The Death of Constable Riggs:
Ethnic Conflict in Marion County
in the World War I Era
By Charles H. McCormick
On Sunday afternoon February 29, 1915, upwards of twenty-five hundred mourners and the curious gathered in downtown Fairmont for the funeral service of Constable William Ross Riggs. Three-fourths of the crowd milled about Jackson Street, unable to squeeze into the First Presbyterian Church. Inside the church, after an interruption that occurred when the weight of the crowd caused part of the floor to fall eight inches, three ministers memorialized the deceased, whose casket seemed afloat in a sea of pillows and floral tributes. The massed presence of uniformed members of six fraternal organizations added solemnity to the occasion. After the service, a long ceremonial cortege followed the hearse through a cloudless winter afternoon to fashionable Woodlawn Cemetery. At the graveside were the town's leading citizens. Honorary pall bearers included the local circuit court judge and prosecuting attorney. It was one of the largest funerals anyone could remember.1
The eulogies extolled Riggs as "faithful," "conscientious," "fearless," and "a hero." With an appropriate Horatio Alger, Jr. twist, they made him the exemplar of the self-made man with Anglo- Saxon Protestant values. What the constable lacked in luck, he had not grown rich, he surely made up for in pluck, loyalty and service to Fairmont's dominant economic and social interests. In 1880, after his lawman father died in the from a gunshot wound in the line of duty, twelve-year old "Willy" was forced to leave school in his native St. Clairsville, Ohio, to help support his mother and four siblings. At fourteen he took a job with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, working as a brakeman on the Wheeling to Grafton run. By studying at night, he rose to become at nineteen the system's youngest full-fledged train conductor. After his promotion to yardmaster, he was in charge of the Monongahela River Railroad's Jayenne (for politician and coal baron "J. N." Camden) yard and then the Fairmont yard of the B & O. Riggs, a devout Christian, who had been active in "railroad evangelism," quit railroading in 1901 to become an elected Fairmont constable, a job he filled until his death.2
However admirable, Riggs's accomplishments, or at first glance his death, cannot explain the outpouring of community sentiment at his funeral. In 1915, his was only one of seventy cases investigated by the Marion County coroner. Trains and accidental drownings each took six lives. Five died by suicide (carbolic acid or hanging) and three each from exposure and drug addiction. One man, as alone in his own melancholy category as in death, was "killed in a peculiar manner by a fall from bed." Twenty-six people, twenty-one of whom were immigrants, perished in diverse gruesome ways in the county's thirty-three coal mines.3 And yet, among the year's tragedies, that of Riggs stands out. The coroner vividly caught its significance:
February 24, William Ross Riggs, aged 47, American, constable; murdered in Farmington in a strike riot by foreigners.4
The three lines combined some of the most familiar and disturbing national themes of the industrial age: conflict between middle- class Americans and immigrants, capital and labor and differing sets of cultural values.
After the turn of the century, Marion County coal operators employed an increasing number of foreign miners. Operators sought to increase efficiency and profits and gain greater supervision over the work force. Through partial mechanization, utilizing machines to undercut the coal, and specialists for such tasks as roof timbering and track laying, operators lessened the independence and skills previously required of miners. This division of labor did not diminish the heavy labor or danger inherent in mining.5 Some experienced American miners were able to move into what the Fairmont Times called "positions of greater responsibility" such as "fire boss," foreman or machine operator. Many others simply lost their jobs to inexperienced, low- paid foreign laborers and the work force became split between high- wage Americans and low-wage immigrants, each resentful of other.6 The Times reported that operators generally preferred northern Italian immigrants, but the 1910 federal census and state Department of Mines Annual Report for 1915 show that they were not so selective. Marion county mines employed more than thirty nationalities. Southern Italians were most numerous, followed by Slavs from Austria-Hungary and Russia. Between 1900 and 1910, the county's foreign-born population had increased by almost ten-fold, from 670 to 6,200, or about 20 percent of the total.7
The immigrant miners were part of a great exodus from southern and eastern Europe caused by a population explosion and facilitated by cheaper, quicker and more available trans-oceanic transportation. Between 1890 and 1920, more than eighteen million of these "new immigrants" entered the United States. One must be careful not to exaggerate the differences from the "old immigrants" of the mid-nineteenth century, most of whom came from the British Isles or northern Europe. The new immigrants were more likely to be adventuring, unattached and unskilled males, often inclined to sojourn than to settle.8 Throughout the northeast and midwest they filled the ranks of economically marginal, heavy labor jobs in mills, mines and construction. They often changed jobs and between one-third and one-half returned within a few years to their native lands.9
These laborers had their own, largely untold stories of pluck and luck, courage and hard work. Charles Elekes, who came to Farmington from Croatia in 1911, was typical. Like 80 percent of South Slavic immigrants, he was a single male, and as with most new immigrants, from a poor but hard-working, respectable farming background. As he explained to Keith Dix, who interviewed him for a study of coal mining in 1976, he would have faced military conscription until the age of forty in Austria-Hungary. His father's farm was too small to subdivide and young Elekes was unlikely to inherit it before middle age. With a little money saved from summer work on the farm and a three-month stint "pushing coal cars" for twenty-five cents a day in a Hungarian mine, he decided to try America. By a clandestine route that led through Budapest to Vienna, sixteen-year-old Elekes and two companions made their way to Hamburg and took ship to New York. Croatian immigrants gravitated toward coal and steel in America and on the ship Elekes met a woman bound for Farmington, West Virginia, where her husband supposedly earned five dollars a day in the mines. That seemed a lot of money, so Elekes and his friends decided to go there. Upon arriving, a Croatian-speaking man at the saloon near Farmington Town Hall bought them beer and located them lodging at a boarding house. Three days later, the boarding house operator assisted them in attaining underground jobs at Jamison's "Over the Hill" Number 9 Mine. Elekes recalled that they were hired without even speaking to a company official.10
Four years later, Elekes and his fellow eastern Europeans remained unassimilated and unwelcome. In America, South Slavs were disparaged as "Huns," "Bohunks" and, most often, "Hunkies."11 As Croatian historian George J. Prpic explains, his people were not "Americanized," but in many ways, neither did they retain Croatian lifestyles. They lived and worked mostly with their own people and other foreigners, knew little English and lacked enough mediators - - priests, intellectuals and educated men -- to help them adapt to the new environment and retain their identity.12
Marion County Croatians and other Slavs shared lowly status with the longer established and more numerous Italians. Italians had gained the partial acceptance of Marion County's Protestant establishment, possibly because operators had long experience with them as workers and the public perceived ordinary Italians as victims of Black Hand extortion. More likely, Democratic politicians were courting them as potential Democratic bloc voters.13
For whatever reason, after twenty years of ignoring Columbus Day celebrations by Italian immigrant organizations, old-stock Fairmont made the day a community festival in October 1912.14 Area Italian-Americans, given "freedom of the city," gathered for a celebration that included a parade, speeches at the courthouse, fireworks and conspicuous displays of the Italian and American flags. Annually until 1915, Fairmonters turned out in droves to cheer the "elegant showing made by the hardy sons of the Sunny Land." Although the newspapers praised the "sturdy" and "intelligent" appearance of the Italian marchers, they were careful to address anti-immigrant prejudices by reporting that there had been no disorder or heavy drinking. The celebrants, it was noted, were the "highest type" of Italian-Americans who deplored and resisted the "wanton acts of [certain] classes of foreigners."15
The most common general complaint from middle-class Americans against immigrants, from the time of the Irish arrival in the 1850s, was that they abused alcohol.16 As the temperance movement neared its goal of national prohibition in the 1910s and many states went dry, immigrant culture became a special target for reformers. West Virginia followed the national trend. In November 1912, Mountain State voters, galvanized by a mixture of Protestant evangelism, scientific progressivism, feminism and defense of beleaguered Victorian values, approved a prohibition amendment. The Drys had carried Marion County 6,465 to 2,449, boosted by the efforts of a "Committee of 100" which brought evangelist Billy Sunday to Fairmont's First Methodist Church on election eve to rail against liquor before a large and appreciative crowd.17
Despite the Dry state-wide victory, which won all but Ohio and McDowell counties, opposition to the enforcement of prohibition in West Virginia remained strong. Distilling and brewing interests, those who feared a loss of state revenue, the few urban sophisticates, civil libertarians and many rank-and-file Democrats balked at forced abstinence. The mass of voteless immigrant miners shared in this opposition.
