actions taken by those men and
women in continuing to fight for what they knew was right.
Following his journeys up and down the Pacific Coast from northern
British Columbia to San Diego has been a way for me to learn much of
the early IWW struggles by following his biography.
I give him as much credit as anyone for getting me interested in the
Wobblies, and it was my interest in the Wobblies that led me to
activism and graduate school. So, again, I'm forever grateful for
the information you've passed along.
On one side note: I had no idea that his nickname was "Stumpy"
because of his ability to deliver stump speeches. I had assumed
that he was a stump rancher at some time or another, although in
retrospect that didn't make much sense since - from what I know -
stump ranchers were somewhat akin to farmers and thus needed as much
unpaid family labor as possible. And, I never heard much about him
with a wife or kids.
If I ever do complete a biography of Stumpy I'd be honored to email
or mail you a copy of it.
SPECIAL NOTE ON C.E. "STUMPY"
PAYNE [HUNTER BEAR MARCH 3 2008]:
My good spouse of almost 47
years, Eldri, is an excellent researcher via computer --
especially in genealogy.
Eldri was able to determine
that Stumpy's name was Clayton Payne and that he was born in
1869. She then took that name and looked it up on
Ancestry.com. She found a Clayton E. Payne in the 1920 and
1930 Federal censuses. In 1920, he was at Pond
[Pend] Oreille, Washington, 50 years old; and in 1930 he was
living at Aberdeen/Grays Harbor, Washington, and his age is
given as 61. Both of those indicate he was born in
Minnesota. On each census, his occupation is given as
carpenter. On each census, his father is given as "born in
Georgia" and his mother, "born in Indiana." This all meshes
pretty well -- and the Georgia-born father could easily have
been a landowner who left Georgia after the War and General
William T. Sherman's assault and removed to the Minnesota
frontier. [Eldri herself is Finnish / Norwegian / Lapp and
was born at Moose Lake, Minnesota.]
Fascinating historical article (the part that caught my attention
your mention of a "student at a university in the Canadian West").
(and I mean the working class as a whole) need more working-class
fighters like him these days.
What a delightful piece. I recall you
regaling me with the story of your Skid Road I.W.W. sojourn on a
bus trip we took from some where to some where else in these
parts. A fine and richly personal grounding of labor's history.
Alex Gaby, closer to that generation, would have spoken
well of it !
Our large website abounds with material on the radical
labor movement in the West, the Southern civil rights
movement, Native American rights, and grassroots community
activist organizing [and much, much more!] I
especially point out, apropos of Wobbly Mentor, much I.W.W.
material sprinkled throughout the website.
And, for a bit on my radical labor background and my
interesting entrance into Mississippi, see:
The Redbadbear discussion burns along --
smouldering and flaring. No one could ever accuse
that List of being monolithic. If diversity fuels
creativity and life -- well, we all have lots of it.
It's fascinating [and for many radicals,
especially the long distance runners] vindicating to
hear Wall Street so roundly and universally damned.
No one should be especially surprised at this
debacle -- though some, of course, inevitably are.
A basic Marxian perspective helps savvy it all --
including the global implications -- but I have
never felt that an astute person had to read a word
of Marx to grasp the realities of both the class
struggle and the inherent contradictions in
capitalism. At this point, the organized American
Left is miniscule and organized labor relatively
toothless. This can change -- I, at least think it
will -- but it'll take hard organizing work on many
fronts, realistically conceived and effected over a
long stretch of time. At this point, we can
certainly take solace in the fact that the presumed
infallibility and eternal longevity of capitalism
has been shaken to its very core and its [dubious]
soul. There'll be a fix of sorts for this one --
more than aspirin but falling far short of a
dig-to-the-roots, or even a New Deal at this
point -- and the trail to the Big Rock Candy
Mountain will continue for the Save the Worlders to
be a long and tough one for sure.
But what's happened -- the genuine crisis -- is a
critical first step in a historical
development that, for a very long time in this
country and much of the western world, has appeared
to most people to be essentially static.
Things are happening.
On the other hand, looking at matters from
another [but not exclusive] perspective, I can't
help but recall the myriad of "easy money" offers
that I and obviously a vast number of other
homeowners in this country received over a several
year period until not very long ago. In our case,
we put the bulk of our "capital" into this good
house on a hill with a great view which, at one
point, accommodated eight family members plus the
pets. Foregoing investments, we paid cash and own
it outright, No liens of any kind. [We are far more
fortunate than most.] But I must have received
several hundred e-offers dangling sums ranging from
$150,000 to $250,000 if we were to "take out a
mortgage" at presumably low interest rates. We were not
tempted -- and not even by the ostensibly more
palatable "reverse mortgage" ploys that have been
coming recently. [We own our eleven year old Jeep
outright as well but [atypically, I concede] it
still has less than 51,300 miles on it.]
But as the sad news tells us, and everyone now
knows, a hell of a lot of folks were taken. Even
around Pocatello, in a state not as pervasively hit
by foreclosures as, say, Nevada and California,
basically good people are losing their homes.
We personally have little in materialistic
accumulation. Both Eldri and I come from varied
backgrounds -- but one of the things we have in
common is an aversion to conspicuous consumption.
We've both read Veblen and we are both Depression
Yours, Hunter [Hunter Bear]
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq
/St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´ and Ohkwari'