Haymarket Affair Digital Collection

Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial transcript no. 1.
Testimony of William Gleason, 1886 Aug. 3.

Volume L, 361-377, 17 p.
Gleason, William.
Shoemaker; Irish immigrant.

Direct examination by Mr. Foster. 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): Parsons' speech at Haymarket (vol.L 362), learned about the Haymarket meeting by verbal notice (vol.L 362), socialists and/or socialism (vol.L 363), actions of police during the Haymarket meeting (vol.L 364), time and place origination of the gunfire (vol.L 365), trajectory of the bomb (vol.L 371), Fielden, Samuel (vol.L 369), Knights of Labor (vol.L 376), Parsons, Albert (vol.L 369).

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

Q What is your name?

A William Gleason.

Q Where do you reside?

A 73 Blue Island Avenue.

Q How long have you resided in Chicago?

A In the neighborhood of seven years, a little over six years.

Q Of what country are you a native?

A I am an Irishman.

Q How long have you lived in this country?

A Somewhere close on to eight years this month.

Q Did you ever belong to, any armed sections or groups of socialists or communists?

A No sir, never.

Q I will ask you whether you are a socialist, a communist or an anarchist?

A No sir, I am not, nor never was.

Q Do you remember the 4th of May last?

A Yes sir.

Q What is your general business--- what has been your business?

A I am by trade a shoemaker.

Q Did you attend the Hay-market meeting?

A yes sir, I was there a portion of the time.

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Q Who did you go to that meeting with, if any one?

A A person by the name of Ferguson.

Q What in his first name?

A I forget--- for the time being I don't know. I can't say what his first name is.

Q At what time in the evening did you go to the Haymarket?

A It would be somewhere about half past eight when I left my house on Blue Island Avenue, and called in a place on the road on Halsted street, and it was somewhere in the neighborhood of nine o'clock or a few minutes after, when I met Mr. Ferguson on Desplaines street, who made me acquainted with the fact that a meeting was being held, and we sauntered along leisurely to the meeting then.

Q At that time had you seen any bills or notice of the meeting?

A No sir.

Q Who was speaking when you arrived at the meeting?

A Mr. Parsons.

Q I will ask you whether you heard any portion of Mr. Parsons' speech?

A Yes sir, I did.

Q How long did he speak after you got there within hearing distance?

A I could not state correctly to a few minutes. I should say maybe twenty minutes.

Q Did you hear that paet of his speech which had reference to Jay Gould?

A I remember his making some comments as to Gould.

Q Will you state to the jury what it was that Parsons said

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and what was said by any other person to which he responded at that time?

A I will state that I was on the outskirts of the crowd, and in making reference to Mr. Gould, I didn't pay much attention, but some person in the audience cried out, "Hang him" and Mr. Parsons at once dissented from that.

Q What did he say?

A He said words to the effect-- the precise words I can't state possibly--- but something to the effect that socialism or socialists did not want any one killed; they wanted the system killed that created and encouraged such men as Gould.

Q In this connection and in this line of argument, was there anything said about parasites, dogs or flees, and if so what, by Mr. Parsons on that occasion?

A Mr. Parsons told something that deprecated the abusing of scabs by trade unionists, the beating of scabs by trade unionists, stating that they were only parasites on the body politic; and he told a story about the flee and the dog; that while the trade unions were going to kill off the flees, which was in reference to the scabs, he told them that what they wanted was to kill off the dog, which was the system that created these scabs.

Q It was not an attack on the flees, but on the dogs?

A On the dogs.

Q That you say he told in connection with his argument?

A Yes sir.

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Q How long did you remain at that meeting?

A I remained until the weather become so threatening that I thought we were going to have a storm. Just after Parsons was done speaking and Fielden began to speak we went away then to the corner of Desplaines and Randolph.

Q Who went away?

A Me and Mr. Ferguson who was with me.

Q What corner of Desplaines and Randolph?

A That would be the south west corner.

Q Now, at the time that you and Mr. Ferguson were at the southwest corner of Randolph and Desplaines, state to the jury what you saw, if anything with reference to the police, the forming of the police, or the marching of the police, and the manner and the rapidity with which they formed and marched?

A While standing at the corner, we looked towards the alley that led down to the police station, and suddenly we saw a number of policemen rush out of the alley way, and seeing they were coming on and forming along the street, we advanced towards them to give them an opportunity to pass, thinking they might block us between them and the crowd.

