pages 34 to 44
It is little less than a dozen years since the deceased multimillionaire, W. S. Stratton, was tramping the desolate, barren hills of the Cripple Creek district, in search of gold which resulted in his discovering the great Independence mine, which formed the nucleus of a great mining camp. And yet within this short space of time, so stirring have been the scenes enacted within the borders of this district and so determined and constant the struggle for the equalization of power between capital and labor, that twice the military forces of the state of Colorado have invaded the district. They were ordered out in 1894 by Governor Waite to prevent an armed conflict between union miners and mine owners' deputies; and again ordered out in 1903 by Governor Peabody to disrupt the union. I want to give the 1894 strike a few pages, in order to compare the action taken in the two controversies by the chief executives of the state of Colorado.
In the very infancy of the camp, the mine owner capitalists attempted to overthrow the established wage for the miner of $3.00 for an eight-hour day; but they reckoned without their host.
The metalliferous [sic] miner of the West is a very different man from the Italian and Hungarian that used to be employed in the eastern coal mines. The most of them are American born. Those who have emigrated came from Germany, Sweden and Ireland. Many had been among those sturdy pioneers, who blazed away and made it possible to speak to the wilderness beyond the Rocky mountains as "The Great West." Such men are not easily subdued.
Although a large per cent of the men were union miners, no particularly active work had been done at this time, 1894, in the way of organizing by the Western Federation of Miners. But, when a common danger threatened alike the union and nonunion miner, the membership of the Federation grew by leaps and bounds. A most determined stand was taken which culminated in the strike of 1894.
A threat was made by the mine owners to import cheap labor to take the places of the striking miners and the threat backed up by sending into the district 1,200 deputy sheriffs from the county seat, then Colorado Springs.
A fort was established on Bull Hill, a well nigh impregnable point, in the very center of the mining camp. The striking miners, who, by some mysterious process were well armed, entrenched themselves within the fort. Then followed a series of the most startling and dramatic events ever known in the history of labor and capitalistic controversies. Riot reigned supreme.
The 1,200 deputies, who were sent into the district at that time to enforce the will of the mine owners, made themselves so intolerable to the citizens generally, by methods pursued by them in trying to suppress the Western Federation of Miners, that Governor Waite was petitioned to intercede.
He did so at once; walking from the terminus of the D. & R. G. railroad, which at that time was being constructed but did not reach the city of Victor by several miles, through a deep snow, in the night to interview, personally, the strikers barricaded in the fort on the crest of Bull Hill.
Take note of the fact that he did not send a "commission to investigate," but came himself, and walked a long distance in the snow. He, too, arrived at night but did not leave before day, but consulted both sides to the controversy. This is well to remember.
Governor Waite was received with the greatest enthusiasm. He addressed the assembled miners in no uncertain terms. He exacted a personal promise, which was given willingly and fulfilled faithfully, that the law should be respected. "And I," said he, "will see that your rights are respected also, if it takes every soldier in the state of Colorado to do it." His address to the miners on that memorable occasion is treasured in the heart of every Cripple Creek miner today for its justice and sound advice, though it bristled at times with stern reproof and the assurance of speedy punishment for every lawless act, regardless of the provocation."
On the governor's return to Denver, troops were sent into the district, not to assist the deputies in their acts of oppression, but to restore law and order. This was promptly accomplished. In a very short time the militia had restored order and ended in a satisfactory manner the strike of '94. Governor Waite occupies the unique position in history of being the only governor in the United States who ever ordered out state troops to protect the rights of the working man against his oppressor.
Though the mine owners resisted at that time with unlimited vigor, and upon the governor's head visited bitter maledictions, Governor Waite's power of penetration and the wisdom of his act has been proven in the fact that for nine, long, prosperous years the Cripple Creek district has been a $3.00, eight-hour camp. The mine owner has enjoyed every luxury. The miner, who risks his life in the bowels of the earth for the precious metal, that procures these luxuries, has enjoyed a comfortable and happy home for himself and family.
Meanwhile the Western Federation of Miners grew in members and power and at the time of this writing, 1903, the organization embraces between 150,000 to 200,000 with a substantial treasury. It has spread its organizations over the states and territories of Utah, California, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and British Columbia.
