pages 170 to 183
A terrible disaster occurred at the Vindicator mine in Independence at about 11 o'clock a. m., November 21. Charles McCormick, superintendent, and Melvin Beck, shift boss of the mine, were killed almost outright by a terrific explosion at the 600-foot level of that property.
The news of the explosion spread over the district in a very few minutes and hundreds of people hastened to the scene. Troops were brought from Camp Goldfield and at once surrounded the mine.
Previous to descending to the place of their death, Beck was heard to say to McCormick that there was something suspicious about the appearance of things at the 600-foot level, but further than that the conversation was not heard before they went below.
As soon as possible help was sent to the 600-foot level, where a horrible sight met the eye. The bodies of McCormick and Beck were found, badly mutilated. McCormick was still alive, but unconscious. He lived twenty-five minutes. Beck was alive and conscious, and his last words were: "I want everything to go to my daughter." He lived fifteen minutes.
Immediate investigation was made as to the cause of the explosion. It was surmised that an infernal machine had been set in the following manner:
A quantity of dynamite had been placed at a certain place, and a loaded revolver rigged so that its discharge would explode the dynamite. One end of a wire was attached to the trigger of the revolver and the other end fastened to the guard rail so that in raising the rail the revolver would be discharged. The conclusion that an infernal machine as above described had been prepared was reached from the fact that broken parts of a revolver and a wire were found at the place where the explosion occurred.
The people advanced many theories and suppositions, but at this writing there has been nothing proven further than the fact that the accident happened, but prejudiced individuals, who rarely know anything of what they talk about, at once passed judgment and denounced it as a cold blooded murder. Experience has taught, however, that there are people who are not above making capital out of misfortune.
The coroner's jury, with officials of the mine, made a careful examination of the mine and premises. At the inquest, which lasted several days, many witnesses were examined. Footmarks were found near where the explosion occurred of a No. 8 shoe that appeared to be new. The verdict reached, was as follows:
"That Charles McCormick and Melvin Beck came to their death on the 21st day of November, 1903, at 11 o'clock a. m., from the effect of an explosion at the station on the sixth level of the Vindicator mine, located in the Cripple Creek mining district. From the examinations made at the mine, and the evidence introduced, the jury is unable to determine the exact cause of the explosion. In testimony whereof the said jurors hereunto set their hands the day and year aforesaid.
"W. S. ELLIOTT,
"W. J. DONNELLEY,
"J. L. WOOD."
After the explosion at the Vindicator, the military again assumed the role of the famous Nick Carter, and from Saturday, the 21st, to Tuesday, the 24th, arrested eighteen respected citizens. No warrants or charges were brought against the men arrested, it was presumed by all interested, that they were to be charged with the dynamiting of the Vindicator. However, it was not so stated. Nearly every union miner in the district that happened to wear a No. 8 shoe, was arrested. Among the first men arrested and consigned to the bull pen were Sherman Parker, H. Chase, Link Bolson, W. B. Easterly, W. F. Davis, John Schoolcraft, Gus Johnson, J. B. Isibell, R. Bolan, William Beecher, Victor Poole, Mr. Fleming, H. P. Jones, C. G. Kennison, G. H. McKinney, Bob Adams, P. H. Mullaney and Frank Campbell.
Some of the foregoing were soon released and some were never at liberty any length of time thereafter. When the military were forced by law to release either Davis, Kennison or Poole, there was soon some unreasonable excuse found to take them again.
Don't forget, indulgent reader, that even had any of these men been guilty of any offense, the most the military could have lawfully done would have been to file charges and turn them over to the civil authorities. By what right of law were these union men confined in the military bull pen without a scintilla of evidence produced against them? It appeared from time to time as if the military officers were trying their best to create riot in the district. No doubt they lived in fear of losing their positions at any time and wanted to keep something going on. The mine owners' papers cast dirty insinuations at the "inner circle" of the Western Federation, which were very hard to bear, in regard to the Vindicator explosion. The union men could, with equal right, have accused the "inner circle" of the Mine Owners' Association with being responsible for every mishap that occurred to union men after the strike started. There were some very suspicious cases of union men's houses having been burned, particularly those at Beacon hill and near the Santa Rita mine, that would have borne investigation. True there were criminals brought into the district, and who was responsible for their being here? The mine owners. Who gleefully gave it out that they were bringing tough men into the district to create "rough houses?'' The mine owners. In whose employ was K. C. Sterling and ex-Convict Vannick? Any unprejudiced person knows who committed all manner of depredations on innocent men, aye, and women too, in the community.