When we got along, the last file, the last column was filing out, and they were so impetuous that one of the young lieutenan's, I presume he was in command, run five or six feet in advance of his column, and was shouting and hurrying them up, to be quick, and rallying them, as it were to advance

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quicker than they were doing.

Q Did they advance any quicker?

A Very quick.

Q Were they on a run or walk?

A I should say between a run and a walk. When the first column did advance, it immediately rushed out, and it seems left them behind them, and they run out to get up from being left behind.

Q How many columns were there?

A I don't remember, possibly three or four. I don't remember any more.

Q Where did you stop if at all, after the police passed%

A When they passed by, we stood close to the alley leading down to the police station, and watched the police as they advanced, towards where the meeting was being held. We saw the dark body march along the center of the street, and we watched them closely.

Q What was the first thing you noticed after they marched up towards the speakers stand?

A The first thing I noticed in seeing the dark crowd in the center of the street was something flying over the heads of them. I didn't know at the time what it was, nor didn,t that night, but noticed something that I thought was a fire cracker or squib or something over the heads of the police. Instantaneously with that the shooting began. I stayed for a few seconds, and seeing the shooting was somewhat indifferent, as if it was wild, I got around the corner of Washington street, and remained there around the corner.

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Q How long did you remain around the corner of Washington street?

A I remained around the corner until a young man came down, and he seemed to be shot. I went to him and said "My poor fellow, you seem to be badly injured."

Q Did you go away with him?

A No, I walked down the street with the rest of the crowd, walked towards Halsted street.

Q While you were standing looking and saw this squib or fire cracker, whether the fire appeared as you saw it, to come from citizens or from the police? A From the crowd or from the officers%

A. From the distance I was at I am satisfied they came from the body that was in the center of the street.

Q Now, did you see any flashes of revolvers or fire arms away from the body in the street, or upon the sidewalk?

A I did not.

Q You say you were looking there?

A I was looking there yes sir.

Q Did you see any flashes or shots at any time during the time that you were there looking, except that they were between the two curbs of the street?

A No, I did not.

Q From where you stood could you tell whether any of the crowd directly in the street fired or not?

A Well, the police would be between me and the crowd on the street. I couldn't see nothing but the police--- the dark body of men

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which I know was the police--- I kept my eye on them all the time.

Q Could you distinctly see the flashes of revolvers?

A In every direction.

Q You saw none of these flashes from the crowd?

A No, sir, it all seemed to be centered as it were in the column in the center of the street.


Q How long have you been in this country?

A Eight years.

Q Where were you naturalized?

A I took my first papers out in Philadelphia.

Q Where did you take your second papers out

A In Chicago before Judge Prendergast.

Q How long have you been in Chicago?

A Close upon six years.

Q You are what they call one of the Irish dynamiters--- they have given you that name?

A I don't know that anybody has given me that name.

Q Haven't you heard yourself called one of the Irish dynamiters belonging to the O'Donovan Rossa gang?

A No sir.

Q Didn't you come to this city from O'Donovan Rossa%

A No sir.

Q Didn't you have a letter of introduction from him to somebody here?

A No sir.

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Q You belonged to England?

A New Castle on Tyne.

Q Don't you belong to a revolutionary society at that place?

A Yes sir.

Q Were not you also a member of a committee trying to get Bonfield discharged last summer?

A No sir.

Q Didn't you wait on Harrison or wait on part of the municipal government, on the council, to get him discharged?

A No sir.

Q You are a labor agitator?

A I am a laboring man and look after the interests of my class.

Q What is your business?

A By trade I am a shoemaker.

Q What is your business? At present I am State agent for the State Labor Bureau of Illinois, in Chicago.

Q Appointed by whom?

A Elected by trade assembly and appointed by Mr. Lord.

Q It is not a state institution--- it is a laboring man's institution?

A A State institution--- Mr. Lord is secretary.

Q Are you appointed by some officer of Illinois?

A% Mr. Lord.

Q How long have you been conducting that business?

A Since somewhere in March.

Q Have you got any other business?

A Yes, I have a store.

Q What is it?

A It is a shoe store.

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Q Where have you ever worked at your trade in the city of Chicago?

