Monday, January 21, 2013

BINGHAM LOPEZ SAGA by EUGENE HALVERSON


RAFAEL LOPEZ SAGA
by Eugene Halverson
Dinkeyville top center  Copperfield business district low left
Upper Bingham, later Copperfield was wonderful place to grow up.  Lots of kids to play with and we had wonderful mountains to play in.  I lived in Telegraph, not Copperfield.  Most of the Mexicans lived in Dinkeyville and were proud of it.

There were no kids in Greek Camp but above and below the Copperfield stores we had lots of Greek kids.  Jap Camp had kids to play with there too. We played with all nationalities and I loved them all.
I was one of the second generation kids in Bingham.  We cared nothing about skin color or nationality.  


Bingham is remembered as a stone’s throw wide and seven miles long, known as a place with a one-way street, an open sewer and founded on mining.  It was the third largest and one of the oldest city in Utah.  Railroads brought company towns, tunnels and an open pit mine.  Thousands of people came here to live and work.  The work was dangerous and the pay was poor.  Workers were forced to work ten hours a day seven days a week and it was time to strike.
    
The 1912 STRIKE

The company was ready for a fight and brought in sharp-shooters and armed thugs.  If you owned a gun you were hired.  Now four hundred heavily armed gunmen were deputized by the company.  Martial Law with curfews was imposed on the town’s people and an almost “SHOOTING WAR” in the mountains.  Company gunmen roamed the streets pointing guns at everyone.  So trigger happy they even killed one of their own.  People stayed home, some businesses closed, what a mess.  Mothers were afraid to send their children to school.  When the strike was finally over the so-called company police were “cleaning up the town” sending the unemployed away especially Mexicans and Greeks.  My grandfather’s family went to Eureka. 
John Leventis ran a coffee house in Copperfield.  He said, “Let the owners get the ore themselves” so they left the mines, pooled their money and formed partnerships to open grocery stores, drug stores and hotels. 
But, Prejudices still followed them.
Ellen Vidalakis (Furgis) told about the Ku Klux Klan when they were burning crosses in Dinkeyville.  “You could see them everywhere and people were just terrified.”  A Mormon Bishop’s was caught “burning crosses” above Magna.  A doctor was burning crosses in Copperfield.  Salt Lake and Price had their KKK burning crosses everywhere.  There were no arrests by police anywhere.   
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1913 was Bad Time to come to Bingham but this was when LOPEZ came.  He was an experienced miner and worked as a “leaser”.  He made lots of money and spent it freely on his friends.  He was noticed and watched by the police.  He was not a “Scab” yet he was treated like some kind of animal.  I remember stories of an educated, honest and honorable person, from an aristocratic Spanish family from Mexico. 
Well Lopez got in a fight and went to jail.  Deputy Sheriff Sorensen called Lopez names and slapped him around.  Later Lopez found two Greeks molesting two young girls.  Well sheriff Sorensen sent the Greeks on their way and pistol-whipped Lopez and hauled him off to jail a second time where he taunted Lopez and beat him.  
Lopez had been wrongly arrested and wanted revenge.  He killed Valdez and headed over the mountain to the valley on foot.  There was snow on the ground and the “Posse” followed him on horses.  They found him just west of Lehi and he killed three of them but he missed Sorensen.
 
It was easy to follow Lopez with the snow and the chase was on.  Several Posses from as many cities and counties began chasing like he was some kind of animal.  LOPEZ began circling until no one knew who was following who.  There were reports of gun battles at Mosida, a town south of Utah Lake.  Posse thought they had him near Eureka.  Others had him at Cedar fort. Fifty men plus 25 Indian Trackers had him at Skull Valley.   Others had him in Little Valley, south-west of Vernon.  The town’s people and the police were sharply divided on who was the good guy and who was the bad guy. 


A man in a Bar in Bingham stated the Police deserved what they got for treating people the way they did.  The police beat him up, put him in jail and the judge fined him $50.00.  Of course all of Lopez’s friends were rounded up, searched and jailed. 

It seems like our killer had more friends than the sheriff.  The Mexicans were quite proud of him for teaching the sheriff a lesson even though hundreds of Mexicans in every Mormon town were being arrested.  “Newspapers” called for all Mexicans to be deported. They were even rounding up Mexicans as far away as California.
Eventually one man quit following the sheriffs orders and began following some tracks going back up into the mountain to Highland Boy, but no one believed him.  Lopez was betrayed by a friend who said he was hiding in the Apex Mine.  Now he was cornered like a rat in a trap.  Of course they went after him and two more men were killed.

The mine was searched and searched again; poison gasses fumigated the mine and then searched again and again, but no Lopez.  He was a “HERO” to many of the searchers and unknown to the Sheriffs they were leaving food, water, clothing and blankets.  Lopez even came down and talked to some of the searchers.   

