San Francisco History

Car of Mystery

First Blood is Drawn on 'Car of Mystery'

5,000 Persons in Mob That Hurls Missles as First Vehicle is Run

First blood of the street car strike was drawn at 11 o'clock yesterday morning, when Patrick Calhoun [President of United Railroads] made his opening attempt to run the cars.

In the face of a mob of 5,000 people gathered along Turk and Fillmore streets, the gate of the material yard was suddenly opened and the fortified "mystery" car of the United Railroads was seen within ready to make a run for the street.

The crowd realized at once that the start was to be made. Bricks and stones were hurled over the fence by the excited crowd. A rock struck Inspector J. W. Hale in the face and knocked him to the ground. He was standing by the side of the car.

It was seen that a strikebreaker was to be the motorman of the armored red car. Beside him on the platform stood Division Superintendent H. T. Jones, Inspectors A. W.  Brohman, J. B. Cummings and W. E. Garland were with Jones.

One false start was made before the gate to the yard was reached. A heavy rock thrown upon the track caused the wheels to leave the rails, and it was several minutes before they could be set on again. In the meantime the gates were closed and the crowd shut out. Stones and bricks were hurled in a shower over the fence and upon the car.

At 11:05 o'clock the gates swung open again. The strikebreakers gave a faint cheer from the barn. The car moved slowly out upon the main line.

Shower of Bricks.

Hisses, jeers, anathemas, a few cheers, accompanied by a furious shower of bricks and stones, greeted the car. It proceeded slowly down Turk street in the direction of the ferry. Its path blocked by the crowd and loaded wagons.

A heavy stone struck Superintendent Jones in the right arm. he flinched with the pain, but stuck to his post. Another stone struck him in the shoulder. Cummings was struck in the jaw and knocked to the floor. He picked himself up and clung to the iron guard for support. Garland was struck in the side.

Not fifty feet from the starting point the car was stopped by a heavy truck. The driver refused to move. Two policemen succeeded in clearing the truck. Horses and wagons appeared from around the corner of Webster street and drove upon the track. The crowd jeered and yelled in dangerous mood. Jones strike-breaking motorman looked up at his boss for the signal to go back, but Jones ordered him forward.

The union pickets seemed trying to preserve order and make way for the car, but their efforts were futile against the crowd. Two more trucks blocked the way and were only driven off under threat of arrest by Sergeant Eastman.

Opposite the Henry Durant School, not 300 feet from the starting point, the car came to a stop, blocked by a heavy truck belonging to McNab & SMith. The driver cramped his wheels and declared that he could not move the load. In the meantime a dozen wagons lined up on the tracks ahead, and the crowd pressed dangerously close to the car.

Superintendent Jones saw that it would be impossible to proceed further. He signaled the motorman to run the car back. Five union pickets jumped on board and operated the car. The gate was reached in a few seconds, the crowd jeering the fortified car and its occupants.

This ended Calhoun's first attempt to move a car.

The report that another attempt to be made to made shortly after kept the crowd about Turk and Fillmore streets. It had tasted brick throwing and longed for more.

Street Impassable.

By 1 o'clock Turk street was impassable. Captain Mooney of the Bush street station arrived with a relief corps of policemen. He ordered them to clear the street.

Two mounted policemen and a score of policemen on foot beat back the crowd to Eddy street. They were opposed at every step. Hoodlums in the mob threw stones at the policemen and called them "scabs."

It was while driving a crowd of men from an empty lot that Mounted Policeman J. M. Mann was struck in the face by a sharp stone. It was thrown by Rodulfo Orchett, a member of the Material Driver's Union, who lives at 225 Point Lobos avenue. Mann spotted Orchett in the crowd and rode after him. The man dodged to and fro in an effort to escape, but Mann, his face bleeding profusely from the wound in his cheek, reached over from his saddle and seized Orchett by the neck.

Orchett was placed under arrest and charged with assault with a deadly weapon. At the police station he declared that he had been told by carmen to throw the stones.

A few minutes after this outbreak someone started a fire in an empty lot at Webster and Turk streets. It was quickly put out by a squad of men working under the direction of two policemen.

From this time on until the bringing out of the cars from the Turk street barn the crowd offered no violence, although it hooted and hissed continually.

Source: San Francisco Examiner. 8 May 1907. 3. 

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