May 18, 1907: Black Worker on Search for Lost Lumber Gets in Fatal Fight

Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

May 18, 1907
Los Angeles

William Mullen, a black strikebreaker for the Pioneer Truck Company, was delivering a shipment of lumber when he realized that he had lost some of his load and retraced his route to look for it.

At the Southern Pacific railroad crossing at Alameda and 2nd streets, Mullen noticed some lumber leaning against a shack belonging to a railroad flagman named Caulfield, who was presumably white. Mullen asked Caulfield if there was more of his lumber inside the shack and Caulfield said no.

Mullen challenged Caulfield, knocked him to the ground and began kicking him when Patrick Connelly, a union teamster for the Water Department and also presumably white, intervened, although it’s unclear whether he was trying to stop the fight or to aid Caulfield.

With one blow, Mullen knocked Connelly to the ground and as he fell, Connelly struck his head on a rock and died.

The Times said: “…it would seem that William Mullen was very much surprised at the result of his blow. He appeared to be wondering at it still while the story was being retold yesterday.”

There’s no photograph of Mullen, and The Times’ description is problematic to say the least: “The big Negro’s eyes rolled restlessly during the proceedings. He seemed perplexed as if the story told by various witnesses was strange to him in some respects. The death of the man he is accused of killing remains, perhaps, incomprehensible to him.

“The testimony yesterday indicates that the defendant is bad-tempered and brutal, and that he was careless in a little scrimmage which took place on May 14 at 2nd and Alameda streets and also that his strength was a dangerous possession for such a man.”

Mullen was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. Bail was rejected for Mullen pending his appeal, despite a petition to the court stating that he supported 14 people and that Pioneer Truck Company was ready to rehire him. His conviction was upheld in 1908 and he apparently served his term at San Quentin.

* * *

Henry Flynn, a butcher, pays a fine of $250 ($5130.89 USD 2005) in lieu of 250 days in jail for beating a horse to death. The jury recommended leniency because the horse balked.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1907, 1908, African Americans, Animals, Crime and Courts, LAPD, Photography, Streetcars and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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