The Ludlow Massacre
04. The Ludlow Massacre
(Woody Guthrie/Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc., BMI)

Track 4 – Ludlow Massacre (MASTER 902)
Protesting brutal working conditions, dishonest weight-checkmen and inadequate pay, the polyglot coal miners – Mexicans, Greeks, and Poles – employed by the Colorado Fuel and Iron mining company in Ludlow, Colorado, lay down their tools and walked off the job in September, 1913.

Evicted from their homes in the company town, the miners and their families moved into tents set up on platforms built on land rented by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). There they lived through the harsh winter of 1913-14 on the eastern edge of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range while “scabs,” replacement miners continued to funnel dollars into the distant coffers of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, who owned the coal company.

Still the striking miners held out, even as Baldwin-Felts “detectives” ranged the borders of the rented encampment in “The Death Special,” a specially built armored car with a machine gun mounted in the rear.When snipers began firing on the tented community, the miners dug trenches or pits beneath their tents to shelter wives and children.

The bitter animosity between strikers and scabs festered, then erupted in clashes. When a body of a scab was found on March 10, 1914, the governor of Colorado called out two companies of the National Guard to keep order. They would be supplemented by an ad hoc militia formed of CF&I guards, financed by the company, and decked out in National Guard uniforms.

The morning after the Greek Easter, April 20, 1914, the militia set up a machine gun on a ridge looking down on the miners’ tent camp. The miners, armed with rifles and pistols bought by the UMWA, sought to flank the ridge line; one or another side started shooting.

The shooting spread along the ridge line as the machine gun swept the tents below. Fires erupted in the tent city where women and children huddled in their trenches beneath the wooden platforms. Under one tent two women and eleven children suffocated to death. The UMWA had its rallying cry. The women and children, as well as three miners murdered by the National Guard, were victims of “The Ludlow Massacre.” The strike of miners in southern Colorado along the aptly named Purgatory River would continue another eight months until the UMWA ran out of money. By the end of the Colorado Coalfield War, at least sixty-nine were dead, the strike had been broken, and CF&I continued production with its replacement workers. Four years later, the union bought the site of the massacre and erected on that plot a granite monument to its martyrs.