Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
- Colorado History -
Cripple Creek District Labor Strikes
Mine Owners Association
In response to the imposed strike by the W.F.M. the
mine owners banded together and formed the Mine Owners Association.
On August 12, 1903 the mine owners formed a committee to act on all
matters pertaining to the strike. On August 14, 1903 the Mine Owners
Association published a statement:
"...Wages and hours
of labor have been satisfactory and according to union standards,
and general labor conditions have been all that could be wished...
Notwithstanding all this, the heads of the W.F.M. have seen fit to
compel the cessation of all labor in the district, not because of
any grievance of their own against the Cripple Creek operators, but
for reasons beyond our control. The fact that there are no grievances
to adjust and no unsatisfactory conditions to remedy, leave the mine
operators but one alternative... As fast as men can be secured, our
mining operations will be resumed... preference being given to former
employees, and all men applying for work will be protected to the
The El Paso Mine
The El Paso minewas the first to reopen with non-union help, on August
20. The first order of the new workers was to build a fence around
the property. The mine owners hired armed guards to patrol the property.
The El Paso mine was open for business on September 2, 1903.
That night Mr. Dennison's (a union man) house was destroyed
by fire. While his house was on fire the El Paso guards stood by and
cheered. On September 21, a plot by union strikers was brought to
light, to blow up the El Paso Mine. Things were heating up in the
J. I. Brown's Assay Office in Cripple Creek
County Sheriff H. M. Robertson
The owners attempted to put non-union men back to work. Unionist attacked
them with fists and clubs and finally guns. Two-hundred-fifty men
were imported as strikebreakers, but the union captured 100 of them
and shipped them out of the country. The sheriff was asked for protection
but he swore in only a handful of deputies, two or three to each mine,
against 4000 strikers. The sheriff was himself a member of the W.F.M.,
and had been elected by the votes of union men. A non-union man was
taken from his home by five masked men, badly beaten, and finally
shot in the back. The sheriff did nothing!
Fearful that this incident would begin a campaign of
terror, the mine owners demanded that County Sheriff H. M. Robertson
appoint additional deputies, whom the mine owners would select and
pay. They also asked him to petition Governor Peabody for troops,
certifying that he could not control conditions in Teller County.
Robertson met the first demand but rejected the second.
In a telegram of September 2 to the governor they blamed
the W.F.M. for the troubles in the district. They described Robertson
as "incapable of handling the situation" and asked for troops
to preserve order, protect property, and prevent a "reign of
terror." F. D. French, Mayor of Victor, supported the petition
with several followup telegrams which demanded that troops be sent
immediately to restrain an armed body of men who are threatening lives
Investigations in the Cripple Creek District
Despite his strong inclination to honor the request, Peabody hesitated.
On September 3, the Governor appointed General Case, Attorney General
Miller, and Lieutenant McClelland of the National Guard to investigate
conditions in the Cripple Creek District. They arrived in Victor and
conferred with leading businessmen and mine owners. These included
Mayor French and former Mayor Franklin, who feared they would be assassinated.
All the witnesses agreed that troops were necessary.
Lots of activity in front of the Mining Stock Exchange
Offices in Cripple Creek
Around midnight the investigators went to Cripple Creek
where they heard the views of Sheriff Robertson, Mayor Shockey, businessmen
and mine owners. Robertson, who admitted being an inactive member
of the W.F.M. was the only witness to oppose military intervention.
He claimed that he could control the district, unless mining was resumed
Reign of Terror
The Governor's investigators failed to interview union supporters.
With the exception of Robertson and Shockey, all the witnesses were
members of the Mine Owners Association. Having gone through the motions
of an investigation in the middle of the night, the investigators
left for Denver at 4 am. Upon reaching Colorado Springs, they wired
the governor that after a "careful inquiry among representative
citizens and property owners," they had concluded that a "reign
of terror" prevailed in the district which threatened lives and
property. The situation was critical and required prompt action by
On September 4, 1903 Peabody ordered troops into the district. At
the end of September, nearly 1,000 uniformed men were guarding the
principle mines, and patrolling public roads. A number of factors
prompted Peabody's intervention. He concluded that the leadership
of militant unions was lawless and their methods and goals were un-American.
In his opinion, the strike of the W.F.M. in the Cripple Creek District
was unjust and reflected neither the wishes nor the needs of the miners.
