Articles from the
San Francisco Bulletin
Mrs. Fremont Older Investigates West Virginia Strike Condition; Will Tell Story In The Bulletin
Arrested By Order of Military Despot on Her Way to Visit Mother Jones.
March 21, 1913
Mrs. Fremont Older Investigates West Virginia Strike Condition; Will Tell Story In The Bulletin
Arrested By Order of Military Despot on Her Way to Visit Mother Jones.
Mrs. Fremont Older returned yesterday to Washington, after having spent ten days at Paint Creek, West Virginia, investigating the coal strike. She will write her experiences for The Bulletin and telegraph them from Washington. The Governor of West Virginia has placed the coal district under a despotic military rule. Captain Bond of the State militia is the despot, and when Mrs. Older was found talking with Mother Jones’ landlady she was placed under arrest by order of Bond.
Mother Jones, a woman 74 years of age, who has been devoting her life to helping the enslaved coal miners, has been tried with other labor leaders by military court-martial. Of course, they were all found guilty.
Mrs. Older telegraphs that she did not write nor wire from Paint Creek because her letters and telegrams would be read by the military despots. She finally was released from arrest and was allowed to talk with Mother Jones, but not until the General over Bond had countermanded Bond’s orders.
Mrs. Older wires from Washington that some of the labor men will be sent to prison; that Mother Jones will probably be ordered out of the State, but will go to jail instead. Most of the writers have been banished from the district, Mrs. Older being the only one present in court at the close of Mother Jones’ trial. A sixteen-year-old boy was tried with her, and an accommodating Christian clergyman had loaned his church to the coal barons to be used by them as a prison for the poor. The other jails were overcrowded when the “pastor” came to the rescue.
One writer for a Pittsburg paper lay in jail for eight hours because he showed signs of wanting to write the true conditions for his newspaper.
Mrs. Older’s first article will appear in The Bulletin tomorrow.
Mrs. Fremont Older Pictures Battle-Scene In West Virginia War
Novelist Tells of Martial Law and Its Despotic Control Over Industry’s Slaves.
War Scenes At Paint Creek Are Depicted By Mrs. Older
Novelist’s Pen Reveals Hidden Facts Of Strike
Iron Sway of Military Despots Crushes Toilers and Suppresses News.
Justice A Farce As Meted Out In West Virginia
Martial Law Leaves a Trail of Misery in Paint Creek.
By Mrs. Fremont Older.
(Special Dispatch to The Bulletin.)
March 24, 1913
Mrs. Fremont Older Pictures Battle-Scene In West Virginia War
Novelist Tells of Martial Law and Its Despotic Control Over Industry’s Slaves.
War Scenes At Paint Creek Are Depicted By Mrs. Older
Novelist’s Pen Reveals Hidden Facts Of Strike
Iron Sway of Military Despots Crushes Toilers and Suppresses News.
Justice A Farce As Meted Out In West Virginia
Martial Law Leaves a Trail of Misery in Paint Creek.
By Mrs. Fremont Older.
(Special Dispatch to The Bulletin.)
WASHINGTON, March 24. Mother Jones and forty-eight strikers and their sympathizers were being tried at Paint Creek Junction, West Virginia, charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Paint Creek Junction thus became my destination.
My Washington hostess feared I would be in danger of being killed by a wild, blood-thirsty mob. She said her “Good-by” as though it were forever. And my hostess added, “If you get into any trouble, don’t forget to telegraph for me.”
The lunging of the Chesapeake and Ohio train awoke me the next morning. West Virginia was in a brown mood and in a brown season. The trees were leafless, the mountains were brown, the sky was brown, the swift river along the edge of which the train reeled was brown, the air was brown with dust.
We passed monotonous rows of weather-beaten, unpainted houses – miners’ shacks; there are no miners’ homes in West Virginia. As we whirled through the mountains, beauty seemed lost.
“Mamma, can’t I see the soldiers?” a child in the car asked. And I realized we were in the martial law zone.
No one knows the population of Paint Creek Junction. The place seems to have tumbled down from the surrounding mountains and just escaped falling into the river.
I was greeted by a company of soldiers at the little station. An officer came toward me.
“What do you want?”
“There isn’t any.”
“Then a boarding house?”
“No boarding house, either.”
I looked helplessly toward a blue-shirted civilian who emerged from the crowd of militia. He proved to be a striker, and he helped me carry my luggage past the tented lot in the center of the village to the general merchandise store near the track, where we solved the question of living. I appeared to be the only person who had ever wanted to stop over night in Paint Creek Junction. But there was a woman across the track, I was told, who furnished drummers their meals; perhaps she would give me lodging.
She did this, gladly, after I told her I had come to see Mother Jones. The husband of my landlady was a mine superintendent.
I set out immediately to visit Mother Jones.
“I don’t guess they’ll let you see her,” ventured my kindly landlady.
“The military don’t let anyone see her.”
“I have some messages for Mother Jones,” I said.
With a guide I crossed the track. “That’s the strikers’ bullpen,” said my guide, as we passed the railway station, before which sentinels, rifles on shoulders, paced back and forth.
“Forty miners are locked up there; one hundred and fifty in this district.”
I stopped at a little lunch counter on the right as we crossed the track and read Governor Glasscock’s proclamation of war. An unconscious photographical humorist had sabotaged the official document by proclaiming “marital law.” However, as I looked at the flag flying over the field and saw the soldiers going in and out of the tents, the Governor’s meaning was clear.
It was still clearer when we met a pale, gentle-eyed boy, with a sensitive mouth, carrying a bucket of water. Behind him was a youth in khaki uniform, seemingly driving the boy by the power of the Springfield rifle on his shoulder.
“That’s one of the prisoners,” said my guide.
“He’s only a lad,” I replied.
“Sixteen; the youngest of the bunch. Three or four times a day the soldier takes him out to a well to get a bucket of water for cooking.”
The jail in Paint Creek Junction has overflowed, and so the railway station and a little store have been converted into “bull-pens.” Mother Jones has a room in a white rambling cottage. It is guarded by two armed pickets. My guide left me and I went up the steps of the cottage before I tapped at the door.
The guard called: “Lady, who do you want?”
“I’d like to see Mother Jones.”
“You can’t without permission of the provost marshal.”
“I’ve come three thousand miles to see her,” I urged. “You’ll have to see the provost-marshal, that’s all,” was the reply.
It was no easy matter to reach the provost-marshal at Paint Creek Junction. A sentinel guarded either side of the door as we climbed the stairs leading up to the Odd Fellows’ hall, over the two-and-a-half-story merchandise store building.
Captain John Bond, the provost-marshal, was so weighted with authority that he could not rise. He sat at a table, in a hall thirty feet wide and fifty long. In a corner of the room was a stack of rifles. There were rows of empty benches and two unoccupied tables covered with soldiers’ blue-jackets.
Justice was here enthroned, but Justice was at luncheon. Captain Bond alone remained. I stated the object of my call.
“You can’t see Mother Jones,” he said, “without the consent of her attorneys.”
“Where are they to be found?”
“I don’t know, don’t know.”
“When will they be here?”
“At the opening of the court this afternoon.”
I then learned that the Circuit Court had enjoined the military court from proceeding with the trial, on the ground that it had no jurisdiction in cases of civil crimes. Judge Littlepage had not yet given his decision, but two hours before it was handed down Captain Bond had anticipated it. At first this made me wonder, but I soon discovered that courts in West Virginia are strange.
When I returned to my boarding house my landlady greeted me with: “Mother Jones has sent someone to see you.”
The messenger was a wiry mountaineer, a miner with steel blue eyes. “Mother Jones has sent someone to see you. If you write a note I’ll take it to her.
