Coal workers sufferedby
next time you travel north toward Denver, take a break at the Ludlow Exit just
north of Trinidad, Colo.|
A good paved road leads west about two miles
to the huge and educational Ludlow Massacre Monument. I promise an interesting
On this spot on April 20, 1914, 20 people, including two women
and 13 children, died during violence associated with a coal mine strike. All
were shot or consumed by fire when the strikers' tent community came under fire
by a mining company and Colorado Militia machine guns.
Earlier, on Sept.
23, 1913, 9,000 miners walked out of the company-owned camp. They settled in tent
cities located on private land. They were protesting poor mine safety conditions,
low wages of $1.68 per 10-hour day, being forced to use company-owned stores with
inflated prices, company controlled schools and churches. The song "Sixteen Tons"
by Tennessee Ernie Ford described the conditions protested.
& Iron and other coal and steel companies were owned by John D. Rockefeller, who
became the most despised man in America. All of these conditions were eventually
improved, but only after being forced by federal or state laws and after extreme
suffering by the mine workers and their families.
Originally, the Colorado
areas where the coal formations existed were thinly settled. As the coal and steel
industry grew, thousands of workers were brought in from all over the world.
1900, two-thirds of the 9,000 workers were immigrants from Europe, and approximately
16 percent were Hispanic. In all, 32 nationalities were represented on the company
payrolls with 27 different languages spoken. Since a large percentage of workers
could not speak English, communication was difficult, further complicating negotiation.
The fatality rate in these Colorado mines was three times the national
average and was caused by poor safety conditions, poor ventilation, disobedience
of the law, and criminal negligence of the mine operators. Only after several
mine disasters did the state crack down on violators.
Time and again the
national unions tried to organize the coal mine workers but company-hired thugs
and strike-breakers using spies among the workers plus constantly changing company
rules kept the unions at bay.
Life in the camps was depressing, exhausting
and dangerous much of the time. Other times it was tedious, somewhat enjoyable
but heart-wrenching as neighbors tired to help neighbors during hard times and
As we travel daily about the country today, it's hard to believe
that many coal people spent their entire lives within a five-mile radius of the
mine where they worked. Most of us have never experienced personal violence or
watched violent death of friends and family like these miners.
you to call up The Ludlow Massacre on your computer or read the book titled "Coal
People" by Rick J. Clyne to learn about these important historical events happening
close to home and which eventually changed American history.
in mind, many of these immigrants, both Anglo and Hispanic, were fleeing from
the same type of exploitation and violence in their own respective home countries.
They were already a tough and hardy bunch.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" February
12, 2007 column
Delbert Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He
can be reached at 806-779-3164, by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail
at email@example.com. For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears