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Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Colorado History

- 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 last degree."

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 district.

Assay office in Cripple Creek
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 and property.

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.

Mining Stock Exchange Office, Cripple Creek
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 with strikebreakers.

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 the state.

Peabody's Intervention
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 warnings.

Cripple Creek Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad
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 Militia |
| 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 District:
Gillett - Colorado's Only Bullfight, Victor, Independence
| A Guide to the Miners' Gritty Lingo |

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- Colorado History In Depth -
Lecture Notes, Reading, and Information:

| The Cheyenne Migration to Colorado |
| The Gratlan Affair, Massacre, Fort Laramie Treaty |

The Cheyenne Social Club
| A Cheyenne War Story: Wolf Road, the Runner |
| Cheyenne Traditions and Beliefs, Sacred Stories |
| Horses, Warriors, War Pipe, Sweatlodge Ceremony |
| Cheyenne War Parties and Battle Tactics |
| The Scalp Dance and Other Cheyenne Dances |

Fort Union
| 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 War
| 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 Information
| 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 |
| Project Aims to Clear Infamous Cannibal, Alferd Packer |
Lead Gives Alferd Packer's Story More Weight |
| Legendary Colorado Love Stories: Baby Doe Tabor & More |
| Colorado Pioneer Women: Elizabeth Byers |
| Early Denver Jokes / The History of April Fools' Day |

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Highlands Ranch High School 9375 South Cresthill Lane Highlands Ranch, Colorado 80126 303-471-7000

Mr. Sedivy's History Classes
| Colorado History | American Government | Advanced Placement Modern European History | Rise of Nation State England | World History |
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