John Huhta was the former Secretary and an organizer for the Western Federation of Miners and the leader of The Houghton County Brotherhood, a pack of killers within Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
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John Huhta, second from the left, confesses to the Jane-Dally Murders and marches with members of the Western Federation of Miners.

Western Federation of MinersEdit

Deadly AmbushEdit

It was December 7th, 1913, two o' clock in the morning on a typical cold, blustery winter night in Painesdale, a small, mining community located just south of Houghton. Mrs. Dally had prepared tea for a late arriving boarder and then retired to read quietly in a room that once was a parlor. Her husband, Thomas Dally, slept quietly in an adjacent bedroom. The Dally's ran a boardinghouse for English immigrant miners who labored in the Calumet Copper Mines. It was a "double house" in that it had attached a separate house. The Dally's occupied half of the house located near the woods at the end of Baltic Street in the miners' village, and five boarders occupied the other half, while in the attached dwelling lived the Adna Nicolson Family. The Nicolson's had five children who in age ranged from three to sixteen. Nothing was out of the ordinary on that cold December evening, and Christmas was just around the corner. The holiday spirit was in the air. Out of nowhere, a cacophony shattered the stillness as an avalanche of .30-30 bullets penetrated the wood-framed boardinghouse, piercing the thin walls and sending lethal splinters flying in all directions. Thomas Dally, sleeping contentedly in his bed, was slammed with a .30-30 bullet that ripped into his skull. His wife rushed to his room only to find her husband seriously wounded. He looked pathetically at his wife and said, "Can't you do something for me?" But the wound was mortal, and be died. Frightened and grief stricken, Mrs. Dally wept as she watched the life slowly ebb from her husband. On the second floor, The Jane Brothers, Arthur and James lay sleeping when one of the bullets tore through Arthur's head and continued its deadly journey, Striking James, who lay beside him. They were killed instantly. A barrage of bullets, also penetrated the Nicholson household. Two bullets hit Thirteen-year-old Mary Nicholson; one grazed her head while the other inflicted a more serious wound in her shoulder. Two other Nicholson children, Marcia (sixteen) and Rozanne (eleven), although not physically injured, narrowly escaped death when bullets passed through the pillows they were sleeping on.


Huhta's murder trial was held in Marquette in 1914, some mine months after the killings. The judge charged the jury not only to decide Huhta's guilt or innocence, but also to determine if there was a conspiracy by the WFM in the murders. Huhta, who had confessed to the murders, pleaded innocent at his trial. His lawyers concluded that his companions talked him into confessing so they could collect reward money. In addition, Huhta's lawyers maintained that he was intoxicated at the time of his confession and had been so for several weeks. Several months after his arrest, Huhta spoke ill of the union; he felt he had been duped and blamed for the mess he was in. Regardless of the defense's arguments, the jury, in only thirty-eight minutes of deliberation, found Huhta guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced him to life in prison.

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Huhta's grave in Jacobsville.


Huhta died from tuberculosis at the Marquette Branch Prison in November 1918. At the time of his death, he had been incarcerated for four years; he was only twenty-eight. Ironically, his sentence had been commutated and he was scheduled to be released in November 1924.