Cyphert, Clarence aka "Paddy the Pig" (1882-1968)

  • By Denise Ohio
  • Posted 1/05/2021
  • Essay 21167
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After a shootout between Snohomish County Sheriff Donald McRae and his posse and members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) at the Everett City Dock on November 5, 1916 -- an event known as the Everett Massacre -- more than 70 IWWs were charged with first-degree murder and held at McRae's county jail. One of those held was Clarence "Paddy the Pig" Cyphert, a logger born in Snohomish County and raised outside of Marysville, who knew Sheriff McRae well. When McRae offered to move Cyphert out of the tanks and into a more comfortable cell, Cyphert refused the offer, choosing to stay with his comrades as they prepared for trial. 

A Washington Native

Clarence James Cyphert was born on April 7, 1882, in Snohomish, Washington Territory. His parents, Jerome Michael Cyphert (1846-1886) and Anna Elizabeth Maynard Cyphert (1855-1908?), were both born in Pennsylvania and married on August 13, 1878, in Eureka, California, where Cyphert's older sister, Ida Cyphert Hawkins (1879-1964) was born. According to the 1880 census, Jerome, Annie, and Ida were living in the White River precinct of King County, Washington Territory. Jerome was a laborer who had been unemployed for about 10 months at the time of the census.

Sometime after 1880, the family moved to Snohomish County. Cyphert's two younger siblings, Eugene E. Cyphert (1884-1971) and Stella Cyphert MacKenzie (1886-1987), were born in Washington Territory. In December 1884, Jerome Cyphert filed a homestead claim. It isn't clear if the family moved to these 80 acres west of Monroe, though Jerome listed his occupation in the February 1885 census as farmer. In 1886, however, Jerome was dead.

On June 9, 1889, Anna Maynard Cyphert married William Patterson (1848-1889), who died that same year.

In 1896, Clarence left school and found work as a logger at age 14, and the family was living in Marysville. According to the 1900 census, Anna was listed as a widow and head of the household, with Eugene, now a shingle mill sawyer, and Stella, who was still in school, living with Anna. There's a good chance Cyphert was working at a logging camp, which is why he wasn't included in the census.

It isn't clear when Cyphert earned the nickname, "Paddy the Pig." In Frank Lynch's April 10, 1958 article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "The Man Who Battled For His Good Name," Cyphert grew tired of being teased about his first name, "Clarence," and the fights he felt obligated to start over it, and changed it to "Patterson" in honor of his stepfather. His new name was soon shortened to "Patty," and then "Paddy." Someone started calling him, "Paddy's Pig," which turned into "Paddy the Pig," and Cyphert was soon getting into fights because of his name.

There's supposedly an old Irish tradition that the pig drives away evil spirits, and an old saying, "as Irish as Paddy's pig," either of which may have been used to justify the cliché that people of Irish origin were dirty and piggish. The nickname was as common as it is offensive -- Cyphert was not the only Paddy the Pig around. Interestingly, Cyphert wasn't an Irish immigrant and neither were his parents, both of whom were born in Pennsylvania. Regardless, Cyphert fought over his name, even past his retirement from working in the woods in 1943. "If a fellow comes around here with that 'Paddy the Pig' stuff," Lynch quotes Cyphert in 1958. "He's going to wind up in the river."

In 1898, Cyphert's mother, Anna, married Civil War veteran Isaiah C. Rhoades (1845-1912). In 1883, Rhoades and his wife, Emma Murphine (1851-1897), and their children, had moved from Ohio to Marysville in Washington Territory, where Emma died in 1897. The following year Isaiah Rhoades married Anna in a civil ceremony at the Snohomish County courthouse in Everett. It does not appear the marriage lasted long as the 1900 census listed Isaiah and son William, but not Anna, Anne, or Annie in the Rhoades household.

Cyphert's first serious involvement with the legal system happened in 1903. He was arrested in Sedro-Woolley when he attacked J. H. Simmons with a knife. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon on August 30, 1903, and pled not guilty (State of Washington v. Clarence Cyphert). The jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to one year of hard labor at the Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) at Walla Walla as prisoner #3207. He had a known alias of "Paddy Cyphert" or "Cyphens," and he listed his nearest relative as his mother, Mrs. A. E. Patterson in Moody, Mendocino County, California ("Description of convict, 1903"). 

