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You ought to be out raising hell. This is the fighting age. Put on your fighting clothes.

-Mother Jones


Saturday February 6, 1904
From The Labor World: Mother Jones on Rockefeller's Profits from Company Coal Towns.

Says Rockefeller Oppresses the Coal Miners.

Hastings, Colo., Feb. 5.-"Rockefeller's mining company cleared $39,000 [*] last year, and every dollar of it was wrung form the miners," says Mother Jones, the miners' friend, who is now going up and down among the striking miners in Colorado.

"At some of these mining camps a miner is not even allowed to bring a pound of butter from the outside. He is compelled to buy everything at the company's store. Every man who comes to the mines to work must be searched, and when he goes to visit a friend outside the camp an armed guard goes with him.

"What would a Chicago workingman think if he had to pay 90 cents for a quart of syrup that cost a wholesale $1.25 a gallon? What would he think if his employer taxed him a dollar a month for a doctor whether he needed one or not? What would he think if he was obliged to pay his employer 50 cents a month for a preacher?

Yet such are Mr. Rockefeller's Sunday school methods of conducting his mining business in Colorado," says Mother Jones.

*The figure of $39,000 is far too low to be the amount of profit from Rockefeller's mining interests in Colorado. We think that, perhaps, Mother was referring to the amount of profit generated by the company town at Hastings, for, besides the profit made from coal mining, the operators also expect the company town to turn a profit. The miners are charged high prices at the company store. They are not allowed to shop elsewhere. Rent for the company shack is deducted from their pay in advance.

The Labor World
(Duluth, Minnesota)
-of Feb 6, 1904

History of the Labor Movement in the United States Vol. 5
Th AFL in the Progressive Era 1910-1915
-by Philip S Foner
International Pub, 1980
(Both the 1903-04 & 1913-14 Colorado Coalfield strikes are covered in this volume.)

Friday February 6, 1914
Ludlow Tent Colony, Colorado - Mary Thomas describes a company town.

Coal shack in company town.
Mary Thomas, the greet-singer at the Ludlow Tent Colony, came from Wales with her two little daughters last July. Her husband, Tom, picked her up at the Trinidad train depot, and on the way back to the Delagua mining camp, he warned her in a whisper, "Don't talk about anything important within hearing of that stool pigeon driver for the company." As they approached the camp he cautioned her, "Don't be nervous if the mine guards question you. I'll answer their questions."

It was dark when they arrived at that camp, and two big guards shined their lights into the automobile, inspecting Mary and the two little girls. Tom was thoroughly interrogated and had to explain to the satisfaction of the mine guards that he was bringing his wife and children into the camp. Finally, they were permitted to enter.

Mary states that she was completely demoralized when she saw the tumbled down shack that was to be her home. The door opened directly onto the dirt street in front of the house. There was no front yard and no porch, only a block of wood for a step. The cupboard was broken, the chairs were rickety, and the walls were lined with thin cardboard, torn and sagging in several places. Should a fire ever get started, she thought, the shack would go up in flames like a tinderbox.

Those Damn Foreigners
-by Mary T. O'Neal
Minerva Book

Photo: Company shack in company town.
(Used here to represent company shacks at Delagua.)


Thursday February 6, 2014
More on the company towns of the Southern Colorado Coalfields:

The camps, or coal towns, they left were owned and run by the companies.  Every aspect of daily life was under their control—from the school to the church to the store to the dispensing of justice.  An “open” camp had a public highway leading to it.  A few were incorporated towns, their mayors and councils usually officers or employees of the company.  But without any sham of municipal democracy, most properties were closed and unincorporated.  The “closed camp” was fenced, often with barbed wire, and the access road was company property.  The canyon approaches were policed by armed camp marshals, paid by the company but deputized by the local sheriff and therefore empowered to make arrests.

A miner’s house was either a frame hovel he built himself or a four-room cement-block cottage built by the company for $700 and rented to him at $2 a room per month, bringing the company, by its own estimate, “a fair return of 6 to 8 percent.”  Each privy was a few boards and a gunnysack tacked together around a hole in the ground not two feet deep.  The water supply was always questionable.  Typhoid fever was a problem...

[emphasis added]

Colorado Bar Association

On one of my trips to Southern Colorado, I walked up a road to ghost town where the cement foundations were still visible. They were small, and makes me wonder how they could be 4 rooms. There are photos and other descriptions, such as the one by Mary Thomas of simple wooden shacks built by the company, lined with cardboard or newspapers for warmth.

Sixteen Tons-Merle Travis

You load sixteen tons an' whaddya get?
Another day older an' deeper in debt
Saint Peter doncha call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store.

                       -Merle Travis

Originally posted to Hellraisers Journal on Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 11:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Shamrock American Kossacks, In Support of Labor and Unions, Anti-Capitalist Chat, History for Kossacks, and Colorado COmmunity.

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