Deputy Curtiss and Deputy Jefferson Beard were shot and killed during a workers strike at the local docks. Several hundred citizens had been deputized because of the fear of violence. When a boat of strikers arrived it was ordered not to dock, but did so anyway. When the occupants were ordered to not disembark gunfire erupted and both Deputy Beard and Deputy Curtiss, one of the deputized citizens, were fatally wounded. The Sheriff was also shot and wounded.
Although the exact circumstances are unknown because county records have since been destroyed, it is thought that both deputies were struck by friendly fire.
Deputy Curtiss was a member of the Washington National Guard Reserve. He was posthomously awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in the incident in which he was killed. He was survived by his wife and three daughters.