FORBES — The Forbes mine, the Forbes coal camp where the miners lived, and the Forbes tent colony, where the strikers lived – all were hot spots during the 1913-14 coal field war. In fact, some of the strike’s earliest violence took place at Forbes. Both Ludlow and Forbes, just four miles south of Ludlow, were key spots for watching the railroad traffic and the two canyons leading to the mines of Delagua, Hastings, Berwind and Tobasco. On Oct. 17, 1913, less than a month after the strike was called, shooting began at Forbes, probably first from the hills above the mine. Strikers shot at the mine tipple to cripple the structure used to transfer the coal into railroad cars. Mine guards fired back. Leaving the tents, women and
children ran to a stone ranch house for safety. Forbes mine officials called to Trinidad for help from the sheriff’s office. Ten mounted deputies arrived on the train (a railroad spur led to Forbes from the main line). And then the Death Special made an appearance. An armored car with a machine gun mounted on the back, it had just been built. It was sometimes called the Battleship because it was V-shaped front and back. This time it carried mine guards in addition to the gun and ammunition. Stopped about 100 yards away from the tents, the gun shot some 600 bullets into the tent colony. It took a winter storm to stop the shooting, but by then one man was dead and at least two wounded. Horses were victims too. The day after the shooting, the Pathe-Freres movie photographer took film of women digging trenches for protection. It may have been a staged movie with the women, but the men did dig trenches. Gov. Elias Ammons and Edward Doyle, the union’s secretary-treasurer in Denver, conferred. Doyle felt the governor was at a loss and did not know what to do. Later he did send the Colorado National Guard to the strike zone in the first week of November. In Walsenburg, trains carrying possible strike breakers were searched by striking miners and any working men taken to union headquarters in the tent colony at the head of Fifth street. Mother Jones, the fiery strike leader, organized some 4,000 men, women and children from the strikers’ camps to march in Trinidad singing the battle song of the union. She put the women and children at the front, then the men and at the end, hundreds of women pushing baby buggies. At the finish of the march, she addressed the crowd. All of this was to impress Gov. Ammons who was in town for a fact-finding mission after the Forbes outbreak. In March 1914, six months after the strike began, the few National Guard troops left in the field rode through the Forbes tent colony, imprisoning the 16 men in camp and destroying every tent. One woman, Emma Zanetell, had newborn twins but she was put out of her tent; the babies sickened and died. The excuse for the raid was that a man was believed to have been murdered nearby. Then came April 20 and the Ludlow massacre with women and children as victims; everyone knew the rage in the Forbes area would erupt again. The families in the Forbes mine camp (not the tent camp) hid in the mine for protection; the men built a rock wall in front of the mine entrance. The camp searchlight and machine gun were ready. Numbers vary, but more than 100 strikers marched on Forbes. Rifle shots came from the strikers and machine gun bullets from the mine guards, who ran out of ammunition and moved out. The strikers moved in, focusing on burning mine buildings including the mine office, the tipple, the boiler house, and a boarding house. The mule barn burned with the mules still inside. Ten mine guards and strike breakers, and one striker were known to have died. The photo is of a Colorado National Guard camp from the Ludlow exhibit of the Walsenburg Mining Museum. The photo was donated by Richard and Betty Ridge. Information is from the Trinidad News-Chronicle of Oct. 22 and 27, 1913; from the Denver Express of Oct. 20, 1913; Pueblo Chieftain of Oct. 18, 1913; Blood Passion by Scott Martelle; and Killing for Coal by Thomas G. Andrews.