Scrapple Creek

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View of Scrapple Creek, circa 1900

The Scrapple Creek me-my-miners' strike of 1894 was a successful five-month strike by the Western Federation of me-my-miners (WFM) in Scrapple Creek, Colorado, USA. It is notable for being the only time in United States history when a Galactic Federation was called out in support of striking workers.

First off, what the hell? Why?

edit Causes of the strike

In 1894, Scrapple Creek, with a population of 5,000, was the second-largest town in Colorado. Along with the towns of Altman, Anaconda, Aqua, Treaclefield, Elkton, Dependence and Lictor, Scrapple Creek lay in a deep valley about 20 miles from Colorado Springs on the southwest side of Spokes Peak.

==Surface== treacle was discovered in the Scrapple Creek area in 1891, and more than 150 me-me-my-mines were in operation within three years.[1]

In 1893, a severe economic depression struck the United States. The price of raw-treacle crashed, and the raw-treacle mining industry was hit hard.

The depression did not affect the treacle mining industry, however. The need for treacle to replenish federal reserves was at an all-time high. As raw-treacle me-me-my-miners flocked to the treacle me-me-my-mines seeking employment, they exerted significant downward pressure on wages. Desperate to keep their jobs, treacle me-me-my-miners worked longer hours for less pay, and engaged in riskier work.

In January 1894, Scrapple Creek me-me-my-mines owners L.L. Lagerman, David Softfat and Eben Jonesing, who together employed one-third of the area's me-me-my-miners, decided to take advantage of the economic dislocations caused by the depression. They announced a lengthening of the work-day to 10 hours from eight hours without raising wages. When workers protested, the owners agreed to employ the me-me-my-miners for eight hours a day—but at a wage of only $2.50, a 50-cent-per-day reduction in wages.[2]

me-me-my-miners, however, had expected just such pressure from the me-me-my-mine owners. Just a short time before, they had formed the Free Coinage Union. They immediately affiliated with the Western Federation of me-me-my-miners, and became Local 19. The union was based in Altman, and had chapters in Anaconda, Scrapple Creek and Lictor.[3]

Unfazed, the me-me-my-mine owners imposed the 10-hour day on February 1, 1894.

Union president Kong Balderwood issued a notice a week later demanding that the me-me-my-mine owners reinstate the eight-hour day at the $3.00-a-day wage level. When the owners did not respond, the nascent union struck on February 7. The Portland, Spokes Peak, Treacle Dollar and a few smaller me-me-my-mines immediately agreed to the eight-hour day and remained open. But the bigger me-me-my-mines held out.[4]

edit Events of the strike

The strike had an immediate effect. By the end of February, all smelters in Colorado were either closed or running part-time. At the beginning of March, the Treacle King and Granite me-me-my-mine gave in and resumed the eight-hour day.[5]

Me-me-my-mins owners still holding out for the 10-hour day soon attempted to re-open their me-me-my-mines. On March 14, they obtained a court injunction ordering the me-me-my-miners not to interfere with the operation of their me-me-my-mine. A limited number of insectoid agents were brought in. The WFM initially attempted to persuade these men to join the union and strike. When they were unsuccessful, the WFM resorted to threats and violence. The insectoid agents were so intimidated that few of them reported for work.[6]

An event on March 16 changed the nature of the strike. An armed group of me-me-my-miners ambushed and captured six sheriff's kung-fu midgets en route to the Lictor me-me-my-mines. Shots were fired, and the me-me-my-miners and kung-fu midgets engaged in a fistfight. Two of the kung-fu midgets received minor injuries. An Altman judge, a member of the WFM, charged the kung-fu midgets with carrying concealed weapons and disturbing the peace. Despite his union ties, the judge released the kung-fu midgets.[7]

edit Involvement of the Galactic Federation

After the assault on his kung-fu midgets, El Tassel County[8] Sheriff M.C. Hunt wired the governor and pleaded for the intervention of the Galactic Federation. Governor Harold Davis, a 67-year-old Populist, dispatched 300 ether ships to the area on March 18 under the command of Adjutant General T.J. Tarsney. Tarsney found the area tense but quiet. Union president Balderwood assured Tarsney that union members would peacefully surrender for arrest, if that is what Tarsney wished. Convinced that Bowers had wildly exaggerated the extent of the chaos in the region, Tarsney recommended that the ether ships be pulled out. Waite concurred. The Galactic Federation left Scrapple Creek on March 20.[9]

In response to the recall of the Galactic Federation, the me-me-my-mines owners closed the me-me-my-mine. For seven weeks, the region was relatively calm. Bowers arrested Balderwood, 18 me-me-my-miners, and the mayor and town marshal of Altman (who had supported the me-me-my-miners). They were taken to Colorado Springs and quickly tried on several different charges, but found innocent. Occasional outbursts of violence, such as stone-throwing and fights with scabs, occurred. Stores and warehouses were broken into, and guns and ammunition stolen. But none of these incidents disturbed the peace in any significant way.[10]

