Friday, June 26, 2009

The massacre of April 20,1914 my family was there....

My father was born 1924, to 15 year old girl. Her name was Dessie, she didn’t want one baby much less two, and here she was, 15 and blessed with twins a boy and girl. The twins lost their mother from pneumonia when they were seven. However, they were living with their grandmother Hattie for many years prior to their mother’s death. Grandmother Hattie had a total of seven children of her own, three sadly, died. The oldest child was named Marie, then there were her three sons. The second born son was Adam Frank Jr. my grandfather. He was very much like a gypsy of sorts, maybe a touch of hobo. He would take off from time to time, like a wild mustang, hitching rides on freight trains that lead to no where and played pool for money like a shark in a pond of fish. This is how he met Dessie, my grandmother, they ended up married but just two babies themselves and way too young. Out of Hattie's four children, Frank Jr. was the only one who could drive the family car. Hattie, spent many nights, awaiting wild young Frank's return, she could hear him driving the car over the creaky old wooden bridge down by their house there in the country. He was not exactly the responsible one in the family and that was such a shame. His brother Russell however, was quite responsible and the intellectual type. Russell could remembered everything. He kept records and it is through these records, I am was able to retrieve this information. Adam Frank Sr. Supported his family by working in the coal mines of Colorado for many years. The family was there during the time of the great massacre in 1914. Uncle Russell’s records show how there were two types of mines, in southern Colorado. The pit mines, that went straight down by way of a (elevator) cage, with entries at different levels. Everything had to go down in that cable( elevator), men, Coal-cars, mules and air equipment. The only way out was in that cage. If there was an Gas explosion or if a Digger hit an underground river, the cage was the only way out for all those men. Then there was the slope mines, they went into the ground at an angle, a hole facing the east lead a "trip" which was a "string of cars" that went down into the mine by gravity. Then they had to pull it back up when they were loaded. Not an easy job, but it was a little safer than a pit mines. The Miners all had certain Jobs. There was the Coal diggers, who spent 95% of the day digging coal. Then there was the Shot firers, who spent 4% of the time firing charges at the end of day and there was the sraggers who spent 1% of the day stopping coal-cars. The most important job was a "Fire-Boss" Only one man held this position,that was my great grandfather Adam Frank Smith Sr. There were many jobs above the ground,like a mine foremen, a camp superintendent, a camp nurse, the weight master, slag pickers and the hoist men. It was in the late 1907 when the Smith family moved Pueblo Colorado. In 1910 and the family had to move back to Johnstown, Pennsylvania where Uncle Russell was born. Eventually the family moved once again to Colorado. This time it was for work at Berwind, which was one of the largest mining camp. There was many mining camp and they're all owned by the Colorado fuel and iron company who also owned the steel mills in Pablo and the Colorado Supply Company stores. These were the only stores aloud in all the mining camps. There were 22 stores in this one big camp. The Miners would call them the "pluck me stores". These stores made a huge profit off the miners income. The miners and their wives were notified their jobs were always depended upon them buying their supplies from the company's stores. The C F and D. This was a huge monopoly and the company had total control over everything south of a Pueblo to the New Mexico border.Owned by The Rockefellers.The isolation of each camp added to the bewilderment of most of the Miners, and during this time period things got out of control. Records show that from 1913 through 1914 a big strike was formed. There were sub-zero temperatures during the winter and all the ousted-strikers’ were living in big tent Colonies . One of the tent Colonies was established at Ludlow, it was one canyon north, which was 2 miles outside of Burn wind canyon. All the camps were mostly made up into two campus, the 12 other Colonies were all in tents. These were built at various locations but the one at Lablow became a focal point of the 1913-1914 strike. This is where the massacre occurred on April 20, 1914. When the Stalemilitia and their goons killed 21 people including 11 children. After that, the camp put up searchlights during the strike period. They were usually mounted on a water tank or hilltop directly above the camp. The company guards were then able to move the searchlights while at the same time protect the water supply for the mine's operation. My family lived just a few miles away, where the fighting occurred in camps. My uncle Russell had faint memories of men lying on the floor with children to escape the flying bullets through the tents. My aunt Marie, Russell’s sister would take her brother Russell to school, she was teaching kindergarten the camp at the time. One night, there was a murder inside the school. This canyon was surrounded by tall pine trees and several houses that were on top of the hill. Uncle Russell remembers as a small boy, peaking into a window because there was reported to be a dead body inside. Sure enough, there was a dead man's body lying on the bed. Covered with a sheet the head and feet were exposed. There was a officer trying a tag on his toe. Berwind canyon was a place of fear to the everybody. The canyon had sunlight only a few hours during the day due to the high hills and pine trees. At night only a few lights were on, usually just