After his release on August 30, 1904, Cyphert may have moved to Montesano to work for the Chehalis County Logging & Timber Company, returning to Snohomish around July 20, 1905 ("In Chehalis County," p. 1). Three years later, Cyphert committed a crime that became famous for its stupidity.

Like a House on Fire

State of Washington v. Clarence Cyphers, alias Paddy Cyphers recounts how Cyphert was arrested by the Monroe police for fighting and disorderly conduct on March 27, 1908. The new Monroe city courthouse of concrete and brick at 207 East Main Street was in its final stages of construction, so Cyphert was held in the old jail, which was made of wood. After about an hour in his cell, he whittled a board on his bunk and with the shavings started a fire in the hole through which the iron bar of the lock passed. The building then caught fire. The legal document says, "It is quite probable that the defendant was in a state of semi-intoxication, still we are satisfied that he was ever conscious of what he was doing at all times" (State of Washington v. Clarence Cyphers, alias Paddy Cyphers, p. 1).

Overcome with smoke, Cyphert was dragged from his cell in a stupor. The jail suffered little damage. Cyphert again pled not guilty, was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to 6 months to 10 years to WSP as prisoner #5048.

The court record also says that, "[Cyphert] is what might be called a 'Booze fighting logger.' He works in the woods for several weeks, earns some money, and upon coming to town starts to drinking and becomes quarrelsome, and finally ends frequently in jail ... He has done this so often in various of towns of this and Skagit counties that he has reached the point where he is denied the privilege of such towns. The associates of the defendant are those common to a man of his kind. According to all reports he is a good and faithful worker when he is sober and at those times can command a position at all most any place" (State of Washington v. Clarence Cyphers, alias Paddy Cyphers, p. 2).

His prison medical exam noted that his health was good, though he had gonorrhea, and his teeth were poor. In his biographical statement dated July 15, 1908, Cyphert says that he had spent the previous year working in the lumber trade at Everett, Skykomish, and Bellingham, had often beat his way across country looking for work, and that he associated most frequently with members of the laboring class ("Description of convict, 1908"). This suggests that Cyphert may have had an early knowledge of the IWW (begun in 1905) and its focus on organizing the poor and disreputable into the One Big Union.

Cyphert listed his brother Eugene as his nearest living relative and reported that both of his parents were dead.

The 1910 census showed that Cyphert was still in prison. Three people wrote in support of Cyphert's parole. The first was Judge Jeremiah Neterer (1862-1943), who had sentenced Cyphert to Walla Walla after he was found guilty of arson. Former prosecutor Gordon D. Eveland also wrote on his behalf, saying in a letter dated August 3, 1910, that he had always thought that booze played a much bigger part than natural criminality in Cyphert's crime. James K. Hawkins, Ida Cyphert's husband, also sent a "first friend" certificate, pledging that he would see that Cyphert found a job and a place to live after being paroled.

But as the secretary of the prison board pointed out to Hawkins in a reply dated March 12, 1910, Cyphert wasn't eligible for parole as he had been sent to the penitentiary before. He was, however, eligible to work on the convict road crews recently funded by the state legislature.

Working on State Road No. 6

The good roads movement in Washington began when James J. Hill's son-in-law and Great Northern Railway executive Sam Hill (1857-1931) started the Washington State Good Roads Association in 1899. Hill was a proponent of convict labor and under his leadership, the state built rock-crushing plants operated by convicts and started several roads.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, business partners Cyrus Gates (1858-1927) and C. X. Larrabee (1843-1914) wanted a scenic roadway built that would overlook Samish and Chuckanut bays and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. "They helped influence the Washington Legislature to appropriate $25,000 in 1909 for construction of a road on the flanks of Chuckanut Mountain. In 1910, when the state built a labor camp at the mouth of Oyster Creek, convicts began building the road on a route suggested by Gates and Larrabee. Slowed by the challenging terrain, the convicts completed only 4,000 feet of roadway from [Fravel] to Oyster Creek" ("Historic Highway SR 11").

