Cripple Creek — Location, geology, settlement — General economic conditions in 1894 — Conditions in Colorado and Cripple Creek in 1894

Indirect Causes Of The Strike

Uncertain business conditions — Irregularities in employment of labor

Events Leading Up To The Strike

The First Crisis

Attempts at a compromise — The lockout Feb. 1st, 1894 — The strike Feb. 7th — John Calderwood — Preparation by the unions — The injunction of March 14th — Capture of the deputies — Sheriff Bowers calls for militia — Beginning of friction between state and county — Conference between the generals and union officers — Recall of the militia — Compromise at the Independence

The Second Crisis

Coming of the rough element — The coup of Wm. Rabedeau — The demands and terms of the owners — Formation of the deputy army — "General" Johnson — Preparation of the miners for resistance — First detachment of deputy army — The blowing up of the Strong mine — The miners attack the deputies — Excitement in Colorado Springs — Rapid increase of deputy army — The governor's proclamation

Attempts At Arbitration

Conservative movement in Colorado Springs — The non-partisan committee — The miners propose terms of peace — Failure of the arbitration committee plan — Exchange of prisoners — The mission of Governor Waite — Miners give governor full power to act — The conference at Colorado College — Attempt to lynch Calderwood — The final conference in Denver — Articles of agreement

Militia vs. Deputies

The deputies march on Bull Hill — Call of the state militia — The question of authority — The clash in Grassey Valley — Military finally in control — Movements of the deputies — Conference in Altman — Withdrawal of deputies

The Restoration Of Order

Turbulent conditions in Cripple Creek — Attempts upon life of sheriff — Plan for vengeance in Colorado Springs — The attack upon General Tarsney — Arrests and trials of the strikers

Peculiarities Of The Strike

The union allows men to work — Exchange of prisoners — Unusual influence of state authority

Arguments Of The Various Parties

The position of the mine owners — The position of the miners — The position of the governor

The Baleful Influence Of Politics


General Development

Increase in population and wealth — Industrial advance — Removal of frontier conditions — Entire dependence upon mining — The working force

The Background For The Strike

Divisioning of El Paso county — Growth of unions in political power — Western Federation becomes socialistic

The Situation Immediately Preceding The Strike

Unions misuse power — Treatment of non-union men — Minority rule — The strike power delegated

The Colorado City Strike

Formation of union — Opposition of Manager MacNeill — Presentation of grievances — The strike deputies and strikers — Manager MacNeill secures call of state militia

Partial Settlement By Arbitration

The Cripple Creek mines requested to cease shipments to Colorado City — The governor visits Colorado City — Conference at Denver — Settlement with Portland and Telluride Mills — Failure of second conference with Manager MacNeill

The Temporary Strike At Cripple Creek

Ore to be shut off from Standard Mill — The strike called — Advisory board — Its sessions — Further conferences — Settlement by verbal agreement

The Call Of The Strike

Dispute over Colorado City agreement — Appeal of the union — Statements submitted by both sides — Decision of advisory board — Second strike at Colorado City — Strike at Cripple Creek

The First Period Of The Strike

Events of the first three weeks — Disorderly acts on September 1st — Release of Minster — Mine owners demand troops

The Militia In The District

The governor holds conferences with mine owners — The special commission — Troops called out — Militia arrest union officers — Other arrests — General partisan activity of the troops

Civil, vs. Military Authority

Habeas corpus proceedings — Militia guard court house — Judge Seeds' decision — The militia defy the court — Prisoners released — Rapid opening of the mines — Strike breakers

Attempted Train Wrecking And Vindicator Explosion

Attempts to wreck F. & C. C. R. R. trains — McKinney and Foster arrested — McKinney makes conflicting confessions — Trial of Davis, Parker, and Foster — Digest of evidence — Release of McKinney — The Vindicator explosion — Evidence in case