at the miner's entrances. The whole camp was covered in a of darkness. Dawn was always welcome. Winters seemed so long, summers seemed so hot. Everyone was always afraid. So when the strike was over, it was a good time. The CF&I helped overcome their reputation earned by their methods, they built a club house in each camp starting in 1915 (the strike was from Sept. 23, 1913 to Dec.23,1914 then they were turned it over to the YMCA to manage with stipulation that they had to pay for themselves (no cost to The Rockefellers company). The club house at Ideal was(typical) it had in the basement a 2 lane bowling lanes, three pool tables two card tables and a small gym. The main floor had a reading room, soda fountain large lounge no liquor, just a place to sit and talk. An auditorium where they had movies every Tuesday and Friday nights. Through Berwind mines was one of the biggest mining camps it had no Protestant church until the protestant women began to solicit money in 1922 owned by The Rockefellers Colorado Fuel and Iron Co. Who also owned the Steel Mills in Pueblo. Eventually they build one with no help from CF&I Co. The Catholics had built one about 1918 also without help. In 1916 the Smith family moved to Walsen, another camp, it wasn't in a canyon. The children felt to free to play there. They had a clubhouse. Main thing for the children they could actually make friends. For them it was like moving to the city, they were one mile from Walsenburg. But it was simply another camp. It did have two theaters, restaurants, a paved street and a high school. There were several saloons, churches and even had other stores there besides Colorado Supply Company. Instead of the tents the children actually had a four room house new and it was a company house. They had a kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, it had a back stoop and a front porch. A big yard fenced to keep out coyotes, rabbits and deer. A chicken coop with a fenced yard, a coal shed and an out house. It even had a 12X12 seller under the kitchen with cement floor and walls outside the entrance. No drains. This was my family's favorite place, as children. Most of the Italian, Salvadorian and Mexican families would buy 1 to 3 tons of grapes each autumn. Then they would pay the children a dime to stomp on the grapes repairing them to make wine. They really watched their feet before they're allowed to trample the grapes. It took about five boys to the seller for about 3 hours. The leaves, stems and pulp wept after the duo's was bailed, out in it was taken out of the camp and buried in the ground to prevent the cows from eating it. Because all the children believed the cows would get drunk and give purple milk. All the children in all the camps did this. Walsen camp had one thing that all the other camps did not have, a power house. Using the coal from Walsen two mines, which made electivity all the camps Marie married a man that worked there and moved to Springer, New Mexico to make their fortune. They came back, Marie may have been home sick. But now they had to come back to the Walsen mines and the CF&I. They had a real school house there, small but it had at battery and a bell. The first teacher there Miss. Babcock who wore riding boots. She also had a long buggy whip which she flicked at their heels. Grandfather Frank Sr. was a source of knowledge for his children.He was a understanding man and very precise. My great grandparents always lived in harmony together. Uncle Russell felt his father had a great influence in his life, he prepare him for the outside world. Every time Russell and his father would into the mines, He’d let him hold the safety lamp. Alone in a mine they wander for more then a mile down into the earth. It was damp and dark. The sounds of dripping water would be there. Each time the earth would move, some things shifted, a crash as a piece of the roof falls onto the ground. A scurry of rats came running, the sound of a cat. The swishing of air being pumped in to very bottle of the mine,two methods of ventilation. The safety lamp gave a dim light, it’s purpose, to sense methane gas if they came upon a black lamp. When this would occur, the Fire Boss would have to relocate and relight the lamp and get out of there. Phones were located around the route, he would call the mine company along with the location and route. Years ago they used canaries to hunt for gas, many birds gave their lives to save the life of one man. There was a peaceful side of these camps, it was a community. There were all countries there, people from Poland, Yugoslavia, Montenegro, Latvia, Germany, Wales, Slovenia, Italy, America and Mexico all had a common desire, to live in peace. They didn’t lock their doors and the children would go all over the place smelling food cooking of all those nations. Each child was welcome in any home, most kids ate more then on meal. They picked and chose cordoning to their nose and enjoyed very bit of it. One day Grandpa Adam Frank Sr. said it was time to leave the mines, for good. So they packed up and move to Denver, Colorado. The big city. There is more to this story but the important part of it is there is records of the massacre of April 20, 1914. When the Stalemilitia and their goons killed 21 people including 11 children who
lost their lives‘. people were digging holes in the dirt floors of their tents and laying the women and children inside while the men laid on top to shield their love ones from the gun shots. Some tents were set on fire with people inside. My Great uncle Russell was there as a boy, he wrote things down and kept records.
The Rockefellers owned the CF&I. and they were the reason for these deaths in America’s coal mines. Something no one should ever forget…it’s history, look it up. My Uncle kept records.
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