This was State Road No. 6. Camp Number 4 near Fravel (now Blanchard) was established on February 11, 1910, to house the prisoners who were to build the road. Grading began on February 14, 1910, and work stopped on October 8 after about 4,000 feet of road were completed. The convicts worked 200 days with an average force of about 51 men. They blasted the rock with 7,322 pounds of powder and in places had to cut back into the exposed face to prevent large blocks from breaking away from the ledge and falling on the Great Northern tracks directly below ("Road No. 6," 138-141).

Between October 1909 and September 1910, there were 392 men at work at either the quarries or on the convict roads. On October 1, 1910, 91 men were at work at Camp No. 4; 10 had escaped over the months of the project ("Convicts at Road and Quarry Camps," 204). Two men tunneled under the bunkhouse on April 25 and were recaptured with the help of bloodhounds later the same night ("Convicts Take Flight," p. 6). Another escaped convict killed a man on the shores of Lake Samish and stole his clothes, leaving only a convict's khaki suit near the body ("Odds and Ends from Everywhere," p. 8). Another walked up a bluff so steep, the guards and their dogs couldn't follow him ("Convict Makes Daring Escape," p. 1).  

Beyond the ethical and economic problems with convict labor, escape was a concern. According to the Fifth Biennial Report of the State Board of Control, "There were many issues with the use of convict labor, including the high number of escapes. The only convicts available for these assignments are those in excess of the employed force necessary to the prison economy who have served their minimum sentence; or desperate criminals, second-timers and habituals not coming under the reform provisions of the indeterminate sentence act. The excessive number of escapes is partly accounted for by the chances taken with the hardened class of convicts" ("Convicts at Road and Quarry Camps," 205).

Clarence Cyphert was one of those who escaped. He was recaptured in Bellingham but it doesn't appear he was punished for the escape. Though considered a hardened case as a second-timer, he also received a commutation of his sentence. In his November 12, 1910, commutation papers, Cyphert was reported to have performed faithful service on the state road work for four months. He was released soon after.

The reason for Cyphert's special treatment may be found in a letter dated August 9, 1910. Gov. Marion E. Hay (1865-1933) wrote to WSP superintendent Charles S. Reed about Cyphert. In it, the governor explains that Cyphert smuggled out a letter detailing conditions at Camp No. 4, which is how the governor found out what was happening on the convict road. In exchange, Hay requested that Cyphert not be punished for his escape.

It isn't clear what Cyphert specifically said, though in October 1910, Hay created a commission to investigate the costs of state and state aid roads, and to find out why there was so much widespread criticism directed at the highway department. The commission found that while some of the convict roads were good projects in terms of engineering and economics, this was not true for State Road No. 6. As the commission stated, "Indeed, it has been testified before the supreme court that it was wholly impracticable to build a wagon road along this mountain at any cost, while other testimony was to the effect that $100,000 to $150,000 would not suffice to build the road. However, starting at the worst end of this road, a mile has been built at a cost of $25,000, going almost entirely through a heavy sidehill cut of solid rock" ("Report of Special Investigating Commission on Highway Department," 935).

In 1911, Governor Hay pulled convicts off the road projects, while his successor, Ernest Lister (1870-1919), would hand him electoral defeat on a platform of good roads.

Cyphert was arrested again when he and Harry Howe were accused of robbing Snohomish station agent H. T. Price on July 17, 1911. Price was beaten into unconsciousness as one of the men said, "I'll fix you so your wife won't know you tomorrow" ("Milwaukee Agent Set Upon, Robbed"). Howe was sentenced to WSP for five to 10 years and exonerated Cyphert when he confessed. This meant Cyphert dodged a third felony conviction and the designation as a habitual criminal.

In summer of 1912, Newton Rhoades (1870-1940), son of Isaiah Rhoades, placed ads in the Labor Journal, seeking the heirs of Annie Cyphert Rhoades. While the 1910 U.S. census listed Isaiah Rhoades as widowed, his 1912 death certificate listed him as divorced. Either way, Isaiah Rhoades had left his estate to his children in his 1911 will and his son wanted to quiet title on a piece of land in north Marysville. It isn't clear if Cyphert responded in any way, though on July 5, 1915, he was arrested by the Tacoma police department for vagrancy and sentenced to 10 days as prisoner #2060. His next recorded arrest was a part of Pacific Northwest labor history. 