A State Of Insurrection And Rebellion

The governor's proclamation — The power conferred as interpreted by militia officers — Local police deposed — Censorship of Victor Record — Registering of arms — Idle men declared vagrants — More general arrests of union officers — Habeas corpus suspended in case Victor Poole — Rowdyism by certain militiamen — Mine owners' statement — Federation flag posters — Withdrawal of troops

The Slxth Day Of June

Independence station explosion — Wrath of the community — Sheriff forced to resign — Bodies taken from undertaker — Mass meeting at Victor — The Victor riot — Militia capture miners'' union hall — Wholesale arrests of union men — Riot in Cripple Creek — Meeting of Mine Owners' Association and Citizens Alliance — The federation to be broken up

The Annihilation Of The Unions

Teller County again under military rule — Plant of Victor Record wrecked — Forced resignation of large number of county and municipal officials — The military commission — Deportations — Militia close the Portland mine — Aid to families forbidden — District entirely non-union — Withdrawal of troops

The Period Immediately Following

Mob deportations — The Interstate Mercantile Company — Second wrecking of the stores — The November elections — The expense of the strike — Summary

The Western Federation Of Miners. Its Side Of The Case

History of the federation — Its socialistic tendencies — Sympathetic statement of its position

The Mine Owners' Association. Its Side Of The Case

History of the organization — The card system — Sympathetic view of its position

The Citizens Alliances. Their Side Of The Case

History of the alliances — Sympathetic view of their position

The State Authorities

Statement by Governor Peabody

The Responsibility And Blame — The Western Federation Of Miners

Cause of strike — Crimes of the strike

Mine Owners' Association

Criminal guards — Mob violence

The State Authorities

Use of troops — Perversion of authority

Arraignment Of Each Side By The Other

The "Red Book" — The "Green Book."

Comparison Of The Two Strikes

The first natural, the second artificial — Frontier conditions vs. complete industrial development — Contrasts in the use of state authority — Civil and military authority — Politics — Minority rule

Significance Of The Labor History


The Labor History of the Cripple Creek District;
A Study in Industrial Evolution
by Benjamin McKie Rastall

book image

pages 93-99

The Militia In The District

Sheriff Robertson was asked to call for troops, but refused, saying he could and would control the situation.15 He agreed however to appoint deputies of the mine owners' choosing and did so in sufficient number to station from three to five men at every mine. Telegrams were sent by a number of the mine owners to the governor, and a lengthy message was sent by the mine owners in common, which declared a reign of terror to be imminent, and the sheriff's office unable to handle the situation, and demanded state protection. Mayor French of Victor also sent messages asking for troops.16

Union miners and sympathizers being deported from Colorado


Next day Governor Peabody appointed a commission composed of Brigadier General John Chase,17 Attorney General A. C. Miller, and Lieutenant T. E. McClelland,18 to investigate conditions. The commission left at once for the district. On the same evening the governor and General Bell held a conference with President Colburn and Treasurer Bainbridge of the Mine Owners' Association. As the result of the conference the governor agreed to call out the troops, but insisted that the mine owners should provide funds for the expenses of the campaign, accepting state certificates of indebtedness payable in four years.19 The commission arrived at Victor at about nine o'clock at night, and held a conference with Mayor French, and others. It then proceeded to Cripple Creek, where it met members of the Citizens Alliance and Mine Owners' Association, Sheriff Robertson, and Mayor Shockey. Mayor Shockey refused to sign a request for troops, and Sheriff Robertson insisted that he had the situation well in hand, and that there was no need for troops. The commission left on a special at four o'clock in the morning, having been in the district less than eight hours, and from Colorado Springs telegraphed their opinion of the urgency of the situation.20 The governor a few hours later issued an order calling out the troops.*

There has been considerable difference of opinion as to the necessity for sending troops to the district at this time. The only call for them had been by the mine owners or those closely connected with them, and the local authorities were practically a unit in denouncing the act as an outrage. It must not be forgotten in this connection how thoroughly the police officers of the county were in sympathy with the unions, but from two of the most unprejudiced and non-partisan sources, the Mayor of Cripple Creek, and the Board of County Commissioners, there came from the former a refusal to call for troops, and from the latter a protest of no uncertain sound.21 There had been no riot in the district, nor any such condition of general lawlessness or disorder as is usually considered necessary for the calling out of troops. There had been individual assaults, however, and unquestionably the owners were being thwarted in the effort to open their mines by the fear upon the part of the men of physical violence. No one who knew the history of the Western Federation of Miners but would expect violence to accompany the opening of the mines, and in this doubtless lies the real reason for the presence of troops. They were called out to protect the owners in opening their mines, and to relieve the fears of the men who hesitated to return to work.

