Post written (c) Doris McCraw
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.
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
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
I’ve had two stories from anthologies released as singles. Enjoy!