It must not be forgotten that we are all Americans and imbued with the American spirit. The finest steel blade may be bent until it snaps in twain.
Not content with having added a goodly percentage of the population of the hill to the roster of the bull pen prisoners, the military began a campaign against the children. Five boys, ranging in age from 9 to 14 years, were arrested and taken to the prison at Camp Goldfield, but later in the evening of November 23 were all released.
One incident in connection with the arrests of children which provoked great indignation occurred on the foregoing date. A crowd of soldiers was passing, more than a block away, the home of the late William Dodsworth, where the two Dodsworth children, aged 7 and 10 years, in company with other children were playing. None of the party on the porch, according to the best people in Goldfield, made any demonstration or offered any remark which could be heard by the soldiers or passerby; but suddenly three cavalry troopers detached themselves from the squad and rode directly to the house. The soldiers dashed up and ordered the oldest little fellow to fall in line. This the child refused to do, and he ran into the house. The doors were at once locked. The soldier led his horse up to the very door and demanded that the boy be given into custody, but was met by an emphatic refusal by Mrs. Dodsworth, who promised him a warm reception should he attempt to take the child by force. Argument and command failing, the soldiers desisted and returned to their company.
After the departure of the soldiers, Mrs. Dodsworth was completely prostrated and had to have medical aid. Following closely upon the tragic death and burial of the husband and father, the incident aroused deepest indignation in Goldfield, and upon every hand by unionist and non-unionist.
November 23 Charles McKinney was taken to Canon City and placed in the Fremont county jail for "protection," so said Sherman Bell; but there was probably no more danger of a lynching of McKinney in Teller county than there was one of the most innocent people in Denver, were any of them to come here. It was, however, a good play for effect, and to work additional injury on the name of the Cripple Creek district.
The action of the authorities in taking him to Canon City could meet but with ridicule from the people in the district. The very people that claimed they wanted him taken away for the sake of protection, were the ones that would not have cared much if he was lynched if they believed him guilty of the crime they claimed to hold against him. McKinney was at no time in danger here, and the report that a certain number of citizens had a rope, etc., preparatory to stringing him up, was false in every particular.
November 30 writs of habeas corpus were again issued by Judge Seeds. The writs called for the persons of Sherman Parker, W. F. Davis, Victor Poole, W. B. Easterly, C. G. Kennison and Patrick Mullaney, and were returnable Thursday, December 3, at 1 p. m.
December 2 the military powers filed with the clerk of the district court answers to the writ. The answer recited at length the authority of the respondents for seizing the prisoners and explained in Blackstonian parlance that the honorable district court has no jurisdiction in the premises. It set forth that the governor's orders endow the military authorities with supreme power in this territory.
Another chapter in the miner's strike was reached December 3, when three military officers, one ex-convict and one detective produced P. H. Mullaney, W. B. Easterly and Victor Poole before Judge Seed's court in answer to the writs I have previously mentioned.
The capacity of the court room was overtaxed by the throng of interested spectators. On behalf of Colonel Verdeckberg, Captain Naylor and Major McClelland, Attorney Crump addressed the court, stating that he desired to file returns on the writs in all cases. Attorney Hangs, having filed motions to quash in the cases of Mullaney, Easterly and Poole, Mr. Crump was willing to comply with the court's orders affecting these three men, but in the cases of Davis, Parker and Kennison, Mr. Crump stated that informations had been filed charging them with attempted train wrecking, and these prisoners would be held until they were demanded by the sheriff on proper capiases. The sheriff can have these men at Camp Goldfield, or they will be delivered here, added Mr. Crump. The court then ordered that the military deliver the prisoners to the sheriff at the county jail, upon the presentation of capiases.