I gave him a letter, saying to Mother Jones that a distinguished lawyer had offered his services free. The messenger opened his shirt and placed the letter next his flesh.
“Why do you carry a letter that way?” I asked.
My landlady pointed at the window. There was silence. A soldier had driven a prisoner to the well for water. No one spoke till they were gone. Even then the messenger’s voice was lowered.
“You never can tell who hears. There are so many spies. The soldiers go right through my pockets. They are as bad as the Baldwin guards.”
The Baldwin guards are the men engaged by the mine owners to club the miners into submission.
In a few minutes the messenger returned with a letter from Mother Jones. He again spoke in a stage conspirator’s whisper. Mother Jones hoped to be free in a few days and see me in Charleston. If I wanted information about the situation I had best go to her house, and talk with her landlady and landlord. I might enter by the side door.
Mother Jones’ landlord was a miner on strike. I was talking with him and his fragile, fiery-eyed wife in their kitchen when in walked, without rapping, a captain of the militia.
“The Provost-Marshal wants you to report at headquarters.”
At first I did not realize that the Captain was addressing me.
“The Provost-Marshal wants you to report at headquarters,” he repeated.
As I accompanied the Captain, Mother Jones’ landlady, a young woman with a fighting chin and nose, grew livid.
“They call us anarchists,” she exclaimed. “I reckon we are. We ain’t citizens any more; that’s sure. They took our rights away from us. I don’t know what we are.”
I though beauty was lost in this brown country, but the skies suddenly became bright with the blue of California. I had found beauty in the great revolt in the spirit of this woman.
I had never been arrested before, and I did not know that I was in custody. I thought I was taking a walk with an officer. We confronted Justice in the person of Captain John Bond.
“What is your name? Where do you live? When were you in that house?” were a few of the questions asked.
I explained. No one believes explanations in the martial law zone. I scarcely believed myself. I thought I must be the very terrible person that Justice evidently believed me.
“I don’t want to violate rules,” I began, but Justice interrupted me.
“Of course you don’t we won’t let you. Then Justice gave me a lecture and said: “That will do you today.”
When I went away I understood how paroled prisoner feel.
I afterwards learned that Captain Bond, in addition to drawing two salaries from the State, is the newspaper correspondent. He, more than any one person, is responsible for the lack of news concerning the strike given the public. The landlord and landlady of Mother Jones had taken her as a boarder only on condition that their liberty be uncurtailed, but they soon found themselves almost prisoners.
A physician, Dr. Hansford, the only aristocrat in the place and the only man in town owning a two-story home, who sympathized with the strikers, was forbidden to visit his patients in Mother Jones’ house.
Provost Marshal Bond, I found, was not only West Virginia Gatling-gun justice, but he was a mind-reader. At 2 o’clock the judges, in uniform of the militia, took their seats. I found at the blue cloth covered tables to the right of the room a mysterious-looking, ingratiating young man, with a head that seemed to be filled with dark alleys and trapdoors and was everywhere in the room. He was brother to the Provost Marshal, and the judges. He gave me pencils, paper, water and a newspaper. He entertained a New York newspaper man who had dropped off for a few hours seeking a “story.” Had I not been busy looking at the prisoners I should have wondered who my new and dearest friend in the world was.
But the prisoners straggled in – the aged woman and the forty-eight others charged with murder. A strange-looking band of murderers they were – the pale boy I had met in the streets; the score of other boys under 21; the middle-aged men; Parsons, the white-haired Socialist leader; sturdy, rugged Paulsen, with his hones, Danish face, and organizer for the United Mine Workers of America; Batley, a stocky, rugged Englishman, veteran in organizing the miners; lank, lean George W. Brown, the first Socialist speaker to carry his message to California; Boswell, the gentle-faced idealist editor of the Charleston Labor Argus, the paper most hated by the mine owners in West Virginia, and Mother Jones, who for forty years has preached union to the workers of America.
They all answered to their names. These comrades in crime, the 16-year-old boy and 80-year-old woman, so the prosecution maintained, had pledged fraternity in blood. The woman and the forty-eight men filled most of the benches in the courtroom and confronted their Judges and jury. The faces of the men on the benches told a vastly different story from the faces of the men in uniforms on the right.
The men on the benches were bent and hard-handed. Even the boys’ faces were lined with toil. Their eyes were weak from working long in the darkness of the earth. They could not bear the sunlight. The men seated at the tables were overfed and flabby. Their hands were soft and white. Their eyes looked through men. Their noses were noses that clearly showed they were of the dominant class. They always had been, and it was plain that they intended always to remain the dominant class. As far apart as the poles were the Judges and the defendants. There was no doubt of the hostility they bore one another.
This was the last day of the trail, but I found the defendants defying the Judges on the first page of the book of recorded testimony. Mary Jones, otherwise known as Mother Jones; C. H. Boswell, editor of the Charleston Labor Argus; John W. Brown, treasurer-writer, organizer of the Socialist party; G. F. Parsons, blacksmith, lawyer; Charles Bailey, mine workers’ organizer; Paul J. Paulsen, International board member of the United Mine Workers of America, had refused to recognize the military court by making a plea. Their attorney, Mr. Houston of Charleston, had based his advice upon Section 12, Article 3 of the constitution of the State of West Virginia, which says “The military shall be subordinate to the civil power and no citizen, unless engaged in the military service of the State, shall be tried by any military court for any offense that is cognizable by the civil courts of the State.” Six defendants claimed their rights as citizens to a trial in a civil court.
This right had been gained when the Magna Charta had been filched from the kings by the barons of England after a thousand years. The coal miners were making the struggle to hold that right when John W. Brown was called. He rose and said:
“If I, as a citizen of the republic and of this State, have no rights under the organic law of the State and Union – if these are taken from me – I am reduced to the state of a subject and not a citizen. I, as one of the accused, refuse to plead one way or another.”
C. H. Boswell said: “I have no defense to make. I am not going to enter a plea in this court.”
“I have no defense to make,” added Mother Jones. “Whatever I have done in West Virginia I have done in all the States. When I get out I will do it again.”
“I wish to make a statement for the whole bunch,” said G. F. Parsons. “We refuse to make any defense. This is for the whole bunch.”
“West Virginians,” said one man to me, “are afraid of nothing on earth but law.”
The defendants had reached the point where they were no longer afraid of law.
The court was astounded. Two militia captains were appointed to represent the defendants. Some relatives of the other accused miners engaged the firm of Matheny & Littlepage to represent them.
The last day of the trial began. The officer of the court warned the attorneys for the defense against making remarks which anticipated the ruling of the court.
Most of the afternoon was given to the testimony of an officer who, after a night’s sleep, found his memory refreshed. His memory was excellent. During the night he had consulted an old book which recalled to him what Mother Jones had said in her speeches. Harmless speeches they were.
President Wilson’s utterances have been far more incendiary. One shudders at the thought of the President’s fate were he a coal miner on trial before a West Virginia military court. His speech about hanging financiers would have landed him in the “bull-pen.”
A curious feature of the trail was the admission of hearsay testimony. When attorneys for the defense protested, they were “steam-rollered” with this from the court. “Let it all go in. This commission will pay no attention to hearsay testimony. It will save time if we admit it.” The New York reporter had talked with Provost-Marshal Bond and the mysterious dark young man with the enchanting manners. At the close of the session I showed the reporter where in the record of the trial a mine operator admitted that he kept gatling guns on his property. The reporter shook his head. “The real story is that the mine-owners are downtrodden.” Then he left for New York.
