Monday June 27, 1904
From the Appeal to Reason: Part III of Report From Cripple Creek by Comrade Shoaf
Practically the entire issue of this week's Appeal to Reason is devoted to the courageous reporting smuggled out of the Cripple Creek Strike Zone by Comrade George H. Shoaf. Today we present our third in a series featuring the stirring front-line coverage from the Cripple Creek Strike Zone by this most intrepid correspondent:
The Riot in Victor.
When the final story of the gold miners' strike in the Cripple Creek district has been written and given to the world, and all has been said and done toward bringing out the facts relative to the damnable plots concocted through the joint efforts of the Citizens' Alliance and the Mine Owners' Association for the overthrow of the Western Federation of Miners, it will have been found that the terrible riot in Victor on the afternoon of Monday, June 6, was the bloodiest and most savage conspiracy of them all. For no matter how cold-blooded was the conspiracy in the Independence disaster, and how awful its results, that explosion was a mere bagatelle compared to the deliberate attempt to massacre the union leaders and their friends, surrounded as they were by an innocent crowd of women, boys and girls.
Shortly after 3' o'clock, while the excitement of the morning's holocaust was at its whitest heat, Charles C. Hamlin, secretary of the Mine Owners' Association, followed by a big crowd of non-union miners and representative members of the Citizens' Alliance, with the newly appointed sheriff, Edward Bell, began to assemble on the Victor hotel site. There were many union men in the crowd, but they were outnumbered by non-union miners three to one. C. C. Hamlin and Sheriff Bell mounted a freight wagon, and Hamlin began a speech.
What followed is graphically told by Mrs. Stella Shaw, secretary of the Woman's Democratic Club of Teller county, who, with Mrs. C. L. Holland and Mrs. Ada B. Hanna, was standing not ten feet from the wagon on which the two men stood.
For the blowing up to those brave boys," began Mr. Hamlin, "fifty union men should be shot down like dogs and as many more swung to telegraph poles.
"Every federation man is a criminal, and it is up to you men to drive them over the hills with your guns." At this a union man in the crowd spoke up, "Who do you mean by 'them?'"
"Lynch him! Kill him!" exclaimed a hundred voices. A shot was immediately fired by some one near where the union man stood, which was answered by another man near the outskirts of the crowd.
The shooting then became general while the crowd scattered in every direction as quickly as it could. Six or eight union men ran across the street and joined their comrades in Miners' Hall.
At this moment Company L of the local militia came around the corner on the double quick from Ruble's Armory Hall, where it had been stationed. Deploying themselves at the command of their superior officers the soldiers scaled the bank building opposite the miners' headquarters and for half an hour poured a rain of lead and steel through the windows and brick walls of the miners' building. After it was thought that every union miner who had taken refuge in the building had been killed, a truce was called. To the surprise of the soldiers and deputized scabs, who, with their Winchesters, had also participated in the fray, a white flag was run up by a live union miner. At this token of surrender further firing was ordered ceased and the union men were told to march out in the street with their hands up. Those who were neither dead nor wounded obeyed, and after a few moments' parley the sheriff ordered them taken to the soldiers' armory for safe keeping.
This, in substance, according to Mrs. Stella Shaw, cor-corroborated by the evidence of Mrs. Holland and Mrs. Hanna, together with the additional testimony of several union witnesses, constituted the riot in Victor.
It is when the circumstances preceding, and the results following the riot, are taken into consideration that the certainty and clearness of a conspiracy is revealed.
Why were all the scab mines in the district closed down, the employes armed and told to meet in certain places? Why was Company L equipped with four times their usual allotment of ammunition, held in readiness in their armory? Why, in the midst of the existing excitement, did Secretary Hamlin call a mass meeting and give expression to that inflammatory speech? By what strange coincidence was he surrounded and protected, while making that speech, by scab deputies, fully armed and ready to shoot? How was it that the entire riot, according to the forgoing witnesses, was carried out with such stilted precision that it savored strongly of specially prepared program? These and many other questions must receive a satisfactory answer before the suspicions of thousands of people will be allayed.
The plot, in brief, believed by union men acquainted with the situation, was to decoy the strike leaders into the circle of armed non-union men, and while the speech was in progress, start a row, during the excitement of which the victims could be shot down. Their staying in Union Hall saved the strikers a total massacre, and after their capture by the soldiers it was not attempted.
Miners Did Not Fire a Shot.
Notwithstanding the press reports that fire was opened upon the militia by miners from their union hall, it is denied by a number of witnesses to the fight that the union men fired a shot.
Arthur Parker and Edward McKelvy, two of the miners who were in the hall and who were wounded in the fight, told the following story, as they lay on their cots in the Victor hospital:I was among the number who left the lot and adjourned to the hall [said Mr. Parker.] We heard the armed scabs over in the armory building discharging their weapons and yelling loudly, and knowing they were bent on creating trouble, we went over to our hall to keep out of it. There were some twenty-five or thirty men in the hall and while we determined to keep the scabs out it was understood by all present that if the militia demanded entrance no opposition would be offered.
Directly we heard a noise at the foot of the stairs leading up to the hall, and looking out, we saw a crowd of scabs trying to force and entrance. We warned them that they were not wanted, but not once did we fire a shot. After a while we decided to lock up the place and leave our homes. We left the windows and all of us were crowded at the head of the stairs preparing to descend when we were shot at from the outside. Then for the next few minutes a perfect hail storm of bullets were fired at us from the front, from the sides and through the skylight of the building. All we could do was to run alongside the walls or fall to the floor in order to protect ourselves from the terrible fusillade of lead.
