This will be a multi-part series showcasing the Industrial Worker coverage of the IWW Colorado Miners Strike and subsequent Columbine Mine Massacre. This will be followed by original reporting on the strike and massacre.
This first section will be a mix of the original list of those dead and injured printed in the December 3rd, 1927 issue of the Industrial Worker mixed with images and information we could find about these Fellow Workers.
LIST OF VICTIMS SHOT DOWN AT DAY BREAK BY MOB OF FIENDS AND THUGS
Six Miners Dead, Their Lives Instantly Snapped Out by Murderous Ghouls as the Strikers Assembled For Peaceful Meeting.
When stopped by the band of murderous ghouls under the command of Louis Scherf of the State “Law Enforcement Squad,” the strikers said: “We are only coming to talk to our working brothers. We just want to talk to the men at work who don’t understand the strike or what it’s for.” But the “law enforcers” opened fire with machine guns and kept up the rain of death for fifteen minutes. Then they denied permission to the strikers to remove some of their wounded and brutally dragged many of the bleeding strikers into the mine buildings. Later they were removed to the hospital.
Following is a partial list of those dead and wounded:
JERRY DAVIS, 24, of Frederick, single, died of wound in head. Born in 1906, buried in a joint ceremony with George Kovitch, services officiated Rev. Boner, pastor of the Lafayette Methodist church and a Greek priest of Denver. Jerry was actually 20 years old.
JOHN EASTENES, 34, of Morrison mine, Lafayette, married and father of six children; died of wounds in both breasts. Born in 1893 in Pennsylvania. Son of Steve Eastenes, husband of Bertha L Eleck, father of Joe, Russell, Thomas, and Ethel. The first to die and be buried. His son Tom recalls the day it happened, his mother urged his father to stay. Tom said he most remembers the sirens. “One of the miners stopped me in the street and asked my last name. He told me my father was dead.” (Denver Post, June 11, 1989) See below for reporting on Fellow Worker Eastenes funeral. Lot 244N Spc 238 at the Lafayette Cemetery in Lawfayette, Colorado.
NICK SPANUDAKHIS, 38, of Morrison mine, Lafayette, single; died of wounds in both shoulders. Born in 1893. Buried in a ceremony that was a blend of ancient Greece and pioneer American ritual, three thousand attended, a cousin from Walsenburg sat alone in the front row, Thanksgiving Day.
RAY JACQUES, 24, of Louisville, shot in stomach, died in Longmont Hospital at 5:30 pm Born January 27th, 1901, son of Frank and Anna Jacques, Block 14, Lot 4, Space 1 at the Louisville Cemetery in Louisville, Colorado. Serviced held at the Bedman hall in Louisville.
GEORGE KOVITCH, 25, Ertie, single, died in the Longmont Hospital at 8:15 pm of bullet wounds in stomach. Born 1885, Lot 244N Spc 266 at the Lafayette Cemetery in Lafayette, Colorado. Buried in a joint ceremony with Jerry Davis.
REESE who died in office of Dr. CW Bixler at Erie.
LOUIS SAKRADIJE, 32 years old, Erie, wounded in right shoulder.
CLAYMON JACQUES, 26 years old, single, Louisville, abdominal wound, condition critical.
GEORGE MEZZINI, 42 years old, Erie, shot in left arm.
TOM MILO, 35 years old, single, Broomfield, abdominal would, condition dangerous.
CLAUDE BRIERLY, 26 years old, Frederick, single shot in left leg.
JAMES BRANDON, 32, Lafayette, shot in right leg.
ORLANDO HERRERA, 31 years old, married, Lafayette, wounded in right arm and side.
P. TRIVPOPICK, 37 years old, Erie, single, head wound.
CHARLES PAPPAS, 40 years old, Frederick, shot in thigh, back and left shoulder.
JOHN SPAROS, 32 years old, Marshall, wounded in right leg.
PALMENIRO FERREA, 37 years old, Louisville, single, shot in right leg.
AL REYES 44 years old, Lafayette, married, skin wounds, superficial
JOHN FVAUCIUI, 46 years old, Erie, singe, shot in left side.