The Yost Law, which spelled out the details of enforcement but reflected the legislature's hesitancy to ban drink completely, went into effect in July 1914. It forbade the manufacture, sale and importation for sale of liquor and beer, but allowed a person to import one-half gallon from outside the state for personal consumption. The importation loophole played into the hands of merchants in bordering Wet states who eagerly supplied the bottled goods. Thirsty Marion Countians, evidently mostly immigrants, made the round trip Saturday trains to nearby Point Marion, Pennsylvania, fulfilling a spiritual quest far different from that envisioned by reformers. In the coal camps, bootlegging flourished and with it the notoriety of a moonshine whimsically called "pick- handle." Despite Anti-Saloon League foreign language pamphlets designed to win them over, few immigrant miners backed the dry law. Why, they asked, deny poor working men one of their few consolations and deprive them of an essential element of their old world culture?18
Prohibition's backers throughout the nation had powerful arguments to justify their noble experiment, not the least of which was that it would uplift the morality and increase the efficiency of labor, especially immigrant labor. West Virginia's chief prohibition enforcer and tireless advocate of this view, Tax Commissioner Frederick O. Blue, claimed that foreign miners had a natural propensity to crime, disorder and radical political ideas. Drunken, riotous, anarchistic foreign miners, who took their courage from a bottle and in it drowned their good judgement, were engines of labor unrest. Banish drink and saloons, he argued, and immigrants might become good middle-class citizens, practicing thrift and self-denial or even attending night school. Less than a year after the Yost Law closed the state's saloons, he claimed, many more men were going to YMCA meetings, spending time with their families and even buying their children Christmas presents.19
But Blue offered no tangible help to those who had to enforce the Yost Law. Marion County had fewer than twenty full-time officers to police a population of more than forty-five thousand.20 Although strict, uniform enforcement was out of the question, officers devoted special effort to keeping alcohol from foreigners. The most zealous enforcer was Constable Riggs. Shortly before the strike that led to his death, he had scored a notable coup by confiscating carload of liquor at Farmington that had come from Ohio, pre-paid with pooled funds from immigrant miners.21
Riggs's success could not have occurred at a more inopportune time. On February 15, 1915, three Jamison Coke and Coal Company mines in Marion County's Lincoln District went out on strike.22 Located west of Fairmont along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad were Number 7, one and one-half miles west of Barrackville, Number 8, at Farmington, and Number 9, two miles north of Farmington. The recently opened, mechanized mines shipped a combined 1.3 million tons of coal, about 23 percent of the county's total production in 1915. Together, they employed more than one thousand workers, 16.5 percent white, 2.6 percent black and the rest foreign. Croatians and other South Slavs accounted for 42 percent of the work force, Italians 10 percent and the remainder were a mixture of mostly Russians and other Slavic nationalities.23
All sides agreed that a dispute about explosives, necessary to shoot coal from the face, triggered the strike.24 Too much powder by unskilled or careless miners reduced the coal's value by excessive breaking valuable lump into fine or slack.25 In mid-February, Jamison officials claimed miners were using too much powder, which the company had been supplying free and ordered "shooters" to pay one dollar for fifteen charges and blasting caps. The company calculated that a dollar's worth of explosives should produce twenty-five cars of coal. To offset the cost of the powder, the company agreed to increase the miners' pay four cents per car. The miners perceived the new company policy as a poorly disguised wage cut and walked out. As Elekes explained in his 1976 interview, "hell, you don't make a lot of money for the work you do and . . . [having to pay for explosives] you would probably lose 35-40 cents of what you was making."26
The strikers had no union and little knowledge of how to conduct and sustain a work stoppage.27 United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) officials, who generally opposed wildcat strikes, denied involvement.28 The union could claim little success in organizing northern West Virginia, owing to operators' opposition, led by a powerful coterie of old Fairmont families. The Watson- Fleming-Haymond-Camden connection which had grown rich through coal operations, ties to the B & O Railroad and intermarriage. These families the local economy, politics, law enforcement and society. In 1915, they approached the peak of their power, having built the expanding bituminous behemoth, Consolidation Coal Company.29
After Jamison official refused to talk to them, three to six hundred Farmington strikers took to the county roads. Side-by-side from mine to mine to the accompaniment of drum and bugle marched Italians, Poles, Russians and a large contingent of Croatians30 or Serbo-Croatians.31 Brandishing stout hickory clubs or pick handles studded with lethal spikes or iron bolts, and perhaps carrying concealed pistols and daggers, they followed an American flag mounted above a red flag and a banner inscribed "United We Stand; Divided We Fall. Give Us Justice; or Nothing at All."32
Soon after the miners walked out, Jamison Coke and Coal hired twenty-five F. W. Muncey Detective Agency men from Pittsburgh to protect company property and break the strike. For several days, while the miners marched, officials gave them free rein, hoping their hunger and ethnic divisions would exhaust the protest. But many probably speculated that the lawmen would intervene soon to end the walkout and prevent its spread.33
Extant sources identify Italians and Croatians from the coal camps as strike leaders. Company officials blamed the work stoppage on the Italian miners, contadini from Calabria, the toe of the Italian boot. The strike, at least superficially, resembled a peasant "flash rebellion," a traditional form of spontaneous protest practiced by oppressed and powerless peasants. Such emotional, assertive outpourings, acts of frustration and desperation, frequently occurred in the Mezzogiorno region, southern Italy, Sicily and Sardinia.34 In America, intolerable working conditions had sometimes goaded Italian workers into sudden, violent strikes without formally elected leaders. In fact, such rural protests were common in many parts of Europe.35
Slavs had also rebelled, their most famous uprising occurring among mainly "Hungarian," actually Slovak, Polish and Italian hard coal miners near Hazleton, Pennsylvania. In September 1897, more than one thousand immigrants had taken to the roads parading with red flags, clubs, iron bars and other weapons before stoning a mine superintendent's house. The affair had turned bloody when the Luzerne County sheriff's posse opened fire during a confrontation with marchers on a road near Lattimer Mine. The hail of bullets killed nineteen and wounded thirty-nine foreign strikers. In 1913, ten Croatians had been tried for murder following the death of the deputy sheriff during a bloody strike of copper miners at Calumet, Michigan.36
Because they were strangers in a strange land, near the bottom of the economic order and outside established social order, immigrants clung to their communities and each other. Labor disputes involving them often were not expressions of legalistic notions of contracts and bargaining with elected leaders. Protest and defensive violence ensued when immigrants perceived threats to their ethnic community.37
In recent years historians have added depth to our view of the Americanization of the immigrants. One historian has written that it was not "just something that the American middle class did to immigrants, a coercive process by which elites pressed WASP values on immigrant workers, a form of social control."38 It was not simply a conflict between a static American capitalism and unchanging traditional values of the immigrants. Rather, it was, according to another scholar, a dynamic process, "a constructed dialogue between the immigrants and the dominant society." Immigrants were not passive objects acted upon, but actors who sought to construct creatively their own cultural worlds by learning to cope with the demands of capitalism without surrendering their group identity.39
Under the spell of nativism, American middle-class leaders, including those in Marion County, believed the immigrants threatened their established cultural world.40 From this perspective, it is not surprising that what most upset Marion County leaders as defenders of the established order was the Farmington strikers' display of the red flag, emblem of collectivism and working-class struggle against capitalists. Publicly, authorities hinted that the notorious Black Hand was behind the strike. But the Black Hand was a red herring. Few believed that Italian criminal extortionists could mobilize multi- ethnic, mass protest marches. John Bodnar writes that socialism had its greatest influence upon Italian and Slavic industrial workers in small, rural mining and mill communities. Ethnic churches were weak or absent in this setting, as in isolated coal camps, and few community members could articulate non-radical, alternative visions of local solidarity.41
There had been reports of anarcho-syndicalist foreign language literature being distributed in the coalfields, perhaps by the dreaded Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) or Italian radicals. Over the previous half-dozen years, Wobblies had been active in the eastern United States in strikes involving immigrant workers.42 The great majority of Italian, Croatian and other immigrant workers were by no means revolutionaries, but among them were some radicals. The Wobblies had success in organizing aggrieved immigrant workers, regardless of whether workers took to heart their broadly syndicalist message of eventual revolution by "direct action at the point of production."43
In 1909, Croatians played a major role in the Pressed Steel Car Company strike at McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, where the IWW had a high profile and violence had claimed the life of a sheriff and others.44 At Lawrence, Massachusetts, Italian-American IWW organizers Joe Ettor and Arturo Giovanitti, who were later found to have been framed, were charged as accessories in the death of a young girl during a strike-related confrontation with police. Generally, the IWW eschewed violence, but the Wobblies presented a frightening image to the middle class.45
In 1912-13, Wobblies (including Ralph Chaplin, who wrote the labor anthem "Solidarity Forever") and socialists, with whom they had a tempestuous relationship, participated in the UMWA's attempt to organize the Kanawha Valley. The ensuing bloody coal mine "war" pitted American-born miners against armies of heavily armed operators' guards. The state commission that investigated Paint Creek and Cabin Creek in 1912 assigned partial blame for the trouble to local authorities who should have acted more vigorously at the onset of the disorders.46
From a conservative perspective, the Farmington strike posed a threat to public order and private property. Marion County leaders, fearing it might spread to other mines, did not want to make the mistake of failing to take timely action. The opportunity to intervene occurred four days after the walkout, when company officials complained to Marion County Sheriff C. D. Conaway that a striker had thrown a stone through a window on Jamison property and that two Croatians had "trimmed off" (beaten up) a miner who attempted to return work. The next afternoon, Saturday, February 20, the sheriff and a dozen heavily armed county officers, among them Constable Riggs, boarded the two o'clock streetcar from Fairmont to Farmington to arrest the three men.47
The eight-mile ride gave them little time to reflect on the hazards of the mission. Far from its Fairmont base and totally dependent upon public transit for communications and reinforcements, the sheriff's small force would be going among hundreds of armed, hostile foreign strikers. The lawmen planned to arrest the miners in two coal camps miles apart, march them over open roads to Farmington and convey them by scheduled streetcar to Fairmont. Conaway's authority rested in three "John Doe" warrants, each bearing four fictitious names that would be used for whomever a coal company clerk fingered.48 It would be difficult to explain this procedure to the miners, because few spoke enough English to understand the legal warrants and most spoke no English at all. The sheriff's Slavic interpreter did not speak Italian, the language of the supposed strike leaders. In addition to the language difficulties, there was also the problem of convincing the miners that breaking a window or engaging in a fist fight warranted taking men to a distant jail where they would ostensibly receive justice.
