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Out of the Depot

Violence Broke Out During 1911 Strike

By J. K. Gurner


Water Valley’s railroad community was shaken by the 1911 strike. Bruce Gurner said that Bob Ward told him a night of shooting broke out that was brought about by some irresponsible speeches urging violence against the strikebreakers brought in.
The men met at the courthouse early in the evening. Many went home and got their guns and took up positions behind a cut of cars near the paint shop. The strikebreakers were quartered in a building that lay parallel to the main line.
There is no verification that anyone actually died that night. But, Ward said that he knew 18 were killed because McLarty’s, a local furniture business that also served as the local undertaking business, furnished that many coffins. He said the coffins were loaded into a baggage car for the trip North on #6 the next morning.
Doctors patched up a number of wounded who left the next afternoon on #24, Ward added. The men lost that strike and had to come back to work on the I.C.’s terms. Some, like Ward, never went back except for an occasional contract job.
According to Bruce, among the stories to have come out of the strike is one about two of the strikebreakers who headed east out of town when the shooting began. The next morning they hailed a farmer who was milking his cow. They asked the name of the next town and the farmer told them Paris. The men acknowledged coming a long way but neither remember swimming an ocean.
The community of Paris is 11 miles east of Water Valley in Lafayette County.

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