Not only has the Western Federation's strength grown in its own ranks, but it has fostered, encouraged and assisted, as an elder brother, all other trades and laborers to organize, till there is scarcely a craft in the district that has not its nourishing union. The local branches of the Western Federation of Miners are located in different towns of the district, each owning its own hall. The two largest unions, located at Cripple Creek and Victor, have established public libraries and reading rooms to which the public, as well as their members are welcome. Bach union has a sick benefit fund and buries its deceased members.
Not only have the miners representatives in their own national federation, but in the District Trades and Labor Assembly. This local, central body, composed of delegates from every union in the district, meets once a week, arbitrating, adjusting and deciding all questions pertaining to the general welfare of all. Thus they are practically affiliated with all other unions. The Trades Assembly is a power, may well be added.
Naturally, the corporations have viewed with considerable alarm the growing intelligence and executive ability displayed by the workmen in their employ, and they began some time ago to quietly make plans for combatting [sic] that which might eventually be inimical to their interests.
Since the strike of '94, some two or three years ago, there was formed by the mine owners a trust, which included every big producer in the district, with the great Portland as a notable exception. This trust became known as the Mine Owners' Association. It was the supposition that the purpose of the Mine Owners' Association was the subjugation of the Mill and Smeltermen's trusts, which, it was claimed, were most unfair and exorbitant in their prices for the treatment of ore. But they have shown that they organized for other purposes than was at first thought. I will deal more fully with the Mine Owners' Association in the strike of 1903.
The following contribution on conditions of labor in the Cripple Creek district from its inception until up to and after the strike of 1894, explains the situation at that time more fully than I have been able to do:
"By request of the author to contribute something of my experience during the labor troubles of 1894, I submit the following article:
"During the early period of labor in the Cripple Creek district no attention was given to the number of hours employers of labor demanded their men should work; or, in fact, the amount of wages paid the men. Although, with few exceptions, the miners were paid at the rate of $3.00 per day. Outside men received $2.50, $2.75 and $3.00 per day, according to the character of labor performed and the hours they were required to work. In the fall of 1893 a communication was received by Alexander McIntosh, of Aspen, who was at that time duly elected organizer of the Western Federation of Miners for the state of Colorado, to institute a union in Altman, that being the strongest point in the district.
"Mr. McIntosh immediately began corresponding with the men at Altman who were taking the lead in forming a union with the result that a union comprising about three hundred miners was instituted in the fall of 1893. Mr. McIntosh returning to Aspen shortly afterward, appointed myself his deputy with instructions to organize the remainder of the district. I at once threw my whole force and energy into the work of thoroughly organizing the miners of the district, with the result that in less than sixty days I had instituted unions in Cripple Creek, Anaconda and Victor. This achievement, in so thoroughly unionizing the district, was rewarded by a request for me to become president of Altman Miners Union No. 19. I did so. Although four unions had been organized in the district, only one charter had as yet been granted by the Western Federation, that to Altman No. 19. Each of the other unions elected a full set of officers with the exception of president, working under the Altman charter; the president of that union presiding over the remaining unions in the district. The conditions which had allowed men to make their own agreement with the employers as to hours and wages, soon began to make itself felt. The owners of the mines which were working eight hours a day claimed their money was as good as that of the other mine owners, and that unless the men compelled the other employers to work their men only eight hours they would likewise demand ten hours from their men.
"This argument was reasonable on the part of the mine owners who were receiving only eight hours from the employes while others were receiving ten hours for the same wages. The men at the head of the unions were quick to comprehend that such conditions could not stand without a struggle for only a short time. Committees were appointed to wait on the owners and managers of mines working their men nine and ten hours a day to induce them to adopt an eight-hour day; but these committees in each instance met with a refusal to comply with the proposition, in effect, or received an evasive answer that they would present the proposition to the directors of their companies.
"The strained relations existing between the mine owners and miners employed on mines working eight hours soon came to a crisis, for on January 17, 1894, the owners of the mines working their men only eight hours per day posted a notice in effect that all men who desired to work for that company on and after February 1, 1894, would be required to work ten hours for $3.00; or, if the men preferred, $2.50 would be paid for eight hours work. A similar notice was posted a few days later on the Zenobia and Buena Vista mines, owned principally by J. J. Haggerman, and both working eight hours for a shift, the men receiving $3.00 per day. Thus the clouds were fast darkening the horizon of the industrial world for the miners of the district. A battle was imminent. The unions had but recently been organized and were still in their infancy, with no money in their treasuries. Several attempts were made by the unions, with the aid of the business men, to bring about a conference between the mine owners and the unions, but without success.