When the recess came I had an opportunity to speak with Mother Jones. She was in high spirits. I could not help doubting that she was eighty in her neat black alpaca gown. Her white hair, prettily curled, she looked not more than sixty. Mother Jones could give both Lillian Russell and Lina Cavalieri points on youth. She was like a mere child who could be offended. She sent greeting to her friends in the West. She said that the attorney appointed by the court was a nice young fellow, but not her attorney.
She shook her fist most coquettishly at one of the judges and said: “Don’t you dare decide against me or I’ll ____”
The attorneys were eager to go home early. It was decided to hold a night session. The all-percading dark young man preceded me on my arrival at the hall again. I read his newspapers and drank the water he courteously brought. I began wondering if in the aeons long before we had not been tadpoles together. I wondered until he enlightened my credulous mind: I must not believe what the newspapers said. The miners were bad, terrible men, who didn’t like to work. The mine-owners were noble souls, who, out of the kindness of their hearts, took care of these lazy miners. If it were not for the mine-owners the miners would starve. Suddenly I thought I saw a trapdoor spring in the head of my dearest friend in the world. I wondered who was paying his salary. I had not long to wonder. The courtroom again filled. Some women took their seats behind: one leaned forward and whispered audibly: “Do you know you are talking to a Burns detective?”
My friend heard her remark.
He was no longer a charming young man. I saw intricate dark alleys in his expression. There was a conference with the provost marshal. A note was sent to the table where the impeccable judges sat, and the judge-advocate rose and requested all women in the courtroom except me to leave.
My dearest friend was a man of action. I still wondered who was paying his salary and why he was omnipresent and omniscient. It came out, and the attorney for the defense protested against sending away the women who were friends of the miners, and much interested in the case, while Smith (my dearest friend’s name was more shocking than his occupation; he should really find a better name), while Smith was allowed to remain in the courtroom. Smith has been a witness against the defendants. It was the court’s own ruling that witnesses should be excluded.
After they testified, it was clear who was paying Smith’s salary. Directly or indirectly, it was the coal operators. My dearest friend, the reception committee for journalism, the brother of the Provost Marshal, the Dictator to the court, the all-pervading spirit of Paint Creek Junction, was the coal operators. I felt certain that he would remain in the courtroom, and he did. The Court overruled itself merrily.
The august body then gravely proceeded to deal out justice to “criminals.”
The next day I heard a quite delightful clergyman say: “It is lamentable that the miners are convinced, really convinced, that there is not justice for them in their court.”
“Is there?” I asked.
“Of course,” he said.
After my friend Smith’s exhibition of power I was no longer surprised at anything. Back of him were the guards, the gatling guns, the billions of the coal operators.
The defendants’ attorney arose to make a speech. It was a very bad speech, because it seemed insincere. Smith evidently believed it a literary duty to talk down a bad speech. He went to the telephone and did his best to drown the speech. I wish he had. But I felt that it was not Smith, but the coal operators who spoke. The defendents, too, knew who talked over the telephone. Perhaps that was why many of them were bloodless and agitated, as if they were looking into the mouth of a gatling gun.
If there are any lawyers in California capable of making as dull speeches as the first three I listened to that evening I would advise them to go to West Virginia. In comparison, M. F. Matheny, who followed, seemed like Webster and Clay combined. He went back to the causes of the trial. He pointed out that if we do not have industrial justice we have industrial war. The war was not in the East, West North or South, but at that moment in West Virginia. Time after time miners had been knocked down by the companies’ private police.
The guards were never punished. The guards were still armed. They had evicted the miners from their houses. If the defendants were guilty, what else could be expected? The companies had usurped the power of the Government. But nothing had been established against the defendants except by the companies themselves, or “This man Smith.”
Smith had fraternized with the miners, taken their food, when they had little. His life had been saved, according to his own testimony, by John W. Brown, yet he had written down every violent word uttered, and testified against the miners. No doubt Smith heard violent words. It was the time of war. He heard war words, but there was no evidence against the defendants. Even if there were, this was not a personal fight.
Armed bodies were moving always up and down the creek. Individuals should not be held responsible. The miners did not fight the guards as individuals. The guards did not fight the miners as individuals. It was cause against cause – war! It was union labor against the guard system. The court could not settle the matter till it was settled right. No matter what was done to Boswell, Brown, Conley, Paulsen, Parsons, Mother Jones and others, the same fight would go on till it was settled right. It was nearly midnight when Matheny closed.
His words went out into the street, where friends of the prisoners listened. Even the court seemed moved. The judge advocate’s sneers were hollow when he rose to close.
Mr. Matheny had gone back to causes. What had causes to do with this case? Murder was murder, thought the judge advocate, despite the fact that he, himself, wore a uniform which made murder the supreme service to one’s country. The judge advocate was certain he was right. Each man at Paint Creek Junction, West Virginia, believes he is right. The judge advocate felt that surely justice would be equally served should these leaders, these arch-conspirators, be sent to prison. The historic case then went to the jury. The provost marshal and I were the only persons present to record the occurrences as the prisoners filed out, decried murderers. The 16-year-old boy and the 80-year-old woman passed through a throng of sympathizers who had walked miles to listen to the reports of the speech in the street. Mother Jones and her guards went in one direction, the prisoners went another to the “bull pen.”
Since no news beyond a few scattered reports was finding its way to the world from the West Virginia district, which for a year has been the center of the strike of the United Mine Workers against the Paint Creek Collieries Company, Mrs. Fremont Older went to the scene to investigate conditions.
The results of her ten-day stay in the strike district are embodied in the series of articles which begins herewith.
The strike arose from the fearful destitution of the miners. Twenty-one cents a ton was being paid them for the coal which they mined. They struck for 30 cents. On the 21-cent basis, the end of the month has found them almost invariably in debt to the company store, where they are forced to trade.
They inhabit mere shacks, hovels owned by the company, conditions being almost unbearable, especially in cold winters. The life of these miners and their families has sunk, in bitter hardship and the absence of all that goes to make life attractive, to the lowest level of slavery and destitution.
Finding their demands for a living wage resisted, the miners final[l]y armed themselves and fled to the hills. The State government placed the district under control of the militia, and ever since that time there has a been a condition of war. The military despotism has stopped at nothing.
All news has been strictly censored, in the manner of which Mrs. Older tells. The nation at large is ignorant as to the details she gives of this latest prostitution of democracy and justice.
Coal Barons Use Gatling Guns And Bloodhounds In War Against Strikers
Special Train Hurls Rain of Bullets in Night Attack on Camp of Sleeping Men, Women and Children.
By Mrs. Fremont Older
NEW YORK, April 1. – The miners welcomed the militia. They believed the soldiers would give them fair play. They thought the soldiers had come to suppress riots. In reality, they found the soldiers had come to break the strike.
Miners were disarmed, the company’s guards were allowed to carry weapons. “Transportation men” were freely sent up the creek to the mines escorted by armed guards. The strikers were not allowed even to protest. Soldiers took possession of the Paint Creek Junction library and established a law court. One man was sentenced to two years in the penitentiary for telling a “scab” there was a strike on Paint Creek. Two women were sentenced to the State prison for assaulting a colored woman who jeered at the strike. Both the women and the men were pardoned by the Governor. But the strikers by this time felt that the militia were their enemies.
Soon, between the miners and the soldiers, there was deep hostility. Uniforms attract ordinary women, but no miner’s daughter would speak to a soldier. I heard of one girl who, for walking with a soldier, was threatened with a whipping. Soldiers came to be as much hated as the Baldwin guards. The Baldwin guards were more hated than “scabs.” Finally the Governor thought he had the situation in control. He withdrew the troops. It was too soon. Daily clashes occurred between the guards and strikers. With a finished haste for irony, on Labor Day the Governor sent the troops back into the district and again declared martial law.
