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About This Site

Baseball Game at Ludlow, 1914. See text below.

In 1913 and 1914, a series of events occured in Southern Colorado which ultimately had a major impact on Wyoming and, indeed, on mining throughout the Rocky Mountain West. Beginning in the 1890's, the United Mine Workers began to organize the mining camps of Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Conditions in the mines owned by Colorado Fuel and Iron Company ("C. F. & I.") were abysmal. In Wyoming the C. F. & I owned the Sunrise iron ore mine near Hartville, not involved in the strike. The Company also at one time had industrial interests in Laramie and owned the Colorado and Southern Railroad used to bring iron ore from Wyoming to the Company's main smelter in Pueblo. C. F. & I. miners were paid by tonnage mined. The Company would cheat in the scales. Notwithstanding Colorado law making illegal payment of wages in Company scrip redeemable only at the Company Store, Colorado mines persisted in the practice. The rental of the company houses returned to the Company 6 to 8% on investment. Workers were not paid for time expended in shoring up the galleries or installing tram track ("Dead work"). The cost of black powder using in the mining of the face was deducted from their pay as was the cost of blacksmithing on the tools. A series of unsuccessful strikes hit the Colorado and New Mexico mines. Miners struck in Gallup, N. Mex. in 1900; and in Colorado in 1903, 1904, and 1910. On September 23, 1913, over 12,000 miners in sourthern Colorado went on strike. The demands were simple. Many of the demands were already required by Colorado law, but the law was ignored by C. F. & I. The union demands: :

Recognition of the U.M.W.;

A 10% increase in tonnage rates to equal those of miners in Wyoming;

Election of their own weighmen to weigh the tonnage;

Payment for "dead work;"

An eight-hour day;

The right to trade at other than the Company store and to reside where they chose;

Enforcement of Colorado mining laws (Colorado had twice the fatality rate as the rest of the Country) and abolishment of a system of private security utilized by the Company.

United Mine Workers monument to those killed at Ludlow, Colorado. Photo by Geoff Dobson, 2008.

In response, the miners were evicted from the Company-owned houses and C. F. & I. brought in a private security firm who utilized an armored car affixed with a machine gun. On October 17, 1913, the car, known as the "Death Special," was used at Forbes, Colorado, to spray with bullets a tent city in which the miners and their families were dwelling. One tent was found to have 148 bullet holes. One miner was killed and a child was shot. As if to prove the Union's concern about mine safety, on October 22 at 3:00 p.m., an explosion in a Phelps-Dodge Mine in Dawson, N. Mex. killed 261 miners. A tongue of flame shot out 100 feet from the mine mouth. The force of the explosion shook houses two miles away. Subsequent investigation revealed that dynamite used in violation of Bureau of Mines standards set off an explosion of coal dust. The Bureau also recommended that dust be kept down with a water spray and rock dust. Neither had been done. Ten years later another 120 were killed in Dawson. Again water sprays were not used. In 1950, Phelps Dodge closed the town and evicted all of the residents on 30 days notice. The town was razed and nothing remains except the cemetery.

The strike continued. The governor of Colorado, at the request of the Company, called out the Colorado National Guard. Company "guards" were sworn into the Colorado National Guard. Eighteen miles north of Trinidad at Ludlow, the Union established a tent town occupied by over 900. The miners constructed a school, a stage for emtertainment and a baseball field. On April 19, 1914, the miners played a baseball game. The game was interrupted by members of the National Guard riding onto the field. The next day, the town was attacked by the National Guard who burned the town down. In the smoldering ruins 23 miners, women and children were found dead. Some had taken refuge in a hole later known as the "death pit."

The bodies of three miners lay alongside the railroad tracks for passengers on the trains to view. For three days, the National Guard would not allow the bodies to be removed. One miner, Louis Tikas, had a fractured skull from having been clubbed by Lt. Karl E. Linderfelt with a Springfield rifle. Tikas was then shot as he lay dying on the ground.

Eighty-four year old, Mother Jones, Mary Harris Jones (1830-1930), the famous turn of the century reformist, traveled to Trinidad where she was arrested and held incommunicato by the Colorado Guard.

The Death Pit, Ludlow, Colorado, 1914.

Mother Jones in her autobiography described the events at Ludlow:

On the 19th of April, 1914, machine guns, used on the strikers in the Paint Creek strike, were placed in position above the tent colony of Ludlow. Major Pat Hamrock and Lieutenant K. E. Linderfelt were in charge of the militia, the majority of whom were, company gun-men sworn in as soldiers.
Early in the morning soldiers approached the colony with a demand from headquarters that Louis Tikas, leader of the Greeks, surrender two Italians. Tikas demanded a warrant for their arrest. They had none. Tikas refused to surrender them. The soldiers returned to quarters. A signal bomb was fired. Then another. Immediately the machine guns began spraying the flimsy tent colony, the only home the wretched families of the miners had, riddling it with bullets. Like iron rain, bullets' upon men, women and children.
The women and children fled to the hills. Others tarried. The men defended their home with their guns. All day long the firing continued. Men fell dead, their faces to the ground. Women dropped. The little Snyder boy was shot through the head, trying to save his kitten. A child carrying water to his dying mother was killed.
By five o'clock in the afternoon, the miners had no more food, nor water, nor ammunition. They had to retreat with their wives and little ones into the hills. Louis Tikas was riddled with shots while he tried to lead women and children to safety. They perished with him.
Night came. A raw wind blew down the canyons where men, women and children shivered and wept. Then a blaze lighted the sky. The soldiers, drunk with blood and with the liquor they had looted from the saloon, set fire to the tents of Ludlow with oil-soaked torches. The tents, all the poor furnishings, the clothes and bedding of the miners' families burned. Coils of barbed wire were stuffed into the well, the miners' only water supply.
After it was over, the wretched people crept back to bury their dead. In a dugout under a burned tent, the charred bodies of eleven little children and two women were found-unrecognizable. Everything lay in ruins. The wires of bed springs writhed on the ground as if they, too, had tried to flee the horror. Oil and fire and guns had robbed men and women and children of their homes and slaughtered tiny babies and defenseless women. Done by order of Lieutenant Linderfelt, a savage, brutal executor of the will of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company.

