April 2, 1894: Coxey’s Army Grows

Map of the J.S. Coxey Good Roads Commonweal
Map of the J.S. Coxey Good Roads Commonweal – From The Canton Repository, March 25, 1894.

By April 2, Coxey’s Army had crossed into Pennsylvania. The Chicago Tribune reported that the group was now numbering nearly 250 men. The media was also picking up on the rivalry between marshal Carl Browne and “The Great Unknown.”

Beaver Falls, PA., Contributes To Commonweal

Provisions Pour Into the Camp and the Leaders Are Sanguine and Happy Again – Coxey Fears for Food in the Mountains and Wants No More Men Until They Are Crossed – Genuineness of the Recruits in Doubt-The “Unknown” Grows In Interest as Browne Declines.

BEAVER FALLS, Pa., April 1.-[Special.]- This has been a great day for Coxey. Fully 10,000 watched the entry of the army into Beaver Falls this morning. Provisions in plenty have been donated and nearly 250 recruits have joined the commonweal or will join in the morning. Just a week ago Coxey made the start from Massillon with a handful of men. The troops have marched seventy-five miles and have experienced privation and hardship enough for a campaign, and have steadily gained in numbers. Carl Browne’s banners will soon be things of the past. Coxey is getting and more opposed to them, and the “Unknown” never lets them be seen if he can help it. The Unknown with Coxey’s tacit consent would have marched the army into Beaver Falls without a sign of any banner but the stars and stripes if Browne had not interfered. As it was, the army got within the town boundaries before the Marshal saw his picture was not displayed. Browne was riding in Coxey’s buggy when he missed his picture. Ho promptly climbed out and scrambled to the top of his cart-horse. Then he shouted: “Commonweal, halt.”

The commonweal ambled over to a fence and sat on it, which is the Commonweal’s method of coming to a halt when the “Unknown” is not around.

“Where’s them banners of mine?” inquired Browne.

Nobody know where the banners were and word was passed for the “Unknown,” Smith. He rode up and Browne repeated his question.

“They’re away in the commissary wagon,” said Smith.

“Well, get them out,” commanded Browne. “I painted them things to be carried and not to be packed away.”

“Do you want those things carried?” asked the Unknown,” addressing Coxey and entirely ignoring Browne.

“Perhaps it would be best not to carry them; it’s Sunday and this is a church town,” suggested Coxey. But Browne insisted and carried his point, as he generally does when he argues with Coxey.

The Marshal has Coxey entirely under his thumb now and were he to order Coxey to stand on his head for the edification of the multitude Coxey would do it.

Coxey Under Browne’s Thumb.

The Marshal has Coxey entirely under his thumb now and were he to order Coxey to stand on his head for the edification of the multitude Coxey would do it. So the dismal daubs were brought out and the army carried them through the town. While there were no active hostilities there was general disgust at the signs, which showed itself in hoots and jeers. Carl Browne’s reputation seems to have traveled ahead of him. Coxey got many cheers and some people raised their hats to him. The only greeting Browne got came in the form of a loud-shouted query as to why he didn’t take a bath.

Last night’s camp was pitched near a lumberyard and after breakfast this morning the army was set to work extemporizing seats from the wood. The seats were arranged in a circle and then Browne, standing on a dry goods box, proceeded to a dispatch a sermon to the men. Coxey then spoke on the subject of good roads. It was noticeable that Coxey made not the slightest reference to the reincarnation schemes propounded by Carl Browne. “Smith,” who followed him, spoke only of the discipline of the army and of socialistic topics.

The “Unknown” is as much of a mystery as ever, but he has improved much on acquaintance. He generally drops into press for a chat now, and when he gets warmed up he makes some astonishing statements. He is a pronounced Socialist and seems to know a great deal about the Anarchist troubles in Chicago in 1880. He declares that a detective threw the haymarket bomb. The “Unknown” is always accompanied by his wife, and a Pittsburg paper has printed a story to the effect that Smith’s wife is none other than Lucy Parsons. The woman who accompanies Smith bears no resemblance to the Chicago woman.

Unknown” Says he Is Well Known.

The “Unknown” declares he has been before the public for fifteen years, and is one of the best known men in the country. He says he has seen the Chicago correspondents who are here a dozen times, but none of them can place him. Elated over the success of the drilling he has given the men he exclaimed: “I could be dictator of this country in a year if I chose. As for arms, I would get them if I had to rob every armory in the country.”

Early morning news was brought that the Village of Darlington had repented and was willing to give provisions to the army. It was two miles out of the way, but the army was promptly marched over the bad roads to get provisions. The contribution consisted of six loaves and a doubtful ham. The army was too much overcome to thoroughly express its gratitude.

