Haymarket Affair Digital Collection

Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial transcript no. 1.
Testimony of John Ferguson, 1886 Aug. 2.

Volume L, 125-146, 22 p.
Ferguson, John.
Cloak tailor.

Direct examination by Mr. Salomon. Cross-examination by Mr. Grinnell. Testified on behalf of the Defense, Spies, August et al.

Attended the Haymarket meeting. Testified on various topics (page numbers provide a partial guide): Spies' speech at Haymarket (vol.L 127), McCormick Reaper Works strike, meeting or riot (vol.L 127), Parsons' speech at Haymarket (vol.L 129), unions (vol.L 130), actions of police during the Haymarket meeting (vol.L 132), Fielden's speech at Haymarket (vol.L 131), trajectory of the bomb (vol.L 133), Zepf's Hall (vol.L 131), time and place origination of the gunfire (vol.L 133), movement, position or tenor of the crowd (vol.L 134).

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a witness called and sworn on behalf of the defendants, was examined in chief by Mr. Salomon and testified as follows:

Q What is your name?

A John Ferguson.

Q Where do you live?

A The north-east corner of Clinton and Washington.

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Q How long have you lived there?

A I have lived there going on seven years.

Q What position do you occupy? What relation have you to that building and what is your position in that building?

A Well, I have charge of that building.

Q What is your business, occupation?

A Cloakmakng. Cloak tailor.

Q Do you carry on your business at that place?

A Yes sir.

Q Where?

A North-east corner of Clinton and Washington

Q How long have you lived in the city of Chicago?

A About seventeen years.

Q Where were you on the night of the 4th of May, this year?

A After supper that night I went up to 380 West Madison on business.

Q From there where did you go?

A On my way I called in a cigar store at 205 Washington Boulevard, was there a few minutes. From there I came out with a gentleman acquaintance, come on home, and we walked down together to the corner of Halstead street. He said that he had some business.

Mr. GRINNELL: Never mind what he said.

Mr. SALOMON: Where did you go to?

A Halstead and Washington. Crossed through Halstead to Lake street, stopped in at the north-east corner of Lake street and got a cigar, and walked down Lake street to Desplaines, and stood there

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a few minutes in conversation, and he was turning to go back west, and we walked across the street to the south side of Lake street; and noticing something of a crowd further down on Desplaines street, he said, "There is a crowd--"

Mr. GRINNELL: (Interrupting) Never mind.

THE WITNESS: Well, there was a crowd down there and we walked back on the south side of the street and walked down into the vicinity of the crowd, and then walked up in to the crowd but took a circle out into the street in the out edge of the crowd to come past the crowd. As we came up opposite to the street lamp on the opposite side of the crowd we halted a few minutes. There was some gentleman speaking very broken English. I asked the gentlemen who was the speaker. He said he believed it was Spies. I stopped about ten minutes and listened to his speech.

Mr. SALOMON: Now, you may state what Spies said?

A Well, he was speaking at the time we came up there about the affair on the day previous at McCormick's. He said "The police shot down several of your brothers. The police and the newspapers say that I was responsible for that affair, that I instigated the crowd to assault the police. They lie." Then he went on with some other remarks. I don't remember further. We did not remain to listen to very much more of his speech. We walked on down Desplaines street about half way to the station, and passed Carter Harrison and two

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gentlemen with him.

Mr. GRINNELL: Never mind.

Mr. SALOMON: What did you do there?

A I turned around and went back. I expected to have the pleasure of listening to one of Carter's speeches.

THE COURT: Describe what you saw, without telling your private thoughts?

A Well, I came back a little ways behind Mr. Harrison, crossed Randolph street and stood on the outer edge of the crowd, and Mr. Spies was still speaking. He however finished his speech in a very few minutes afterwards and said that a Mr. Parsons who was able to speak in their language much more plainly than he was and could entertain them better, would speak. Mr. Parsons got up on to the wagon and made a speech perhaps thirty or thirty-five minutes at least. It was about that long I guess before Mr. Harrison went away, and I turned to go away, started away a few steps, had and meeting a gentleman, my acquaintance with whom I had business transactions, I stopped and spoke to him a few minutes. He was on his way home. He asked me what was going on over there.

Objected to.

Q Never mind what he asked you. State what you did?

A I am giving you the circumstances.

THE COURT: They are calling upon you to state what actually happened there at the meeting?

A Well, we talked a few

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minutes, and then walked back and crossed the street, just across Randolph street, not into the crowd, but just north of the cross walk. We could hear all of the speaking plainly from where we stood as the speakers were facing us, facing Randolph street in the wagon. We were there perhaps fifteen minutes longer while Mr. Parsons was speaking.