MIKE VIDOVICH, 35 years old, Erie, shot thru both legs; will die. (Later report says he is dead). Born in 1892.
CARL NELSON, 20 years old, single, Canfield, shot in right hip.
GEORGE GUERGEFF, 30 years old, Lafayette; condition critical.
RC Nelson, 28 years old, Longmont, shot in right leg
ADAM BELL, IWW strike leader; badly beaten
CC MORRISON, 61 years old, Superior; shot in right arm and left leg
MRS. MARY MORRISON, 28 years old, shot in pelvis; condition serious
Mr. and Mrs. Morrison are in the Boulder Community hospital. Bell is under arrest. All the other injured in the foregoing list are in the Longmont hospital. Many others are said to have been taken to their homes.
MRS. JOSEPH BERANEK. Lafayette, mother of sixteen children, was badly bruised. She was clubbed by officers while she was using herself as a shield for Adam Bell.
Other Injured reported at Lafayette are:
JOHN K U?CKA
IMPRESSIVE CEREMONY GIVEN AT FUNERAL OF JOHN EASTENES ONE OF THE MINERS KILLED BY THUGS
By Charles Jacobs
LAFAYETTE, Colo. Nov. 23. — Fellow Worker John Eastenes was laid at rest in the Lafayette cemetery today. Services were conducted by Rev. J.H. Boner of Lafayette at the union hall. As friends and fellow workers passed by the casket music was rendered on a piano. Then they marched four abreast from the hall to the grave, about three thousand in the march.
The pastor read a few verses of the bible; then Fellow Worker H.C. Duke read from the IWW song book, quoting Helen Keller, as follows:
“For my part, I sympathize with them. While they are threatened and imprisoned, I am manacled. If they are denied a living wage, I, too, am defrauded. While they are industrial slaves I cannot go free. My hunger is not satisfied while they are hindered and neglected. When they are flung out on a desert under a scorching sun, I, too, burn, and my soul is athirst. When one of them is dragged from a bed and hung to a railroad trestle, a great horror of darkness falls upon my spirit, and from the depths of my heart I cry out against those who persecute the weak and in the march.”
Then followed the last verse and the chorus of “The Commonwealth of Toil”:
“When our cause is all triumphant
And we claim our Mother Earth,
And the nightmare of the present fades away
We shall live with Love and Laughter,
We, who now are little worth,
And we will not regret the price we have to pay
“But we have a glowing dream
Of how fair the world will seem
When each man can live his life secure and free;
When the earth is owned by LaboR
And there’s joy and peace for alL
In the Commonwealth of Toil that is to be.”
Next came the chorus and last verse of “The Red Flag”:
“Then raise the scarlet standard high;
Beneath its folds we’ll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We’ll keep the red flag flying here.
“With heads uncovered swear we all,
To bear it onward till we fall;
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,
This song shall be our parting hymn.”
There were many wreaths and flowers, presented by the International Labor Defense, the Workers Communist Party branch of Denver, coal miners and friends, and the family. One wrench, conspicuous among all the others, carried the work “Father.” Henning and Lay were the undertakers.
There are five more to be buried.
Above, a string of miners autos driving at dawn toward the meeting place, to hold a meeting at the Columbine mine in Colorado.
Below, striking coal miners from Louisville, Lafayette and other mining camps near Boulder, assembled at daybreak at the north entrance of the Columbine mine, near Erie, Colorado, in an effort to persuade the miners working there to join the strike. The Columbine is the only mine in the northern district that has operated since the strike started, October 18, 1927.
It was into this peaceful crowd of medn, women and children, carrying the American flag and led by a small band, that brutal gunmen fired on the morning on November 21, mowing them down with machine guns, killing two outright, wounding four others so that they have since died, and seriously injuring more than a score more, some of them perhaps fatally.
The massacre took place at daybreak.
