Contact Us

Ludlow- Will unrebuked outlaws attack?

FORBES — It was becoming evident in the spring of 1914 that the Colorado National Guard and the coal company officers were ready to eliminate the tent colonies after six months into the coal miner strike. The tent colonies, especially in Las Animas county, were centers for the strikers’ planning and training for what was called the armed revolt. Therefore, the thinking went, let’s get rid of the tents. Karl Linderfelt, in charge of the National Guard detachment around Ludlow, said the tension of the extended strike duty was wearing on both the strikers and the militia. Remember the Linderfelt name because he figures in the later Ludlow massacre. Fear played a part in the tensions. The few remaining soldiers left in the strike zone were now outnumbered by strikers, and the soldiers feared a mass attack. Money worries added to the mix of feelings. The strike had cost the state more than half-a-million dollars – all borrowed money. Pay periods for the soldiers were uncertain. The union strikers found the union money was running low. On the other hand, the coal companies still had many miners working, especially outside of the strike zone, and still had money coming in. The memory of what had happened at the Forbes tent colony March 10 was fresh in miners’ minds. Neil Smith’s body (he was a strike breaker) was found near the Forbes tent colony, apparently beaten to death, and the body placed on the Colorado and Southern railroad tracks. The National Guard General John Chase ordered 16 men arrested at Forbes. And then he had the soldiers tear down the tents – the only homes the Forbes strikers’ families had. The editor of the Trinidad Free Press, a union newspaper, wrote “Will Ludlow be the next to suffer?… Will these unrebuked outlaws next attack some other law-abiding band of citizens?” Two troops remained in southern Colorado. Company A, made up of mine guards, pit bosses, mine superintendents, mine clerks was obviously not neutral. Company E was formed after the following events in March and April. In mid-April in La Veta, a striking miner named Swanson Oleen was shot and killed by Everett Lively, a mine owner’s detective, in Pete Lage’s saloon, reported the Walsenburg World. In mid-March, dynamite was planted at the home of David Muir in Walsenburg, pit boss at the Walsen mine. Muir had continued to work throughout the strike and his two sons had returned to work after having quit when the strike was first called. The explosion blew out the front of the home on “Seventeenth street” (Seventh street?), the Boulder Daily Camera reported. No one was home at the time. After these disturbances and with most of the militia gone home, local citizens were asked to volunteer as members of the militia. At Walsen mine 41 men enlisted, some employees of the coal company. These men were to remain at their usual occupations but stand in readiness to answer the call of the governor or of the state or of the county authorities in the event of outlawry. The good aspect was that the state would not have the expense of keeping these men because they would continue their usual work until called upon by the sheriff. Then the state would be required to pay for the actual time away from their businesses. They would be known as Company E. Full equipment was to be issued to the recruits including uniforms, saddles, side arms, and rifles. Drills were to start at once under the direction of trained instructors and then the men would elect their officers. These men joined up four days before the Ludlow massacre of April 20, 1914. The photo is of the Ludlow tent colony, which had some 1200 persons at the time of highest population. Photo courtesy of Trinidad State Junior College library. Information is from these books: Out of the Depths by Barron Beshoar, The Great Coalfield War by George McGovern and Leonard Guttridge, Blood Passion by Scott Martelle, and the newspapers, Walsenburg World of April 16, 1914 and Boulder Daily Camera of March 21, 1914.