Winter approached. It was hoped that winter would subdue the strikers. “But God was with us last winter,” said one miner to me with a grin. “We certainly done had the mildest winter we ever had.” The miners lived in tents. They curtailed expenses. Non-union workingmen gave support because they felt that if the operators won Socialists and union men would be driven out of West Virginia and wages lowered. They were afraid for their own future. One non-union man said to me: “A man is a mighty poor sucker that won’t hold out with his fellow man.”
The second time the soldiers remained in the strike zone but a few weeks. An election occurred. The Socialists elected several officers, among others a Justice of the Peace named Smith. The situation grew more tense. Smith gave the miners justice when they came before him for trial. Smith was a one-legged man. In the month of February he went up Paint creek and was beaten almost to insensibility by the company’s employes.
A day or two later a scab doctor was bringing a sick scab through Holly Grove in a wagon. He was fired upon, no one knows by whom. Everyone said it was by the strikers, and so bitter had become the feeling that this is very probable. Next came shooting in the hills back of Mucklow, where Quin Morton, the largest operator, lives. Mr. Morton told me that he let loose his pack of bloodhounds to follow the men who fought his men. The hounds tracked the men straight to Holly Grove, but they were fired upon and driven back.
When Quin Morton heard that his guards and hounds had been obliged to retreat he was in Charleston. In talking with me the operator gave the impression that he had slight understanding of the difference between himself and the law. In fact, the mine owners have been the law so long that it is only natural that they think themselves the will of the people.
Mr. Morton thought the miners had gone far enough. He summoned the sheriff, his deputies, armed guards and the railroad people. They agreed to run the C. & O. special from Charleston straight up through the camps on Paint creek to Mucklow, the home of Quin Morton. Even the militia officers speak of the C. & O. special, which consists of the “Wasp” and the “Hornet” as the “C. & O. thug train.” Quin Morton, the Sheriff, and twenty or thirty armed men boarded the train. The front car, secretly armored with steel, carried two Gatling guns. Quin Morton and his party set out from Charleston to make history.
They made history very fast. It was 10 o’clock at night when they reached Holly Grove. They turned out all the lights, even the headlight. The train was entirely dark. Holly Grove consists of rows of tents and shacks for about 200 yards on either side of a curved track. The train stole quietly around the curve. There was a low whistle, and without aim the “Wasp” and “Hornet” fired into the darkness. Women and children sleep in the tents. At the rate of 480 a minute, the Gatling guns shot cartridges that carried two miles. Horses were pierced with bullets. The Holly Grove store was set on fire. People screamed. They thought the guards had come to kill them all. A few men seized guns and fired at the train. Miss Marton, the operator, said to me: “I used my rifle every minute, and I’m sorry I didn’t do any execution.”
Mrs. Hall, who lived in a small house near the track, was shot in both feet by a ball four inches long from a Gatling gun. The bullet passed through two walls, a thick family Bible, her right foot, and lodged in her left. Frencesco Estop, a miner, heard the noise. He didn’t know what was happening. He hurried his wife to the cellar, took his baby in his arms and was about to hide when his jaw was shot off and he fell dead. The C. & O. special passed on. The widow, Mrs. Estop, was about to become a mother. Later, at her father-in-law’s home, she told me that she was so frightened that she stood helpless screaming for half an hour. Neighbors came and she regained her self-control. Hamsford [sic] hastened from Paint Creek Junction to the scene. He said that the people at Holly Grove were like a lot of panic-stricken children. The wildest rumors were afloat. It was reported that the train was coming back again to “shoot up” the town. Within a few hours Holly Grove was a deserted camp. Only two men remained. I talked with Mrs. Estop, a sad-eyed, pretty young Kentucky woman of 22, widow of Francesco Estop. Mrs. Esop was the mother of one child and was about to give birth to another. She tried to tell me her story of Friday night, February 7, but her words were broken with sighs and half moans. Her mother and father in law related very clearly what happened. I spoke with the storekeepers, several strikers, and their wives. I never have heard a dozen people relate the same story without variation. Usually there will be differences in detail. But all the inhabitants of Holly Grove agreed that the darkened train crept quietly into the camp at 10 o’clock at night and began “shooting up the town” with Springfields and Gatling guns.
Quin Morton, the operator, was proud of his share in the fight, but he had another version. He said that the train did not fire till from the camp came a bullet. Then the railroad people and the Sheriff turned everything loose. I gave to the miners the operator’s account of the shooting. Their answer was, “You can imagine whether we fired on a steel-lined train, carrying Gatling guns, when we were living in tents with women and children and had only a few old guns. Quin Morton just wanted to make us leave the country. The companies had offered to send us, free if we would go, so the operators could bring in scabs. But we stayed, and we are going to stay until we win this strike.”
Mrs. Hall, the woman wounded at Holly Grove, sat propped up in bed when I met her. She was hollow-cheeked and hollow-eyed. She showed me her bandaged wounded feet. She was living on the allowance from the union, but, she said with a smile, “We’ve toughed it so long I guess we can tough it a little longer.”
The Holly Grove miners and their families took refuge at Hansford, the nearest village. The following day, on the hills surrounding Holly Grove, appeared men from Mucklow and Brownwell, who spent the day shooting down into the town. The men who remained in Holly Grove that day showed me the bullets that had lodged in their stores. The miners interpreted Saturday’s attack as the final effort of the guards to drive them out of the country.
In spite of the fact that the people of this part of West Virginia are primitime [sic], they are religious. Sunday there was a cessation of hostilities. It was rumored that the armored train was coming back to attack Hansford, where the miners had taken refuge. So much was this believed that the Sheltering Arms hospital opened its doors to the women and children.
Parsons, one of the men on trial at Paint Creek Junction, lived at Hansford. John W. Brown, the Soci[a]list speaker, was with him. They telephoned to Boswell at Charleston for ammunition. None was to be had. Parsons and Brown don’t deny this. They have always stated precisely why they sent for arms. It was for the defense of their families.
One of the militia officers told me that the guards at Mucklow had a Gatling gun in the hills and that the men at Hansford determined Monday to capture it. The officer seemed surprised that the miners should try to take a Gatling gun or that I should think it extraordinary that a private company was allowed to erect a Gatling gun on its property. The officer was a kindly, good-natured man, but he had lived so long in West Virginia that he could not grasp my point of view. “The miners had no idea of killing any one,” he said. “They only wanted to get the Gatling gun.”
How many took part has never been established, but it is clear that not one of the five leaders on trail – Parsons, Boswell, Brown, Bates or Paulsen was among them. Perhaps there were fifty miners, perhaps a hundred. They went up the right-hand side of the creek Monday morning. The guards saw them coming and stole up the mountainside to stop them.
“Who’s there?” called the guards.
They reply was a volley of shot. The guards fired. The miners dropped to the ground like a flash. “But,” said one of the strikers, with a smile, sometimes even dead men rise up.” Suddenly the miners got to their feet. They went for the guards. The guards retreated. Fred Babbitt, bookkeeper for the Paint Creek collieries, was killed, and a man named Vance wounded. There was a scattering of forces on both sides and what is known in West Virginia as the battle of Mucklow was over.
“Mother” Jones came from Charleston to Hansford that day and spent the afternoon with the widow of Estop. She made no speeches, but returned to Charleston. That night Governor Glasscock declared martial law. The soldiers got off the train six miles from Paint Creek Junction. They walked into town. Then they went about the streets of Hansford, making arrests by the score, not for the attack on Holly Grove and the killing of Estop, in which Quin Morton frankly admits he shared, but for the shooting of Babbitt. Though Estop was killed and Mrs. Hall was wounded more than six weeks ago by men who make no denial of what they did, no arrest has ever been made.