Q You may state what Mr. Parsons said, and what was said by the crowd, if anything?

A In the beginning of his speech--I can't relate all his speech.

THE COURT: Anything that you remember.

THE WITNESS: In the beginning of his speech he went over a good deal of statistics, good deal of labor statistics, taking his statistics from what he claimed was a report of the labor bureau of Congress, the congressional labor bureau---something of that kind. And after this gentleman and myself had gone back, towards the close of his speech, he referred to Jay Gould and the troubles that had occurred in his---

Q State what he said in connection with and about Jay Gould?

A Well, he says--I can't remember his language-- but after referring to the strike---first before alluding to it he said: "What of Jay Gould?" And a couple of gentlemen standing a few steps away from me at the right said: "Throw him in the lake." And a gentleman standing almost in front of me, a tall gentleman with a pipe in his mouth took his

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pipe from his mouth and hallooed out "Hang him." Mr. Parsons replied: "No, that won't do any good. You might hang a dozen Jay Goulds and a dozen more Jay Goulds would spring up in his place. Socialists aim not at the life of individuals, but at the system."

Q Did he give any illustration?

A No, not that I remember of. Then he went on with a tirade against trades unions, claimed that trades uions were not doing very much to promote the cause of labor; that they were on the wrong track Speaking and saying, I think that he mentioned something about there being scabs upon the dog. What the socialist aimed to do was to do away with the dog. "By that I mean" he says "the system." I don't know what system he meant. Those were the only portions of his speech that I remember. I was listening for something exciting, but I didn't hear very much.

Mr. GRINNELL: State what you heard?

A That is all I remember of.

Mr. SALOMON: Were there any other responses from the crowd than those you have stated?

A I didn' hear any.

Q Well, what did you do following what you have just stated after hearing what was said?

A We remained there until Mr. Parsons concluded his speech, and another gentleman got up and began speaking and spoke of Mr. Foran, I think Congressman Foran.

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Mr. BLACK: Do you identify any of the defendants as the gentleman referred to?

A Yes sir.

Q This is the gentleman? (indicating Mr. Fielden)

A That looks like the gentleman. He says "Whatabout Mr. Foran, the man who was elected by labor votes who was special representative of labor in congress. What does he say? He says that no legislation can be accomplished that will benefit the working man. Now, what are you to do?" I don't remember his stating any plan that they were to follow up.

Mr. GRINNELL: State what you do remember, not what you don't remember.

THE WITNESS: That is as near as I can remember in connection with this speech.

Mr. SALOMON: What followed that. What did you do?

A After standing there a few minutes, I saw quite a storm cloud come up and I turned to go away, had taken two or three steps away and some one jumped up and interrupted the speaker with the remark "there is a prospect of an immediate storm, and those of you who wish to continue the meeting can adjourn to some hall"--I don't remember the name of the hall.

Q Zepf's hall?

A I don't know that I would recognize the name. He said that it was only a few steps away from there and the speaker resuming, said: "No, I havn't but two or three words more to say. I won't keep you but a few minutes

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longer, and then you can go home." and then walked on away from the meeting and walked across Randolph street to the south-west corner---I think it is the south-west corner. Just as I was walking up from the street onto the pavement I saw the police in a body rush out from the station. From where we were stnding, as though they came out from the alley, just beyond the station, just beyond the station from us, and whirled into the street and came down very rapidly towards us. We halted for a few minutes to see where they were going. They were rushing down quite rapidly. The gentleman in command of the police was swinging his arm and hurrying them up.

Q Did he say anything?

A He told them to hurry up there,, hurry up.

Q How many times did he repeat the words "To hurry? up?"

A I couldn't say as to that. I heard him several times.

Q What further did you observe there at that time?

A After they walked past us we turned to walk along south towards the station, and we heard a slight report, something like breaking boards or like slapping a brick down on the pavement. This gentleman said---

Mr. GRINNELL: (interrupting) Never mind what he said.

THE WITNESS: He said "I guess that is shot."

Mr. SALOMON: Don't state what your companion told you, just state what you saw.

A I said I didn't think they were

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going to shoot anybody.

Q Don't tell what you said?

A He turned and looked around at the report and looked back towards the crowd, and the police marched down across the street, and as we turned, we had just about faced around, looking at the crowd, and we saw fire flying out about six or eight feet above the heads of the crowd, and falling down pretty near the center of the street. It was all dark for almost a second perhaps, and then there was a deafening roar. I thought it was thunder. Then almost instantly we saw flashes and heard reports.