A At 73 Blue Island Avenue, and on Van Burn street, where I reside.

Q At your trade of shoemaking?

A Yes sir.

Q You are also a member of the trade assembly?

A Yes sir.

Q Do you know Parsons the defendant?

A Yes sir, I have some acquaintance with him.

Q Do you know Joe Greunhut?

A Yes sir, have some acquaintance with Greunhut.

Q Do you know any of the other defendants?

A I know Fielden.

Q You have some acquaintance with Fielden?

A Some acquaintance with Fieldem. He resides close to me in the 8th ward. He lives on Polk street, and I have met hin in the neighborhood.

Q Don't you belong to the armed group of the Irish dynamiters?

A No sir, I belong to no Irish organization at the present time.

Q You called on me, didn't you, down in the office, with an official in this building?

A Yes sir.

Q And asked something about the anarchists, the defendants then in jail, did you not?

A Yes sir.

Q Did you at that time say that you knew anything about this case whatever?

A To you?

Q Yes sir.

A No sir.

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Q Didn't you tell me at that time that you knew nothing about it, but were friendly to the defendants, would like to see them?

A No sir, I didn't say any such thing.

Q Didn't you say that in the presence of Mortimer Scammon?

A No sir, I went to Mortimer Scammon to ask for permission to see them. I said I knew Fieldem and believed him to be an industrious man or something to that effect.

Q You didn't tell that to him?

A I understand I did-- that was my object in seeing you.

Q You came in with Mortimer Scammon?

A Yes sir.

Q Nothing that I have said to you now occurred?

A About my stating--- I beg your pardon, I don't catch the question.

Q Didn't you state to me at that interview in the presence of Mortimer Scammon that you knew nothing about that transaction, that hay market difficulty, that the defendants or some of them were friends of yours and you desired to see them-did you state anything of that character?

A I made no such statement.

Q Did I not say to you at that time that the investigation of the grand jury came too close to you, and I should advise you to leave the building and not call upon the defendants-- didn't that occur?

A No sir.

Q Nothing whatever of that kind?

A Yes sir, you said in a bantering manner--- I understood you were joking.

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Q State what I said?

A That I was suspicioned, advised me not to see them at the present time, I could do them no good.

Q Didn't I say to you in that connection that your name had been mentioned before the grand jury on that investigation and that I should advise you to keep away from this building?

A No sir.

Q Nothing of that kind said?

A Yes sir, there was something of that kind said. You said that I was suspected myself, and I understood you were joking and laughed at you in reply to your insinuation, and it dropped there.

Q You concluded to leave the building?

A I was not--

Q You left?

A I went away with Mortimer Scammon, at the time was on my way--- it was six o'clock in the evening.

Q Where were you when the bomb exploded--- how many feet from the Desplaines Street station?

A I would be at least-- I would be standing very close to the office of the Desplaines street station.

Q On the west side or the east side of the street?

A On the west side of the street.

Q Right near the station when the bomb exploded?

A Yes sir.

Q You know Ferguson?

A I do.

Q When the bomb exploded, did you hear any noise before

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A I heard nothing particular that attracted my attention.

Q Did you hear any explosion or anything that attracted your attention, about which you spoke?

A I don't remember that I did.

Q Did you not tell Ferguson just before that bomb exploded "That is a pistol shot" and that Ferguson said to you it sounded to him like the breaking, the cracking of a plank-- do you remember that?

A I don(t remember.

Q Did you state to Ferguson that it was a pistol shot before the bomb exploded?

A I don't think that I did.

Q Did you hear the bomb explode first or did you hear the pistol shot first?

A It was so instantaneous, the whole affair, that I can't say.

Q Did you hear any explosion before you heard the explosion of the bomb?

MR. BLACK: I think that question is answered. He says he can't tell.

THE WITNESS: It was so instantaneous I can't tell.

MR. GRINNELL: Q Can you tell whether you heard anyb pistol shot before you heard the bomb explose?

A I don't know that I did.

Q Did you say to Ferguson that you heard a pistol shot before you heard the bomb explode?

A I don't remember that I did.

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Q Did you say so?

A I don't remember that I did say any such thing.

Q You then stood there at that place--- did you move north --- did you then move north?

A No.

Q You stood then opposite the station?

A For a few seconds, yes sir.

Q After the bomb had exploded?