Pursuant to instructions Adjutant General Sherman M. Bell issued orders to the first regiment, and other companies of infantry, cavalry, and artillery of the Colorado National Guard, to proceed to the Cripple Creek District.22 On Sept. 4th, they arrived, in number about 700, and went into permanent quarters at Camp Goldfield, among the largest mining properties of the district, near the town of Goldfield.23 Subsidiary camps were located at Camp Bull Hill near Altman, Camp El Paso near the El Paso Mine, Camp Golden Cycle in the town of Goldfield, Camp Elkton in the town of Elkton, and Camp Cripple Creek in Cripple Creek. Additional troops continued to arrive, until by Sept. 30th. their number reached over one thousand.24 Guards were placed at all the large mines, and in all the towns and cities of the district, and sentinels were placed upon the public highways.

The signal corps proceeded to put into operation a most complete system of communications. At headquarters, lines of the Western Union and Postal Telegraph Companies, and of the Colorado Telephone Company, gave direct connections with points outside the district. The Colorado Telephone Company provided local service throughout the district, with a special switchboard, and in addition an entirely independent system was established directly connecting the military camps and departments. Signal stations were located on the tops of the principal hills, and kept in constant operation, and a searchlight moved from one vantage point to another flashed over the district by night. A more complete system would hardly have been established had an actual military campaign been in progress.25

On Sept. 10th the military authorities began a series of almost daily arrests 'of union officers and men known to be strongly in sympathy with the unions. The old wooden jail at Goldfield was surrounded with a high stockade, and used as a military prison, and became commonly known as the "bull pen". Here the men were confined for varying periods, without trial or preferment of charges, and discharged with threats of rearrest if they failed to conduct themselves in future according to the wishes of the military. Sept. 10th Chas. Campbell, H. H. McKinney, and three other men, were arrested. Next day James Lafferty, one of the union leaders, was added to the number. At midnight on the 12th a squad of soldiers entered the home of Sherman Parker, Secretary of the Altman Union, searched the house, and forced Parker to dress and accompany them to the jail. On the 13th a squad of 20 men stationed themselves at the Victor Union Hall and made a search for "W. B. Easterly, President of the Altman Union, but failed to find him. Numbers of other officers and influential members of the unions were put under detention throughout the month.26

But the militia did not stop with the arrest of union leaders. On the 14th W. C. Reilley, a justice of the peace of Independence, was arrested and thrown into the "bull pen."27 No charges were made against him, but it was understood that he had shown himself too friendly to the unions. Joe Lynch, City Marshal of Independence, was arrested and told that he had been talking too much. The chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, P. J. Lynch, was arrested by a file of 22 men and taken to headquarters. He was accused by General Chase of making remarks derogatory to the militia, and of advising the men not to return to work, and was then released, with the threat that he would be rearrested and kept if he did not change his attitude.28

Sept. 29th the militia arrested the working force of the Victor Record. The Record was the morning paper, and the local organ of the Federation. It was not inflammatory in its tone, but had published the official statements of the unions, and freely criticised the acts of the militia. A detail of 45 men marched to the office in the early evening, arrested the editor, George E. Kyner, and the four employees found there, and took them to the "bull pen." The business manager and the press man arrived soon after the arrests had been made. Mrs. Langdon,29 a linotype operator, having heard the news, came with all haste to the office. The doors were barred and admittance refused to a new squad of soldiers, and working with might and main this remnant of the force put out the issue at the regular time in the morning. At the head of the first page appeared the legend: "Somewhat disfigured but still in the ring." Mrs. Langdon then went up to see her husband, who was one of the employees arrested, and being refused admittance presented the guards with scarcely dried copies of the morning edition. The Record force was kept imprisoned for 24 hours, and then, under orders from Governor Peabody, was turned over to the civil authorities charged with criminal libel.