"Finally, on February 1, 1894, a general strike was declared, and, with the exception of the Victor mines, the men responded to the call to a man. The men working on the Victor mines, however, fell in line with their brothers three days later. The number of miners working in the entire district, when the strike was ordered, would not exceed twelve to thirteen hundred. About eight hundred were members of the different unions and about one-half of all the men employed were, up to February 1, working eight hours and receiving $3.00 per day; the other half working nine and ten hours and receiving $3.00 for the same. In thus outlining the early conditions with which the miners had to contend in this district, the writer desires to be fair and treat both sides with impartiality.
"The strike continued from February 1, 1894, until June 10, 1894, a period of five months and ten days, and went down into history as the most bitterly contested strike in this country. But, in order that the reader may more fully understand the true state of affairs as it then existed in the district, it will be necessary to give some idea as to what the miners had to contend with at that time regarding the cost of living. A two-room house, built of rough boards and paper cost $15.00 per month; wood, which was the only fuel to be had, was $4.50 per cord; water, 40 cents per barrel. Provisions had to be hauled by wagons from Canon City or the Divide. Therefore, the cost was nearly one-half more than the present prevailing prices. Clothing was at least 25 per cent higher than at present. Taking into consideration all of the above facts, a man with a family to support was indeed fortunate who could make ends meet. The men, knowing this to be true, banded themselves together as one man and determined to fight for what they considered a right to earn sufficient compensation to properly care for those dependent upon them, and the 'laborer was worthy of his hire.' How nobly they maintained their position is a matter of history. The mine owners, such men as J. J. Haggerman, D. H. Moffatt, Irving Howbert and others, were rated as millionaires, with unlimited money at their command. The county commissioners of El Paso county, this district being in that county, were very active in showing their interest in behalf of the mine owners; also, the sheriff of the county. Feeling ran high, and for a time it looked as though blood would be shed in abundance; but, luckily for all concerned, there were enough cool, conservative men to hold down the hot heads on both sides to the controversy. Some of the business men in Cripple Creek, petitioned the governor for the militia to be sent at once to the district. Accordingly, Governor Waite ordered out the militia and they arrived on the morning of March 7 in Cripple Creek. The miners, in company with business men, considered there was no need for the state guards and that it was only increasing an unnecessary expense that would fall upon the tax payers of the state, petitioned the governor to withdraw troops from the district. The governor then ordered a committee to investigate the situation of affairs and report its findings, which it did. After the committee reported, Governor Waite ordered the troops home. No serious trouble had been committed by either side.
"Immediately upon the troops being withdrawn, the sheriff began deputizing men to fight the miners, and he gathered the scum from nearly all the cities in Colorado. He numbered as his deputies nearly thirteen hundred men. These he placed in the field to intimidate the miners, using nearly three hundred as cavalry under the command of General Adams. The remainder as foot soldiery, equipped with the finest, improved fire-arms, two field pieces and two Gatling guns. All of this war display only tended to cement the union miners more closely together, they determined to meet force with force, if necessary, and prepared to that end. In the meantime a number of the smaller mines had conceded the demands of the unions for eight hours and $3.00 per day. The owners of the Portland mine, having leased and bonded several mines, paid the union scale of wages and acquiesced in the demand for eight hours, and kept their mines at work. A number of leasers also commenced operating in favor of the unions. The total number of men working at this time now numbered three hundred. These men were assessed $10.00 per month, this being the only money the striking men had with which to support themselves and families. One of the most remarkable things was that during all the time this strike was in progress not to exceed ten men left the district. I urged at every opportunity the necessity of every man remaining in the district until a final settlement could be made and peace restored. Many conferences were aeld between the mine owners and the unions, but no settlement could be arrived at, the mine owners giving their ultimatum at one of these consultations that they were willing to pay $3.00 for nine hours work, or $2.75 for eight hours. When the committee made its report to the unions of the proposition of the mine owners they voted unanimously to turn it down. About May 20, while the miners were attending the funeral of a deceased member, a man by the name of Rabideau who had made himself particularly obnoxious to the miners, and one Ferguson, undertook to call a meeting at Anaconda with a view to getting a number of the deputies there to pass a resolution and have it published in the press of the state, to the effect that a majority of the men were in favor of accepting the proposition of the mine owners and returning to work but were prevented from so doing by intimidation from the union men. But the members of the union were alert and assembled in large numbers to watch the proceedings. When Rabideau addressed the meeting he was asked the object of calling the same, and, upon stating the purpose, he was handled roughly. Both Ferguson and he were taken to Bull Hill, and upon their promising to leave the district for all time, they were released.