Protesters asking for release of Mother Jones, Commercial Street, Trinidad, Colorado, 1914.

Among those who came to support the miners after the disaster was Margaret Tobin (Mrs. J. J.) Brown. [Writer's note: Mrs. Brown is now commonly referred to as "Molly Brown." She is noted for her efforts on behalf of those impoverished by the death of breadwinners in the sinking of the Royal Mail Ship Titanic. Before leaving the Carpathia she had raised $10,000 on their behalf. There is no indication that during her lifetime she was referred to as "Molly." The name apparently originated with the Denver Post following her death. A guide at the "Molly Brown" House in Denver indicates that the name Molly came from the musical.]

Red Cross workers searching ruins of Ludlow tent colony, April 23, 1914.

The strike continued on into 1915 and finally ended with Congressional Investigations at which Rockefeller was required to testify. He denied there was any massacre.

Caskets of the dead on hay wagons arriving at Holy Trinity Church, Trinidad, Colorado. Photo by L. Dodd, 1914.

The strike fizzled out with the miners either going back to work or moving as many did to Utah and Wyoming and taking employment in mines owned by the Union Pacific Coal Company. In Colorado, the UMW did not gain recognition until the 1930's. Instead, Rockefeller's company organized a Company dominated union. Thus, in one sense, the strike was a failure for the miners. For Rockefeller, the massacre was a disaster. He was faced with almost universal condemnation. Harper's Weekly ran an editorial cartoon depicting Rockefeller as a vulture hanging over the devastation of Ludlow. The cartoon bore the caption "Success."

Funeral Cortege Ludlow victims, Holy Trinity Church, Trinidad, Colorado. Photo by L. Dodd, 1914.

To overcome the public infamy that his heavy-handedness and perceived wickedness in bringing down the strike had wrought, Rockefeller employed Ivy L. Lee, publicist for the Pennsylvania Railroad, to rehabilitate his image with public philanthropy. But in another and larger sense, it brought needed reforms to the Colorado mining fields and brought to Wyoming many of the families who today continue to reside in the state. Rockefeller's newly found philanthropy brought to Wyoming the Teton National Park and resulted in Sunrise being made into a model town. Although Sunrise was an iron ore mining camp, it was similar to many of the Coal Camps.

On Memorial Day 1918 in the shadows of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near the site of the death pit, the United Mine Workers dedicated a memorial to some of those killed at Ludlow. On the memorial is a plaque:



APRIL 20, 1914


Sometime on May 7 or May 8, 2003, the Memorial was vandalized. Heads of statues of miners were broken off and removed. Other damage occurred. The culprits have never been identified. The damage has now been repaired and the memorial is now behind a steel barrier. Surrounding the inner enclosure is a chain link fence within which, on the day the writer visited, was a large sheep dog who came out to greet visitors.

Lt. Linderfelt (1876-1957) was court martialed on charges of murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and grand larceny of $350.00 belonging to Louis Tikas. The Court found he had committed the assault on Tikas, "but attached no criminality thereto. And the Court therefore aquit him." Linderfelt died in 1957 and was interred in a place of honor, the Los Angeles National Cemetery.


National Guardsmen, Forbes, Colorado, Karl E. Linderfelt on right. 1914.

In 1997, the Colorado Supreme Court cited the events at Ludlow in support of the general proposition that a man's home, no matter how humble, even a tent, is free from warrentless search. See People v. Schefer, 946 P. 2d 938 (Colo. 1997).

Music this page:

We're Coming, Colorado
(Sung to the tune of Battle Cry of Freedom)
Words by Frank J. Hayes


We will win the fight today, boys,
We'll win the fight today,
Shouting the battle cry of union;
We will rally from the coal mines,
We'll battle to the end,
Shouting the battle cry of union.


The union forever, hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the Baldwins, up with the law;
For we're coming, Colorado, we're coming all the way,
Shouting the battle cry of union.


We have fought them here for years, boys,
We'll fight them in the end,
Shouting the battle cry of union.
We have fought them in the North,
Now we'll fight them in the South,
Shouting the battle cry of union.



We are fighting for our rights, boys,
We are fighting for our homes,
Shouting the battle cry of union;
Men have died to win the struggle;
They've died to set us free,
Shouting the battle cry of union.


Writer's notes: Baldwin's, the Baldwin Felts Detective Agency, hired by C. F. & I. to break the strike. Frank J. Hayes, Vice President of the United Mine Workers, later President.

Next Page: Superior.