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On dynamite duty

SOPRIS — Dynamite! Coal miners knew how to use it against the mine operations and against the strikebreakers during the 1913-14 coal miners strike in southern Colorado. Tony Lanzowski’s testimony during the congressional investigation told how he used it. This 21-year-old received $3 a week from the union strike fund, plus $2 a night for committing dynamite outrages, and later $3 a day as a secret spy for the Sopris marshal, who was actually a Colorado Fuel & Iron company employee. Tony said he and six others in the Sopris tent colony, where the strikers lived, were picked for dynamite duty. He mostly fired the explosive on the open prairie and in the hills to scare the strikebreakers and to keep “the guards on the run.” Whenever a trainload of strikebreakers came in, the dynamite crew would set off dynamite around the train and around the camp. The next morning there would be an influx of strikebreakers into the union tent colony to join the miners union. Dynamiting went on for six weeks, every night. Tony said three men asked him to blow up bridges. He refused because bridges were guarded. If the explosive crew ran out of dynamite, they put cartridges on the Trinidad street car tracks and the resulting explosions kept the guards on the run. Even if Tony refused to blow up bridges, some 11 were blown up by others. If the coal companies could not ship out their coal, their profits would be hurt. In Huerfano County wire and dynamite were seen at the Denver Rio and Grande bridge near Oakview. The result was a shattered bridge. Five strikers were questioned about the burning of a 500-foot trestle at Rouse on the DR&G railroad. Investigators found tracks from the tent colony at Mayne, tracks made by the shoes of the accused. Tar was found under the bridge and tar was found on the way to the tents and in the tents. But by the beginning of 1914, the general feeling was that the strike was about over, some of the Colorado National Guard was sent home and events were quieter. No one knew the worst was yet to come. Information is from the Pueblo Chieftain of Feb. 28, 1914, March 4, 5, 7 and 14, 1914; from the Nov. 14, 1914, Denver Times; and from the book, ‘Blood Passion.’

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