A Yes sir.

Q And while the pistol shots were fired?

A Yes sir.

Q You swear that you saw no pistol shots from any source except the center of the street where the police stood-- that is so?

A Yes, I swear to that.

Q Did you see in that body of men, after the explosion of the bomb, did you see a large quantity of men driven to the ground at once?

A I was too far away to detect it.

Q You didn't see anything of that kind?

A I see the flashes.

Q Did you see the police separate at all after the explosion of that bomb?

A I didn't observe that they did separate.

Q They stood there a solid mass all the time, did they?

A I don't remember whether they did or not. I was too far away to see.

Q I thought you said in answer to counsel you saw the body of police up there, and they looked dark between you and the crowd, is that true?

A That is true.

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Q Then the body of police stood there between you and the crowd, solid across the street?

MR. BLACK: Do you pretend to say that the south division was broken, of the police?

MR. GRINNELL: We will discuss this question later.

THE WITNESS: I could answer that question if I answer it my own way.

Q I propose to have it answered the way the question calls for. We don't want any speeches.

MR. SALOMON: I don't think it is proper to lecture the witness.

THE COURT: Read the question again.

The stenographer here read the last question.

MR. GRINNELL; Yes or no to that, after the explosion of the bomb?

A I was too far away to see.

Q Then you don't know anything about that?

A Yes I do.

Q Did you see any policemen as you were looking down the street, wheel to the right and left immediately after the bomb exploded?

A No.

Q That didn't happen?

A. I didn't observe.

Q You would have observed if it had happened?

A May be not.

Q Have you not, as a member of the trade and labor assembly, of the city of Chicago, urged frequently since the car strike last summer, frequently urged the discharge of Bonfield

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before, urged before the labor assemblies, urged the discharge of Captain Bonfield.

A. The discussions---

Q Yes or no.

A I was in favor that he should be discharged.

Q And you said so?

A I expressed-- my view was that he should be discharged.

MR. GRINNELL: That is all.

MR. FOSTER: Q With reference to Bonfield, you say you never called on any officer of the city, looking to the discharge of Mr. Bonfield?

A No sir, not one.

Q You had expressed views on account of what had transpired at the car strikers strike, that he was an incompetent man to have that position?

A The word incompetent would not cover my views. He was not peaceable enough to be an officer of the peace.

Q That is he was too much inclined to use the club?

A Yes sir.

Q That is the idea?

A That is my idea.

Q That is a matter that has been considerably discussed. When was it you went to Mr. Grinnell's office to call on the defendants here, visit them in jail?

A Never went to Mr. Grinnell(s office at all.

Q Tell us about that transaction between you and Mr. Grinnell and Mr. Scammon?

A A friend of mine who is an officer in the United States Court, and whom I very often and

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frequently see.

Q Mr. Mortimer Scammon?

A I told him I had a desire to see some of the men who were in prison, and I believe I mentioned the name of Fielden. He says, "I will call in and see Grinnell." He went into Grinnell's office and I stood outside. Grinnell came out and advised me for the time being not to go to see them, saying "as you yourself have been under some suspicion" I merely laughed, thinking that he was joking. Then we walked away, me and Mortimer Scammon, and Mr. Grinnell went into his office again.

Q So you didn't run away out of the court house?

A I have been frequently here since.

Q You went away with Mr. Scammon your fiend?

A With Mr. Scammon, my friend.

Q Are you a member of the Knights of labor?

A Yes sir, I am.

Q Or any other labor organization?

A A delegate of the Trade assembly.

Q Are you a master workman?

A No, sir.

Q You say you don't belong to any Irish society of dynamiters at the present time?

A No sir.

Q What was the society to which you once belonged before you came to this country?

A I belonged to New Castle on Tyne to a Home organization of which I was a head. I belonged

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Finian Organization, also.

Q That was in England?

A Yes sir.

Q You were interested as an Irishman against the oppression of your brethern by the English people?

A Yes sir. I was also president of an Irish literary institution.

Q From 1880 while you were living here, I will ask you whether in Chicago or any where else you have ever advocated the use of dynamite in this country?

A No, never the use of dynamite or any other military violence in this country, having faith in the ballot?

MR. GRINNELL You confine your use of dynamite against the English government (No response)

MR. FOSTER: I move that the answer be stricken from the record.

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