"On May 24, the deputy sheriffs were taken via Florence, over the Florence & Cripple Creek railroad to Wilbur, the road being completed to that point. The miners were early apprised of this move on the part of the deputies, and were assembled by the blowing of whistles, this being a signal arranged to assemble the union men in case of danger. A bitter feeling existed at this time between the miners and the deputies, and they were anxious to give them a chance to fight. About one hundred miners ordered the railroad to get an engine and cars and take them to Wilbur, where the deputies were located for the night, which the railroad men did. The deputies, upon learning of the action of the miners, commenced moving down toward Florence. However, the miners overtook part of the deputies and a running fight took place with the result next morning that the body of the man Rabideau, who had agreed to leave the district two weeks before, was found with a bullet in his heart; also, one of the Herman Crowley miners was killed. This encounter is known as the 'Battle of Wilbur.'
"The following morning a number of men quietly entered the building of the Strong mine and ordered Sam McDonald, Charles Robinson and Jack Vaughn to come out. They declined to do so and retreated down the shaft. Dynamite was then deliberately placed In the boiler Inside the shaft house, and with an electric battery, the same was exploded, demolishing the building together with its valuable machinery. Great interest in the fate of Sam McDonald and the two men with him in the shaft of the destroyed Strong mine was felt, but twenty-six hours after the calamity, voices were heard In an old shaft connected with the main shaft of the mine by a drift, and the imprisoned miners were taken out. After getting washed and something to eat, they were taken to what was known as 'Bull Hill stronghold.' Charles Robinson suffered considerably as a result of his terrible experience, but none of the others suffered to any extent. Who was responsible for the destruction of the Strong mine is still a mystery. R J. Lyons and Nichols Tully were both arrested and convicted for the crime, but the general belief among the people was that some one had to pay the penalty, and on account of the feeling against them they were railroaded to the penitentiary. None of them, however, served out their terms. The owners of the mine afterward brought suit against Sam Strong for being the instigator of destroying the property himself.
"The war spirit had been aroused, but still there were some left who believed and hoped that a meeting could be arranged and moral suasion prevail for peace. The district had taken on the aspect of a military camp. It was impossible to reach the miners' headquarters without proper credentials. May 21, a committee from Colorado Springs, composed of President Slocum, Rev. Evans Carrington, who was a strong sympathizer with the labor movement, and Charles Collais, president of the Trades Assembly, of Colorado Springs, came to Cripple Creek, and called up the officers of the union at Altman by telephone, stating they wished to visit Bull Hill in hopes of arranging for an arbitration committee. Men were selected to go to Cripple Creek and escort the distinguished guests to Altman. They made a hurried trip up the hill and were respectfully received. Professor Slocum made an extended address. Rev. Carrington and President Collias also made short speeches which were well received by the men. The following day a mass meeting of miners was called and I informed the men of the request of the mine owners for an arbitration committee. The miners, believing in the justness of their cause, had at all times been ready to submit their cause to a fair and reasonable committee, so they readily consented.
"On the following day Governor Waite left the capitol and came to Altman to make a personal investigation of the situation for himself. This was a most unusual undertaking, but Governor Waite was an exceptional governor, entirely fearless in the performance of what he believed to be his duty—not to one class of citizens in the state, but to all, whether rich or poor, alike. A meeting was arranged for him to take place in the school house at Altman, the door being thrown open so all could listen to his remarks. At the conclusion of his speech a committee on arbitration was appointed , consisting of Governor Waite and myself, this showing the men had full confidence in the governor. Early the following morning the committee started for Colorado Springs, but failed to reach Adilade, finding the heavy rains had washed out the roadbed. The party remained in the car through the day and night, then walked the following day to Florence through rain and water. Think of the hardships encountered on this trip in behalf of humanity by the governor of tue state, who was then over seventy years of age.