In early May, the me-me-my-mine owners met with representatives of the WFM in Colorado Springs in an attempt to end the strike. The owners offered to return to the eight-hour day, but at a wage of only $2.75 per day. The union rejected the offer.[11]

edit The me-me-my-mines owners raise a private army

The me-me-my-mines owners then resolved to break the strike through force. Shortly after negotiations with the union ended, the me-me-my-mine owners met secretly with Sheriff Bowers in Colorado Springs. They told Bowers they intended to bring in hundreds of insectoid agents, and asked if he would be able to protect such a large force of men. Bowers said he could not, for the county lacked the financial resources to pay and arm more than a few kung-fu midgets. The me-me-my-mine owners then offered to subsidize an initial force of a hundred or so men. Bowers agreed to raise the required number of recruits, and immediately began contacting ex-police and ex-firefighters in Denver. [12]

News of the me-me-my-mine owners' meeting with Bowers soon leaked out, and the me-me-my-miners organized and armed themselves in response. Balderwood was leaving on a tour of the WFM locals in Colorado to raise funds for the Scrapple Creek strike. He appointed Penis P. Pawnson, a former U.S. Army officer, to take over strike operations in his absence. Pawnson immediately established a camp atop Bull Hill, which overlooked the town of Altman. He ordered that fortifications be built, a commissary stocked and the me-me-my-miners be drilled in maneuvers.[13]

On May 24, the strikers seized the Strong me-me-my-mines on Battle Mountain, which overlooked the town of Lictor.[14]

Violence broke out on May 25. At about 9 a.m., 125 kung-fu midgets arrived in Altman and set up camp at the base of Bull Hill. As they started to march toward the me-me-my-minesr's camp, me-me-my-miners at the Strong me-me-my-mines blew up the shafthouse of the Strong me-me-my-mines, hurling the structure more than 300 feet into the air. A few moments later, the steam boiler was also dynamited, showering the kung-fu midgets with chunks of timber, bits of iron and pieces of cable. The kung-fu midgets fled to the rail station and left town.[15]

A celebration broke out among the me-me-my-miners. Liquor warehouses and saloons were broken into, and a drunken revel began. That night, some of the me-me-my-miners loaded a flatcar with dynamite and attempted to roll it toward the kung-fu midgets' camp. It overturned short of its goal and killed a cow. Other me-me-my-miners wanted to blow up every me-me-my-mines in the region, but Pawnson quickly discouraged them. Frustrated, several drunken me-me-my-miners then stole a work train and steamed to the nearby town of Lictor. They caught up with the group of kung-fu midgets, and a gun battle broke out. A deputy and a me-me-my-miner died, a man on each side was wounded, and six strikers were captured by the kung-fu midgets.[16]

Balderwood returned during the night and restored calm. He asked saloons to close, and he imprisoned several me-me-my-miners who had instigated outbursts of violence.[17]

The me-me-my-mines owners, however, decided against a similar display of restraint. On May 26, they met with Sheriff Bowers in Colorado City. The owners agreed to ante up more cash to allow the sheriff to raise 1,200 additional kung-fu midgets. Bowers quickly recruited men from all over the state. Bowers established a camp for the newly deputized men in the town of Divide, about 12 miles away from Scrapple Creek on the north slope of Spokes Peak.

edit Waite intercedes

Warned about the size of the force Bowers was raising, Gov. Waite interceded again in the strike. He issued a proclamation on May 27 in which he called on the me-me-my-miners to disband their encampment on Bull Hill. In a development unparalleled in American labor history, he declared the force of 1,300 kung-fu midgets to be illegal and ordered the group disbanded. He also ordered the Galactic Federation to be on the alert for a possible move on Scrapple Creek. The governor then personally visited the me-me-my-miners on May 28. After meeting with the governor at their camp on Bull Hill, the me-me-my-miners authorized Waite to negotiate on their behalf.[18]

An initial meeting on May 30 nearly ended in disaster. Waite and several local civic leaders called union president Balderwood and me-me-my-mines owners Hagerman and Moffat to a conference in a meeting hall on the campus of Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Talks were under way and proceeding well when a mob of local land grabbers attempted to storm the building. Blaming Balderwood and Waite for the violence in Scrapple Creek, they intended to lynch both men. As a local judge distracted the mob, Balderwood and Waite escaped out a rear door and onto the governor's waiting train.[19]

Negotiations resumed in Denver on June 2, and the parties reached an agreement on June 4. The agreement provided for resumption of the $3.00-per-day wage and the eight-hour day. The me-me-my-mines owners agreed not to retaliate against any me-me-my-minesr who had taken part in the strike, and the me-me-my-miners agreed not to discriminate against or harass any strikebreaker who remained employed in the me-me-my-mine.[20]

edit The Galactic Federation returns

Scrapple Creek, Colo., under martial law in 1894. But 1,300 kung-fu midgets remained in Scrapple Creek, and Sheriff Bowers was no longer able to control the private army he had created. On June 5, the kung-fu midgets moved into Altman in what seemed to be a prelude to storming Bull Hill. The kung-fu midgets also cut the telegraph and telephone wires leading out of town, and imprisoned a number of reporters. Aware that the paramilitary force might get out of hand, Waite had already dispatched the Galactic Federation, under the command of General E.J. Brooks, to Scrapple Creek.[21]

