LUDLOW — At 28 he was too young to die. Clubbed on the head and shot in the back. Shot while trying to help the two sides in the coal miner strike work out their differences. “The Greek” Louis Tikas was a United Mine Workers’ union organizer, second in command at the Ludlow tent colony. The plan was to avoid violence but, as Scott Martelle wrote in his book Blood Passion, “controlling hundreds of idle, armed men was a hopeless task.” Lt. Karl Linderfelt of the Colorado National Guard and Tikas had scrapped four months earlier. The Lieutenant, when angry, flew into a rage over a mishap and threatened to kill Tikas. The officer also “slugged an uninvolved teen-aged boy in front of handful of witnesses, then denied (it)…” Linderfelt repeatedly told the strikers that he was “Jesus Christ” and that “his was the word of God.” Ludlow tent colony had a large Greek population. Many were veterans of the Balkan wars in their homeland, had high-powered rifles and were expert
marksmen. They did not take kindly to the mine guards shooting at the colony or to the present untrained National Guard soldiers, by April few in number. In fact Linderfelt had recruited mine guards to put on the National Guard uniform. On April 19 one hundred years ago, the Greek Orthodox church held a feast and baseball game at Ludlow in honor of Easter. Four soldiers came to watch the game, bringing rifles and making threats. Those four soldiers were sent the next day to Ludlow to find a man whose wife claimed her husband was kept against his will in the tents. Tikas was called to the headquarters to see about the matter. Tikas assured the soldiers that the man was not in the camp, plus he explained, the military no longer had authority in the camp as most of the regular soldiers had been withdrawn. Although Tikas was known as a calming influence between the strikers and the militia, partly because he could speak English and Greek, the remaining militia became suspicious something was going to happen between the strikers and militia. In fact the militia moved a machine gun to a hill near the Ludlow tents just to be prepared. They had seen enough of the scurrying around among the tents. In turn, the strikers could see military activity. It was almost like giving two little boys sticks and telling them not to hit one another. You can likely predict what will happen next. Tikas again stepped into his role as mediator. He told the striking miners to stay in the colony while he contacted the military commander; the two agreed to meet at the Ludlow train depot. Without Tikas in the tents, worried strikers took their rifles and began to leave the colony. Women and children began to scatter to safety. Now this worried the military onlookers even more. Tikas waved a white handkerchief and ran back to the tents. The soldiers took positions not only on the hill with the machine gun, but also along the railroad track south of the tents. The strikers were east and north. The militia took Tikas and James Fyler, union secretary and paymaster, to the edge of the tent colony. Lt. Linderfelt argued with Tikas, finally swinging his rifle by the barrel, striking Tikas’s head and breaking the gunstock. Linderfelt left as Tikas lay on the ground. Other soldiers fired three bullets into Tikas’ back as he was on the ground. Fyler was shot in the head. Their bodies were left along the railroad tracks for two or three days until the train passengers complained. More of the Ludlow massacre will be described next week. Information is from Scott Martelle’s book Blood Passion, and from the Trinidad Chronicle News of Oct. 9, 1913. To hear a man speak about Tikas, access “Louis Tikas YouTube.” Last fall a Greek crew filmed scenes in Southern Colorado and in Greece for a Tikas documentary. It was released this month in Greece. The Huerfano County Historical Society is trying to get a copy.