Post written (c) Doris McCraw

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For those in the United States, September 5, 2015 is the celebration of Labor Day. For many it’s the last hurrah of summer, the time to get the last camping trip in. For others it’s a day of food, fun and in Colorado Springs, the balloon lift-off.

WEEKEND BLUES

According to the Department of Labor website: Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

On that same website they talk about the legislation: Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history

AGATE GU;CH

I share this in preface to the Labor War in Cripple Creek/Victor Colorado of 1903-4. Here then is a bit about labor and one event with ‘Just the Facts‘ as they used to say in the show ‘Dragnet‘.

On June 6, 1904, twenty-seven non-union miners, having finished their shift, were waiting at the train depot at Independence, Colorado. This depot near the Independence mine, had a 2:15 am train that would take these men home. Just prior to the trains arrival an explosion ripped through the platform, killing thirteen of the men and wounding six.

Those are the facts of the incident, they can’t be disputed. Nothing can change the outcome of that night. While fiction writers can use the event as a starting point, historians have to work with ‘just the facts’. But those facts can and have opened a can of worms when trying to make sense of what and why it happened. The facts and events leading up to and after the tragedy are murky at best.

In 1903-04 the Cripple Creek-Victor, Colorado mining district was going through the throes of yet another ‘labor war’. Ten years earlier the miners had won the right to an eight-hour, day with a wage $3.00 per said day. This strike started out as with the miners striking in sympathy for their ‘brother’ workers at the smelters in Colorado City, Colorado.

Events leading up to the explosion had been building almost two years with no resolution between the mine owners and the striking miners. The owners had brought in non-union workers to work the mines and break the union. After the explosion on June 6, the sheriff at the time investigated the incident, but before he could act he was removed from office by the Mine Owners Association (MOA) and the Citizen Alliance (CA). Some people believe he was removed due to his sympathy to the miners. The MOA and CA, it is said, believed he could not be an impartial. This action eventually lead to a riot in the streets of Victor which added a more to the total killed or wounded. In this strike the mine owners won, and the union labor lost. The opposite results from the 1894 strike.
Some historians think the CA and MOA planted the bomb to bring about the outcome that occurred. There is evidence that this may have been the case.

There are others who believe that the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) planted the bomb to get back at the non-union workers. Evidence shows this also may have been the case.

Historians need to weigh the facts, look at the sources. Even with all the ‘facts’ they may never get a definitive answer. The writer has the luxury of choosing a side and then proceed to tell the story.

There may never be an answer to this set of ‘facts’. Too many years and lost information make an answer an impossibility. We as writers and storytellers may use these ‘facts’ and create a story that might be closer to the truth. In the meantime, the historians are stuck with “just the facts”.

Labor Day, it can mean a lot, or just another holiday. Neither is wrong, but a bit of history never hurts.

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at – http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com and has now passed one thousand haiku and photos posted on this blog. Check out her other work or like her Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL

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18 Responses to

  1. Kathleen says:

    Once again you’ve presented a fascinating peek at a little-known (at least in Texas 😉 ) historical happening. Are you planning to base a story on this unfortunate series of events?

    Like

  2. Gayle Irwin says:

    Interesting and educational post, Doris! I never ceased to be amazed how people can accept killing others as a form of getting their way, whichever “way” that leads. When I think of the advantage some hold over others (whether adult labor, child labor, or slave labor), I shudder. Thankfully, much of such horrible actions have been eliminated, at least in this country, but… thank you for sharing your wonderful historical knowledge in tribute to laborers everywhere!

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    • Doris says:

      Like you Gayle, I am appalled at what we did and do to our fellow man. I guess I hope by sharing history we may stall or stop repeating it.
      Thank you for your insights. Doris

      Like

  3. I never think much of Labor Day or the meaning behind it, sadly. Usually, I end up working anyway (as I did today). Thanks for an informative and insightful post about the meaning behind Labor Day and what the miners had to endure in the early 1900s, Doris. By the way, I’d leave to see the balloon lift-off in Colorado Springs! I didn’t know they did that.

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    • Doris says:

      Sarah, I worked also. Of course it was to help visitors to our area, so it’s a cool job. I’m glad you found the information useful. I guess, like I told Gayle, I don’t want to see it repeated if possible.

      The lift off is pretty cool. They’ve been doing if for some time now. Usually only about 40 or so balloons, due to the small space the lift off from, but it is so cool. The balloon glow at night is also pretty spectatular. Doris

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mike Staton says:

    Like many of us who write for the Writing Wranglers & Warriors, I’ve been alive long enough to see the Union movement wither away and virtually die — and many in the Middle Class cheered its demise. It’s amazing how we can shoot ourselves in the foot and complain that we don’t dance very well anymore. My Grandpa Frog, my mom’s father, was a Union president for the local salt-workers union at his plant in NE Ohio. My Grandmother Mid’s sister lived next door to the Union Hall where workers met back in the 1950s and 1960s. Over the years I’ve heard people blame Unions for plant closing and/or the movement of operations to foreign lands. The corporate bigwigs… they somehow always escape any culpability.

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    • Doris says:

      Mike, like you I’ve lived to see these major changes. While unions weren’t perfect there was a lot they did to help the lower and middle class have livable wages. Spread the wealth was part of their cry. The bigwigs in Cripple Creek had their day. *Sigh* Doris

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  5. Wranglers says:

    I had looked up Labor Day and did a bit of research, so your blog fell right in sync with what I had discovered. Strikes can get to be very scary. If you value life and limb it’s best not to cross a picket line. This was interesting. Thanks Doris. Cher’ley

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    • Doris says:

      Glad you liked the post. Sometimes I try to add a bit of the human history to holidays. This one just happened to fit with events in Colorado’s past. Doris

      Like

  6. Wranglers says:

    I loved the balloon photo. My ordeal with a balloon festival in Tucson, AZ was another story. LOL Cher’ley

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  7. Nancy Jardine says:

    That was great reading, Doris. I knew the basic principles of Labor Day but had never read about the railway platform incident. Such happenings do tend to be seen as having very sinister origins. I hope you a had a wonderful Labor Day holiday.

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    • Doris says:

      Thank you Nancy. It’s interesting that Labor Day has become a day of Labor for many. Of course, if there is history involved, I want to share it, even if there is no answer to the puzzle of said history.

      Hope you have been enjoying the trip to the US and of course the wedding. Have a safe trip home. Doris

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  8. Very interesting Nancy. Thank you for sharing the information. Scary times in the early days. I remember in my late teens K-Mart striking and some harsh words and even fights to those who crossed the picket lines. That was a long strike and it really affected our lives as K-Mart was the only big store in our area!

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    • Doris says:

      Thank you Linda. As I memtioned in my response to Nancy’s comment, if there is history involved, I want to share it. Strikes can be peaceful or tragic. So many variables. Doris

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  9. S J Brown says:

    Interesting bit of history. Thanks for sharing. I guess you could say I worked on labor day. I had my camera in my hands most of the day.

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    • Doris says:

      S J, to my mind the only way to go through the day is with a camera, when I’m out of course. I’m glad you enjoyed the history. I confess, I do love history. *Smile* Doris

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