Judge Seeds ordered the release of Easterly, Mullaney and Poole at 1:30 o'clock. Colonel Verdeckberg announced to the military escort that the men were free. Mullaney and Poole started down stairs, but just as they reached the foot of the stairs Poole was rearrested by the militia and detectives who were in waiting, and he was promptly returned to the bull pen.
Sheriff Robertson and Deputy Hi Wilson arrived at county jail with Davis, Parker, Kennison and Adams, the prisoners having been surrendered by the military authorities. Sheriff Robertson expressed himself as fully competent to take care of the men.
The information based upon the sworn allegations of Manager Campbell of the Vindicator mine, was not filed in the district court until shortly before noon, December 3. It charged Steven Adams, W. F. Davis, Sherman Parker and Charles G. Kennison with the murder of Chas. McCormick and Melvin Beck.
D. C. Scott, special agent for the F. & C. C. railway took the cue from Manager Campbell and filed a couple of affidavits against the bull pen prisoners. Sherman Parker and W. F. Davis were implicated by Scott in the attempt at train wrecking at Anaconda. A strong effort had been made to fasten he crime upon McKinney, Foster, Parker and Davis. It was expected that Victor Poole would be implicated.
Martial law was declared in Teller county, December 4, 1903.
The "military" operations being so frequently interrupted by writs of habeas corpus, capiases and other civil procedures, the commander-in-chief performed a brilliant coup against the "desperadoes" of the district and decided to declare the much threatened "martial law." It was such a simple thing that the wonder is that it was not done before. Eight "whereases" relating the horrors of the district, the intimidation or unfitness of the civil authorities, the bands of armed and desperate men threatening life—no, taking life and destroying property, and, for all the "denizens" knew, the fear that the future bloodshed might drown all the little fishes in the mountain streams, or some other frightful disaster, and perhaps an etc., or so, and one little "Now, therefore, I James H. Peabody, governor of the state of Colorado, by virtue of the authority in me vested, do hereby proclaim and declare the said county of Teller, in the state of Colorado, to be in a state of insurrection and rebellion." The signature of the governor, perhaps a few blue ribbons and the seal, and then the long suffering Cripple Creek district was ''up against the real thing.''
The Victor Daily Record was notified by Major Naylor that it would have to refrain from publishing the Western Federation's official statement, and an editorial that had been written and was in the forms was ordered not published. The management was further notified that if any criticism appeared in the paper that was not acceptable, such as the editorial that had been written concerning the military, that the paper would be suppressed and put out of business. In order to protect the legal issue of the paper and be allowed to do business under the martial law reign in the county, the news that appeared in the columns of this paper was published under the military censorship during the time of the military rule. The Record, it seems, was the only "outlaw" paper in the district and the military must "protect" the good people from the "contaminating influence" of its editorials.
The announcement of martial law was made to the people of Victor at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon when Majors McClelland and Naylor, at the head of a detachment of cavalry, halted at the corner of Third street and Victor avenue and Major McClelland read the proclamation of the governor. The same formality was gone through with on the streets of Cripple Creek.
The reader will realize that "martial law" is a very serious thing, and, of course, calls for many proclamations, orders, instructions, etc., "by order of," "signed, sealed, witnessed," etc., in order to give it the dignity due it. Of course, these were forthcoming, and in sufficient number to suit the occasion (also to fill the pages of this book). One of them was the "surrender your weapons" affair, and in consequence no little amusement was derived by the delivery of weapons that were and weapons that "had been."
Taken all in all, however, martial law did not disturb the people generally as much at they had feared it would. Of course, it was very irritating to the inborn independence of American citizens, to see, day after day, armed guards parading the streets when they knew there was no necessity for it, and they felt it rather as an insult to their patriotism than any actual discomfort.