My friend, Joe Tome who came to Bingham the same year as Lopez, said he liked Lopez and thought he got a bum-rap.  Joe said, the mine was shut down, so some volunteered to search for Lopez.  The searchers were paid with a five-dollar gold coin.  When the police thought he was dead or gone, the searchers suddenly found a new track or sign of Lopez to keep the gold coins coming.   
The Union- Company War ended only to be replaced by Lopez-Police War.  People were sick and tired of guns and killings.  The Police were just as unpopular as Lopez but by now many people turned a “blind eye” about helping the police.
 The Apex siege eventually ended with no Lopez.  He escaped right under the sheriff’s nose and most of the people laughed about it.  He was helped and he vanished.  He followed the mountains going south and west past Vernon to the McIntire Summer Ranch where he found Morris Valdez living there where he lived all that winter.
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Sheriff Smith, the Town Officials and the Company officials were embarrassed again.  They thought it tarnished Bingham’s image.  Money came from everywhere to honor and bury the Deputies but not a dime to bury Valdez.  Months went by and Valdez was still sitting in the corner of Joe Berger’s Bar.  Joe was the town’s undertaker.  Finally Joe put up a sign and charged admission to come and see poor old Valdez.  Money was collected and he was buried.

The Salt Lake Tribune
By Robert Kirby
Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the worst law enforcement disaster in Utah history. Over the course of a week, five police officers were murdered by a man who was never apprehended for the crime.
In 1913, Bingham Canyon was still reeling from a violent strike against Utah Copper the year before. The strike was broken in part by hundreds of guards and "scabs" shipped in by the company.
Although referred to as "deputies," the guards were actually little more than armed thugs. Real Salt Lake County deputies arrested a number of them for assault and drunkenness. Unfortunately, local miners didn’t distinguish between the two.
The disaster began with a commonplace murder in the Sap Gap district of Highland Boy, an upper reach of Bingham Canyon. Shortly before midnight on Nov. 21, Rafael Lopez shot and killed another man with whom he had a dispute.

Salt Lake County sheriff’s deputy Julius Sorensen had arrested Lopez
before. Knowing Sorensen would be after him, Lopez retrieved a rifle and climbed over the mountain into Butterfield Canyon. Slogging through snow on foot, he managed to stay ahead of a mounted posse down through the Narrows of the Jordan River and along the western shore of Utah Lake.
The four-man posse, including Sorensen, caught up with Lopez at a ranch house near Saratoga Springs on Nov. 22. Seeing the officer’s approach, Lopez slipped out of the cabin and into the brush. When they rode up, he began firing with a lever-action rifle.
Ironically, Lopez managed to murder everyone except the man he really wanted to kill: Sorensen. The deputy, 58, survived because his horse threw him. Within seconds, Salt Lake County deputies Otto Witbeck and Nephi Jensen, and Bingham City police Chief William Grant were dead or dying.
What was already an epic flight to avoid apprehension became news overnight. Hundreds of law enforcement officers swarmed to the scene on horseback and in cars.
Still on foot, Lopez fled. When he tried to cross over the Lake Mountain into Cedar Valley, he had a gunfight with another posse. During the night, he managed to slip away.
Upper Bingham, later called Copperfield was wonderful place to grow up.  Lots of kids to play with and we had wonderful mountains to play in.  I lived in Telegraph.  Most of the Mexicans lived in Dinkeyville and were proud of it.  There were no kids in Greek Camp but above and below the Copperfield stores we had lots of Greek kids.  Jap Camp had kids to play with there too. We played with all nationalities and I loved them all.
I was one of the second generation kids in Bingham.  We cared nothing about skin color or nationality.  


The Utah Copper before my time began building some modern homes from the business district to the top of Copperfield.  These were built for the “whites”, (bosses, Mormons and superintendents.)  Greeks, Serbians, Italians, and other nationalities just lived where they could.  Janie Torres Montoya said she visited a friend at the “Circle but said “only “Anglos” lived there.
They worshiped him. He was the under-dog who survived against great odds and he beat them all.  He evaded the largest man-hunt Utah has ever had.  He must have laughed all the way to Mexico.
LOPEZ was a Hero” to the Mexicans, Greeks, Croatians, Slovenes, Swedes like me and the Irish.

INDUSTRIAL WARS—MONEY AND GREED
THE ROCKEFELLER’S built an empire with questionable business practices, in other words he was a thief.  Under him Standard Oil controlled the world’s oil.  I first found Rockefeller in Trinidad (where Bingham’s Joe Dispenza’s father was shot).
Ludlow coal mines in Colorado where Rockefeller personally ordered the National Guard to machinegun the tents of strikers after removing them from their Company houses.  An Engineer moved his train between the strikers and the guns and allowing most of the people a chance to escape.  A disappointed Rockefeller ordered the Tent Town burnt; soldiers on horse-back with torches burnt everything.  Four men, three women and eleven children were burnt alive. 
My friend, Wayne Herlevi’s father was shot in Winter Quarters, Utah
In 1903 Rockefeller bought all the mines and claims the US Mine owned, Rockefeller already owned the D&RG Railroad who built the B&G to Bingham, Rockefeller money and influence helped start the Utah Copper.  The D&RG also bought up most of the Coal Mines in Carbon County, Utah.