Shoved a Revolver Down His Throat.
After a while the firing ceased and one of our men ran out a white handkerchief as a sign of surrender. When that was done the scabs, who were at the foot of the stairs, ran up and called upon us to throw up our hands. such as were able did so. The wounded were treated shamefully. Ed, over there, [pointing to Edw. McKelvey, who lay on an adjoining cot] they took, and shoved a pistol down his throat, cursing and saying, "Say it's good, you __ __! or we will blow your brains out!" One of the scabs kicked me in the ribs and started to finish me with his six-shooter but was prevented by the militia, who, by this time, were swarming into the hall. I verily believe we would have all been murdered had it not been for the timely intervention of the militia.
Their was not a single shot fired form our side and had we started five minutes earlier we would have been out of the hall on the way to our homes.
The Bull Pen.
Briefly, what was known as the bull pen in Victor was nothing but the large hall in the Rubles Armory building. The rear of a large store room on Bennett avenue was used in Cripple Creek in which to place arrested men. Every available cell in the county jail was filled to overflowing with the more desperate "anarchists and dynamiters."
It was the treatment accorded the prisoners by their conscienceless captors that makes up the horrible story of the "Bull Pen." After the men were driven into their respective quarters by the deputies and militia, they were subjected to every insult that the ingenuity of their tormentors could devise. In this they were assisted by their officers.
In the Rubles Armory a dead line was marked with chalk across the eastern end of the room and orders were given to the guard that if any man dared step across this line to shoot him down at once. Communication with outside world was prohibited. One man was seen smiling at someone outside across the street. A dozen soldiers at once charge to where this outsider stood, dragged him by the feet into the hall and threw him in among the other prisoners, charging him with using deaf and dumb signals as a means of communication. Several times Krag rifle balls were "accidentally" discharge through the basement floor, one of which ploughed its way through the hip bone of Fred Minster, of Local No. 13. Jack West, of the same local, narrowly escaped being hit by on of these "accidental" shots.
The contents of the union store, generally supposed to be sent to feed the imprisoned miners, never reached them. Foodstuffs sent in by wives and friends were rigidly inspected, the best appropriated by the guards, only the leavings reaching their destination. The men slept on the bare floor and were herded together like so many hogs.
A good idea of the "sweating" the men received is found in the following dialogue between the military cross examiner and John Marshall, of Victor 32, who, after the examination, was given his liberty on condition that he would leave the camp. Marshall was led into the inner room where the "commission" was sitting, and after being sworn was questioned as follows:
Questioner: "We are going to make this either a union or a non-union camp. See that?" dangling a noosed rope in the miners's face.
Marshall: "Yes, sir."
Q: "Do you believe in majority rule?"
M: "Yes, if you mean seven men with bayonets against one union man."
At this moment a guard interposed by striking Marshall a blow in the face with the word, "Don't get funny, now." No one remonstrated and the examination continued.
Q: "Well, we have the majority here. Which side are you on?" dangling the rope again.
M: "I will be a scab."
Q:"Well, what are you going to do if we turn you loose?"
M: "I well get out of the district."
Q: "Well, then, go."
John Marshall, be it remembered, had committed no crime, was accused of no crime, had lived in the district six years, owned property, had a wife and family and was an A-1 workman. Yet, because he belonged to a labor organization, a right which the Federal constitution does not prohibit, and which hundreds of thousands of other American citizens have and are now exercising, he was thrown into the bull pen and sweated through this humiliating ordeal.
Several other released prisoners whom the writer interviewed after gaining their freedom told practically the same experience. Some of the more prominent leaders, of course, received even rougher treatment. When Sherman Parker, of the local strike committee, was incarcerated last fall he came near losing his life in the following way: One night shots were heard, followed by the noise of someone running down the hillside. Thinking the sounds came from striking miners coming to the rescue of their imprisoned comrade, three soldiers compelled Parker to lay himself out on the flat of his back with his arms extended full length. Placing their cocked guns at the neck of the prostrate man they warned him not to move a muscle on pain of being shot. The minutes elapsed, during which interval the unfortunate man every instant expected death. Investigation of the outside disturbance later proved that the shots proceeded from Krag-Jorgensen rifles which were being fired by militiamen at a burro, or Rocky Mountain jackass.
Numberless stories of inhuman cruelty like the foregoing might be related. The first deportation train consisted of box cars. When the first company of miners were exiled, they were shoved unceremoniously into the dirty, ill-smelling cars, the doors nailed up and a tattoo was played upon them by the soldiers in commemoration of the event. No good-byes were permitted between the deported men and their families. Any woman who tried to attract the attention of her departing husband was shoved forcibly back into the crowd and admonished to keep quiet.
The story of the trip to Kansas, to Denver and subsequent treatment of the strikers by the citizens in whose communities they landed has already been partially told by the capitalist press. Only a Victor Hugo could truthfully describe the heart-rending scenes enacted around the place of deportation. Women with breaking hearts; children swooning in terror of suspense; aged mothers bidding their sons what many thought was a last farewell, for many people believed that massacre awaited the exiles somewhere in the mountains; sharp orders from the officers, obedient commands by the troops, menacing revolvers, glistening bayonets, hisses, cheers, and sullen looks, all commingled in one sad finale, the like of which is rarely ever witnessed outside the glorious pomp and circumstance of war.
Appeal to Reason
-of June 25, 1904
See link at sources above.
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