At Farmington, the Lincoln District constable supposedly warned the posse not to proceed. Knowing the strikers and their mood, he volunteered to try to bring the prisoners to the depot himself. The sheriff and his posse, wanting to exert their authority, climbed to "Echo Hill" or "Chatham Hill" above Farmington and, upon the word of a Jamison official, arrested Joseph Paresi for stone throwing. They took him to the depot and left him with two officers to wait for the next Fairmont street car. The sheriff and the rest of his men set off on the two-mile walk to Number 9 and were joined by mine superintendent P. D. Costello's buggy and driver.49
Back in the coal camp where Paresi had been arrested, a crowd of several hundred angry miners marched under the red banner after the posse intent upon rescuing the prisoner. At the Farmington station, they freed Paresi from the unresisting constables and hurried off in pursuit of the sheriff.50
As the lawmen trudged along the road, they heard the eerie sound of whistles passing the warning of their approach along the ridges high above. Arriving at the "Dingville" coal camp, they arrested Valy Brnas and Peter Terkoli for felonious assault. As the posse left, angry foreign miners followed "shouting and cussing" and waving clubs or pick handles. When the lawmen reached the road to Farmington, they met equally angry miners coming from the depot, trapping the sheriff and his men.51
Hard words followed and one cannot be exactly sure what was said. Confusion reigned and the official version of events was crafted to absolve the authorities. No doubt the sheriff ordered interpreter M. I. Glumicich to tell the miners to make way, that the arrests were legal and the prisoners would get a fair trial. The miners, particularly the Italians who understood neither Conaway nor Glumicich, ignored the interpreter and demanded the release of the prisoners. One prisoner suddenly broke free from policeman Kerns and jumped into the crowd, while the other began to struggle with Constable Riggs. Kerns momentarily recollared his man, only to be clubbed senseless by the strikers. The miners then swarmed over the officers, who drew their guns and fired wildly. Miners returned fire in an exchange of perhaps one hundred rounds. Several officers lost their weapons and most were knocked to the ground, before they ran for their lives.52
Sheriff Conaway, partially disarmed and bleeding from blows to his head and face, waded into Dunkard Mill Creek that ran parallel to the road, crossed it at a cement dam and took refuge in the Jamison company store. Policeman Kerns and Deputy Buckley, both of whom had been beaten and the latter seriously injured, soon joined him there, as did two others. Conaway turned the store into a makeshift fort to repel the mob and deputized the clerks on the spot, commandeering their stock of repeating rifles and shotguns. The mine superintendent's wife Mrs. Costello, who lived above the store, prepared to load for the men as they readied to battle the strikers. But the rioters had spent their anger and had no more violence left in them. The other officers had scattered, some to their homes, others to Fairmont to get help.53
Constable Riggs was less fortunate, as the strikers beat him severely. Some later speculated that it was because he refused to release his prisoner. Others thought it was because he spent much of his time enforcing the Yost Law among the foreigners. Riggs was "the one who made West Virginia dry," a rioter is said to have shouted.54 The constable's own words may have inflamed the strikers. Interviewed decades after the event, Charles Elekes remembered without remorse, and stated four times during his interview, that Riggs, "the one who died," had threatened to "take 100 Hunkies" if they interfered with the arrests.55
Despite the vicious assault, Riggs was alive and conscious when the mob dispersed and managed to clamber into the Jamison company buggy. Witnesses agreed that Riggs rode the buggy for some distance, then left it to climb a hill to the house of eighty-four- year-old Elvira Robey. The widow took the bloodied officer into her parlor, bandaged his head and sat him in a chair by the fire. He remained until after dark when constabulary reinforcements arrived from Fairmont, found him in a coma and took him by stretcher and special train to Cook Hospital. After an operation to relieve the swelling of his brain caused by skull fractures, physicians pronounced his wounds fatal.56
The sheriff and his men suffered the worst of the affray. Conaway was bloody and bruised and confined to his bed for several days. His men had an assortment of bruises, lacerations and broken bones. The papers speculated that several miners had been shot but only one casualty, Laseto Sarmino, surfaced after two days. Otherwise, the miners nursed their own wounds and, perhaps, buried their own dead.57
"Respectable" elements in the county reacted swiftly. The Fairmont Times, which usually took the position that immigrant labor was essential to the county, editorialized that the law must be enforced and implied Americans who had criticized public officials shared responsibility with the "mob" for the deplorable event. The paper urged Governor Henry D. Hatfield to send troops in order that "a small show of force" should control "the state of anarchy" at Farmington. Had former Governor Glasscock used military power to crush the strikers at Paint Creek and Cabin Creek, the editor claimed, Farmington miners would never have dared to commit such an outrage.58 The Democratic Times admitted that the striking foreigners might have real grievances and probably thought they had acted justifiably. But nothing, the paper concluded, not even ignorance of the law, could excuse their deeds. The Republican West Virginian agreed and urged everyone to keep cool.59
At once, local Dry forces blamed the violence on liquor supplied to foreigners by outsiders and sprang to action. On February 23, popular Methodist preacher J. C. Broomfield announced that a special train would take five hundred Marion Countians to Uniontown, Pennsylvania, where brass bands would meet them at the depot. All would march to the Fayette County Courthouse to petition a judge to void the liquor licenses of Point Marion dealers who supplied alcohol to Marion County immigrant miners.60
After Riggs died without regaining consciousness on February 24, the county hurriedly convened a special grand jury. Circuit Court Judge W. S. Haymond issued a strong charge to the panel that included seven farmers, three merchants, a druggist, a real estate salesman, a businessman and a person of "no occupation." Haymond told the jurors that they represented the insulted citizenship of Marion County and characterized the situation as a "crisis in the administration of justice." He castigated rioters as "a class of people who have come to the conclusion that their own sweet will is more powerful than the constitution and laws of the State of West Virginia." "The red flag of anarchy," he said, had been
boldly carried up and down the valleys [and] over the hills of Marion County, which flag you all understand, gentlemen, is the insignia and emblem of that class of people who defy all law and who abhor all governments. The red flag, gentlemen, means that the people who march beneath that banner believe that all government is the scourge of men and that the ownership of property is robbery.61
The following week, while the grand jury heard evidence and the sheriff and several of his deputies recuperated, "special officers" roamed the county rounding up foreign miners and stopping liquor and possible weapons shipments to the strikers. A number of armed volunteers from the community joined the posse. Authorities turned away "scores" of armed volunteers while perhaps as many as "500 with pistols and rifles" took part. House-to-house searches of the Farmington coal camps yielded one red flag plus "a great number" of revolvers, rifles, stilettoes, black jacks, and clubs."62
On March 8, the grand jury finished its work after handing down 134 indictments for murder or assault.63 Every name on the list appeared to be Slavic or Italian. The strategy was evidently to indict every foreign miner who might have been near the scene of the melee. Testimony heard by the grand jury identified Italian miners as the strike leaders, only to be pushed aside by the "Austrians, [i. e. Croatians] who at the sight of blood became like wild men." This account agreed with the public assessment offered by the detectives hired by the coal company. By mid-March, almost one hundred Italians and Croatians were in the county jail. As the search continued, police and bounty hunters caught up with fugitives in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.64
Meanwhile, the strike collapsed, with many strikers, including the apparent leaders, in flight or in jail. The day after Riggs died, strikers had held a defiant, open-air meeting, still brandishing clubs. But, cut off from supplies of arms and ammunition and effectively surrounded and out-gunned by company guards and the sheriff's special deputies, they soon began "to feel the pinch of hunger." Lacking a strike fund or outside support, the men were soon coerced and starved back to work. Strikers' wives frantically, it was reported, begged for credit to buy food from unsympathetic storekeepers while local farmers stood armed watch to repulse desperate assaults on their chicken coops and smoke houses. On March 1, almost three hundred strikers capitulated by publicly laying down their weapons. Two days later, most of the Muncey detectives left, declaring that order had been restored. There were no negotiations, the strike was over.65