Shootout at the Everett City Dock

The conflict between the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and Sheriff Donald McRae (b. 1868) had been building long before the violent confrontation at the Everett City Dock on November 5, 1916. McRae had been a union leader in the Marysville shingle weavers union, an American Federation of Labor organization that represented skilled labor in the shingle mills. He'd been elected Snohomish County Sheriff twice because of labor, and was even called, "The Best Sheriff Snohomish County Ever Had," by Everett's Labor Journal.  

But a strike begun in May by the Everett shingle mill workers had brought immediate conflict between strikers and law enforcement, to no one's surprise. The surprise, however, came when the IWW began arriving to preach their version of industrial unionism on the free speech corner at Hewitt and Wetmore avenues.

The corner of Hewitt and Wetmore had been a gathering place for anyone who wanted to express an opinion. Politicians spoke there as did the Salvation Army. The IWWs had shown up before to preach their message and pass the hat. But things changed in the summer of 1916, when IWW speakers, some of whom had no idea there was an ongoing strike, were told to get out of town. When they refused, they were arrested.

IWW newspapers soon spread the word that Everett was the place for another IWW free speech fight. Workers from around the country began showing up. Everett responded by turning over the city to the county sheriff and deputizing 200 to 300 citizen deputies to patrol the streets, docks, and trains. By fall, the striking shingle weavers saw their cause forgotten in the escalating free speech fight.

After a brutal beating of 41 IWWs at Beverly Park on the rainy night of October 30, several clergy members invited the IWW to speak in their churches. Instead, the IWWs decided to bring the fight to Everett, in public and in the daytime, on Sunday, November 5.

Cyphert was one of over 250 members of the IWW who boarded the steamship Verona in Seattle on that beautiful fall day. When the Verona tied its springline up at the Everett City Dock, Sheriff McRae, backed by about 140 citizen deputies, about half of whom were carrying firearms, stepped forward to confront the men aboard the ship. After an exchange of words, a shot was fired, followed by a flurry. After several deadly minutes, the ship backed away from the dock.

Dozens of men were wounded. On the dock, two men were dead or dying. Aboard the Verona, seven were dead or dying, and six to twelve may have fallen into the water of Port Gardner Bay and died there. All of the IWWs aboard the Verona were arrested upon landing in Seattle. Of these, seventy-four were charged with the first-degree murder of Deputy Jefferson Beard. Cyphert was one and was transferred from Seattle to the Snohomish County jail on November 24, 1916, as prisoner #4887.

A Sheriff's Offer

The booking sheet lists him as "Clarence Chypert" and his occupation as logger. According to The Everett Massacre by Walker C. Smith (1885-1927), McRae at one point offered to place Cyphert in another part of the jail to avoid a planned "clubbing party," but Cyphert chose to remain with the other prisoners (Smith, 106, 124).

There's no question that McRae knew Cyphert. They had been neighbors in Marysville, where McRae had a stump ranch. McRae had also worked in the woods and mills in Snohomish County and may have known Cyphert that way. The two men may also have known each other because both were Catholics during a virulently anti-Catholic time. While Cyphert reported himself as a Protestant in his WSP records, he listed his religion as "Catholic" when later incarcerated in Montana ("Descriptive list of the convict").

Regardless of how they knew one another, that McRae offered to move Cyphert to protect him from a "clubbing party" is unlikely. Officers certainly beat prisoners in the jail, but they usually took them out alone to a separate room for "questioning." The IWWs were held in two jail tanks, with several men occupying a single cell within each tank and everyone a potential witness. It is more likely that McRae offered to move Cyphert to a more comfortable cell because prosecutors were seeking informers within the IWW ranks, going so far as to offer financial rewards for anyone who chose to tell tales (State of Washington v. Thomas H. Tracy). But Cyphert remained where he was and stayed loyal to his fellow workers.

The men held with Cyphert in the Snohomish County jail demanded separate trials. The first to be tried was Thomas H. Tracy, alias George Martin. The IWW defense attorneys successfully argued for the trial to be held in King County rather than Snohomish, and the trial began on March 5, 1917. Tracy was acquitted on May 5. Charges were dropped against the rest of the men and they were released in groups, with the last leaving the jail on May 12.