The twelve miles which the troops tackled today were bad ones. Beaver Falls is locked on all sides by high hills. Jasper Johnson, the standard-bearer, sets a pace which keeps even the horses walking quickly, though it never seems to tire him. Jasper used to drive stakes for a circus until he struck the Coxey outfit. He led the column from East Palestine to New Galilee, a distance of eleven miles, yesterday. New Galilee was a “dry” town and Jasper wanted a drink. Freight trains not being regular Jasper walked another ten miles to Beaver Falls, got his drink and came back on a freight. His only companion is It nondescript yellow dog, which followed the outfit from Massillon. This he has christened “Bunker Hill,” and he is looked upon as the army’s mascot. “Bunker Hill” got into so much trouble with the farm dogs along the route that Jasper has provided him with a suit of armor. This is made of canvas studded with tacks, aid the clog that now grabs “Bunker Hill” spits him out again with celerity.

Warmly Welcomed at Beaver Falls.

Long before the tip of Jasper’s showed over the crest of the hill, Beaver Falls was ready to receive the army. Local authorities say Beaver Falls has never before seen such a crowd as gathered here today. Off the line of march, but near to this place, lie the Towns of New Brighton, Bridgewater, Beaver, Rochester, and Monaco. Wagon loads of people came in from all these places and added to crowd. Men on horseback, afoot, and in carriages went out in droves to meet the army. There would have been more had the commonweal kept to its planned line of march. It had intended to come into the town over the Homewood read, but Darlington’s loaves and ham caused a change of plan. As it was thirty mounted men riding two abreast escorted the army into town and the lines of buggies which followed were countless. One driver got into trouble. In spite of warnings he persisted in his buggy close to Jesse Coxey’s stallion, Valier. The vicious horse let fly his heels kicked a wheel into matches and then backed off the road with its driver. The hill over which it went was like the side of a house and there was a barb wire fence at the bottom, but horse and rider got out somehow without a scratch.

Beaver Falls is something of a Populist stronghold, and this alone assured Coxey a welcome. Then again the town is always ready to sympathize in anything like a labor trouble. It was right in the middle of the Homestead troubles, and there are few men in the town without practical experience of strikes. The people of Beaver Falls don’t know anything about the reincarnation of Browne, and they don’t know much about Coxey’s bills, but they heard that the Commonweal proposed to raise more money and more work, and they came to take a look at the men who are supposed to do it.

Doubt as to Genuineness of Recruits.

The truth about the recruits is also a little different from that given out by the commonweal. About 100 men have signed their and received badges, but there are not 100 extra men in the tent tonight. Whether they are genuine will not be known until the morning. The 600 men who were to have come from East Liverpool did not come. In. there came one lone man, who said he wanted to register for 220 men who will join the army in the morning. The 220 are striking potters who want to go with Coxey. If these figures are true the army’s strength will be more than doubled in the morning. Coxey thinks the figures are correct for they make him serious.

“I think that is all the men I want,” he said, “until we are over the mountains, There is not much to eat up there.”

This matter of food in the mountains is beginning to be of pressing importance. Coxey is making strenuous efforts to have enough for his men when they strike the mountains, but he will assuredly run short according to present indications. Already the men been put on short rations in order to spare the commissary as much as possible, and although five wagon loads of supplies were received here all the men got for supper tonight was dry bread, potatoes, and a bit of bologna sausage. The supplies received consisted of one beef, sixty dozen eggs, and a quantity of bread, meat, potatoes, vegetables, and canned goods. All the provisions will be loaded into a car in the morning and will be sent into the mountains ahead of the army.

Tonight the army is caped in the north end of town. Its officers are happy. They have been invited to spend the night at a hotel, and $47 was collected at a meeting this afternoon. The camp faces Geneva College, a sectarian institution. Many of these people live round about and they strongly objected to Coxey’s army. Several times they have caused tie arrest of motormen and conductors for violating Sunday, and the way the army has been carrying on today disturbs them greatly. They tried to have the camp located elsewhere, but failed to do so.

On to Economy Today.

Early tomorrow the commonweal will march on Economy. According to Browne’s bulletin tonight the army is to be entertained at lunch, have its wagons filled, and get a lot of clothing. Everyone else thinks that all the army will get will be bread and cheese. After an eighteen-mile march the army will at Sewickley, Pittsburg’s fashionable suburb. Sewickley, it is said, is considerably wrought up over the prospect and is indulging extensively in padlocks and revolvers.

Read the full article from the The Chicago Tribune. (archive subscription required)

Read “Coxey’s Army at Beaver Falls” from The New York Times, Monday, April 2, 1894.

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