Consequently, he felt compelled to use the power of the state in protecting
lives and property, while upholding the right of every man to work
unmolested. As far as he was concerned, union membership neither endowed
the working man with special privileges nor made him less amenable
to the law than his non-union counterpart.
The Denver Alliance
It soon became clear that the civil authorities and large numbers
of people in the district did not favor the governor's intervention.
The county commissioners condemned the action. Sheriff Robertson said
publicly, "Peabody has exceeded his authority in sending troops."
As one would expect, the mine owners, and other employers' associations,
like the Denver Alliance, came to Peabody's defense. Anticipating
large scale violence when mining resumed with non-union labor, these
groups approved of Peabody's decision to prevent it.
But, let's be honest, a peaceful reopening was not the
only thing the mine owners had in mind. They had concluded that permanent
peace in the district was impossible as long as the W.F.M. maintained
a foothold there.
In a statement on September 8, the mine owners declared
war upon the W.F.M.
"...We pledge to continue to fight
against the W.F.M. until its pernicious influence has been swept from
the district... anyone wanting employment in the mines will have to
quit the union."
The mine owners had claimed that the many men who quit
work at the order of the federation did so unwillingly, and obeyed
through fear and not through sympathy. It seemed that they were correct;
within two months fully 2500 men were at work in about half the mines.
Less than 200 of them were imported strikebreakers.
Terrorism in the Cripple Creek District
During September, October, and November there were many assaults,
beatings and attempted murders, efforts to wreck trains and electric
cars, accompanied by threats of assassinations and intimidation of
wives and families of non-union men through midnight visitations and
Cripple Creek - Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad
On November 11, an attempt was made to wreck a train
carrying a large number of non-union workers. Three nights later an
attempt was made to roll another train down a 300 foot embankment.
Mr. McKinney was caught in the act, but was later acquitted by a jury
selected by union sheriff Robertson.
Cripple Creek District Labor Strikes:
| The Western Federation of Miners / State
| The 1893 - 1894 Strike | The
Strike of 1903 - 1904 |
| The Mine Owners Association |
| Crimes and Military Rule in the Cripple
Creek District |
| Marshall Law in Cripple Creek District
/ End of the Strike |
Early Cripple Creek District
| Photos, Fire, and Life in Cripple Creek
| Other Colorful Towns in the Cripple Creek
Gillett - Colorado's Only Bullfight, Victor, Independence |
| A Guide to the Miners' Gritty Lingo
Back to the top of page
- Colorado History In Depth
Lecture Notes, Reading, and Information:
| The Cheyenne Migration
to Colorado |
| The Gratlan Affair, Massacre, Fort Laramie
The Cheyenne Social Club
| A Cheyenne War Story: Wolf Road, the Runner
| Cheyenne Traditions and Beliefs, Sacred
| Horses, Warriors, War Pipe, Sweatlodge
| Cheyenne War Parties and Battle Tactics
| The Scalp Dance and Other Cheyenne Dances
| The Sante Fe Trail and Fort Union |
| Sumner - Ninth Military Department / The
First Fort Union |
| Early Arrivals to Fort Union, Daily Life
at Fort Union |
| Captain Grover - The New Fort Union, the
Confederate Threat |
| Fort Union Arsenal, William Shoemaker,
End of Fort Union |
Americans from the East
| Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase
| The Expedition of Zebulon Pike |
| Pikes Peak or Bust / Colorado Gold Rush
Colorado's Role in the US Civil
| The Civil War, Fort Wise / Fort Lyon
| Mace's Hole, Colonel Canby, F.C.V.R.
| Fort Weld |
| The Pet Lambs, John Chivington |
| General Henry Sibly, Battle of Valverde,
Fort Union |
More Colorado History
| Bent's Fort Photos, Personalities, Plans,
and More |
| What Was Easter Like at Bent's Fort?
| Colorado Trivia,
Miscellaneous Old Photos,
Western Personalities, Forts, and More |
| Lullabies for Jittery Cows - Cowboy Ballads
| Heraldry of the Branding Iron |
Aims to Clear Infamous Cannibal, Alferd Packer |
| Lead Gives Alferd
Packer's Story More Weight |
Colorado Love Stories: Baby Doe Tabor & More
| Colorado Pioneer Women: Elizabeth Byers
| Early Denver Jokes / The History of April
Fools' Day |
Back to the top of page