Application for a writ of habeas corpus for the person of Victor Poole was made in the district court December 9 by Attorney Frank J. Hangs. The defendants in the case were Colonel Verdeckberg, Majors Naylor and McClelland and Sheriff Robertson. Inasmuch as the sheriff was custodian of the prisoner, who was confined in the county jail, it devolved upon Coroner Doran to perform the delicate task of serving the writs.
Coroner Doran obtained service upon Colonel Verdeckberg and Major Naylor. The writs were returnable Friday, Dec. 11. By virtue of the recent declaration of martial law it was anticipated by many that the military authorities would cooly ignore the court's orders.
On December 10 the governor issued a proclamation, one calculated to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and remove a most sacred right of free citizens. It was sort of an eleventh hour proclamation, having been issued but a few hours prior to the filing of an answer to the writ in the case of Victor Poole. The proclamation was lengthy and cited many authorities, but the cause was in the last paragraph, which I quote:
"Now, therefore, I, James H. Peabody, governor of the State of Colorado, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the constitution of the State of Colorado and the laws thereof, do hereby declare and proclaim that, in my judgment, the public safety especially requires that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus be suspended in this case, to-wit, in the case of Victor Poole, aforesaid, and I further direct that the said writ of habeas corpus be suspended in his case until further orders by me.
"JAMES H. PEABODY."
Attorney Crump, accompanied by the military officials, appeared in court promptly on the morning of Dec. 11, and holding in his hand the return made, explained the attitude of the respondents and said the court was bound to take cognizance of the condition of the law of his district, and that Colonel Verdeckberg and Majors Naylor and McClelland set up the claim in their return that they are in full control of the troops in the district and maintain that their only authority was the governor, and that they would elect at that time to lipid the body of the prisoner.
Judge Seeds stated that the case would be continued for further hearing on the motion to quash the writ until 2 o'clock, and also gave the respondents until that time to file criminal information against the prisoner.
Judge Seeds said: "Knowing as I do that the civil courts of this county are earnest in their efforts to do their duty well and faithfully, I desire that you come into court at 2 o'clock tomorrow for a further hearing in this case."
At 2:30 Attorney Crump, for the respondents addressed the bench upon the motion to quash the return of the writ. He referred to the argument used by the opposing counsel as "ingenious" but that it failed to prove that the military power is subservient to the civil authorities.
The court finally interrupted Mr. Crump with the remark that "There is an unbroken line of opinion regarding the existence of martial law, and all showing that such a state has not existed in this country except in case of actual warfare."
With but a few moments deliberation the court rendered his decision and issued the following order:
"State of Colorado, County of Teller, ss. "In the District Court. "Victor Poole, Plaintiff, vs. Colonel Edward Verdeckberg, Major H. A. Naylor, Major T. E. McClelland, as Members of the State Militia of
the State of Colorado, and H. M. Robertson, as Sheriff of Teller County, as Defendants:
"This matter having come to be heard this 12th day of December, A. D. 1903, upon the returns of Colonel Edward Verdeckberg, Major H. A. Naylor and Major T. E. McClelland, and the separate return of H. M. Robertson, as sheriff of Teller county, on the motion to quash said returns.
"The couit, after listening to arguments of S. D. Crump, in behalf of the respondents, and Frank J. Hangs, in behalf of the petitioner; and,
"Being fully advised in the premises, doth find that the motion to quash should be sustained.
"Wherefore, it is ordered, adjudged and decreed by the court that the motion to quash the returns herein be and is hereby sustained.
"And it is further ordered, adjudged and decreed by the court that the respondents, and each and every one of them, do forthwith discharge the petitioner herein from custody.
"And it is further ordered, adjudged and decreed by the court that the petitioner herein do have and recover of the respondents his costs herein expended and have execution therefor.
"Done in open court this 12th day of December, A. D. 1903.
"By the court. WILLIAM P. SEEDS, Judge.
"State of Colorado, County of Teller, ss."
The military refused to release Poole, and on December 14 Governor Peabody stated that the state would not appeal the case. Attorney Miller said that Poole and the miners could take no appeal in the matter, as they won in the lower court, and therefore would have no standing in the higher court. Attorney Samuel D. Crump gave it out as his opinion that the state would appeal in a short time.
