One hundred years ago, in the spring of 1917, Oregon authorities began arresting and prosecuting a remarkable number of residents suspected of sedition. This hyper-vigilant campaign in the state complied with Congress’ demand to rid the country of any dissent that might impede the war effort. Anyone could report suspicious or disloyal talk. And they did.
From May 1917 through November 1918, nearly 100 Oregonians were arrested for “disloyal utterances.” The arrests swept up wealthy farmers and business leaders, ranch hands and railway workers, attorneys and physicians, a small-town postmaster, and radical union members. Many had simply made casual remarks that disagreed with the war, the draft, or the many war drives that effectively required residents to support. Dozens more residents were investigated by federal agents, interrogated, and advised to watch what they said in public or in private.
Eighteen of Oregon’s 36 counties reported seditious incidents that led to arrests, as indicated in the attached state map. One-third occurred in Central and Eastern Oregon counties with two-thirds from Portland-area counties, several in the Willamette Valley, and others in Southwest Oregon. Notice that Lane County, home to considerable anti-war dissent later in the 20th century, registered no arrests. Seditious acts were reported in 24 Oregon cities, ranging from the state’s largest to several of the smallest. (See list).
Sedition Incidents Reported in 18 Oregon Counties
Sedition Incidents Reported in 24 Oregon Communities
More findings are posted on my website: http://www.michaelhelquist.com/wwi-sedition-project.html
Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions, Michael Helquist, Oregon State University Press. Available online and in bookstores. Paperback. Coming Soon: eBook edition.
Note: Marie Equi was the only Oregon woman convicted of sedition.