MINERS MURDERED AT DAYBREAK AT COLUMBINE MINE; WOMEN AND CHILDREN SHOT DOWN BY GUNMEN
TELEGRAM RECEIVED NOV. 22
DENVER, Colo. — Just returned from scene of carnage; four dead. Doctors say six more will die. Score injured. Two women, one boy among the dying. Militia now throughout northern strike zone; martial law threatened. Two mine crews immediately joined the strike after the shooting. Colorado citizens all over the state are protesting vigorously. Only the philosophy of the Industrial Workers of the World, which deprecates violence, prevents retribution. – TOM CONNORS
TELEGRAM RECEIVED NOV. 23
LAFAYETTE, Colo. — So far six known dead, twenty-five wounded and others expected to die. At least four women wounded, and at least eleven children left without fathers. Undertaker, who is Mayor of Louisville, a strike town, offers to bury dead at cost. One woman expected to die. Tear bombs used by mine guards, then guns both machine and small; pickets didn’t even have pocketknives, having emptied their pockets before leaving their homes. Strikers pledged to remain on strike till rats guilty of murders are brought to bar of justice. Five hundred soldiers, tanks, cavalry, infantry, artillery now at Columbine. – H.C. DUKE
ERIE, Colo. — Hurrying through the darkness from Louisville, Lafayette and many other little towns of the Boulder and Weld county coal mining district, some 800 or 900 men, women and children — striking miners and their families — gathered early at the north entrance of the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company’s mine at Columbine, Morning morning, Nov. 21, 1927.
Order prevailed. The gathering started without any disorder. The parade was held as usual outside of company property on the public road leading to the mine. But as the cars approached they found the road had been sprayed by the gunmen with hundreds of tacks, which cause a good many punctured tires.
The gathering place was a little valley between two low knolls, a quarter mile from the mines. The miners and their families started gathering at 4 am. Scores of autos crept along the road from Erie. There were between 150 and 200 cars. The crowd in the tiny valley at daybreak presented an impressive, picturesque scene. Dawn tinged the hundreds of faces with reflected light from the towering flatirons on the east slope of the mountains a few miles westward. There were miners in overalls, women wearing shawls, many holding sleeping children, and pretty young girls, also garbed in blue overalls.
During the two hours before sunrise the crowd waited in the chill air, circling about a large bonfire and cheered by the music of their little band of miner-musicians. They waited as usual for daylight, and then proceeded toward the mine singing “Solidarity.”
At the mine entrance is a barricade, commanded by machine guns, and surrounding the mine an electrically charged bared wire fence. Machine guns were placed at the water tank, and another on the coal tipple.
As the miners gathered on the public highway at the north entrance, tear gas bombs were thrown among them by the fiends who call themselves the “Law Enforcement Squad.” The crowd did not disperse, so the machine guns were turned loose on the defenseless men, women and children. The crowd rallied about five small American flags. Adam Bell, a strike leader, was beaten over the head by gunmen with clubs, who charged those in the lead. A woman covered him with an American flag, but this was no protection; the fiends did not respect the flag, and Bell’s head was nearly pulverized. The woman was also beaten unmercifully and left unconscious. Two men fell dead on the highway, killed by machine gun or rile bullets. Scores dropped on all sides, some of them fatally and many more of them seriously injured. Machine guns poured in their deadly hail from the water tank, the tipple and the barricade until the strikers were nearly wiped off the road.
Gathering up part of their dead and wounded the strikers turned their cars and started back, hoisting white flags over the cars in the hope that they would not again be fired on. The work of taking care of the wounded and dead was greatly hindered by flat tires and blowouts, due to the thousands of tacks which had been scattered over the highway by the hirelings of the mine owners. Guards dragged some of the wounded into mine buildings and refused to give them up.
The strikers have paid, and paid dearly with their blood. They have been peaceful at all times during the strike. They have taken their wives and children to attend their meetings, never one believing that fiends would sink so low as to mow them down with machine guns. A few mornings before they invited Sheriff Ben Robinson of Weld county to attend one of their meetings to show him that they meant to keep the peace. Sheriff Robinson attended and addressed the crowd, afterward breakfasting with them on coffee and doughnuts at the hotel Agnew in Erie.
And so the massacre of Ludlow has been repeated. A repetition of the most dastardly crime ever committed in the name of “law and order: has taken place at the Columbine mine of the outskirts of Lafayette. The state with the bloody labor history lives up to its bloody name.