The trials of the rioters began in mid-April at the Marion County Courthouse.66 Tusca Morris prosecuted the cases for the county and Judge Haymond presided.67 The newspapers did not question Haymond's impartiality even though he had served as Riggs's pall bearer. Prosecutor Morris elected to try the accused seriatim, starting with the alleged leaders, who were accused of first degree murder. The court set bail at one thousand dollars each, insuring that almost all would remain in jail, despite the fact that the accused posed no serious threat to the community or themselves, and were unable to flee given the tight lid placed by lawmen on the coal camps. Morris later admitted he never intended to try most of the prisoners, they were only witnesses.68 For the rest, prolonged detention and murder convictions of the leaders in the early trials might persuade some to turn state's evidence and others to confess. This plan reassured the native-born community that its property was safe and impressed upon the foreigner the price to be paid for lawlessness, even if it meant flouting the spirit of the Bill of Rights.
The two Croatian community leaders, who were to be tried first, had secured outside lawyers. The nation's largest Croatian- American community was in western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh was home to the National Croatian Society (NCS).69 With the cooperation of Serbian-American organizations, the NCS hired two Pittsburgh lawyers for the first trials: James Francis Burke, prominent Republican Congressman and general counsel for the Serbian Orthodos, and Francis A. Bogadek, respected Croatian- American lawyer. The Austro-Hungarian consul in Charleston also provided legal aid.70
Lewis "Dock" Urich, president of the Croatian lodge at Farmington, was tried first for Riggs's death. The case against him for first degree murder seemed strong. He had fled the state after the riot only to be caught in Altoona, Pennsylvania. As he sat nervously throughout the trial, reporters thought he looked guilty.71
Before a packed courtroom that included a score of Fairmont State Normal School "girls" studying labor-capital disputes, the prosecution paraded the coroner, sheriff, Jamison salaried employees and jailed miners to the witness stand. One of the jailed miners, John Sansone, through an interpreter, identified Urich as a strike leader. Although Sansone did not understand "Austrian," he was sure he heard Urich shout what sounded like "Urica" (perhaps "udariti" meaning "hit it") and then strike the first blow at Riggs.72 Strengthening the prosecution's claim that the violence had been premeditated, Sansone added that Urich and others had talked at a "little red school house" near Number 9 just before the confrontation with the posse. Even though another Italian witness partially corroborated the schoolhouse story, not everyone believed Sansone. Under cross-examination he seemed uncomfortable while denying that prosecutors had shown him a photo of Urich before the trial to help him make the courtroom identification. The next day, miner Steven Shepak described how he had watched from behind an apple tree as Urich struck Riggs with an iron, nut-studded club and urged the miners to free the prisoners.73
Next to testify was bounty-hunting private detective Julius Gretzinger, who had captured Lewis Urich hiding behind the door of a third-floor bedroom in a house in Altoona. Prior to that, Gretzinger had arrested the defendant's brother Joe Urich. Letters from Lewis found on Joe telling of his grief at separation from his wife and baby had led Gretzinger to the Altoona address. The detective also had witnessed the riot and testified that Urich had been armed with a club. The witnesses who followed, mostly coal company office employees, established that Riggs had left the buggy under his own power to seek refuge in Mrs. Robey's house after the riot. Therefore the rioters' blows, not a subsequent buggy wreck, had killed Riggs.74
Urich did not testify in his own defense, evidently because his lawyers did not think he would make a strong witness. To make matters worse, many witnesses scheduled to testify for the defense failed to appear for unexplained reasons and the Times reporter thought that those who did appear were unconvincing. The strongest point of the defense seemed to be the argument that Urich and the miners had not understood American law or language, and had not known the sheriff and his men. They had acted in good faith and out of loyalty when they intervened to rescue their co-workers from what they thought were illegal arrests.75
The jury remained out for five hours. The jurors later explained, no one had doubted Urich's involvement in the riot but several questioned his guilt of a capital offense. After several ballots, with three jurors holding out against first degree murder, the judge instructed them that Urich was technically guilty of the murder if he had participated in resisting the sheriff. This, and the majority's willingness to recommend mercy, at last produced a unanimous vote for first degree murder. The judge deferred sentence pending results of the other trials.76
On April 20, the murder trial of Eli Dumovich, another Croatian fraternal leader, began. In contrast to Urich, Dumovich appeared confident and smiling. Again the prosecution relied on testimony from jailed miners who named him, Urich and Italians Matteo Braganti and Thomas Angotti as the strike leaders. The witnesses said Dumovich started the fight by wresting a blackjack from an officer before grabbing and striking Riggs. During cross- examination of the sheriff, the defense built sympathy for the strikers by eliciting a detailed explanation of the unpopular "John Doe" warrants. The defense contended that the pre-riot arrests were unreasonable and called dozens of witnesses who swore Dumovich had hit no one. Finally, Dumovich himself took the stand to profess his innocence. Despite the strong defense, the prosecutors and their staunch ally the Fairmont Times legal reporter remained confident of a guilty verdict, especially after the judge instructed the jury that resisting arrest or assisting others in resisting arrest made the defendant culpable. Their confidence met disappointment the next day when a hung jury, nine to three for conviction, forced Judge Haymond to declare a mistrial.77
Over the next few days, the county disposed of two more cases. Croatian miner Rock Hoiler (or Rog Holler) confessed he had trod on Riggs's face during the brawl. Hoiler was portrayed as a quiet man and a good worker with a solid reputation who had lost his head in the excitement. Penniless, with a wife and baby at home, Hoiler could not afford a lawyer. Judge Haymond was sympathetic as he sentenced Hoiler to life, saying he hoped that the sentence would be shortened by time off for good behavior or an eventual pardon.78
The trial of Italian Pete Chippiano (Cipriano) followed. The now familiar array of state witnesses made the case in a nearly empty courtroom. They identified Chippiano as the drummer for the marchers, placed him at the riot and said he had attacked Riggs. An unscripted event occurred when a juror fainted during Dr. J. R. McDonald's graphic use of a human skull to describe Riggs's mortal wounds. Chippiano's court-appointed counsel focused on the sheriff's failure to communicate with the Italian strikers. Had they understood the legal basis for the arrests there would have been no riot, he claimed. Chippiano, testifying in his own defense, admitted to striking Officer Tom Moore, but only, he said, after the officer had shot at him. He denied striking Riggs, but confessed he had taken Moore's pistol and buried it near his house. On April 30, the jury convicted Chippiano of first degree murder and recommended mercy.79
Following the Chippiano verdict, other cases were quickly settled. At the end of April, only four of the almost one hundred strikers in jail since early March had made bail.80 Families had been without a bread winner for nearly two months and the men had seen enough trials to know acquittal was unlikely, but no one would hang. When twenty-one-year-old Charles Elekes received a comparatively light two-year sentence (twenty months with good behavior) after confessing to throwing the sheriff's mace in the mill pond, plea bargaining began in earnest.81
County officials and coal operators also wanted to end the trials. The court term had been costly, convictions had come hard and the credibility as witnesses of company men and jailed miners was wearing thin. Alleged riot leader Matteo Braganti had demolished the case against him by establishing a solid alibi and gone free. Moreover, local mines needed labor. In early May, the papers announced the opening of seven new mines employing fifteen hundred men.82 Coal operators could not let so many experienced miners sit idly in jail.
