"Where The Fraser River Flows"... was written to aid construction workers laying track for the Canadian Northern Railroad Company in British Columbia who were striking because of low pay, unsanitary living conditions, bad food, and hazardous working conditions.
Several months before the strike began the I.W.W. had established Local 327 in British Columbia and had sent men to organize the construction workers. By February 1912 the membership of the local had grown to 8,000. On March 1927 the strike began; within a few days construction work along four hundred miles of track had stopped, and picket lines had been established in Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, Minneapolis, and San Francisco to keep job-hunting migrants from taking jobs in the strike area....
Louis Moreau, a Wobbly "camp delegate" who helped organize the construction workers... remembers that Joe Hill... appeared in the strikers' camp in Yale, British Columbia.... Moreau remembers seeing Joe Hill often in the office of the Yale strike secretary writing songs. "Where The River Fraser Flows" was written during the first few days Hill was in the camp.
First published in the 11 Jul 1912 edition of the Industrial Worker "Little Red Songbook" (as "Where The Frazer River Flows," corrected to "Fraser" in later editions).
Fellow workers pay attention to what I'm going to mention,
For it is the fixed intention of the Workers of the World.
And I hope you'll all be ready, true-hearted, brave and steady,
To gather 'round our standard when the red flag is unfurled.CHORUS:For these gunny-sack contractors have all been dirty actors,
Where the Fraser river flows, each fellow worker knows,
They have bullied and oppressed us, but still our union grows.
And we're going to find a way, boys, for shorter hours and better pay, boys
And we're going to win the day, boys, where the river Fraser flows.
And they're not our benefactors, each fellow worker knows.
So we've got to stick together in fine or dirty weather,
And we will show no white feather, where the Fraser river flows.
Now the boss the law is stretching, bulls and pimps he's fetching,
And they are a fine collection, as Jesus only knows.
But why their mothers reared them, and why the devil spared them,
Are questions we can't answer, where the Fraser River flows.