Sunday, April 10, 2016

COMPANY GUNMEN and the 1912 STRIKE and living in VIOLENCE

A Terrible time to Live in Bingham                             
Copperfield 4th of July
John J. Creedon said the 1912 strike almost caused our family to leave Bingham.  My mother was asked how many extra boarders she could handle, but when my father found out they were strike breakers and gunmen, he notified Mr. Haymond that they could eat in the section house, but not as long as he lived there.  Mr. Haymond agreed with him and these “skunks” were taken care of at the “Big Ship” in Upper Bingham.
Mother kept me out of school for part of that year because of the tension.  The gunmen were everywhere on company property and you never knew when you would have a gun stuck in your back and challenged.  We even had one in a packing box below our house.  I remember that one of these men shot another and that seemed to be the only good they did while they were here.  I don’t remember of too much violence, but they say there was a lot of shooting in Upper Bingham during the strike, but evidently no casualties.
Copperfield 4th of July
But life must go on and school and new friends put all else in the background.  Those first days at school I met friends that I was to go through school with and form friendships with their families that have endured to the present time.  My first pal was Coleman Quinn.  We started the first grade together and graduated together without a break in the twelve years.  My first auto ride was with the Quinns, and I took many trips with them.  I met the Stillmans, Grants, Bakers, Nerdins and so many of the Swede-Finns that first year.
The year 1912 came and with it tragedy to Bingham.  It was the year of the Big Strike.  I don’t remember the issues at stake or the winner of this strike, if there was any winner.  There seems to be a difference of opinion of the outcome from some of the old timers I have consulted.
It brought to Bingham an element that left a blight on the community for years to come - Strike breakers or “scabs” were brought in to work the jobs, the men had left and the gunmen were there to protect them.  The hate and resentment shown these unwelcome visitors impressed me as young as I was, and to this date, I loathe such persons.

Greek Camp Copperfield 1912 ?
Chicago Day Book said, a deadly war may break out at the village of Bingham, where 5,000 miners are on strike, at any minute.  If it does the Utah Copper Company will be directly responsible. 
Governor Spry refused to give the mine owners the militia on their demand, and now the owners are organizing a militia of their own.
Late last night 50 sharpshooters, each man a dead shot, were ordered posted on the hills around the Utah Copper Companies mines.

When the miners struck they entrenched themselves near the mines.  They did so because they had experiences with Utah Copper special deputy sheriffs in the past. 
Two days after the strike was declared there were 100 heavily armed Company deputies in Bingham.  The company spread reports of the finding of dynamite and of the likelihood of killings.  Governor Spry hurried to Bingham.
Spry asked the miners to meet with him and talk things over.  They readily consented and left their entrenchments, satisfied they were safe so long as the governor was in Bingham. 
Spry asked the men their grievances.  They told him they wanted an increase in wages and recognition of the union.   Spry advised arbitration.  The men immediately offered to arbitrate.  The company refused. 

Spry advised the men not to use violence.  They said they had no intention of doing so.  Spry asked them why they were armed and entrenched.  They told him of the deputy sheriffs.
Spry then said there was no need for the soldiers the company demanded and left Bingham. 
The next day the force of deputies increased to 300 and more deputies have been pouring into the village every day. 

Meantime the Utah Copper Company had enlisted the county commissioners in their service.

They had the commissioners go to Bingham on a junket trip and inspect the miner’s entrenchments, which Spry had not thought serious.  The County Commissioners ordered the sheriff to destroy the entrenchments and disarm everyone in Bingham except deputies. 

This is certain to cause trouble.  The miners are afraid of the deputies.  They will not submit to be disarmed, while the deputies are left armed, without resistance. 
And if the miners do attempt resistance the sharpshooters on the hills above the mines will be able to kill them at will.
Governor Spry is still trying to get the company to agree to arbitration.  The men have made another request for a conference with company officials.  The company officials have returned no answer to the request.
Bingham is not a town.  It is just a collection of shacks of Utah Copper Company’s miners.