On the morning of December 16 the supreme court heard the preliminary arguments in the application for writs of supercedeas for the prisoners and issued two writs made returnable in five days, for Victor Poole and A. J. Paul, both of whom were held by the military in defiance of the civil authorities. The court decided no question in granting the application for the writ. It reserved all decisions as to its power to make jurisdiction in the cases, the right of the governor to issue a proclamation suspending the writ of habeas corpus in the case of Poole and all other questions involved.
After Attorney Hawkins had finished reading the petitions and made a short argument in the matter, Attorney General Miller was called upon by the court to express his views. He said: "There is no truth in the affidavits sworn to by these gentlemen. The worst crimes ever committed in the state have been done in Teller county and have gone unpunished. Criminals are arrested time and again and turned loose. It is nonsense for a man to stand up here before this court and make such statements. Ever since the county of Teller was a county, lawlessness has held sway there. There has been no law and order there."
Attorney Hawkins was so surprised at the attack of Mie attorney general that he did not seem to realize for a moment the full import of the words. He then arose and said: '' This is an unnecessary insult to me and to the court of Teller county. The statement of the gentleman is on a par with the way the military has done things in the past. It is in justice to Judge Seeds that I speak. Such an attack is little more than slander on the court of Teller county. Judge Seeds has the privilege of being defended when he is set upon in such a manner. It is absolutely untrue that notorious criminals have gone unpunished. The attorney general is evidently misinformed concerning the conditions in that part of Colorado, and his statements will not be borne out by the facts in the case."
If General Miller thought his statement would go unchallenged as to the conditions in the Cripple Creek district, he was mistaken. Affidavits were made out by public officials and prominent men of Victor and Cripple Creek to the effect that the courts were open before the military came and that justice was administered properly, that the laws were enforced without favor and that the public safety was maintained in all quarters.
Saturday, January 2, was the day set for the hearing, but the case was dismissed from the supreme court for the reason that the governor fearing the decision of the court had ordered Victor Poole turned over to the civil authorities.
The military and mine owners' attorney, when they found that the supreme court would be forced to a decision, and knowing and fearing that the decision would be adverse to their stand and necessarily in favor of Poole, sought some means to get rid of his custody. They sought relief in Justice Harrington's court, and through one S. R. Lack (or Leek) filed charges of assault to kill in the dim distant years of yore, by Poole, causing warrants to be issued and turned over to the sheriff to serve. Poole claimed to have forgotten the incident upon which the civil arrest was based.
It is needless to state that the sheriff had no trouble in securing the custody of Poole. His trial for this forgotten alleged offense was set for January 9, on which date Attorney Crump order for the release of Poole from custody followed forthwith. [words missing in original] uance of ten days, claiming by affidavits that he was unable to secure the necessary witnesses.
Justice Harrington promptly decided that the whole affair was "horse play," and denied the motion for a continuance. The order of the release of Poole from custody followed forthwith.
This abrupt termination of the sensational case was not unexpected by those familiar with its various stages. It was instituted for the sole purpose of preventing a final decision by the supreme court on the extent of the authority of the military in the Cripple Creek district. The legal representatives of the mine owners' were forced to evade the issue of habeas corpus. It was necessary to resort to subterfuge to accomplish this purpose, as it was decided to bring trumped-up charges against Poole. Attorney Crump used Leek as a complaining witness and resorted to a justice court to carry out the miserable design. The scheme worked admirably. On the flimsy pretext that serious information had been filed against Poole, the military succeeded in preventing a decision which they mortally feared.
But what of Poole? Arrest, confinement, insult. Dragged from bull pen to jail, from jail to bull pen. Subjected to every humiliation that could be devised by persecutors. Innocent, and known to be innocent. Supposed to have the rights that are guaranteed to every freeborn American citizen. He was used by what should be the support of freedom, for the purpose of crushing the very name of justice. Verily is the state government of Colorado in a fair way to make of men anarchists; and law, despotism.