By May 18, confessions and plea bargains had sent almost fifty immigrants to the state penitentiary for terms of ten months to life on a range of offenses. The rest of the jailed miners were set free, eight with murder indictments still pending as an incentive to keep them on the straight and narrow.83
The legal proceedings stemming from the Farmington riot taught the Italian and Croatian communities hard lessons about American law and who had life and death power over them. At the same time, rigorous enforcement of prohibition laws against them demonstrated another way by which the native, middle-class community intended to control them and lay down the rules for becoming American.
On April 21, "Anti-Saloon Day," prohibition advocate Fred Blue, before an "immense" and "enthusiastic" audience at Fairmont's Methodist Episcopal Church, defended abstinence as vital to West Virginia's progressive development. He lauded prosecutor Morris for his enforcement efforts and eulogized Constable Riggs "who lost his life in enforcing the prohibition laws."84
But not all agreed, for on Saturday, May 3, county residents imported six hundred gallons of beer and liquor by rail from that convenient oasis, Point Marion, Pennsylvania. Most of the shipment complied with the one half-gallon, packaged and labeled in English, limitation. Officers arrested sixteen foreigners for liquor law violations, and three were later convicted and sentenced to two months in jail and a one hundred dollar fine, one for possessing three unlabeled bottles of beer.85
Prosecutors had to free the rest, either for lack of evidence or because a jury failed to convict them. In one case, jurors took only ten minutes to reach a not guilty verdict, prompting the Wet Democratic Times to accuse authorities of selective enforcement against immigrants and of winking at wholesale violations by the well-to-do. The paper complained that the state wrongfully required the accused to prove his innocence. The Dry Republican West Virginian answered curtly that "ignorant foreigners" must obey the law whether they liked it or not.86
Newspaper interest in the foreigners waned after the trials ended. In May, a gathering of five hundred Serbians who lived in the area earned only a few lines in the Times.87 National policy focused more on the war in Europe and on preparing Americans to fight against the "Huns," Germany and its ally Austria. None but American nationalism deserved recognition. With the flowering chauvinism, public attitudes toward all immigrants hardened and their loyalty was suspect. While such figures as former president Theodore Roosevelt denounced hyphenated Americanism,88 in October, Fairmont celebrated Columbus Day as a "100 percent American" instead of an Italian-American holiday. There would be no parade of red, white and green flags through the city's streets. In place of the Societa Cristoforo Columbo, Societa Vittorio Emanuel III and Societa del Minatori sotto Il titolo San Antonia, the largely Irish Catholic and militantly patriotic Knights of Columbus sponsored the only reported celebration, a banquet for one hundred and fifty persons at St. Peter's Catholic Church. The published list of speakers and invited guests contained no recognizably Italian names. Only American flags were displayed and "America" and "West Virginia Hills" replaced the Neapolitan songs of previous years. The main speakers were James M. Callahan, West Virginia University historian, and W. S. Haymond, who presided over the riot trials. The latter used the occasion to orate on Columbus's "noble deeds and Christian virtues."89 Ironically, the same rising tide of anti- German sentiment that pervaded the land and became hatred for all hyphenates lessened anti-Catholic prejudice as the Kaiser supplanted the Pope as the putative primary threat to Protestant America.90
The Farmington riot showed operators and their allies that despite northern West Virginia's peaceful labor past, even here, foreigners could become rebellious, perhaps, susceptible to unionization and might also succumb to the influence of political radicals.91 To meet the threat, the powerful Northern West Virginia Coal Operators Association (NWVCOA) soon stepped up surveillance of the foreigners. Dozens of undercover men infiltrated the mine work force to ferret out radicalism.92
From 1917 to 1922, the UMWA grew substantially in size and influence and made strong inroads in northern West Virginia. After the United States entered World War I in 1917, coal demand soared. Under pressure from the Wilson Administration and in pursuit of a stable labor supply, the NWVCOA agreed to a contract with the UMWA.93 While hardly a model of toleration, the union's record showed it would accept immigrant members. But unionization did not bring labor peace or ethnic harmony to Marion County. After the success of the Russian Bolsheviks in 1917 and mounting job and wage dissatisfaction among miners nationwide through 1918, radicalism increased among immigrants. Thus, when organizers made a swing through Monongahela Valley mill and mining towns in the summer of 1919, small foreign-language IWW locals and Union of Russian Workers (UORW) chapters appeared at Farmington and other county coal camps.94
On October 31, 1919, the UMWA called a national bituminous coal strike.95 At the behest of coal operators, Federal Justice Department agents intervened to break the strike in November, and concluded, as had the detectives at Farmington in 1915, that a few radical foreigners were the root of the trouble.96 Although Bureau of Investigation (BI) files suggest that Italian anarchists probably posed a greater threat of violence,97 unnaturalized Russian miners were authorities' primary targets. Surprise raids that netted nominal members of the revolutionary UORW soon filled the Marion County jail with nearly 100 "Bolsheviks" and later supplied 18 deportees for the "Red Ark," a ship that carried Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman and 229 others to the Soviet Union.98
The coal camp at Jamison Number 9 had the largest radical contingent.99 The raids had grown from intelligence provided to the BI by NWVCOA spies, local police and the UMWA sub-District 4 president, who met secretly with federal agents.100 Local deputies remarked how easy it had been to catch the radicals and welcomed the diversion from their usual activity in the coal camps. One bragged, "why six of those Reds are easier to get than one drunk man!"101 The West Virginian commented that although the immigrants might be opposed to government, they were "not very blood thirsty about it." A deputy caught three "reds" who could easily have gotten away because they thought they could talk their way out of being wrongly accused of bootlegging. Seven more were arrested at Dakota mines in a UORW "People's House," "drinking and smoking around a table having a general good time."102
Some of those arrested had IWW or anarchist, as well as UORW, connections. At Number 9, agents discovered a revolver and a cache of literature that included writings of former IWW secretary- treasurer Vincent St. John, "Russian Songs of Freedom" by Max M. Maisel and the UORW paper Bread and Freedom.103 The newspapers were quick to connect the Farmington riot of 1915 with the rise of radicalism. The West Virginian claimed that "Austrians" (Croatians), as well as Russians, were government targets. The Times said that a huge amount of IWW and Bolshevik literature had been confiscated at Number 9 coal camp. Little children, it asserted, had been found there playing with a pamphlet whose title translated into English as "drops of blood."104
The newspapers to the contrary, the BI files suggest most of those arrested were not revolutionaries. They were humble miners seeking what lonely men far from home who worked hard, lacked status or power and were outcasts from the cultural mainstream would naturally seek: the solace of laughter, song, drink and ethnic comradery.
Superficially, the 1915 Farmington strike bore the Wobbly stamp. Nearly all eastern IWW strikers were among foreign workers. Those at McKees Rocks, Lawrence, Paterson, New Jersey, and Akron, Ohio, had begun with spontaneous walkouts of unskilled immigrants. In 1915 and 1916, the IWW adopted a new organizational tool. Throughout the country, as many as five thousand unpaid "job delegates" sought to organize their workplaces. The theory was that any worker could create a strike situation by listening to, then magnifying worker complaints so as to sow the seeds of discontent.105
Beyond the supposition of the presence of on-the-job agitators, nothing connects the IWW, the Socialist party or any other outside group to Farmington in 1915. The IWW did not interfere after the strike began, and there would be no reason for its interference. After victories at McKees Rocks and Lawrence, the IWW suffered many defeats in its eastern strikes. By 1915, the Chicago-based organization was in retreat from the East before a business-backed newspaper editorial campaign to depict the Wobblies as un-American.106
If the Farmington strike and riot were not the work of radical "outside agitators," neither were they the folly of a "few unintelligent foreigners who have either been arrested or have left for other parts of the country."107 They stemmed from the immigrant miners' frustration, sense of oppression and deeply felt need to protect their customs and community. Long smoldering job discontent ignited in the shooters' dispute to produce the strike. Anger at harsh and probably discriminatory application of prohibition laws nurtured resentment. The invasion of the camps by heavily armed lawmen and the arrest for removal to a distant jail of fellow workers for relatively minor offenses triggered the riot. It was part of the long, continuous, sometimes accommodating and sometimes hostile cultural interaction of the immigrants with the native middle class as both struggled to define what it meant to be American.
