Filed under: maps | Tags: Baldwin-Felts, Boulder County coal, Boulder County history, coal mining, debt slavery, Industrial Mine, Lafayette, Marshall, northern field, peonage, Superior, United Mine Workers
Rocky Mountain Fuel Company was one of the worst employers imaginable.
Q. Now, as to the strike conditions existing in Boulder County … let me ask you first whether or not any system of peonage has been or is being maintained in Boulder County, so far as your knowledge goes? — A. Well, I investigated reports that came into our office of the existence of peonage in Boulder County in 1910 — several times — and I covered them in my reports.
Q. Did you or not find that peonage did exist there? –A. I would say that they did.
Q. Why? –A. Because men were held in the camps who didn’t want to stay.
Q. By whom? –A. By company guards.
Q. Now, you say that they were held by company guards. What causes you to make that statement? What information have you to justify you in making any such statement? –A. Well, at the time — at that time the restricted confines of the camp of the coal property in Boulder County — at least those that I visited — there were certain definite lines — they were not always stockaded — they didn’t always have fences, but certain lines were the limits of the camp, and those lines were patrolled by armed guards.
Q. Employed by whom? –A. The coal operators.
Q. What company? –A. Different companies.
Q. Name them. –A. I think the National Fuel and — really, I don’t know that I can name the companies. I can name the mines better.
Q. Do that. –A. Superior, Monarch, Bijou, Gorham — it is some years back and I don’t recall them rightly.
Q. How were the guards employed — jointly? –A. No; each company employed their own guards. I don’t think the companies went together to employ guards.
Q. You say, in your opinion, peonage did exist there? –A. Yes, sir.
Q. Tell us why you say that. –A. Well, I found the men in the camp wanted to leave — in fact, I took them out of the camps.
Q. You say you took them out? –A. Yes, sir.
Q. Well, give us the names of them. –A. I can not give you the names now off-hand.
Q. Have you any record of them? –A. I imagine there is a record in our office; yes, sir.
Q. You say you imagine — did you make any report? –A. I made a report, but I don’t believe I mentioned the names when I made the report; as a matter of fact, I didn’t know anything about the peonage law at all then.
Q. How many men did you say you took out of the mines? –A. I took one bunch, I think, of about eight.
Q. What became of them? –A. I turned them loose when we got them outside of the mine. Some of the mine workers put them in the car and sent them to Denver.
Q. Where did you take them from? –A. I think I took that bunch from — if you will let me look at my report a minute — that was at Superior, Colo. That is the mine at Superior; I don’t know whose mine that is. I don’t know what company runs that mine.
Q. It was the Superior mine? –A. Yes, sir; the Superior mine, up north there.
Q. Where did you find these men? –A. They were inside the camp.
Q. Were they inside or underground? –A. No, sir; they were just within the limits of the camp.
Q. Was there anything to prevent them from leaving? –A. You bet there was.
— Testimony of Eli Gross, Colorado Dept. of Labor official, Conditions in the Coal Mines of Colorado: Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Mines and Mining, United States Congress, United States Government Printing Office, 1914.
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