Quotes from “Bingham” a 1945 school book-7th and 8th Grades.  The Mine owners and scabs were successful in breaking the 1912 Strike

Utah Copper had “fired and Black-Balled” many of the strikers.  They were angry and unemployed.  Scabs were replaced with experienced men and both were causing trouble.  Bingham was no longer a safe and happy place to live.  Some of my Swedish-Finn relatives moved to Eureka or went back to Finland.  Greeks and Italians found other work or became self-employed.

 John Leventis owned a coffee shop in Copperfield, said, “Let the owners get the ore themselves”.  The Greeks created a fraternal lodge to help their members become independent.  With money and help partnerships opened most of the grocery stores, drug stores and apartments.  The more pressure and discrimination they endured the closer they became.  They united into one great family and they survived.

The Ku Klux Klan and the Company Deputies made life as miserable as they could.
Highland Boy
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 was caught “burning crosses” above Magna.  Salt Lake and Price had crosses burning there, yet there were no arrests by police anywhere.   

Highland Boy
 “Lopex Saga” happened when Deputy Sheriff Julius Sorensen pushed Raphael Lopez too far.   The sheriff was a company gunman and bought in with the other 400 gunmen.  Raphael Lopez came to Bingham to work.  The mines were hiring and 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.  He was an educated, honest and honorable person, from an aristocratic Spanish family from Mexico Lopez was a half-blood Englishman and Mexican.  He won the respect of the people who knew him.  He was quiet and good natured and temperate with liquor.  He was definitely not a drunkard or a trouble maker.   The turning point in his life was most unfortunate. 

Two young ladies came running to the Highland Boy Mine to tell about two Greek muckers who had bothered them and a Mexican had made them stop. 

Failing to believe the young ladies Sorenson pistol-whipped Lopez and hauled Lopez to jail.  Lopez had a terrible temper and wanted revenge.  LOPEZ knew he had no life in Bingham so when he was released he found his old enemy and killed him.  There are many other versions of why he killed Valdez. 
a make believe Lopex
He left Bingham and headed over the mountain on foot, but there was snow on the ground and he left a trail.  The “Posse” followed him on horses and soon caught him west of Lehi where he killed three of those who found him.  Of course Sorensen got away. 

LOPEZ left tracks in 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.  Some 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 living on McIntire Summer Ranch more than a hundred miles away. 

A man in Bingham stated the Police deserved what they got for treating people the way they didThe police beat him up, put him in jail and the judge fined him $50.00 to get out.  The town was sharply divided on who was the good guy and who was the bad guy.  John Creedon wasn’t the only one who loathed the Company Gunmen. 

Class 1947 Bingham High
All of Lopez’s friends were rounded up; searched for any kind of weapons and jailed (this is what they did to minorities during the strike).  Hundreds of Mexicans in every Mormon town were arrested while the “Newspapers” called for all Mexicans to be deported (just like the Mormons think in Utah today).  They were even rounding up Mexicans as far away as California. 

I worked with a blacksmith named Joe Tome.  In his oral history Joe said he came to Bingham the same year as Lopez.  Joe said he liked Lopez and thought he got a bum-rap.  Everyone I knew liked Lopez, just wish I would have just asked what life was like for each one of them “living in a Company Town” with Company Gunmen and Company Law.
The posse learned Lopez had come back to Bingham and trapped in the Highland Boy mine.  So, it was shut down and searched and had poisonous gasses pumped into the mine.

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.

Governor Spry refused to let the Militia come to Bingham
Colorado's Militia machine gunned  and fire-bombed a striker camp 
remembered as the "Ludlow Massacre" 
Bingham had lived under the guns of gunmen over a year or two and it did not surprise anyone when someone gave Lopez a helping hand and away he went.   

Unions were never recognized until 1944.  Wages were low and workers were still being killed or injured.  So we went on strike.  We went on strike time after time.  When I retired they deducted 1 ½ years strike time from my pension.  Salt Lake County sent 60 to 80 deputies up there at a time to intimidate us.