Parson, Brown and their friends were first taken into custody. Paulsen had been in Indianapolis three weeks preceding the shooting, but when he and Battey came to Paint Creek Junction to supply a bond for Parsons and Brown, they were arrested. Boswell, who edits the Labor Argus, was taken from his humble office in a side street in Charleston and turned over to the military authorities in Paint Creek Junction.
At Boomer there was a large meeting of miners from the surrounding districts. In riot language they protested against the arrest of their leaders and 150 strikers. The miners were thoroughly roused, but Mother Jones calmed them. She told them to appoint delegates, one from each district, to go to the Governor in Charleston and ask him to release the miners. Mother Jones paid the fare of sixteen men, and started with them on the train. By telephone the Governor was informed of the approach of Mother Jones and the sixteen men. He had the riot call sounded – fifteen taps of the fire bell. He summoned the police force and the fire department. Even the night firemen were roused from sleep and called to duty, to save the Chief Executive from Mother Jones, aged 80, and sixteen unarmed miners.
The formidable delegation was not allowed to appear before the Chief Executive. Before Mother Jones reached the capital she was arrested by the civil authorities and turned over to the militia at Paint Creek Junction, which had become the temporary capital of the State. When the men realized that there was no opportunity for them to see the Governor, they returned to their camps. Mother Jones and Boswell were taken to Paint Creek Junction together. Boswell was placed in the “bullpen,” into which the baggage-room of the station had been converted. Mother Jones at first obtained room and board at the residence of Dr. John Hansford. Miners in the creeks heard that Mother Jones was in the “bullpen.” They swooped down upon Paint Creek Junction in great numbers. The militia fortified the town with gatling guns. The inhabitants were so terrified that they took to their cellars. When the miners discovered that Mother Jones was being well cared for, they returned to their camps.
On the 7th of March, one month from the battle of Mucklow, Mother Jones and forty-eight other defendants were brought into the courtroom and charged with conspiracy to murder Babbitt. At the present writing the fate of the leaders is still in the hands of Governor Hatfield. The Governor is of the fighting Hatfield family that so long had a feud with the McCoys. Boswell, Brown, Parsons and seven others have been removed from the “bullpen” and confined in the Point Pleasant jail. When they were taken away all believed they were to be conveyed to the penitentiary, the wives of the prisoners came, wrung their hands and wept, thinking they were seeing their husbands for the last time. The officers, however, would not tell the women that the prisoners were going to jail instead of the penitentiary, so secretly was everything done that even the prisoners did not know their destination. Two days later Parsons telegraphed his wife where they were confined.
The miners of West Virginia will feel that they have lost if one man is sent to prison as the result of a military trial. Such an event would establish the most dangerous precedent since the Magna Charta, the trial of civilians by the militia, it would probably mean the end of strikes. Progress could then come about only through revolution.
One day while I was at Paint Creek Junction a photographer and I walked four miles to Mucklow to take pictures of the camp and prisoners. The orderly threatened to confiscate the camera. We sought the officer of the day. With courtesy, but firmness, he refused us the privilege. But I did not need a camera at Mucklow to remember a sardonic end of civilization sight. A little two-story church stood on the right of the soldiers’ camp. Hands waved at me from the windows. They were the hands of strikers. The church of Jesus, founded by a carpenter, and built from the savings of the poor, had been converted into a prison for the miners.
Mrs. Older’s third article on the West Virginia strike situation will appear tomorrow. In it she tells of an interesting and illuminating talk with “Mother” Jones.
“I Have Violated Enough Injunctions To Make Me A Shroud,” Says “Mother” Jones
Indomitable Woman, Beloved by Miners, Says She Will Keep Up the Fight, in Jail or Out, Until Victory Is Won.
By Mrs. Fremont Older.
This is the third of a series of articles by Mrs. Older on the West Virginia strike situation. In former articles she told of the abolition of liberty by military despots and the outrages perpetrated by coal operators in an effort to end the strike. Today she gives a vivid interview with “Mother Jones” and a pen-picture of the wonderful old woman who, at 80, is helping labor fight its battles with its oppressors.
NEW YORK, April 2. – Under martial law journalistic enterprise was not encouraged at Paint Creek Junction, West Virginia. There was a “bull pen” for reporters. A Pittsburg man occupied it for eight hours because he tried to interview “Mother” Jones. No other reporter imitated the Pittsburg man’s example. When I arrived in Paint Creek Junction “Mother” Jones and the forty-eight men on trial remained uninterviewed.
The idea of talking with “Mother” Jones and the other prisoners fascinated and haunted me. Military censorship virtually cut me off from free communication with the outside world. All my interest centered on that forbidden interview with “Mother” Jones. I walked past her house and considered entering it at night by the rear. But there was the “bull pen.”
I discovered that I didn’t like “bull pens.” I was a sybarite. I was wholly unworthy to be a reporter. What would a “bull pen” be to a good reporter? Only an interesting chapter in his story. For a coward like me, there was nothing but law and order. Every day I asked the officer in command for the interview. Every day it was refused. The general had forbidden interviews. The general was in Charleston. In my imagination the general became an ogre, a sublimated provost marshal. The last day of my stay in West Virginia the murky sky became blue. General Elliott came. The military despot of my fancy was a courteous old school Southerner. He was a Bull Mooser. He actually believed in good government. The Bulletin was a Bull Moose paper. We were brother and sister Bull Moosers. Might I have an interview with “Mother” Jones? Of course, anything. It was against the rules, but what were rules for but to be broken? The general gave way royally. I might even take a stenographer with me. Before the general’s staff realized that a coup d-etat had taken place, my stenographer and I were at “Mother” Jones’ door.
For forty years “Mother” Jones had led strikes and organized miners. So fierce has been the fight against her that at times after holding a meeting the miners dared not give her shelter. She has walked sixteen miles to find a refuge at night. Workers were afraid they would be evicted from their homes for even lodging her. “Mother” Jones a month ago caused the riot call to be sounded in Charleston. The Legislature crawled under benches. Today the mine owners clamor to have her banished from West Virginia. This much-feared, strong, deep-voiced woman of 80 received us, curling tongs in hand. Men have feared that the ballot would make women masculine. “Mother” Jones, with her curling tongs is the answer.
“How did you get here?” she exclaimed.
“The general is in town. He is not nearly so fierce and military as the provost marshal.”
“A big man is never so big a despot as a little man,” replied “Mother” Jones. “General Elliott is a pretty nice fellow.”
Then “Mother” Jones excused herself to finish curling her hair. In a few minutes she returned, her pretty white hair neatly arranged, a dynamo of energy.
“Are you really 80?” I asked.
“I was born in 1833.”
“Mother” Jones makes the average woman of 60 seem decrepit. Sarah Bernhardt in comparison looks 90. In twenty years “Mother” Jones, if she has retired from the labor movement, can make a fortune by editing a column of “Beauty Hints” and telling women how to look 50 through 100. I fancy her favorite cold cream is self-forgetfulness.
There had been rumors that “Mother” Jones was ill. “How is your health?” I asked.
“I suffer from headache, from confinement. I don’t get any exercise. I belong to the outdoors like birds and flowers.”
“How many times have you been arrested?”
“Not so many,” she said.
“Only once really arrested. That was here in West Virginia, and by General Elliott, too, when he was United States Marshal in Clarksburg. I don’t call being quarantined for smallpox in Utah an arrest. The police kept me from making speeches. They used to pretend I was ill, and send a doctor every day to feel my pulse.”
“Why were you arrested in West Virginia, the first time?”