Q Where were the flashes?

A The flashes were in the street.

Q From what part of the street?

A Well from towards the middle of the street, south of Randolph on Desplaines.

Q What did you then do or see?

A We turned and hurried away from there, did not stop to see any more or listen to anything further, but concluded that the safest way was to get away out of the range of the revolvers. They seemed to be shooting very considerable, considerable noise.

Q Who was it was shooting, if you know?

A That was impossible for me to say. That side of the street where the crwod was it was dark. At that time there did not appear to be any light there. All we could see was the form of the crowd and the shooting was in the street.

Q Proceed and state what else you saw there if anything?

A I didn't see anything further there. Went away home.

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Q Now, did you see any flashes from either side of the street where you had seen the crowd stand?

A No sir, I didn't see very much crowds standing on either side of the street, but most of the crowd was in the street. From the position from where I stood, the police were between us and the crowd apparently. There were people on the street going home and the crowd was very rapidly diminishing on the appearance of the approaching storm, going away---the crowd had pretty nearly I should think all gone away---that is the majority of the crowd had gone away.

Q Did you see any civilian fire a shot on that night, any any one other than a police officer?

Mr. GRINNELL: Did he see anybody fire a shot?

A No, I only saw the flashes from the middle of the street.

THE COURT: What we want to get at is whether there were any flashes from the sidewalk or were they all from the roadway?

Mr. SALOMON: Yes sir.

THE WITNESS: I didn't notice any. I didn't see any.

Q You didn't notice any from the sidewalks?

A I didn't notice any.

Q At the time you left the crowd where the speakers were, what was the indications of the people assembled there, as to peaceableness and quiet?

A Well, it was a very orderly crowd, as orderly a meeting as I ever saw anywhere in the

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street. I don't know but more orderly than a great many crowds that I have seen in the street.

Q About how long was it after that you say Fielden said he would be through shortly, was it that the police marched down the street?

A Well, it could not have been longer than five minutes.

Q Did the police march rapidly or slowly?

A Well sir, they marched pretty rapidly, seemed to be in a hurry.

Q Are you a socialist?

A No sir.

Q Are you an anarchist?

A No sir.

Q Or a communist?

A No sir, I don't know anything about what those terms mean---no idea of what their code of belief is.

Q About how far were you from the men who said "Throw him in the lake?"

A Oh, I might have been possibly eight or ten feet.

Q How far was that from the wagon?

A Well, it was on the out edge of the crowd. The crowd was not a very dense crowd at that time. The wagon was just about ten feet I should think south of the street lamp, and we stood perhaps ten feet south of the Randolph street crossing--just out of Randolph street.

Q Now, let me understand you. Where were you standing at the time that you saw this light in the air?

A Was standing on the south-west corner of Randolph and Desplaines street.

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Q On the south-west corner?

A Yes sir. I believe it was the fish market right in the corner we were standing just a few feet from the cross walk. We had gone perhaps ten feet down the sidewalk.

Cross Examination by
Mr. Grinnell.

Q What was your friend's name that you were with so long and said so many things to that night?

A You mean the gentleman that walked down to the meeting first?

Q I mean the gentleman that you were with that night that talked about the meeting, that you stood on the south-west corner with the man that you were talking with about the meeting and about the pistol shot, and about the breaking of the boards?

A His name is Gleason.

Q Is he subpoenaed in this case too?

A I couldn't say.

Q Where is he?

A I don't know where he is.

Q When did you see him last?

A I saw him about ten or twelve days ago.

Q Did you ever talk with him about this case after that night?

A Yes, incidentally.

Q You talked with him incidentally about this case when you met him. When did you meet him with reference to May 4th. How long after?

A I didn't see him for three weeks I guess.

Q Did you then speak with him for the first time about the Haymarket?

A I spoke of it.

Q Where abouts were you when you were talking with him

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about it?

A Well sir, I don't remember just exactly.

Q Was it on the street--did you meet him on the street? Or did you meet him at the House of David?

A No sir, I did not go to the House of David.

Q Were you ever there--don't you know where the House of David is?

A I know where the House of David is.

Q Where?

A Somewhere on Clark street south of Madison

Q Were you ever there?

A No sir, not that I know of.

Q Did you meet Gleason there?

A No sir.

Q Did you meet in front of that place?

A No sir.

Q Where did you meet him?

A I can't tell you where I met him---on the street, but whether it was on East Washington or East Madison I can't say.