The Farmington riot has long since passed from public consciousness to gather dust with other skeletons in the community closet. With some of the dust blown off and exposed to the light, it reminds us that the history of northern West Virginia over the last century is multicultural and interwoven with historical themes which, though they may be set in an Appalachian context, transcend mere regionalism. Many people, moved by macro-historical forces, traveled by different routes to the Monongahela Valley in quest of a better life. They brought values and traditions that diverged in significant ways from those already established. The modern history of the valley will be little more than an exercise in middle-class nostalgia until it seeks to understand and empathize with those who have been despised.
1. Fairmont Times, 1 March 1915. Represented were the Order of the Owls, Royal Arcanum, Ancient Order of the United Workmen, Ladies of the A. O. U. W., Knights of Pythias and Order of Railroad Conductors.
3. Eighty percent of murder victims were Italians and 86 percent of those killed at the mines were immigrants: Russian, Italian, Polish, Austrian, "Slavic," Greek and Belgian. Ibid., 1 January 1916.
4. Ibid. Emphasis added by author.
5. Keith Dix, Work relations in the Coal Industry: The Hand-Loading Era, 1880-1930 (Morgantown: Institute for Labor Studies, West Virginia Univ., 1977), 15-34.
6. Ibid., 36; Ronald L. Lewis, Black Coal Miners in America: Race, Class, and Community Conflict, 1780-1980 (Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1987), xiii; Fairmont Times, 21 August 1910.
7. Thirteenth Census of the United States . . . 1910. Vol. III: Population (Washington, D. C.: GPO, 1913), 1306 and West Virginia Department of Mines, Annual Report, 1915 (Charleston: Tribune Printing, 1916), 244-47.
8. The exodus took many Mediterranean and Slavic emigrants to Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand. Thomas Archdeacon, Becoming American: An Ethnic History (New York: The Free Press, 1983), 112-13.
9. Archdeacon calculates the 1908-24 remigration rates of Italians to be 45.6 percent and of Croatians/Slovenians to 36.3 percent. By contrast, Irish remigration was 8.9 percent, Russian 65 percent and Bulgarian/Montenegrin/Serbian 87.4 percent. Ibid., 139.
10. Ironically, the woman was misrouted to Farmington, Minnesota, and reached West Virginia only long after Elekes. Charles Elekes interview, 30 August and 9 September 1976, Oral History Project, West Virginia and Regional History Collection, West Virginia University and Joseph Stipanovich and Maria K. Woroby, Slavic Americans: A Study Guide and Source Book (San Francisco: R & E Research Associates, Inc., 1977), 29-32.
11. On discrimination and stereotyping of Slavic immigrants see the study of Steelton, Pennsylvania, in John Bodnar, Immigration and Industrialization: Ethnicity in an American Mill Town, 1870-1940 (Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1977), 76-101; Stipanovich and Woroby, Slavic Americans, 21; Victor R. Greene, The Slavic Community on Strike: Immigrant Labor in Pennsylvania Anthracite (Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1968), 113; Louis Adamic, Laughing in the Jungle (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1932), 102. George J. Prpic, The Croatian Immigrants in America (New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1971), 233, adds additional epithets to the list hurled at Croatians in America.
12. Prpic, Croatian Immigrants, 220-25.
13. Since 1908, county prosecutors had battled to protect Italians from violence. John C. McKinney, "The Black Hand!" Marion County Centennial Yearbook (Fairmont: Fairmont Printing Co., 1963), 76-77.
14. No explanation was found for the change in attitude. On the relationship of Columbus Day to the aspirations of Italian- Americans, see the study of the multiple meanings of the explorer to American self-identity in Thomas J. Schlereth, "Columbia, Columbus, and Columbianism," Journal of American History 79(December 1992): 955-59. On the national holiday, see Michael Kammen, Mystic Chords of Memory (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), 242-43.
15. Fairmont Times, 13 and 14 October 1912, 13 October 1913 and West Virginian, 12, 13 and 14 October 1912.
16. Bodnar, Immigration and Industrialization, 78-81; Greene, Slavic Community on Strike, 113.
17. Fairmont Times, 2 and 7 November 1912.
18. For the social and cultural importance of wine to Italian culture see Richard Gambino, Blood of My Blood: The Dilemma of Italian-Americans (Garden City: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1974), 23. The saloon helped Croatian immigrants make the transition to the new world. One should not idealize the saloon; it was not only a place of recreation and group socialization for the mostly male, single immigrants but also a fount of advice, an employment bureau, a bank and a school for learning about America. Pripc, Croatian Immigrants, 52-55, 58-59; Stephen Thernstrom, ed. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (Cambridge: Belknapp Press of Harvard Univ., 1980), 247-55.
19. Frederick O. Blue, When a State Goes Dry (Westerville, OH: American Publishing Co., 1916), 99-105 and Speech at Fairmont M. E. Church, [Fairmont] Farmers' Free Press, 22 April 1915. A mine superintendent wrote to Governor Hatfield that "since Prohibition . . . we have had comparatively no trouble with our men lying off from work, fighting, etc. The families of the fathers and sons who drank are better cared for and are perceptibly more prosperous. We are troubled a little with bootleggers, but I assure you there is not one pint used now to gallons before." Ferdinand C. Iglehart, King Alcohol Dethroned (Westerville, OH: American Issue Publishing Company, 1917), 246.
20. The 1910 population of the county was 42,794. Thirteenth Census. . . ., Vol. 3: Population, 1036.
21. Fairmont Times, 14 April 1915.
22. The Jamisons were Irish-American, Pennsylvania industrialists who opened the three mines between 1910 and 1912. Much later the Jamison interests sold Nos. 7 and 8 to Bethlehem Steel. In 1954, Pittsburgh-Consol acquired No. 9 and continued operations there until November 1968 when an explosion took 78 lives. Elinor W. Carroll, "Coal, King in Marion County," Marion County Centennial Yearbook, 22 and Fairmont Times, 21 and 30 November 1968.
23. Department of Mines, Annual Report, 1915, 246-47. Of the thirty-one nationalities listed with "American White," "Negro" and "Unknown," representatives of twenty worked at the three Jamison mines. For reports on these mines, see ibid., 60-61, Third Section, 24-25. In October 1912, a state mining commission spent an afternoon at Number 7 and issued a glowing report. P. J. Donahue, S. L. Walker and Fred O. Blue, Report of West Virginia Mining Investigation Commission (Charleston: Tribune Printing, 1912), 16 and Fairmont Times, 7 October 1912.
24. General grievances of the foreign miners included slack work during the economically depressed winter of 1914-15 and the well-founded belief that American miners received the best jobs, particularly above ground jobs. At Number 9, 24 of 44 American whites were employed above ground, compared to only 10 of 157 Austrians, Horwatts, Hungarians or Croatians. Department of Mines, Annual Report, 1915, 170-71.
25. Dix, Work Relations, 12.
26. Fairmont Times, 22 February 1915; West Virginian, 22 February 1915 and Elekes interview.
27. Elekes interview.
28. Maier B. Fox, United We Stand: The United Mine Workers of America, 1890-1990 (n. p.: United Mine workers of America, 1990), 174-75, describes UMWA weaknesses in 1913-14 and reports the only strike action in 1914-15 was a long dispute with eastern Ohio operators.
29. Harry M. Caudill, Theirs Be the Power: The Moguls of Eastern Kentucky (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1983), 45- 46; Elinor W. Carroll, "Coal," Marion County Yearbook, 19- 22; Elinor W. Carroll and Susan H. Hutchinson, "The Fabulous Homes of Fairmont," ibid., 28-32; Chase E. Beachy, comp., History of the Consolidation Coal Company, 1864-1934 (New York: Consolidation Coal Company, 1934), 37-41, 63-65. Consol operated 17 of the company's 33 mines in 1915. Department of Mines, Annual Report, 1915, 38-39 and Priscilla Long, Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America's Bloody Coal Industry (New York: Paragon House, 1989), 120-22. Fairmont was also home to powerful independent operators such as Clyde E. and M. L. Hutchinson and John A. Clark.