“I violated a Federal injunction warning me against going near the mines. I’ve violated enough injunctions to make me a shroud. I obey the will of the people, but I don’t think any one man has a right to dictate to me. I was sure I’d be arrested in Clarksburg. General Elliott arrested me beautifully. I like the gent. He sent one of his officers to one of our men to say ‘Mother Jones, you’re all under arrest.’ He had a room engaged for me at a hotel, but when I found the boys were going to jail, I said I’d stick to my boys. The General’s wife was a real woman. She came into the courtroom to see me while my trial was going on. When I was acquitted she invited me to go home with her. Many women think that a woman who makes a speech must be a hyena, but there never was any civilization till women took hold. I like both the General and his wife.”
“You have no bitterness against the military court?”
“Not a bit. There is not one of the officers that I wouldn’t do something for. They don’t understand. They think they can put an end to strikes. They don’t know that this is industrial war breaking out all over the world. It isn’t the man of the military court but his job that I have contempt for.”
“Have you no ill feeling against the operators, either?”
“Not in the least,” said Mother Jones quickly. “I’d talk with them or do things for their children just as quick as for a miner’s family. It’s the system that makes them what they are. They’ll be all right when we break the system.”
“So you’re a Socialist?”
“Yes, but that does not cover everything. It gives a chance for a decent living and a decent home. It will do away with Cabin Creeks.
“Cabin Creek is pretty decent now, but you ought to have seen it when I went up there last summer. There had not been a union organizer in Cabin Creek in eight years. ‘Czar’ Cabell had his scabs right under this thumb. ‘Czar’ Cabell is a church member and a fine exploiter. Builds the miners swimming tanks, billiard rooms, Y.M.C.A. buildings, and charges for everything. I want my bathroom in my own house. Cabell wouldn’t let his dogs live in the houses he had on Cabin Creek. The miners made so little they were always in debt to the ‘Pluck Me Store.’ They were docked so heavily that they never had necessities. They had to load 2240 pounds for a ton instead of 2000, as the union miners do. Women had to go barefoot even when their husbands worked.
“I never saw anything so pathetic as the day I went to Eskdale, on Cabin Creek. Two boys I had known as little fellows came and asked me to make a speech for them. I put my arms around them and said I’d go. I went up on the train to Eskdale with the militia. We had bills struck off and circulated. Miners came from everywhere over the mountains. I stood on a wagon and spoke to seven hundred men.
“’Freedom isn’t dead,’ I said. ‘She only sleeps. When you want her call her. She’ll come.’
“’Call her now,’ they cried.
“’It made every nerve in me tremble. If she comes will you be true?
“They lifted their hands and said, ‘Yes, yes.’
“’Will you organize us?’ they shouted.
“’What into?’ I asked.
“’The union men workers,’ they said. We went over and stood on the bank of the river beside the church. One man said, ‘Mother, all hope on Cabin Creek is dead.’
“’No, it is not,’ I replied. ‘Will you do as mother tells you?’
“’Yes, yes,’ they said.
“Then I made them take a terrible oath. I said go to the mines tomorrow just as you have always done and don’t speak of this meeting. The men went to work, but the operators discharged a lot of them.
“I kept going from place to place, organizing the miners. I was never interfered with, but one day one of the guards on Cabin Creek drove me off the company’s trestle and made me wade a creek.
“’Oh, hell,’ I said, ‘I don’t mind it,’ and I didn’t. What I had to endure was nothing in comparison with what the miners put up with every day. If I wouldn’t wade through a creek to help ‘em I was no good any way. The conditions in West Virginia are worse for miners than in any State in the Union.
“Governor Glasscock’s commission says they are better.”
“And what do these commissioners know about it? They were men who never worked. What do they know. Miners testified before that commission under fear. The conditions in West Virginia are worse.”
“Because there is less organization. Organization must come. Things are looking brighter even if we are in jail.”
“Why were you arrested and put in jail?” I asked.
“Because I happened to be in Charleston,” said Mother Jones.
“At the time Bobbitt was shot at Mucklow. There could not have been any other reason. Mucklow came because of the killing of Bobbitt. Holly Grove was shot up. The killing of Bobbitt followed Estop’s death just as naturally as thunder follows lightning. I had not been in the Paint Creek district making speeches for four or five weeks before the battle of Mucklow, so they couldn’t claim that my speeches had anything to do with stirring people up. When I heard about the Holly Grove shooting Sunday I went up to Hansford to see Estop’s widow. I looked at Estop’s dead body and I said, ‘Damn ‘em, they can’t hurt him now.’
“Then I went back to Charleston. In Boomer and Carbondale they were holding meetings. I advised the men to go to Charleston with me to see the Governor. We started. As soon as I got into town they grabbed me and threw me into an automobile.”
“They said the old woman was going to kill the governor. The whole city was in an uproar. They were in such a hurry to get me that the squire didn’t sign the warrant till after I was arrested. That didn’t matter, they nabbed me. I asked the officer where he was going to take me.
“To the Roofner Hotel.”
“No, take me to the jail,” I said.
“I never take a woman to the jail,” the man answered.
“’Begin now,’ I replied. They brought me to the Paint Creek Junction, where they were arresting Socialist as fast as they could find them. I refused to make a plea in that military court. I made no defense. The court appointed lawyers to defend me, but I had no lawyers, and I’ve never been tried.”
“What do you think the outcome of the strike will be?”
“Peace. I could have brought about peace in twenty-four hours if I had had a governor to deal with instead of a tool of the operators. Still the governor was more to be pitied than blamed. He was only a child in statesmanship. If I had been governor, I’d have called an open public meeting in the war zone of both sides to make a statement of their troubles. The mine owners want the Baldwin guards. The law doesn’t stand for that. The miners want their own check weighman. The law allows that. They want the right to organize. I’d have said to the coal operators, ‘The law must be enforced. Unless you grant these concessions to the miners I’ll close your mines.’ When the mine owners tried to bring the scum of the earth into Illinois to break strikes, Governor Tanner said, ‘If you bring them I’ll put them out.’ He did. They have never had any trouble since in Illinois. But the men here have got good stuff in ‘em. They’ll win in spite of governors.”
“I hear, ‘Mother’ Jones, that the governor intends to pardon you on condition that you sign a paper promising to leave the State.”
“Mother” Jones gray eyes widened in a flash, her jaw set, her broad white head rose in defiance. Her deep voice rang out, “When I go out of this State the stars will drop. I’ll keep on working right here in West Virginia.”
“If they compel you to choose between prison and a promise to leave the State?”
Now, “Mother” Jones was the woman that chief executives fear.
“Prison. I sign no papers. I make no promises. Let ‘em lock me up. I can sit down and raise as much hell in prison as anywhere.”
Labor And Capital Fight Over Crippled Victim On Human Greed
Broken-Backed Boy Typifies Industrial Battle in Which a Wrathful Millionaire, Who Is Poor in Human
Sympathy, Turns Gatling Guns on Toilers Who Plead for Justice.
By Mrs. Fremont Older
While Women and Children Suffer and Men Rot in “Bull Pens” Coal Operator Tells of His Handsome Profits and Expresses Regret at His Poor Marksmanship.
This is the fourth and last article by Mrs. Older on the West Virginia strike situation. In it she tells of a coal baron blinded by wrath and eager to kill to protect his “interests,” and a crippled boy around whose bed of pain rages a grand battle for human rights.
NEW YORK, April 3. – In West Virginia I met a poor man. His name is Quin Morton. He is part owner and operator of the largest coal mines in the strike zone.
The next day I met some rich men. Their names are Boswell, Brown, Batley, Paulsen and Parsons. They do not possess five hundred dollars. They were in the “bull pen” at Paint Creek Junction.