Habitual Criminal

Soon after his release, Cyphert was arrested by the Seattle Police Department on May 21, 1917, accused of robbing a man named Thomas Hosketh of his watch and chain. He was assigned #7211, and then transferred to the King County Jail, assigned #12401. Then the charges were dropped (The Seattle Star, p. 2).

Cyphert left the state and was next arrested at Troy, Montana, by W. H. Pratt, special agent of the Great Northern Railway, on August 4, 1917. Accused of slugging and robbing A. J. Thurston of Ephrata, Washington, he was charged with grand larceny. His trial was delayed because of a smallpox outbreak in the area, but court resumed in the beginning of 1918.

In a letter to Henry Drum (1857-1950), WSP superintendent, dated February 14, 1918, from Great Northern Special Agent H. G. Keith, Keith quoted Mr. B. F. Maiden, county attorney at Libby, Montana, who said: "I received your letter the other day with the dope about our friend Paddy-the-Pig. I went over and saw Paddy and had a talk with him. I told him he could go up to court and plead guilty and take a sentence to the penitentiary or I would amend the information against him in such a way as to bring him under the habitual criminal act and give him ten or fifteen years. He threw up his hands and quit. This afternoon he plead [sic] guilty and the Judge sentenced him to serve from one and one half to three years. And before you receive this he will be on his way to the penitentiary" (H. G. Keith to Henry Drum).

Cyphert was sent to the Montana State Prison on February 18, 1918, assigned #6210. He listed his occupation as logger and IWW organizer ("Descriptive list of the convict"). While in prison, he registered for the draft, giving his nearest living relative as his older sister, Mrs. Ida Hawkins in Kennewick. He was released on August 18, 1920.

On May 5, 1922, W. L. Brickey (1877-1957), prosecuting attorney of Skagit County based in Bellingham, wrote to T. E. Skeggs, WSP superintendent, asking about Cyphert. Brickey was going to try to convict Cyphert as a habitual criminal and needed information about his previous stays in prison. It doesn't appear Cyphert was classed as a habitual criminal because he was arrested on September 5, 1926, in Chelan under the name James Miller, charged with intoxication, and fined $10 plus costs.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation opened file #174161 on Cyphert on August 14, 1940, listing his arrests and convictions. One of those arrests includes him being picked up by the Renton police department on August 5, 1940, charged with being drunk and disorderly conduct, and fined $25.

Cyphert registered for the draft for World War II. He listed Ida in Manette, Washington, and a Mrs. Steel in Snoqualmie as people who would always know his address. But after that, there doesn't seem to be a mention of him in the public record for almost two decades.

In the August 23, 1959, Seattle Times, there was an article written about visiting the town of Snohomish by Betty Vanderhyde. Toward the end of it, she wrote,

"Mosey up to the bus-depot café and watch for a bench along the sidewalk. If you are in luck you'll meet Clarence Cyphert there for Clarence can raise the hair on your head with stories from his two-fisted boyhood days when Snohomish was all ox logging, saloons and wild gambling. Clarence lives in his jungle camp alongside the railroad tracks. He is beholden to no man and he is as respectable in his old age as his pioneer friends and fellow citizens. He knows some of the rough history of the town and he has scars to prove it. Ask him" (Vanderhyde, p. 15).

Clarence Cyphert died on July 5, 1968, in Marysville, at the age 86.


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Brickey, May 10, 1922, Department of Corrections, State Penitentiary-Walla Walla inmate files, Inmates 5042-5064, Dates 1889-1920, Accession No. AR20061213-05, Box 153, #5048, Olympia, Washington; Federal Bureau of Investigation #174161, August 14, 1940, Dept of Corrections, State Penitentiary-Walla Walla inmate files, Inmates 5042-5064, Dates 1889-1920, Accession No. AR20061213-05, Box 153, #5048, Olympia, Washington; Betty Vanderhyde,"Life in Snohomish," The Seattle Times, August 23, 1959, p. 15. Note: This essay was revised with additional information on April 27, 2021. 

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