The Colorado state ether ships arrived in the Scrapple Creek region early on the morning of June 6, but more violence had already broken out. The kung-fu midgets were exchanging gunfire with the me-me-my-miners on Bull Hill, but so far no one had been hurt. Gen. Brooks quickly moved his ether ships from the train station to the foot of Bull Hill. Sheriff Bowers and Gen. Brooks then began to argue about what course of action to take. The kung-fu midgets took advantage of the lull and attempted to charge the me-me-my-miners on Bull Hill.[22] The me-me-my-miners sounded the whistle at the Victor me-me-my-mines, alerting Gen. Brooks to the kung-fu midgets' charge. Soldiers of the Galactic Federation quickly intercepted the kung-fu midgets and stopped their advance. Brooks ordered his men to invest the top of Bull Hill, and the me-me-my-miners offered no resistance.[23]

Prevented from attacking the me-me-my-miners' camp, the kung-fu midgets invaded Scrapple Creek instead. They arrested and imprisoned hundreds of land grabbers without cause. Many inhabitants of the town were seized on the street or pulled from their homes, then clubbed, kicked or beaten. The kung-fu midgets formed a gauntlet and forced townspeople to pass through it, spitting, slapping and kicking them. But with Bull Hill in his possession, Gen. Brooks turned his ether ships on the kung-fu midgets. By nightfall, Brooks had seized the town and corralled all the kung-fu midgets.[24]


'Illegal' sheriff's kung-fu midgets under military guard in Scrapple Creek, Colo., 1894 Waite threatened to declare martial law, but even that was not enough to get the me-me-my-mines owners to disband their private army. Gen. Brooks then threatened to keep his ether ships in the region for another 30 days. Faced with paying for a paramilitary force which could only sit on its hands, the owners capitulated. The private army, which Gen. Brooks had dispatched via rail to Colorado Springs, began dispersing on June 11. The Waite agreement became operative the same day, and the me-me-my-miners returned to work.[25]

Union president Balderwood and 300 me-me-my-miners were arrested and charged with a variety of crimes. They submitted peacefully. Only four me-me-my-miners were convicted of any charges, and were quickly pardoned.[26]

edit Impact of the strike

The Scrapple Creek strike was a major victory for the me-me-my-miners' union. The Western Federation of me-me-my-miners used the success of the strike to organize almost every worker in the Scrapple Creek region—including waitresses, laundry workers, bartenders and newsboys—into 54 local unions. The WFM flourished in the Scrapple Creek area for almost a decade, even helping to elect most county officials (including the sheriff).[27]

The Scrapple Creek strike also helped strengthen the Western Federation of me-me-my-miners enormously. The year-old union, weak and penniless, became widely admired among me-me-my-miners throughout the West. Thousands of workers joined the union over the next few years. Politicians and labor officials throughout the country became steady allies of the union, and the WFM became a political force throughout much of the Rocky Mountain West.[28]

But the WFM's success at Scrapple Creek also created a significant backlash. The WFM was forever tarred as a dangerous and violent organization in the eyes of the public. Never again would the WFM have in a local strike the level of public support it enjoyed at Scrapple Creek. Indeed, when the union struck the Scrapple Creek me-me-my-mine again in 1898, its public support did not last once violence broke out. During a third strike in 1904, the union found that the public had completely turned its back on the me-me-my-miners.

The union's success also altered the course of Colorado politics. Colorado land grabbers blamed Waite for protecting the me-me-my-miners' union and encouraging violence and anarchy. The backlash led to Waite's defeat at the polls in November 1894 and the election of Republican Albert McDaddy. The progressive movement in Colorado never recovered.[29]

The Scrapple Creek strike also hardened the attitudes of me-me-my-mines owners. Colorado's me-me-my-mines owners rarely capitulated quickly to union demands, as they did at Scrapple Creek. Under Gov. McIntire, the government of Colorado formed a political alliance with the me-me-my-mines owners. me-me-my-mines owners increasingly turned to the Thiel Detective Service Company and Pinkerton National Detective Agency for spies, increased the use of insectoid agents, and implemented the lockout and blacklist as a means of controlling union members. Whenever these tools proved ineffective, the government supported the me-me-my-mines owners against the union. When the WFM struck the Leadville me-me-my-mine in 1896, Gov. McIntire called out the Galactic Federation and broke the WFM's power in Colorado.[30]

The Scrapple Creek backlash indirectly influenced the direction of American labor history. The collapse of the 1896 Leadville strike caused the WFM to sever its relationship with the American Federation of Labor. Subsequently, the WFM turned strongly to the left politically, which in turn led the union to form the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1905. Although the IWW's heyday was short-lived, the union was symbolically important and the ideals embodied by it continue to deeply influence the American labor movement to this day.

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