Quin Morton is poor because he sees little and is filled with hatred.
The others are rich because they see much and love is in their hearts.
The poor rich man and the rich poor men are fighting about a broken-backed boy whom I saw lying in bed.
The poor rich man fights blindly, wrathfully. He does not even know what his enemy looks like.
The rich poor men fight with eyes wide open, regretting to strike, but believing that there is no other way. The boy with the broken back watches and wonders how it will end.
The road from Paint Creek Junction to Burlwell is a road of misery and tragedy. Deserted miners’ shacks, strikers’ tents, bloody Hollygrove. Imprisoned working men, the field of Mucklow, make one forget the wonder of the jade green river, trembling swiftly down from the pine-covered mountains. I went to see Quinn Morton, who, more than any other operator, the miners think, has prevented the strike being settled.
A pleasant looking, suave, white-haired, medium sized man, wearing glasses, a soft hat and a business suit, received me. “We like publicity,” he said, a nervous catch in his voice, “the right kind. So many people have come here with an ulterior motive.”
He looked at me sharply. I tried a baby stare. Of course, a child of ten did not know what such big words as “ulterior” meant. He led me past a half dozen employes into his high ceiling office, seated me in a chair, told me I looked like a friend of his and made me a present of the printed story of his troubles. I feel certain that it is a true story, because Mr. Morton wrote it himself. One sentence caught my eye: “There is no strike in Paint Creek.” I wondered whether he was a Christian Scientist and was solving industrial disputes by the absent treatment.
“No strike?” I asked.
“No. Seventy per cent of my men are at work. We are turning out 70 per cent of the usual supply of coal. We have nothing to settle. Our business is our own and we shall run it as we please.”
“Then you don’t care whether the strike is settled?”
“Yes, because production costs 25 per cent more now than formerly. We have to bring in transportation, men (scabs), hire guards and increase our expenses.”
“this has lasted a year. Wouldn’t it have been better for you, Mr. Morton, to have yielded to the increase of 202 cents a day the miners asked?”
“I couldn’t afford it,” he said. “There isn’t much money made in this business. People imagine there is, but there isn’t.”
“So you are operating at a loss?”
“Yes. But I made a very handsome profit in the month of December.”
“Even with the extra operating expenses.”
“Yes,” he admitted.
I don’t pretend to understand mathematics, but his arithmetic seemed strange.
“I’m going the run the mine just as long as the money lasts,” he declared. “My men didn’t want to strike. They were well paid and perfectly satisfied to work for me. When they left many of the wept when they came to say good-by. This strike was brought on by outsiders. Five thousand dollars a week are given by Illinois miners to support them.
“Then,” he admitted, as if revealing a grim family secret, “my competitors in Illinois are helping the miners. The longer the strike keeps up the better it will be for their coal.”
He regretted to admit that gentlemen would behave like pigs when it came to business, but the truth had to be told. The worst element of all in this fight is the socialist.
An alarming thought flashed through his mind. He hesitated. Could his visitor be a socialist, disguised as a quite respectable person?
“What are the politics of your paper?” he quickly asked.
“Progressive.” I thought myself once more securely established in society. I was overconfident.
Quin Morton drew back and exclaimed: “Progressive! My, that’s almost as bad as socialism.”
“Not with us,” I exclaimed. “Some very quiet people are progressives.”
He grew magnanimous and conceded: “The progressives have done some good, but these socialists are regular anarchists. I have only sympathy for my men who were misled. It’s Mother Jones and Boswell who ought to be locked up. I have confidence that the Governor is going to stand for law and order.”
The Governor is of the Hatfield family that for years carried on a feud with the McCoys.
“The Governor comes of rather reckless people,” I suggested.
“Yes, but on his mother’s side there is a good strain,” said the operator. “We believe the Governor is going to do the right thing. These Socialists will have to be locked up, or we’ll have more trouble.”
Mr. Morton had a comfortable way of getting rid of Socialism. It was to treat Socialists like smallpox patients. Isolate those suffering from the disease, call in a physician in the form of a jailer and in a few years the community would be in sound moral health.
He bent toward me anxiously. “Tell me, have you any Socialists in California?”
I block emigration to the State. I hope the promotion committee will forgive me. “Thousands,” I answered.
“Otis” – he spoke the name with reverence as one speaking of a prophet and a savior – “what is Otis doing?”
“Making Socialists. There are four times as many Socialists in Los Angeles as in San Francisco, where the trades unions are strong.”
He shook his head in despair. He seemed to be confronted with two alternatives – suicide by a revolver or prussic acid. Then he grew brighter. “There is one thing worse than a Socialist.”
I was interested. “What is it?”
“An I. W. W. Did you ever hear of the I. W. W.s?”
“Yes,” I think I have heard of them somewhere,” I replied, “but you haven’t any in West Virginia, have you?”
Quin Morton’s tone lowered, as if he were telling me that not only was smallpox in the community, but bubonic plague had broken out. “There are a few in the northern part of the State. My friends who own textile mills in New England had a terrible time with the I. W. W.s”
“What do the I. W. W.s believe in?” I asked.
I expected him to recite the preamble to the Constitution. Instead, he said: “Plunder, rapine, murder. There’s only one way to treat ‘em: that’s the way the citizens of Akron, Ohio, did. Vigilance committees! But,” he sighed, “I don’t know that the I. W. W.s could be any worse than we have had in the Paint Creek district. We’ve had everything. I was attacked even by women. I had to go armed.
“Isn’t that unusual? Aren’t your guards armed?”
“They had to be. The strikers beat up the miners I brought to take their places.”
“Did you have a Gatling gun on your property?”
“Yes, the law didn’t protect me, and I had to protect myself.”
“Did you have your strikers evicted from their houses?”
“Not here. Some were, at the lower end of the creeks. I had to have houses for my transportation men.”
I recalled the rows of unoccupied houses seen by me as I came on the train.
“If my men wouldn’t work, they couldn’t live in the houses. I’ve had an awful time trying to keep the transportation men I’ve brought in. Many got no farther than Paint Creek Junction. The strikers theaten their lives.”
Very earnestly he asked, “Why do strikers hate a ‘scab’?”
Quin Morton has lived the fiercest industrial life in the history of West Virginia, and yet, at the end of a year, he has no comprehension of the men he is fighting, nor of what the fight means to them.
“I don’t know how you feel about a man who murdered his brother for money,” I replied, “but I fancy it would be about as a striker feels toward a ‘scab.’”
I deeply desired to ask the operator whether he was on the C. & O. special that “shot up” Holly Grove. I delayed the question. I had talked with Mrs. Hall; had seen her wounded feet. I had spoken with Mrs. Estop, the widow, in her wretched little cottage. Holly Grove was ter[r]ibly like murder. One hesitates to ask a pleasant gentleman if he shared in murder. But the question was inevitable. Quin Morton was not embarrassed. “Yes, I was on the train,” he said. “I kept my rifle busy every minute. I regret that I did no execution.”
He told me how the armored train bearing Gatling guns was attacked at 10 o’clock at night by someone at Hol[l]y Grove. The railroad people, the Sheriff, the guards and he turned all their guns loose. With pride he spoke of the exploit.
“How is it all to end?” I asked, as we went up the raidroad [sic] people, the Sheriff, the guards and he turned all their guns loose. With pride he spoke of the exploit.
“How is it all to end?” I asked, as we went up the raidroad [sic] track to take a look into the mouth of one of his mines.
“God knows!” he gasped. I’ll never yield to force. Even if I were willing to take back my men, I have obligations to the new ones, who worked when the others wouldn’t. If the company insists on giving in, I’ll leave the coal business.”