Q Where does Gleason live?

A He lives on Blue Island Avenue.

Q Whereabouts?

A Well, I can't tell you the number.

Q How long have you known Gleason?

A About `73--' 63 or `73.

Q Met him frequently?

A Yes sir.

Q What is his first name?

A William.

Q What is his business?

A He keeps a flour and feed store.

Q Where?

A At 76 or 73 Blue Island Ave.--I don't exactly remember the number.

Q How many times have you seen him since May 4th?

A Twice.

Q Talked with him about this case?

A Only once, the

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first time I met him.

Q That was about thre weeks after the transaction?

A Yes sir, about two or three weeks.

Q You are not sure where you met him?

A No sir.

Q You don't know whether he has been subpoenaed or not.

A No sir.

Q You both left as soon as the bomb was fired, as soon as that bomb exploded you left?

A We left the crowd before the bomb---we had come across Randolph street.

Q You were on the south-west corner of Randolph and Desplaines street when the bomb exploded?

A Yes sir.

Q You left immediately?

A Very soon after.

Q Which way did you go?

A Went south on Desplaines street.

Q Where did you leave Gleason?

A I lost sight of him at the corner of the alley near the police station.

Q He told you that he thought at was a shot he heard, when you heard the cracking of boards, it was a pistol shot and you didn't agree with him, is that true?

A Yes, I said: "No, I guess not. I don't think they are going to shoot anybody."

Q From what you heard you thought it was the cracking of boards, like boards being broken?

A Yes sir.

Q How long was that before the bomb was fired?

A Well, I didn't count the time.

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Q Almost instantly after the bomb went off?

A Possibly a second or so.

Q This noise you heard---was it before or after the bomb exploded?

A Which noise do you refer to?

Q The one you thought was the breaking of the boards?

A It was before.

Q You heard the pistol shot before you heard the bomb, that is, your friend Gleason thought it was a pistol shot and you thought it was the cracking of boards?

A That was what caused us to look around.

Q Where were you when you heard that noise?

A On the south-west corner of Randolph and Desplaines, just a few feet from the intersection of the sidewalk across the walk.

Q Is Gleason known by any peculiarity about his person-- has he got a club foot?

A Yes sir.

Q He is called club foot Gleason?

A I never heard him called that name.

Q He is club footed, isn't he?

A He has a disability in both feet I believe.

Q How long have you known him?

A I have known him about four or five years.

Q I thought you said you knew him since 1863 or 1873?

A No sir.

Q I understood you to say so--I want you to be correct.

THE COURT: There was confusion. He was referring to the number of the street.

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THE WITNESS: I said his feed store was either 63 or 73 Blue Island Ave?

Q Do you know how long he has been in this coutry?

A No sir.

Q How many years do you think since you first knew him?

A I couldn't say exactly, about five or six years I think.

Q Are you sure now it has been five or six years, which would you say? Five or six?

A Well, I have known him five years at least.

Q What is his business?

A I told you that he kept a flour and feed store and coal also---deals in coal, flour and feed.

Q Isn't he a shoemaker?

A I believe he is a shoemaker yes. Used to be.

Q He now has a flour and feed store?

A That is his business now.

Q How long have you lived the corner of Clinton and Washington?

A Six years ago 24th of April.

Q Your family lives there?

A Yes sir.

Q Where is your place of business?

A At that place.

Q You have lived there six years?

A Yes sir, and over.

Q How long have you lived in Chicago?

A About 17 years.

Q You are a tailor?

A Yes sir.

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Carry on your business at that place?

A Yes sir.

Q In which story do you work?

In the second story?

A On the third floor.

Q You live on the same floor?

A Yes sir.

Q Lived there six years, have you?

A Yes sir.

Q You work for yourself or some one else?

A Both.

Q Do you take any job work from wholesale houses?

A Yes sir.

Q Where did you work before that. Where did you live first before you went to Clinton and Washington streets?

A I lived at the corner of LaSalle and South Water streets, 178 So. Water-- 178 So. Water.

Q How long did you live there?

A I lived there about in the neighborhood of three years.

Q Lived there and worked there too?

A Yes sir.

Q At your shop there?

A Yes sir.

Q And did jobbing work from wholesale places, and you do now?

A Yes.

Q You have no salesroom?

A No sir.

Q Where did you live before you lived at the last corner LaSalle and So. Water?

A I lived on State street, near 26th.

Q How long did you live there?

A About two years.

Q You worked at your trade there?

A Yes sir.

Q In the same way, or did you have a shop?

A The same way.

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Q Where did you live before that?

