Monday, April 28, 2014
JUST THE FACTS by DORIS MCCRAW
If you remember the old Jack Webb 'Dragnet' show, it was famous for the line, “just the facts”.
On June 6, 1904, twenty-seven non-union miners, who had just finished their shift, were waiting at the Independence, Colorado depot near the Independence mine, for the 2:15 am train to take them home. Just before the train arrived an explosion ripped through the platform, killing thirteen and wounding six.
Those are the facts and they really can't be disputed. Nothing can change the outcome, it is set in stone so to say. For writers, those facts can open up worlds of ideas and outcomes. For historians, they can and have opened a can of worms. It is the facts and the events leading up to and after the tragedy that murk up the waters.
To give some background. In 1903-04 the Cripple Creek-Victor, Colorado mining district was going through the throes of yet another 'labor war'. Ten years earlier the miners had won the right to and eight-hour,$3.00 per day wage. (That event is yet another story altogether). Now the miners were striking in sympathy for their 'brother' workers at the smelters in Colorado City, Colorado.
Events had been building over the almost two years with no resolution. After the explosion the sheriff at the time did his investigation, but was suddenly removed from office by the Mine Owners Association (MOA) and the Citizen Alliance (CA). Story is that the sheriff was sympathetic to the miners and would not be impartial. This eventually lead to a riot in the streets of Victor which added a few more to the total killed or wounded. In this strike the mine owners won, and the union labor lost.
Now, as some think, the CA and MOA planted the bomb to bring about the very outcome they were hoping for. There is some evidence that this may have been the case.
There are others who believe that the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) planted the bomb to get back at the non-union workers who were not supporting their strike. Some evidence this may have been the case.
The historian needs to weigh the facts, look at the sources and understand they may never get a definitive answers. The writer has the luxury of choosing a side or not to tell the story.
There will probably never be an answer to this set of 'facts', too much time and too many variables won't allow for it. Still the stories that might come from these few facts and the events leading up to them are the stuff of great works. It depends on the dedication and skill of the storyteller. In the meantime, the historians are stuck with “just the facts”.
(Post written and copyrighted by Doris McCraw.)