Funds are urgently needed at this time for relief and defense. Give till it hurts. The Colorado miners have their lives, and we should not fail them in the form of cash. Send relief funds to the Relief and Defense Committee, Box 98, Lafayette, Colo.
COLUMBINE EVENT CLIMAXES LIST OF MANY BRUTALITIES
Etta Starkey, 19-year old girl of Lafayette, Colorado, who was with the group of strikers and their families, many of whom were wantonly shot down by state gunmen at the Columbine mine Monday Morning Nov. 21, describes the scene of carnage in the following graphic words:
“I saw the state police lined up along the fence. Suddenly they hurled 24 bombs at the crowd. When the smoke from these had cleared away, the police started firing two machine guns without warning.
“The firing continued for 15 minutes without stopping. When the smoke cleared, I saw piles of men lying on the road and in ditches. They were screaming and cursing in their agony.
“It was horrible! I saw the two dead men lying there. Wives of the men in the crowd saw their men fall. They added their screams to the bedlam. It was the most horrible sight I ever witnessed.
“The miners broke under that terrible rain of fire and retreated, carrying as many of their wounded as they could. There was dust and smoke over everything and always there was those blood-chilling groans of the wounded men, like cries of wild beasts.
“I didn’t know when a bullet might come my way, so I left there in a hurry and came back home.
This strike throughout has been carried on without a particle of violence, intimidation or force on the part of the workers, whereas, on the other hand, it will be remembered as a time of the most brutal, ruthless, and terroristic oppression ever meted out to any portion of the working class by their Czarist overlords. A few examples of this are given below:
- Company gunmen, accompanied by several of the debtor type of small businessmen, raided the union hall at Walsenburg; furniture destroyed, records burned, typewriter and other office fixtures thrown from second story window; in fact, an orgy of destruction indulged in by these lackeys of the master-class — and this two nights before the start of the strike.
- Milka Sablich, nineteen year old girl picket, seized by arm and dragged for half a block by mounted Cossacks; results in broken arm, serious bruises, confinement in hospital, and arrest upon leaving hospital.
- Mrs. Unwin ridden down and chest crushed by mounted brute and Berwind Canyon.
- Boy, carrying the American flag, beaten insensible with pick handle by company gunmen and State Cossacks.
- Miners evicted from homes into the snow because they demanded a living wage.
- Miner arrested for asking State Cossack to assist him in stopping a gunman from beating a woman.
- Women as well as men pickets brutally manhandled and beaten unmercifully at time of arrest.
- Aeroplanes used to intimidate striking miners — state owned aeroplanes at that.
- State Cossacks hold mass meetings in vain endeavor to influence miners at Crested Butte to return to work.
- State Industrial Commission exposed as modern labor control device.
- Governor Adams re-establishes State Cossacks, an organization formerly abolished by “his liberal highness” when the Ranger Act was repealed; without this act, under which the state police were originally created, such a unit is unconstitutional.
- Writ of habeas corpus, one of civilization’s most ancient rights, suspended so far as striking miners are concerned.
- Daily news quotes Louis N. Scherf, head of the State Cossacks and chief of the murderers at Columbine, as saying that he prevents arrested miners from securing opportunity to sue for writ of habeas corpus by moving them from one county jail to another every forty-three hours.
- Ten delegates representing entire field meet in Walsenburg to act on suggestions of Governor Adams that the miners petition the State Industrial Commission to take action relative to a conference between operators and striking miners; all ten were arrested by State Cossacks upon arrival at point of conference and have since been held incommunicado.
IWW AIRPLANE REACHES DENVER; STRIKE CONFERENCE IS CALLED
2,000 STRIKERS PLEDGE TO STAY ON STRIKE TILL JUSTICE IS DONE
Master Class Brutality Shown up in All Its Hideousness as Peaceful Strikers Respond to IWW Education of no Violence
ERIE, Colo., Nov. 21 — More than 2,000 saddened striking miners with the roar of murderous machine guns fresh in their ears, gathered here this afternoon and pledged themselves to continue the strike until the murderers responsible for the massacre this morning at Columbine are brought to justice.