A 645 West Madison street.

Q And conducted your business in the same way then?

A Yes.

Q How long did you live at 645 West Madison?

A I lived there a little over a year and a half.

Q Conducted your business in the same way?

A Yes sir.

Q How long have you lived in Chicago?

A I lived in Chicago about seventeen years.

Q Where did you reside before you came to Chicago?

A New York.

Q Where, New York City?

A No sir.

Q Where?

A Groversville, New York.

Q Were you born at Groversville?

A No sir.

Q Where were you born?

A Born in Watertown New York.

Q Jefferson County?

A Yes sir.

Q How long did you live in Watertown before you moved away?

A Well, I lived in Watertown, in the immediate neighborhood from the time I was born until I was sventeen years old.

Q Then you went to Groversville?

A Yes sir.

Q How long did you listen to Spies' speech?

A Well, first about, well, not longer than ten minutes first. Then after passing Mr. Harrison about half way between Randolph and the station.

Q How long did you hear him, how many minutes did you hear Spies talking?

A Altogether?

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Q Yes sir.

A O, possibly fifteen or twenty minutes--- fifteen minutes.

Q Have you told now all that you can remember that was said by those speakers that night?

A Yes sir.

Q When did you first tell it after that night to any one else?

A I don't remember rehearsing any portion of their speech to any one

Q When did you first tell any of the counsel for the defense, anything about this case?

A To-day in the ante-room.

Q I am asking when did you first tell any counsel for the defense anything about that meeting that night. When did you first speak to them about it?

A Well, I was subpoenaed Saturday night or Friday night.

Q Had you told anything about it before that?

A Friday night?

Q Had you told anything about it before that?

A No sir, I did not give them any details at all or anything.

Q When did you first speak with them or either of them about this case?

A Well, I spoke to Mr. Salomon a few moments ago out in the room.

Q Answer my question if you can. When did you first speak to either of the counsel on the other side about this case or about what happened at that Haymarket that night?

A I don't remember speaking to them about what happened there. I didn't say anything to them in relation to what happened.

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Q How did they know you knew anything about it?

A That is something I can't answer. I don't know.

Q Were you ever at their office?

A I was invited to call at Mr. Salomon's office.

Q When?

A Well, I can't tell you--two weeks ago I guess.

Q Was that the first time you saw him?

A Yes sir.

Q Then you did call?

A Yes sir, I stopped at the office.

Q What was the first thing Salomon said to you?

A I didn't know then what it was they wanted.

Q What was the first thing Salomon said to you?

A I don't remember.

Q What was the first thing you said?

A I don't remember the conversation.

Q Now, did not you tell Salomon at that interview all that you knew about what happened at the Haymarket meeting?

A No sir.

Q Did he ask you any questions about it?

A He simply asker me my name.

Q He simply asked you your name and residence?

A He asked me my name and residence; if I was there, and about how long I was there.

Q Is that all he asked you?

A That is all he asked me I told him that I didn't know that I could give him any information that was effective.

Q Have you ever talked with any counsel than that about what you should testify in this case?

A No sir, never.

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Q Then you never have told anybody except what you stated out in the hall here?

A A few minutes ago.

Q How long did you talk?

A About three minutes.

Q Did you then tell him what you were going to testify to?

A No sir.

Q Now, you have told no one else the details of the case except your friend Gleason?

A Well, I didn't tell him any details. I have not given anybody any details.

Q You know Gleason to be a labor agitator?

A I know that he is connected with labor institutions.

Q He is a socialist aint he?

A No sir, not to my knowledge.

Q Haven't you talked with him about this case, talked with Gleason about your testimony in this case?

A No sir.

Q Has not Gleason told you that you must help the defendants in this case?

A No sir.

Q He has not ever said a word to you about that?

A No sir.

Q You know him to be a labor agitator?

A I know him to be a laboring man.

Q He is a labor agitator?

A I don't know that he is. I never heard him agitate the subject.

Q I believe you said he kept a flour and feed store?

A I believe he does.

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Q Did you know George Serene?

A No sir.

Q Did you ever talk with him?

A No sir.

Q Did Serene ever take you to anybody to talk about this case?

A No sir.

Q Spies spoke in broken English?

A Yes sir.

Q Was it hard work to understand him?

A No, I don't think it was hard work to understand.

Q But it was pronounced brokenly--that is you could tell he belonged to some other nationality?

A Yes sir.

Q Did you then determine what nationality he did belong to?

A No sir.

Q You don't know now what nationality he belonged to?

A No sir, I do not.

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