Friends of the devil: Intense pressure for Sheriff Robinson's resignation

Posted

Ask the devil whose side she's on. Evil, I guess, resides in all of our souls. That truth was illustrated in the summer of 1904, when all hell broke loose in the form of the Cripple Creek labor wars.

“Most devilish deed ever committed by any human beings,” screamed the Cripple Creek Times on June 7, 1904.

“The cause of the deaths and injuries was an infernal machine or a lot of dynamite which was exploded by some fiend under the platform of the F. & C.C. (Florissant and Cripple Creek Railroad) depot at Independence, while the men were waiting upon the platform for the train that was to carry them to their homes in Goldfield, Victor and Cripple Creek.”

The terrorist attack ended the lives of 13 non-union miners in Independence, on Bull Hill between Victor and Altman, and another 14 men waiting at the platform were gravely injured. The same issue of the newspaper carried a story about two killed, and many injured, in a riot in Victor, as well as government ordered closing of the saloons in Cripple Creek, searches of the Union Halls, and new sheriff and corner appointed for Teller County after forced resignations. Sheriff Henry Robinson was under intense pressure to resign, according to the Times.

“When the Sheriff was first approached about resigning he refused, but after seeing a rope, which was thrown at his feet, and being informed that the great crowd of angry and determined men who thronged the street outside the building, were anxious to receive him and the rope, he changed his mind, and attached his name to the written resignation.”

By the next morning's paper, martial law had been declared and by Thursday violence flashed here and there all over the district.

The printing plant of the Victor Record, which less than a year previous, had been forced to close at the hand of Colorado Adjutant General Sherman Bell, was destroyed while the employees were held at gunpoint. The Record, considered a Western Federation of Miners (W.F.M.) mouthpiece, was still smarting from the previous closing in which Bell ordered 45 armed militiamen to haul off editor George Kyner and four employees. This time Bell publicly denied any responsibility.

“I had not heard of the damnable outrage done at the Record office. It certainly was not sanctioned by anyone in authority. It was un-American and perpetrators should be punished to the full extent of the law. I cannot express myself sufficiently strong in condemnation. I shall personally investigate this matter and see the guilty parties are punished,” Bell issued in a statement to the Times.

The plant, worth $15,000 at the time, suffered about $8,000 worth of damage, according to Kyner and reported in the Times. The telephone, typewriter, linotype machines, presses and forms were completely demolished.

Eight men, armed with Winchesters and revolvers ordered the men working in the office to “line up and hold aloft their hands. The command was immediately complied with and then work of the destruction started,” said the report.

An editorial on Friday's Times noted that “If the policy of the Record was obnoxious, a way might have been found for the proper and sensible remedy without resort to an act of vandalism such as that employed.”

This period, labeled “The Black Time” by Cripple Creek historian Marshall Sprague in his book “Money Mountain,” resulted in 225 W.F.M members being deported on one-way trains out of the district.

“The dynamiting of the Independence depot was the ghastly event that made it possible for the mine owners to drive the W.F.M. out of the Cripple Creek and Colorado for good,” wrote Sprague.

Sprague referenced the events depicted above this way in Money Mountain:The Story of Cripple Creek Gold, after the dynamiting of the Independence rail platform killed 13 non-union miners and injured scores more.

"Clarence Hamlin, of the Mine Owners' Association, called a mass meeting at 3 p.m., Monday (June 6, 1904). As early as noon, gold camp residents began converging on Victor. Hamlin and others persuaded Sheriff Robertson, a W.F.M. sympathizer, to resign. Their persuasion was the threat to hang him. Ed Bell became sheriff."

Emma Langdon, of the Victor Record and author of The Cripple Creek Strike, noted that on Sunday, June 5, the day before, Sheriff Robertson had issued a statement outlining his objections to Governor James Peabody declaring martial law in the district.

"TO THE PUBLIC - The commission sent by the governor of the state of Colorado to investigate the strike situation in Teller county, called me at midnight Thursday, the 3rd inst. I went to the National hotel at Cripple Creek, and reached there about 12:30 a.m. Friday morning Sept. 4. I was with the commission about two hours and fully explained the situation. I stated to the commission I had the authority to employ all the deputies I needed; that I had the situation in hand; that I had made arrests and was going to make more; that there was no trouble. Within three hours after I left the commission, the members thereof departed for Denver. There is no occasion for militia here. I can handle the situation. There is no trouble in the district and there has been none. No unusual assembly of men. Saloons closed at midnight. The sending of troops here is a usurpation on the part of the governor. I believe the action of the governor will have much to do toward injuring the district to such an extent it will be a long time before recovery will be had. As sheriff of Teller county, I do solemnly protest against the militia being sent here at this time." __ H.M. Robertson.

###