With three bullets to the heart, the State of Utah executed Joe Hill on November 19, 1915. In one of the most disputed cases to date, Joe Hill, the most prolific songwriter in the history of the Industrial Workers of the World, was convicted of murdering John Morrison, owner of Morrison Grocery, and his son Arling on the night of January 10, 1914 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Margareta Katarina Haaglund gave birth to the legendary Joel Haaglund in Gavle, Sweden on October 7, 1879. His father, Olaf Haaglund, supported nine children, six of whom lived to maturity, by working as a conductor on the Gavle-Dala Railroad. The Haaglunds were a devoutly religious family who did not discuss politics. Margareta and Olaf led the family in songs and taught each child to play the family organ, which Olaf built. Joe Hill, born Joel Haaglund, also learned to play the violin, guitar, accordion, and piano, as his love for music developed.
In 1902, after the death of his parents, Joe and his brother Paul immigrated to America where they expected to "scrape gold off the ground." After working various jobs in New York City, Joe moved to Chicago and found work in a machine shop. Shortly thereafter, he was fired from his job and blacklisted for attempting to organize the workers. As a result, Joel Haaglund changed his name to Joe Hill. He traveled extensively around the country before joining the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in San Pedro, California in 1910.
Joe quickly became immersed in the IWW and devoted his life to the "awakening of 'illiterates' and 'scum' to an original, personal conception of society and the realization of the dignity and rights of their part in it." He wrote songs like "The Preacher and the Slave" and "Casey Jones - the Union Scab" to inspire solidarity in the ranks of the IWW and to recruit new members. He encouraged a "conscientious withdrawal of efficiency," which was not a call for violence, but rather a sprinkle of sand in the workings of machinery, and, more specifically, the efforts of non-union friendly employers.
In 1914, on his way from California to Chicago, Hill stopped to earn some money in the Utah mines. There he encountered three friends who he had met while working in San Pedro: Otto Applequist and the Eselius Brothers. Edward and John Eselius allowed Joe to live at their house as a guest. Otto Applequist was one of Joe's closest friends and may have been involved in the alleged murder of the Morrison's. Joe Hill was eventually convicted of murdering John and Arling Morrison, and took his last breath in Utah before the firing squad. His trip to Chicago was eventually completed - in a casket.