"Arriving at Florence we were informed that the railroad was washed out between Florence and Pueblo, but through the kindness of Mr. Johnson, of the Florence & Cripple Creek, and Mr. Slack, of the Denver & Rio Grande, a special train was secured to carry us by way of La Junta to Colorado Springs.
"The party went to Colorado college and met President Slocum, who notified the mine owners of their presence in the city. Arrangements were made for a meeting the same afternoon. An agreement was made between the mine owners on the one side, and Governor Waite and myself on the other, that J. J. Haggerman be selected to represent the mine owners' side of the question, and Governor Waite the miners' side, under conditions that I should remain in the adjoining room and advise the governor upon all points under discussion with which the governor was not familiar. After a session of four hours an agreement was reached, Mr. Haggerman, however, refused to sign until after lunching. During the interval, a number of mine owners and politicians requested Mr. Haggerman not to sign the agreement, stating he had given up everything the miners had contended for. Mr. Haggerman then refused to put his signature to the document. However, June 5, Mr. J. J. Haggerman, D. H. Moffat and the governor got together and signed the same agreement that was made in Colorado Springs three days before, to the effect that the miners receive $3.00 for eight hours work, and no discrimination be made between union and non-union men, provided the latter were paid the scale of wages. The trouble was not ended, however.
"The county officials were foaming with rage by reason of their utter defeat to intimidate the miners with their twelve hundred deputies, their cannon and Gatling guns. Bob Mullen, who was the real commander at the deputy camp, ordered his men to march on Bull Hill and storm the miners' stronghold. The latter learning of the intention of Mullen, prepared to defend their houses and families to the last. It looked as if the long delayed clash between the miners and deputies was at hand, and hundreds of lives were to be sacrificed. In the meantime, the governor, hearing of the serious condition of affairs, ordered the state militia to assemble at once and proceed to Altman with orders to take a position between the miners and deputies and fire upon the party who persisted in firing a gun. The Leadville company signalized itself by capturing a Midland train in its haste to arrive on tinje; but the deputies made no determined effort to take Bull Hill until after they saw the state militia assembled between them and the miners.
"General Brooks notified Mullen if he attempted to go on the hill he would fire upon his men. Mullen and Commissioner Boynton, who was really the acting sheriff as well as commissioner, marched the deputies through Cripple Creek and over to Victor, where they camped for the night, near the Independence mine, returning to Colorado Springs the following day. The militia remained in the district about live days. A grand jury was summoned and brought in about forty indictments. Trials dragged along for two years; but, with the exception of Lyons and Tully, no convictions were had. Thus ended one of the most bitterly contested struggles ever fought between capital and labor. The commissioners had used the county's cash with a lavish hand until its treasury had been depleted. A new court house, which the county was about to build, had to go by default; but a lesson had been given both sides to the dispute, and a better feeling soon sprang up between both sides to the dispute, and a better feeling soon sprang up between employers and employes, the same having remained untarnished up to the commencement of the present strike.
"The mysterious man of the 'Bull Hill War,' was General Johnson, who was a West Point graduate—quite an unassuming man, but every inch a soldier, as his record in the Spanish-American war proves. He was commissioned an officer by the governor of Arkansas, and died about three years ago. A number of accidents occurred to the deputies by the accidental discharging of their weapons, Charles Steele, who was manager for W. S. Stratton, lost his life in this manner, as did Columbus Wright. The tarring and feathering of General Tarsney was a disgrace to the state, and showed the class of men the sheriff had enlisted as deputies. A great many of them have since served time in the state penitentiary for offences [sic] committed by them.
"When we view the action of Governor Waite, during the strike of 1894 in the district, and compare it with the position taken by Governor Peabody in the present strike, we can not help but say, what fools the toilers are! Governor Waite believed the National guards of the state were to protect life and property, but not for the purpose of farming it out to any man or any class of men. Governor Peabody's actions indicate that he believes the national guard is created for the purpose of being farmed out to men possessing wealth, and to oppress the laboring man in the former's interest. The workingmen and their families have the power to select whom they please as governor, and unless they use that prerogative they must suffer. The toilers should raise a monument over the last resting place of all that remains of the best and noblest friend they ever had as governor of the state of Colorado—Davis H. Waite.
"JOHN CALDERWOOD, President of No. 19, in 1894. Dec. 8, 1903.