In the hot Sacramento Valley summer of 1913, the Durst Brothers Hop Yard was preparing for its annual harvest. The brothers and owners began hiring field hands to pick the hops from acres and acres of fields that made Durst Brothers the biggest hops supplier in the United States at the time. As hundreds of men arrived in a camp on the edge of the Durst’s farm, the temperature soared and the workers lived in squalor. The Dursts didn’t even provide proper sources of water and instead charged their men for lemonade, thus making back much of the worker’s pay.
Among the workers was one Richard “Blackie” Ford who was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Union. Ford called for a general strike to demand for better working conditions and better pay and his coworkers agreed. Starting of August 1, 1913, work at the Hop Yard screeched to a halt. The Dursts acquiesced to some of the demands, but refused to raise their worker’s pay. As the strike dragged on, the owners went into the nearby town of Wheatland and gathered a posse including the Yuba County District Attorney to break the strike. On August 3, 1913, the posse met with the strikers and a massive fight broke out as the officers attempted to arrest Ford. At the end of the confusion, four men lay dead – the District Attorney, a Deputy, and two strikers. The strikers were blamed for the so-called Wheatland Hop Riot and Blackie Ford was arrested for murder, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. As such, he became a living martyr of the labor movement until his 1925 pardon by the governor of California.