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Monday, April 28, 2014


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.)


  1. Doris,

    This is what I love about history: We can read 'just the facts', but as writers, our imaginations run wild with the 'what ifs' and we can weave a story out of just a few fact threads. ;-)

  2. Kaye,

    Like you, the what ifs in history can lead to some great stories, which I love to read. As a historian the wherefor, why, etc. can drive me crazy. When people who write 'the true history' take liberties with their interpretations I troubled for then their interpretations can become fact, then....

    Thanks for stopping by. Doris

  3. Doris, I remember when I was little, my mom used to tease me about loving Dragnet so much with that "Just want the facts, ma'am. Just the facts." LOL

    But this is so interesting to me. We take the "facts" and build our stories around them and what might have happened. I just finished a book by Penelope Williamson (I love her!) called Heart of the West. She has really researched the ins and outs of mining, and in her scenes in the mine, it's like you are there. She has a great way of taking things that are true facts and intertwining the things that might have happened or the fears that most people would have had about certain things. Health issues from where they burned off the refuse to claim the copper out in the open air, how it made the kids sick, and finally the women band together---Chinese, prostitutes, "good women", etc. as WOMEN who want to protect their families, and stand up to the mine owner. I don't know if that ever really happened, but what a tale!

    Great post, and I sure appreciate you standing in as our guest today!


    1. Cheryl,

      It was my pleasure. The strike in Cripple Creek/Victor did band together many women, but in the end the strike failed, but what stories can and will come out of that time and place. The whole area is rich in history...and I love researching it. Can you tell? Doris

  4. The places our stories come from, what if. People always ask me where I get my ideas. Well, you've explained it perfectly. Thank you for the great post.

    1. Livia,

      Thank you for the kind words. It is passion of my, this telling the stories of history. Thank you all for the chance to share them. Doris

  5. Doris your reference to the old Dragnet series made me smile. Channel ME-TV is running all of the old shows from the 60's and 70's in our area. My 11-yer-old grandson Dalton loves to watch Dragnet and Adam 12. The other day his sister was trying to tell him something and he turned to her and said, "Just the facts, Marissa. Just the facts." It made me giggle. As far as the mining story sad. I can't imagine what miners went through back in the day going deep into the earth, no safety regulations...If the canary died they knew they were in deep do-do and for what ? three dollars a day..

    1. Barbara,

      I loved those shows also. Glad to see young people can still enjoy them.

      I agree, it was a tough life and you didn't always get out from underground alive. That these men died for whatever reason is even more sad.

      Thanks for stopping by and letting me know someone still likes the 'old shows'. Doris

  6. Doris, your post is informative at several levels. No, we don't know what happened and never will. To take this one more step, most of us have never spent a day in the Old West--even those who grew up in more remote areas of the West can't really know what a day in the life of an early settler or cattleman would be. Don't you just love the imagination?

    1. Jacquie,

      I agree. We don't and can't know what is was like, but for a writer...ah the gift of imagination. Thank you for your kind words.

  7. When it comes to news, I want just the facts--but I want all the facts. I really don't like it when there is an immediate reaction or opinion from the news person. News is not entertainment; it's the exchange of information which should include only facts and attention to details.
    When it comes to stories, I want the writer's slant to the story. I want it personal and filled with imaginative detail.
    This was a marvelous article, Doris. I really enjoyed reading about. I had never heard about this before.

  8. Sarah,
    I am like you, news without non-facts. I appreciate your support.

    The Cripple Creek/Victor Labor wars, especially the 1903-04, were a very stressful and ultimately tragic time. Doris

  9. Doris, I think I mentioned this in a FB post yesterday (because I couldn't get any of the blogs to take my comments via cell phone :-\ ), but it is so good to see you back at the PRP blog. I always enjoy reading about your in-depth research. You're an inspiration, my friend. More writers should dive into research with zeal like yours.


    1. Thank you Kathleen, you warm this researchers heart. It is my hope that my 'history' will inspire others do their own research or the topic of conversation to use in their own stories.

      I love being here and contributing my 'passion' for others. *Smile* Doris