Whatever difference of opinion there may have been as to the need for troops, there could be none as to the effect of their activity once upon the scene. The fact that the campaign expenses were being borne temporarily by the mine owners could not but have its effect.30 The military leaders were from the first in the closest sympathy with the mine owners, and the efforts of the troops were devoted not so much to the simple preservation of order, as to the crushing of the activity of the unions. General Bell expressed himself very simply on this point: "I came," he said, "to do up this damned anarchistic federation."31

15Sheriff Robertson was a member of the Western Federation of Miners.

16Mayor French was manager of the C. C. C. Sampler.

17General Chase was later prominent In the friction between the military and civil authorities, and was an Important factor in all the military activity.

18Lieutenant, later Major, McClelland also became a prominent figure in the militia movements. He Is the man who when accused of having violated the constitution replied, "To hell with the constitution! We aren't going by the constitution." He is now (1905) county attorney of Teller County.

19Special Report, Commissioner of Labor, U. 8. A., p. 175.

20Peabody, State Capitol, Denver, Colo.

Have visited Cripple Creek and Victor, and after careful inquiry among representative citizens and property owners, Including mayors of Cripple Creek and Victor, we are of the opinion that the lives of the citizens of the district are in Imminent danger and property and personal rights are in jeopardy. Prompt action is imperatively demanded by the above people to protect the lives and property of the citizens. We find that a reign of terror exists In the district. We do not believe that the civil authorities are able to cope with the situation. (Signed by the three commissioners).


"Ordered: It having been made to appear to me by reputable citizens of the county, by the constituted civil officers and by the honorable commission appointed by me to investigate the matter, that an insurrection is threatened in the county of Teller, in the State of Colorado, and that there Is a tumult threatened and imminent, and that a body of men are acting together, by force, with attempt to commit felonies, and to offer violence, to break and resist the laws of this State, and that a number of persons are in open and active opposition to the execution of the laws of this State in said county, and that the civil authorities are wholly unable to cope with the situation:

"I, therefore, direct you, in pursuance of the power and authority vested In me by the Constitution and laws of the State of Colorado, to direct the brigadier general commanding the national guard of the State of Colorado, to forthwith order out the First regiment of infantry, together with Company H of the Second infantry, Colonel Edward Verdeckberg commanding, together with the First squadron of cavalry, consisting of Troops B, D, and C, also Battery A, and the signal corps and the medical corps of the State, and to prevent said threatened insurrection; and he will protect all persons and property in said county of Teller from unlawful interference, and will see that threats, assaults and all sorts of violence cease at once, and that public peace and good order be preserved upon all occasions, to the end that the authority and dignity of this State be maintained and her power to suppress lawlessness within her borders be asserted.

"Witness my hand and the executive seal, at Denver, this fourth day of September, A. D. 1903. James H. Peabody.

"To Sherman M. Bell, Adjutant General of the State of Colorado."

21"Whereas, The board of county commissioners of Teller County have been advised that the governor of the State of Colorado has sent the militia to this county for the pretended purpose of suppressing a riot that does not now, and never did exist, and to protect property and individual residents of the county that are not in danger; and

"Whereas, It has been falsely reported throughout the State that property and life were in danger In Teller County.

"Now, therefore, The board of county commissioners of Teller County do protest—

"First. That property and Individuals are as safe In this county as elsewhere in the state.

"Second. That the sheriff of Teller County is perfectly able to handle the situation here, and has been authorized by the board to employ any and all deputies necessary to protect life and property, which, in the opinion of the board, he is doing.

"Third. That there has been no unusual assembly of men and no more violence than at other times. That the parties guilty of the late assaults will be apprehended by the civil authorities and prosecuted. The state troops can in no way aid in apprehending these parties.