Many in the crowd wore bandages. They had been injured this morning by brutal beasts masquerading under the name of “state law enforcers.” Virtually all of the 800 or more strikers who came out of the carnage with their lives and who were not in the hospital were present. They retold the story of the massacre of the unarmed strikers. Bricks and tear gas bombs were hurled by state police and mine guards at the opening of the carnage, they said.
Then they told how the little town of Serene, perched on a rolling Colorado hillside, belied its peaceful name and became a Bloody shambles, strewn with the dying, dead and wounded workers. “Serene has a postoffice and a public school,” the workers said. “We had a right to go there.” Governor Adams had assured them they had such a right.
Hearts of many were wrung when two small girls, children of C.C. Morrison and his wife, both of whom were injured and in the hospital, were placed on the speakers platform and a request was made for volunteers to care of them. Rumors were current that Mrs. Morrison had died of her injuries. The father of the children reported to be in a serious condition. A sympathetic miner and his wife agreed to take them and care for them.
Another pathetic incident occurred when Mrs. Elizabeth Beranek of Lafayette, 44-year-old mother of 16 children told of the wounding of Adam Bell and Jerry Davis, the latter of whom died of his injuries. In broken English, interrupted by sobs, the mother told of the brutal attack on Adam Bell.
“They beat him with clubs and pistols,” she said. “I couldn’t stand it. I wanted to fight, too. They knocked him down and kicked and hit him. He looked like he was dead, and I ran up and put a flag over his body.
“Then they hit me too. They knocked me down. They kicked me, and somebody stamped on my chest.”
The flag, she said, was wrested from her, to be recovered by Davis and carried by him until he fell, mortally wounded, with a bullet in his head. Then the fiends who call themselves state police stamped and trampled the flag, riddled it with bullets and tore it to shreds. This for “law and order” respect for the American flag.
The meeting at Erie was interrupted at one time by seven automobile loads of militia on the way to Columbine. They had been ordered to go there after the massacre. William H. Boyd, a striker who was speaking at the time, urged the strikers to pay no attention to the militia. He also asked mothers present to swear that they would do all in their power to keep their daughters from even speaking to the guards — for the irresponsibility (not to call it anything worse) of soldiers is well known.
Joseph Sheader was chairman of the meeting. He first called on William Lofton who asked the assemblage to rise and stand for a minute in silent tribute for the dead and injured. Then he called upon them to repeat the Lord’s prayer in unison. This prayer had just started when a National Guard airplane appeared and swung low over the high school football field where the meeting was held. In the class conflict the boss class has neither respect for the national flag nor a religious service. The airplane continued to circle the field throughout the meeting, at times drowning out the voices of the speakers.
“Stand put for solidarity,” Lofton urged. “Keep on striking, but let there be no violence.” He then told of the bloody morning and spoke of the whine of bullets as they whistled thru the crowd of strikers, mowing down men and women indiscriminately.
“If Governor Adams, who sent in these state police, had been there even he would not have stood for it,” he said.
Frank Palmer, former editor of the Colorado Labor Advocate, was next to talk. He also urged that there be no violence of the part of the strikers. “The only way we can win this strike is to continue to strike peacefully,” he said. “Strike peacefully, and everybody stay out of the mines. Stick together and we will win. Fight them back and we will lose. We have no chance of winning if we fight.”
Past conflicts between strikers and armed forces were reviewed by H.C. Duke who was next to speak. He showed that in all instances the strikers had not been to blame. “This date, November 21, 1927, will go down in history as a bloody day in Colorado’s class struggle,” he said. “It will be a day that will be remembered even longer than the Ludlow massacre.”
When Duke finished his talk Sheader made a short address in which he also urged no violence by strikers. As he concluded he urged a resolution to not mine a ton of until those responsible for the Columbine massacre are brought to justice. The resolution was unanimously adopted. It follows in Full:
“Resolved; That even tho we get the Jacksonville scale, we won’t go back until those responsible for this massacre here today are brought to justice.”
