Contact Us

Ludlow: how to pay the militia and disarm strikers

Now with the Southern Colorado coal strike seven weeks old by Nov. 14, 100 years ago, routines were established but not everyone was satisfied.
It was the second week since the Colorado National Guard troops had arrived. Their pay was foremost on their minds – $2 a day for the first 20 days and $1 a day after – with food, supplies and clothing provided (except the last item was not often available). 
Mrs. W. S. Lowry, the wife of a soldier serving in Walsen, told Gen John Chase that she and her two children in northern Colorado were practically destitute and needed her husband home. He apparently had deserted the family to enlist with the Guard.
To complicate matters Roady Kenehan, state auditor and union supporter, refused to let the state go into debt to pay the militia. He was finally forced into paying the troops. Even then he refused to go to the Guard’s camps to pay the men; the soldiers had to travel to him in Trinidad or Walsenburg during harsh winter conditions.
Some had horses for travel; the cavalry was keeping the peace at Rouse, Lester and Pryor south of Walsenburg.
Troops were really cheered, however, when they arrived at the Ludlow tent colony for peace keeping between the striking miners and the mine guards. There was a suspicion the militia’s welcome was staged to throw them off guard. The strikers, carrying picks and drills and other mining tools, and wives and children marched to meet the troops in two lines, carrying flags and waving handkerchiefs and singing. The troops doffed their hats in acknowledgement.
Because disarming both the strikers and the mine guards was crucial to keeping violence down, everyone was ordered to turn in their arms. Here at Ludlow, the strikers turned in about 14 mostly old guns and one pop gun. It had been known earlier that at least 600 guns were in the camp and probably many more. Two days later, the National Guard was still trying to get the strikers’ firearms.
Gen. Chase declared he would use force to compel the strikers to comply with the order to turn in weapons.
He added, “I believe that the situation is as satisfactory as could be expected. I think the leaders of the strikers are doing their utmost to compel the men to give up their weapons.”
John Lawson, Colorado union official and leader of the strike efforts, had insisted the strikers would give up their arms only if mine guards and company detectives would give up theirs. In return, Gov. Elias Ammons had promised that strike breakers would be kept out of the strike district.
The weapons of strikers and company mine guards in the Walsenburg area were being gathered into the military camp situated near the railroad tracks on West Sixth. In Trinidad, for every mine guard removed from mine property, two militiamen were stationed in his place.
Although the promise was made that strike breakers would not be allowed in, 30 men had been brought in by railroad to work in the Walsen mine. Gen. Chase said the men were Pueblo steelworkers who had been transferred to Walsen to mine the coal so were not really strike breakers. But one shot had been fired in protest of the new men, and a shot returned, with one man wounded slightly in the side.
Gen. Chase, while he was in Walsenburg, provided a military escort for about 50 miners and their families to the Jackson (also known as Larrimore), Strong and Sunnyside mines along Colorado 69 to Gardner. The men wanted to return to work in the mines.
Chase himself disarmed one striker in Walsenburg who had a Kansas National Guard Springfield rifle – which led to an investigation into how he got it.
Many Walsenburg families were reacting as this family did, told by Anna Lucero about her miner father, in a 1980 interview with Roz McCain:
“And, you know, my dad, he didn’t want to quit working. He kept on working, kept on working, and my mother kept on telling him to quit working, to quit working. No, he thought it was just fun (the shooting), you know. It wasn’t anything serious, until he got a letter, and this letter was a black hand letter telling my dad that if he didn’t quit working, his house and his family were in danger. And then my mother said, ‘You’re not going to work anymore.’ So then is when he quit working. And they went to the farm because my dad, in the winter time he came to town (to work in the mine), and the summertime we all went to the ranch (most miners were out of work in the summer). We had a farm, and we went there.”
The illustration above is a pass from Col. Edward Verdeckburg, the militia commander in Walsenburg, to allow S.M. Andrews to pass through the guard lines unless otherwise ordered. S. M. Andrews, a Walsenburg teacher, coach and, later, school superintendent, was writing for the Rocky Mt. News and the Denver Times.
This pass is pasted on the back of a scrapbook page framed in the Re-1 school administration office.
Information for this article is from Nov.1, 3 and 6, 1913, Trinidad Chronicle-News; and from the 1980 oral history project.