30. West Virginian, 27 February 1915.
31. The terminology of the Fairmont papers is used throughout this article in referring to the South Slavic strikers as Croatian. The ethnic jumble that was Austria-Hungary in the World War I era makes it hard to determine nationalities. The immigrants knew who they were, but the records are often unclear. For example, an ethnic Serb who worked in Hungary or Croatia might be listed as a Croatian. Slovenes were listed with Croatians. A Croatian, such as Charles Elekes who migrated from Hungary, might be listed as a Hungarian. A Croatian might also be counted as a "Horwatt" (Hvarat), and both Serbs and Croatians might show up as Hungarian, Austrian or even Slavic. Adamic, Laughing in the Jungle, 101-02. Department of Mines, Annual Report, 1915, 246-47, provides little help.
32. West Virginian, 27 February 1915.
33. Fairmont Times, 22 February 1915 and West Virginian, 22 February and 3 March 1915.
34. Gambino, Blood of My Blood, 41, 46-48, describes features of Italian uprisings such as mass marches in which, like the Farmington strikers, the men carried homemade clubs with spikes driven through them. David Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labor (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987), 109-10.
35. Herbert G. Gutman, "Work, Culture and Society in Industrializing America," American Historical Review 78(June 1973): 580 and Edward Fenton, Immigrants and Unions, A Case Study: Italians and American Labor, 1870-1920 (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 198-202.
36. Michael Novak, The Guns of Lattimer: The True Story of a Massacre and a Trial, August 1897-March 1898 (New York: Basic Books, 1978), 75-76; Greene, Slavic Community on Strike, 137-39; and Prpic, Croatian Immigrants, 156-58. For other notorious and bloody miner-operator confrontations of the period which were far worse and quite different from Farmington, see Paul M. Angle, Bloody Williamson: A Chapter in American Lawlessness (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962) on the Herrin, Illinois massacre (1922) and Long, Where the Sun Never Shines, 91-92, for Ludlow, Colorado (1914).
37. John Bodnar, The Transplanted: A History of Immigrants in Urban America (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1987), 91- 92.
38. James R. Barrett, "Americanization from the Bottom Up: Immigration and the Remaking of the Working Class in the United States, 1880-1930," Journal of American History 79(December 1992): 997.
39. Bodnar, The Transplanted, 205; April Schultz, "`The Pride of Race Had Been Touched', The 1925 Norse American Immigration Centennial and Ethnic Identity," Journal of American History 77(March 1991): 1267, 1269, 1270.
40. On nativism and pre-war anti-foreignism, see John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 (New York: Atheneum, 1971), 3-11.
41. Bodnar, The Transplanted, 107-08. Evidently, the only Roman Catholic presence in Farmington was a mission from Fairmont's Irish St. Peter's Church, which could have only limited influence among Croatians and Italians.
42. Key eastern IWW strikes of the period were of steel workers at Paterson, New Jersey (1913), rubber workers at Akron, Ohio (1913), glass workers at Toledo, Ohio (1913) and stogie workers at Pittsburgh (1912-13).
43. The IWW and some historians have disliked the application of syndicalism to its ideology. However, as Joseph R. Conlin has written, "if syndicalism is defined and will become the postrevolutionary governing body, then syndicalist the Wobblies were." At the Point of Production: The Local History of the I. W. W. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981), 20. Salvatore Salerno, Red November, Black November (Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1987), 1-16, 32, argues that historians who deny the importance of European thought in the IWW are practicing a form of nativism. See Conlin, Point of Production, 1-23 for a discussion of histories of the Wobblies. Important works on the IWW include Paul F. Brissenden, I. W. W.: A Study of American Syndicalism (New York: Russell and Russell, 1919); Fred Thompson, The I. W. W.: Its First Seventy Years (Chicago: Industrial Workers of the World, 1976); Melvin Dubofsky, We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1969); and Joseph R. Conlin, Bread and Roses, Too: Studies of the Wobblies (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1969).
44. A straight-forward account is John N. Ingham, "A Strike in the Progressive Era: McKees Rocks, 1909," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 12(July 1966): 353-77.
45. Patrick Renshaw, The Wobblies: The Story of Syndicalism in the United States (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1968), 97- 112 and Conlin, Bread and Roses, Too, 95-113.
46.Donahue, Walker and Blue, Report of West Virginia Mining Investigation Commission, 10; For Cabin Creek-Paint Creek, see Frederick Barkey, "The Socialist Party in West Virginia from 1898 to 1920" (Ph. D. diss., University of Pittsburgh, 1971), chapter 4 and David A. Corbin, Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880-1922 (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1981), chapter 4.
47. Fairmont Times, 22 February 1915; West Virginian, 22 February 1915 and Elekes interview.
48. Fairmont Times, 22 March 1915.
49. Ibid. and Elekes interview.
50. Fairmont Times, 22 February 1915.
53. Ibid. and West Virginian, 22 February 1915. Newspaper stories based upon the lawmen's accounts almost certainly exaggerate the size of the mob and the steadfastness of the posse. Newspaper accounts reported that many of the lawmen simply attempted to escape once the riot began.
54. Fairmont Times, 22 February, 3 and 4 March 1915; West Virginian, 22 and 24 February, 14 April 1915.
55. Elekes felt sorry for two policemen: George Straight of Farmington, who offered to make the arrests peacefully and refused to accompany the sheriff's men into the camps, and Ted Barkley, "a nice gentleman" who should not have been beaten up. Elekes interview.
56. Opinions differed as to what happened to Riggs between the beating and his arrival at the Robey house. Early newspaper accounts reported Riggs's buggy, pulled by a terrified horse, careened at breakneck speed away from the mob across the creek until it upset in a ditch. In this version, Riggs somehow dragged himself free of the wreckage, avoided pursuers and crawled up the hill to the Robey house. Were this so, Riggs's fatal injury may have occurred in the buggy wreck, not the riot. However, prosecutors produced witnesses who swore Riggs had stopped the buggy, paused to wash the blood off his face at a spring and then calmly walked up to Mrs. Robey's door. They disagreed as to whether Riggs stepped out, slid to the ground or fell as he dismounted. To account for the fact that the buggy was indisputably found wrecked in a ditch, company employees testified that strikers pushed it there after Riggs left it. Fairmont Times, 22 February 1915 and West Virginian, 14 and 15 April 1915.
57. Fairmont Times, 22 February 1915 and West Virginian, 22 February 1915.
58. Hatfield sent a militia officer to the scene who reported that troops were unnecessary. Fairmont Times, 22 and 23 February 1915.
59. Ibid., 22 February 1915 and West Virginian, 22 February 1915.
60. West Virginian, 23 February 1915. The mission to Pennsylvania failed.
61. Fairmont Times, 25 February 1915 and West Virginian, 23 February 1915.
62. Fairmont Times, 23, 24 and 25 February 1915 and West Virginian, 25 February and 2 March 1915. When three bootleggers were caught smuggling whiskey to the strikers at Number 8 mine and then produced enough money to hire a lawyer and make $500 bond, some thought it proved the existence of a large bootlegging ring or a red conspiracy.
63. The names of those indicted appear in Fairmont Times, 31 March 1915.
64. Ibid., 26 February, 8 March, 4, 9 and 13 April 1915 and West Virginian, 26 February and 1 March 1915.
65. On February 26, UMWA officials in Charleston issued a public statement denying the union's involvement in the Farmington strike. West Virginian, 26 February 1915 and Fairmont Times, 3 March 1915.
66. The Marion County Circuit Clerk could provide no records of the riot trials. Accounts are found in three local newspapers: Fairmont Times, West Virginian and Farmers' Free Press.
67. Both Judge Haymond and prosecutor Morris maintained reputations for strict integrity during extended public service in Marion County. But both were intimately connected to powerful coal interests. Haymond belonged to a coal baron family and, after World War I, Morris became chief counsel for Consol in Fairmont.
68. Fairmont Times, 18 May 1915.
69. Founded in Pittsburgh in 1894 as the Croatian Association, it took the name National Croatian Society in 1897. By 1916, it had 40,000 members and 500 lodges and hired lawyers to defend its members. In 1926, it merged with several other Croatian associations to become the Croatian Fraternal Union. Prpic, Croatian Immigrants, 133, 157, 178-82 and Robert E. Wilson and Frank A. Zabrosky, Resources on the Ethnic and the Immigrant in the Pittsburgh Area, 1st. ed. (Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education, 1979), 4.