"Fourth. That the citizens of the county are law-abiding and are doing all in their power to avoid trouble.

"Fifth. That the governor of this state, without cause therefor, has sent the militia to this county, and by so doing engenders ill feeling, prolongs the strike, and does a great injury to the Cripple Creek mining district.

"Sixth. It is the judgment of the board of county commissioners that tie commission sent by Governor Peabody to this county to investigate the strike situation was not sent for an honest purpose, but as a cloak, to cause the people of the State of Colorado to believe that the law officers of Teller County were unable to handle the strike situation.

"This statement is made because the commission sent by the governor did not make an honest investigation of the situation. The commission reached here at 0:30 p. m. Thursday and left at 4 o'clock Friday morning, remaining in camp less than eight hours."

Unanimous resolution September fourth.

22The principal officers were as follows :

Adjutant General Sherman M. Bell, in command.

Brigadier General John Chase, acting in conjunction with General Bell.

Colonel Edward Verdeckberg, commanding First Brigade, District Commander.

Colonel Leo W. Kennedy, commanding First Regiment Infantry.

Colonel Lewis Barnum, commanding Second Regiment Infantry.

Major H. A. Naylor, Ordinance, Field and Staff Officer.

Major Tom B. McClelland, Judge Advocate and Provost Marshal.

Brigadier General Frank M. Reardon (Retired).

23Adjutant General's Report, pp. 128, 129, 130.

24Infantry 600, Cavalry 250, Artillery 75, Signal and Medical Corps 80; total,

I, 005. Bureau of Labor Statistics Report, 1903-4, p. 81; Biennial Report of Adjutant General, p. 130.

25Report of the Signal Officers in Biennial Report of Adjutant General, p. 195.

26Nine cases were later filed in the district court by the federation charging John Chase, Sherman M. Bell, and Thomas E. McClelland with violating the constitutional rights of its members. The trials were held before Judge Robert E. Lewis, who held that inasmuch as the defendants were members of the state militia upon active duty they had the right to arrest persons, and that the length of time in the trial case was not an unusual length of time for confining persons without filing a complaint against them. He accordingly instructed the jury to bring in a verdict for the defendants.

Report of Judge Advocate In Biennial Report, Adjutant General, p. 191.

27Justice Reilley was an unsuccessful lawyer of the pettifogger type, a heavy drinker, and at times before elected justice of the peace, made his living by manual labor.

28Mr. Lynch was the one member of the board of county commissioners who was a member of the Western Federation. He was strongly in sympathy with the unions.

29Mrs. Emma F. Langdon Is the author of a book on the strike situation, The Cripple Creek Strike, which has been adopted by the Western Federation of Miners as the official statement of its side of fhe case.

30The Army and Navy Journal makes a terse comment on this action :

"But that he (the Governor) should virtually borrow money from the mine owners to maintain the troops he had assigned to guard their property, was a serious reflection upon the authorities of the state. The arrangement virtually placed the troops for the time being in the relation of hired men to the mine operators and morally suspended their function of state military guardians of the public peace. It was a rank perversion of the whole theory and purpose of the National Guard, and more likely to incite disorder than prevent it."

31General Bell gives his Idea of the extent of his powers in the conclusions of his report to the governor, Biennial Report, Adjutant General, p. 20.


"In concluding the report, I am not unmindful of the fact that during the critical times during the different military campaigns, when In a moment's notice, and without hesitation or a second's delay, it became necessary to act quickly; the point of law is that, when, in a Constitution or a statute, the powers of a military commander are defined or decided upon as a military necessity, the definition is exclusive. The definition of "Military Necessity" is very respectfully submitted, viz.:

"Military necessity recognizes no laws, either civil or social."

See also Ray Stannard Baker in McClure's Magazine, March, 1904.

NEXT: Habeas corpus proceedings — Militia guard court house — Judge Seeds' decision — The militia defy the court — Prisoners released — Rapid opening of the mines — Strike breakers