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Chapter 15 - Moyer, Haywood and Pettibone

The year 1906 I was active in the defense Moyer, Haywood and Pettibone. I addressed meetings in their behalf and raised money defray the expense of their trials.

Late on Saturday night, February 17th, 1906, after banks, business houses and courts had closed, the President of the Western Federation of Miners, Charles H. Moyer, was secretly arrested. William D. Haywood, the secretary of the union, and George A. Pettibone, a business agent, were arrested a short time later. All three men were kidnapped and carried into the state of Idaho where they were charged with the murder of Governor Steunenberg.

No legal steps to arrest these men, who were going about their business openly, were taken. The men designated by the governor of Idaho to take the requisitions to the Governor of Colorado had many days in which the labor men could have been legally arrested. But the police waited until Saturday night when the accused could not get in touch with banks for bail, when the courts were not open to hear habeas corpus proceedings, so that the prisoners could not have recourse to the usual legal defense and protection granted to the worst felon.

The men were taken secretly to the county jail and were not allowed to get in touch with relatives, friends or attorneys. Early Sunday morning, before five o’clock, the prisoners were driven to a siding near the Union Depot, placed in a special train, and whirled rapidly out of the state. No stops were made and the train had the right-of-way over every other train from Denver to Boise, Idaho.

The men were heavily guarded by armed men, commissioned by the Governor of Idaho, and by Adjutant General Wells, of the Colorado National Guard.

When the men arrived in Boise, they were taken to the penitentiary and placed incommunicado. Not for days did their families and friends know of their whereabouts.

Back of the arrest of the labor leaders was the labor struggle itself. Much of the labor war in Idaho had centered about the Coeur d’Alene district, a strip of country about twenty-five miles long and five wide in which were rich lead mines. The miners worked twelve hours a day in the mills and smelters and mines in the midst of sickening, deadly fumes of arsenic. Arsenic poisons. It paralyzes arms and legs. It causes the teeth to fall out, the hair to fall off. Weird looking men worked in the mines: gaunt, their faces sunken in, their eyelashes and eyebrows off, a green aspect to their skin.

Then came the union, the Western Federation of Miners. The mine owners opposed the formation of unions with all the might of money and privilege and state. The miners fought back as savagely as they were fought. The strike was truly war with murders and assassinations, with dynamite and prisons. The mine owners brought in gunmen. The president of the Union urged the miners to arm, defend themselves, their wives and daughters. It was Hell!

In 1899 Bunker Hill Co. mine was blown up. The Governor called the troops which only made matters worse. The first troops were negroes. Men were arrested and thrown in jail without trial. One thousand men were herded in a bullpen.

One night a bomb, attached to his gate, killed Governor Steunenberg. Rewards of thousands of dollars were offered for the arrest of the murderers. That attracted the detectives. The Pinkerton Agency got busy. Eight years after the death of the governor, the labor leaders. were arrested and charged with the crime of murder.

In those eight years the Western Federation of Miners had won the battle in the Coer d’Alene district. An eight-hour day had been won. The miners had established their own stores. They had built libraries and hospitals. They had established funds for widows and orphans. Libraries took the place of saloons and hope the place of despair.

The mine owners paid spies to join the union, poor wretches who sold themselves to the slave owners for a pittance.

A poor tool of the corporations, of the detectives, a thing in the shape of a man, named Orchard, told of belonging to an inner circle of the Western Federation of Miners whose object it was to dynamite and assassinate. It was this inner circle to which the officers of the union belonged, and it was this circle, said he, that was responsible for the death, eight years before, of Governor Steunenberg.

The trial was held in Boise, Idaho. President Roosevelt called the men “undesirable citizens” before they had been given a chance to defend themselves. In the end they were acquitted and those who sought to destroy them because of their labor in behalf of toiling humanity had to seek other methods of destroying the Western Federation of Miners.

Next page: Chapter 16 - The Mexican Revolution