 UNIONS
Every strike in Utah, Arizona, Idaho and Montana for the next forty-four years were brutally crushed and lost. This is what they asked for.
1- “DEAD WORK” –Work not Paid for like, Timbering (to stop cave- ins),
2- Laying track,
3- Cleaning and watering dust from the floors of the mine (in May 1st 1900 200 men in Winter Quarters, Utah were killed.  On 8 March 1924 176 men were killed).  The two worsted mining disasters in Utah mining history was caused by safety violations by Utah Fuel a Rockefeller company.
4- There were many jobs not paid for, Tools like picks and shovels, blasting powder, but nothing was ever paid for a safety problem.
5- Company hired Gunmen
6- Cheating miner at the scales—the only pay a miner received was number and weight of the coal at the tipple, a common complaint and practice.
 7- The Company Store—miners were paid with “Script” not money.  Every man, women and child caught with any food, clothing lost them when passing the “Guard Post”.

UNIONS WERE OUTLAWED IN UTAH until 1944, I really don't think we won many strikes but we tried.  They deducted two years Strike-time from my poor-man’s pension.
 Telegraph I was born here in 1928, after we were removed from here when my father almost died from Silicosis (mine dust).  Our new home was the Panos Apartments in Frog Town.  Chris Apostle, another Greek, with a grocery store feed us.   I have a great love and respect for Greeks.  It took many years to pay all these bills but we did.  When the US Superintendent’s son ran over my brother and I, dad was offered an outside of the mine job, running the US Air Compressor.  

Carbon County Mines
Winter Quarters I am related closely to the Halls, Nielsons, Thorpes, who were all good Mormons and had good jobs.  I was even related to the Parmleys who ran the Mine and the Wasatch Store.  He was caught by six “Big Austrian women” who threw him to the ground, took his revolver and “peed” on him.  You had to admire these Yugoslavian women they, heckled the Deputies to exasperation, defied martial law and refused to get out of the way to give their men folk a chance to get away.  One day as they marched into Price to sheriff had fire hoses turned on the women and children, yet they marched on.

“Boot-legging was popular back then and the “Feds “were raiding the stills.  By the time they traveled the seven miles up Bingham the stills were all hidden.
Sunnyside still fondly remembers when the National Guard was searching every house in town.  Yankovich’s daughter came running out of the house with a piece necessary evidence. The soldiers ran after her, but she disappeared.  She had climbed a tree.  Her father dyed her hair red and she was never caught.  
I am also related to the Houghtons in Castle Gate.  I have two brother-in-law’s who are still working in the mines. 
Frank Bonacci (a relative) was fired and black-balled time and again.  During the 1922 Strike, Mine-guards pushed his wife and children out into the snow and carelessly threw all their possessions after them.  They moved to a shack at the edge of town.  When Frank tried to enter his new home the National Guard trained machine-guns on him.  The Bonacci family were starved for a week until Ann Dolinski defied the guards, walked through the guns and delivered food.
Doctor Dowd threatened to shot any Company Guard who came to throw a lady who was pregnant and crying out in the snow.

Wild-cat Strikes in Bingham
A strike at the end of a contract was hard on us.  Everything was shut-down while the company happily waited for a demand for copper and they actually profited.
“BUT” a Wildcat strike crippled production and cost them money.
I remember a four day Wildcat when the Machinist Union shut all entrances to the mine.  Nothing entered for two days.  The Company tried to break through with big busses but they never made it.  Can’t go anywhere with flat tires. 
The County sent sixty maybe seventy Deputies and even the Highway Patrol was there.  They handed out hundreds of “JOHN DOE Warrants” signed by a Judge (one year in jail-$10,000.00 fine).   Company foremen came to identify each one of us. 


Of course the Deputies thought it was fun to harass us.  When they got tired of one thing they tried another.  One was the “WEDGE” where about sixty deputy joined together in a giant wedge and charged.  Nothing could stop them.  Anyone in front or under them got trampled but that failed too.

3 comments:

  1. Very good thank you for your hard work and history. I am from Lark. My father was killed in the mine. I left at the age of 4. Thanks again! Connie Pitts

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very good thank you for your hard work and history. I am from Lark. My father was killed in the mine. I left at the age of 4. Thanks again! Connie Pitts

    ReplyDelete
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