We stood looking at the precipice, 700 feet high up, which ran a narrow trolley. A car twice the size of a wheelbarrow came slowly down the mountain side. “That’s the car we go up in,” he said. ‘Do you want to risk it?
We were seated in the little dusty, open car. A rickety board was at my feet. The car slowly moved. “Look up; you’ll get dizzy if you look down,” he warned. I tried looking up. We were climbing a brown wall. I looked down. The men at the foot of the mountain were children. I held my eyes on a plane straight before me. The trees that we climbed above seemed like shrubs. We were suspended a few hundred feet in the air, when Quin Morton asked, “Are you scared?”
I talked about the scenery. Ten feet from the top the car paused and then bumped onward. In this way miners go to their work. The mine’s great, grimy mouth gaped. Sooty men with lanterns attached to their caps came out. We entered the black hole, perhaps thirty feet wide. In the distance we saw sparks. The roof of the mine was so low that we had to stoop.
Quin Morton, carrying a lantern in one hand, led me into the blackness. We crawled along a muddy trolley track. We proceeded in the darkness till he held his lantern against a solid coal wall. I[t] was like a huge skeleton of the earth. I leaned against a great buttress. He showed me where the coal had been cut away and the buttress prevented the earth from caving in. He held the lantern to the roof. It was moist and black. “Slate,” he said. Most of the accidents in mines come when that falls. The slate seemed to press upon my head. My ears hummed. I felt as if the earth were crushing life out of me. The hum grew to a roar.
“Look out,” he exclaimed, leading me to the other side of the trolley. “Don’t touch those wires, they’re charged.”
The roar grew nearer. Through the blackness came huge eyes. A black thing was moving toward us. A string of coal cars dashed past. The rear car swayed off the track and nearly upset when a bat man with a lantern on his cap leaped out of the blackness, gave the car a balance and prevented an accident.
We followed the trolley once more. I stood erect. I breathed fresh air; saw the sun.
“Well, what do you think of the mine?” asked Quin Morton.
“It’s my idea of the inferno,” I said. “Miners ought to have a thousand dollars a day. I should think they’d go insane in the blackness.”
“They like it; they’re used to it. They wilt in light. They prefer darkness to sunlight,” he replied.
I was glad to escape the human bats. I went to see Boswell, Brown, Batley, Paulsen and Parsons. They prefer sunlight to darkness. I found them in a small storeroom at Paint Creek Junction transformed into a “bull pen.”
These rich poor men felt that several of their number were doomed to prison. But they had no fear, the cause was triumphing. They were even merry. They had written “Home, Sweet Home” on the walls. They sat in chairs, lounged on boxes and counters while we talked. John W. Brown, the lecturer, told me how much better off they were now than the day they were arrested. “Our first happy home was a box car with both doors open,” he said. “We huddled into a corner and kept warm. We lived there without food from 6 to 10 in the morning and till 10 at night, then they gave us our first meal, but we were not allowed to wash until later; then they put us in a passenger coach. We sat up and slept. The next day they turned the baggage room into a “bullpen.” The day of my visit there was great excitement in the camps because the Governor, who is the final court of appeal for the military court, was visiting the Paint Creek district. The previous day he had promised the miners that justice should be done. We wondered what the Governor’s idea of justice would be.
“Even if the Governor wanted to do something,” said Brown, who is one of the best Socialist speakers in the United States, “his hands are tied.”
“How do you all feel about the military court?” I asked.
“Fine,” said Boswell, editor of the Labor Argus. “They brought all the Arguses published for a year into the courtroom and read them aloud.”
“We were all contributors,” explained Brown. “We enjoyed our articles.”
“Have you no ill will against the operators?”
“They are putting up a pretty good fight,” said Boswell, the editor, smiling.
“They all declared they had no personal animosity. The operators are working for what they think are their interests,” said Parsons. “We’re working for ours.”
“You’re better natured than the operators,” I replied.
“They fear us,” said Brown.
Batley, a short, stubby Englishman, summed it up. “The fight is as much against the Socialists as against the United Mine Workers. Nearly every man arrested is a Socialist. Only three men in the ‘bullpen’ were not Socialists, and let me tell you those three were Socialists when they were free.” Parsons, the fiery lawyer-blacksmith, grinned. “Some men can be reasoned into Socialism, some men have to have it clubbed into their heads, some learn it in a ‘bullpen.’”
I asked about the percentage of foreigners among the miners.
“Not more than six foreigners have been in the ‘bullpen,’” declared Batley.”Most of them were West Virginians.”
“West Virginians are afraid of nothing but law,” said Boswell, who is a Virginian. “The native West Virginian is like a hound dog – a good-natured slob; anyone can drive him into a corner, but if you go too far with him he’ll come up and whip a bull pup. The West Virginia miners have been driven just as far as it’s safe to drive them. If only they’re roused, they can lick anything.
“That’s why I always preach hatred to the miners,” said the man with the gentle face and voice. “They’ve been oppressed so long that hatred is their strongest emotion; they must hate to resist. They’ve lived under the earth and worked machines so long that they are machines.
“the only way they can better their conditions is to hate,” Batley explained. “Living conditions are awful; seventy-five per cent of the miners’ houses leak. The guard system keeps down the unions – there are only four union mines in the State. They are near the Ohio river. There’s a pile of work to do. It was rumored that the military court had found several men guilty.”
“What, if you go to prison?” I asked.
“Other men will take our places,” said Parsons with a bright smile, which spread over the faces of his comrades and illumined the dingy sordid room. It is not strange that the operators fear men who can smile while in the “bull pen.”
“When you are out of prison?” I asked.
“I’ll be back on the same old job,” said Boswell, the editor. “All I need is some head lines; I never make money; never take fake or patent medicine ads, and I’ve lived on ham and cabbage a year and paid for publishing the Argus.”
Parsons had a similar spirit. “When I come out, I’m going on with the fight as long as I live,” declared Batley. The others were in a like mood.
“The State will be organized yet, but it will take time,” declared Boswell.
“Come to see us if we go to the pen,” was their invitation in parting.
Then I went with Dr. Hansford to see the broken-backed boy, about whom the poor rich man and the rich poor men are fighting. Near the back of a river, at the base of Scarred Mountains, he lives. In order to reach his house we wandered among unpainted and despairing shacks standing in typhoid cesspools; pigs and cows roamed through the muddy street, and dirty barefoot children swarmed out of the doors.
Young old women stated at us from windows. We met a pretty girl of fourteen. A coquettish ribbon bow was in her hair. She was beginning to charm. Her manner showed that she knew her power.
“What will become of her? I asked.
“In five years she’ll be like that woman in the doorway,” replied the physician under his breath. He added, “or worse.”
“One house was newer, brighter than the others. It was the home of the broken-backed boy. The wasted, waxen figure of the hollow cheeked, re haired lad was propped up in a clean white bed. At the sight of the physician he smiled cheerily. I was introduced as a friend of the miners. The boy gave me a thin, shrunken hand. His red feverish lips parted, “The miners sure need friends.”
Then he told me how, a year before, slate from the roof of a mine had fallen upon his back and crushed him. It was not surprising – his grandfather had been killed. His friends had been killed. Yes, he had received as damages, four hundred dollars for a broken back. Not much, but better than nothing.
He liked mining. He didn’t object to the darkness. When he worked he had nothing on his mind except to keep out of the way of the slate and the live wires and explosions. He always came home tired, but he didn’t know any other way of making a living. Besides a mine was always warm in winter and cool in summer.
When I left he held out his hand again and said, “I hope you’ll write something that will help the working people.”