No cheers were heard at the meeting today. At other times speakers would be assured of ringing applause that would sweep their audiences for many minutes. But today’s crowd was quiet. Nearly every body knew those who had fallen. Adam Bell was particularly well liked.
And with the memory of a half hour of hell when bullets mowed down their ranks so fresh in their minds, there could be no cheering.
WONDERFUL SPIRIT OF SOLIDARITY IS SHOWN BY STRIKERS
By H.C. Duke
Wobbly Band at Lafayette Leads Parades and Plays at Mass Meetings; Marshal of Erie Tells the Strikers he is With Them
LAFAYETTE, Colorado — Northern Field News: Names of the Northern Strike Towns: Lafayette, the main center; Erie, Frederick, Louisville, Superior, Leydon.
At Lafayette the Wobblies have a band which parades thru the streets and plays at mass meetings. Their hall holds over 2,000, where mass meetings are held two or three times a week, open to the general public. All the other towns hold mass meetings at least twice a week. Business, relief, and strike committee meetings are held often.
The leading ralliers of this strike include all nationalities. One is an old United Mine Worker and former official for that union who is working night and day for industrial unionism. Another former United Mine Worker is spending all his time working for the success of this strike. Both can express themselves quite well and bring out the just causes of this strike.
A remarkable character of this strike is William Henry Lofton, a colored fellow worker whom the strikers love and respect. He is a wonderful strike speaker to keep up the spirit of the fight. Most always he closes up by singing the last works of a strike song given birth during this strike. With a very clear musical voice he ends up something like this: “You are fighting for your rights, don’t let yourself get mad, but just keep on smiling, smiling, smiling.”
Another wonderful song composed on this strike, both words and music and now printed in sheet music form, is entitled “All Stand Together.” Later on it is intended to send this song out to the world at 25 cents a copy to help raise funds to feed the mothers and babies of the striking miners. It is a clarion call of spirit with snappy notes.
Fellow Worker Lofton is a credit to organized labor. He has a clear conception of labor economics.
Another thing which is very inspiring in this strike are the youths who are acting on all kinds of committees, and as secretaries. One is an American born Italian, another is an American born German, and another has two or three active brothers also in the strike, as well as a father. The secretary at Superior is a middle aged man who is also an American.
Yet the dirty kept press comes out and the members of the Colorado State Industrial Commission support it, and calls this strike un-American and illegal and says the IWW organization is the same thing; when the strikers and the organization they are fighting under are demanding better homes, better food, better clothing, better opportunities for their children and more abundant life for the whole human family.
In a speech made by Fellow Worker H.C. Duke, in which he portrayed the idealism and ethics of the organization and the just demands of the strikers in this strike, he appealed to the law officers, who had raised their right hand to their God and their Country, not to break their oath by aiding and abetting the big industrial kings of the country, mainly John D. Rockefeller who was responsible for the shooting down of women and children at Ludlow in 1914. After his stirring appeal, which brought tears to the eyes of the vast throng of over 2,000 assembled in a garage at Erie which was donated by the owner to aid the strike, the chief deputy sheriff of Weld and Boulder counties who is also marshal of Erie, climbed upon the truck which was being used as the speakers stand and said: “Boys, I am deputy sheriff of this county, and after hearing of the just demands which you are fighting for, and the aims and desires of the IWW which the speaker has so plainly brought out, I am with you; and to the best of my powers I will not make an arrest during this strike. By doing so I would not be acting as a man towards your wives and babies. But I will arrest any one that is under the influence of liquor and causing disorder in order to aid you that much more in this strike.”
As he left the stand the audience gave him a husky and hearty cheer.
The spirit of this strike is most wonderful. There is not enough words in the English language to bring out and convey to the outside world the wonderful spirit of harmony and fellowship which is being shown. “All for one, one for all” is in the air, and they will not go back on the job until their demands are granted and their fellow workers who have been unjustly arrested have been released from jail.
Not a single overt act has been committed by the strikers, but the beasts in human form under the orders of Governor Adams, have broken the law; and the Colorado State Industrial Commission, who are supposed to be non-biased as between the employer and the worker, have prostrated themselves to aid the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company.
All that is needed to bring victory is funds for bread for the miners’ wives and babies.