70. West Virginian, 4, 5 and 13-15 April 1915; Farmers' Free Press, 5 May 1915; George J. Prpic, "The Croatian Immigrants in Pittsburgh," Ethnic Experience in Pennsylvania, 273-81; Harvey O'Connor, Mellon's Millions, The Biography of a Fortune: The Life and Times of Andrew Mellon (New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1933), 118. Burke (1867-1932) served in Congress from 1905-15 and, among a number of significant positions, was General Counsel of the Republican National Committee from 1927 until his death. Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1961 (Washington, D. C.: GPO, 1961), 628-29. In 1926, Bogadek published his New English-Croatian and Croatian-English Dictionary which was to go through at least four editions.
71. West Virginian, 12, 13 and 14 April 1915.
72. Ibid., 13 and 14 April 1915. See Bogadek, Dictionary. Like the witness, newspaper reporters who covered the trial could not catch this word. Neither could Keith Dix who interviewed Charles Elekes in 1976. The transcript of the interview (13) reads "Elekes: `One of us say, (some phrase in Hungarian).' Keith:`What does that mean?' Elekes: `Hit it!'" The audio tapes of the interview extant at West Virginia University omit this sequence.
73. West Virginian 13 and 14 April 1915 and Farmer's Free Press, 14 April 1915. The corroborating witness remembered the gathering in the schoolhouse, but thought its purpose was to repair the broken pole that carried the strikers' banner.
74. Fairmont Times, 14 April 1915 and Farmers' Free Press, 15 April 1915.
75. West Virginian, 15 April 1915 and Fairmont Times, 15 April 1915.
76. West Virginian, 16 April 1915 and Fairmont Times, 16 April 1915. In May, Judge Haymond denied Lewis Urich's appeal for a new trial and sentenced him to life. West Virginian, 17 May 1915.
77. West Virginian, 20-23 April 1915 and Fairmont Times, 24 and 26 April 1915.
78. Fairmont Times, 27 April 1915 and West Virginian, 26 April 1915.
79. Fairmont Times, 27-30 April 1915 and West Virginian, 27-30 April 1915.
80. Dominic Tritia was the fourth to raise a $1,000 bond. Fairmont Times, 27 April 1915.
81. West Virginian, 30 April 1915 and Fairmont Times, 1 May 1915. Many years later Elekes said, "I don't know what the hell they were charged with. The only thing I know is that 33 [actually 50] went to Moundsville." Elekes interview.
82. Fairmont Times, 4 May 1915.
83. Ibid., 3, 4, 7, 14, 17 and 18 May 1915 and West Virginian, 3 and 13 May 1915.
84. Farmers' Free Press, 22 April 1915.
85. Fairmont Times, 3, 4 and 7 May 1915.
86. Ibid., 3, 4 and 7 May 1915 and West Virginian, 3 May 1915. In 1919, the Volstead Act ended legal out-of-state liquor importation.
87. The paper took note that "Dock" Urich was still in prison when his twenty-eight year old brother Joe was killed at Jamison's Number 8 mine. It took no notice when, after nineteen months and six days in prison, Elekes returned to the Farmington mines and later settled down, married the widow of a mine accident victim and lived to a ripe old age. Fairmont Times, 6 May and 13 October 1915 and 28 May 1918; and Elekes interview.
88. John Higham, Strangers in the Land, 198-99.
89. Fairmont Times, 13 October 1913 and 12 and 13 October 1915.
90. Higham, Strangers in the Land, 200-01.
91. On the unresolved question of whether the new immigrants inhibited or contributed to the growth of the American trade union movement prior to 1930, see Bodnar's discussion in The Transplanted, 92-104 and Robert Asher, "Unionism and the Immigrant Response," Labor History 23(Summer 1982): 326-48.
92. "Statement of Brooks Fleming," 3 November 1919, RG 65, Bureau of Investigation, Old German File, 303770, National Archives, hereafter referred to as RG 65, BI-OG. For undercover agents' reports from the Marion County hot spots Farmington, Grant Town and Watson area, see Reports of "36," "40" and "34" for 1919 scattered through RG 65, BI-OG 303770 and 328353. Additional reports are in the C. E. Smith Papers, West Virginia and Regional History Collection, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.
93. Montgomery, Fall of the House of Labor, 385-97 and Fox, United We Stand, 180-89. For the signing of the UMWA's breakthrough contract with the Maryland Coal Co. at Clarksburg's Waldo Hotel, see Clarksburg Daily Telegram, 6 May 1917.
94. For a description of the November 1919 "red raids" in northern West Virginia, see Charles H. McCormick, "`Put None But Americans On Guard Tonight': The 1919 Campaign Against Reds in Marion County," [Fairmont State College] Perspectives Magazine 2(Spring 1991): 34-43. For Bureau of Investigation reports on Farmington radicalism, see F. M. Ames, "In re: Ortib Schatabnoy and 27 others," 19 November 1919 and E. B. Speer to Frank Burke on "Pittsburgh Union of Russian Workers List," 15 November 1919, both RG 65, BI-OG 380398.
95. Robert K. Murray, Red Scare: A National Hysteria, 1919- 1920 (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota, 1955), 153-65 and Montgomery, Fall of the House of Labor, 388-95.
96. Stuart Walker to A. Mitchell Palmer, 4 November 1919 (copy) and Ernest Lambeth, "Report on Bituminous Coal Strike, Northern West Virginia for Nov. 8-14, 1919," both RG 65, BI-OG 303770.
97. Violent anarchists were observed in the Fairmont area. The most notorious was Carlo Valdinoci, alias Carlo Rossini and Carlo Alberto, who was implicated in several bomb plots. Strong evidence points to Valdinoci as the man killed on June 2, 1919, after planting a bomb at the home of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer in Washington, D. C. Before the bombing, Valdinoci was last seen in Fairmont in February 1918. Reports of John B. Wilson, 13 and 14 February 1918, RG 60, General Records of the Justice Department, FBI 61-481-2, National Archives and Paul Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1991), 105-22, 153-56.
98. For the Red Scare and the Palmer Raids, see: Murray, Red Scare; Stanley Cobden, "A Study in Nativism: The American Red Scare of 1919-1920," Political Science Quarterly 79(March 1964): 52-75; William Preston, Aliens and Dissenters: Federal Suppression of the Radicals, 1903-1933 (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1963); David Williams, "The Bureau of Investigation and Its Critics, 1919-1921," Journal of American History 68(December 1981): 560-79 and Richard G. Powers, Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover (New York: The Free Press, 1987), 36-129.
99. Ernest Lambeth, "Report . . . Nov. 15-22, 1919," to Frank Burke, 20 November 1919; D. E. Tatom, "In re: Radical Matters at Fairmont, W. Va.," 22 November 1919, all RG 65, BI-OG 328353.
100. On August 22, 1919, the UMWA official urgently wired and phoned a Bureau of Investigation special agent to arrange a meeting at the Fairmont Hotel and later met with U. S. Attorney Stuart Walker to urge government action against foreign radicals in the UMWA. John B. Wilson, "In re: Telegram from H. E. Peters, Fairmont, W. Va.," 23 August 1919, RG 65, BI-OG 328353; Stuart Walker to A. Mitchell Palmer, 4 November 1919, RG 65, BI-OG 303770 and Ernest Lambeth, "Report . . . Nov. 8-14, 1919," RG 65, BI-OG 303770.
101. West Virginian, 20 November 1919.
102. Ibid., 19 and 20 November 1919.
103. "In re: Ortib Schatabnoy and 27 others," 19 November 1919 and Report of Edgar B. Speer to Frank Burke (Pittsburgh UORW list), both in RG 65, BI-OG 380398; Report of Ernest Lambeth for 12-21 November 1919, to Frank Burke 20 November 1919 and D. E. Tatom, "In re: Radical Matters at Fairmont, W. Va.," 18 November 1919, all in RG 65, BI-OG 328353.
104. West Virginian, 17 November 1919 and Fairmont Times, 18 November 1919.
105. Salerno, Red November, 30; Ralph Chaplin, Wobbly: The Rough and Tumble Story of an American Radical (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1948), 177-78 and Conlin, Bread and Roses, Too, 4-7.
106. Conlin, Bread and Roses, Too, 6.
107. Fairmont Times, 8 March 1915.
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