William Bauchop Wilson
Strike of 1899 - 1900
The Blossburg Advertiser May 12, 1899, Vol.15, No. 23
Miners from this section are leaving everyday. Reports continue to come back that those who have gone easily find better work at better pay in other sections of the country. The Brockwayville (Pa) Record has accounts of opening up new mines and extending the operations of the old ones at that place. Judging from its reports 200 miners could easily find work there. These mines are situated on the B.R. & P. Railroad, on the line between Elk and Jefferson counties in this State. P.A. Jordan, formerly superintendent at Gurnee, in this county, has charge of some of the work. Preparations for extensive operations are being made at Mead Run. These are the Hall & Kaul mines in Elk county, recently bought by Boston parties. One thing is certain. The men gone away will not come back and handle three tons of stone and dirt, in a place two feet high, to get a ton of coal when they can get work in five, six and ten feet of clean coal. They will not work again in the low, dirty coal in this county, cramped and smothered, when there is better work and easier work at better pay in other places.
It is stated that the miners are going to enter suit against the Erie company to recover pay for the 260 pounds that the company has taken from each car since Loomis put his clean coal order in effect. It will amount to a tidy sum for each man. While the men have law and justice on their side we are afraid that a contract is unconstitutional when plain citizens attempt to inforce its provisions against corporations. Judging from the recent decisions of the courts, the constitution itself is unconstitutional, when a corporation desires it.
The report of the committee sent to the joint conference of the operators and miners at Clearfield, Pa, was made to the Arnot miners last Saturday night. On Monday a meeting was held and a committee was sent to Supt. Lincoln notifying that an advance of 10 per cent in wages would be asked for and expected on June 1st. He declined to receive the committee, and just what action the men will take remains to be seen. One thing is sure. The miners do not have to stay there and work the low, dirty coal for a pittance. Work at good wages is too plenty in this country, and none need crawl on their stomachs and beg for a chance to support a company store. The mining situation justified the advance and it has been granted in other places and will be generally granted through out the district. The men are entitled to it.
Last Friday 15 more men were discharged at Arnot. They were not miners, but coal inspectors, day hands, etc. The mine superintendents are beginning to hedge on their statements about the coal playing out. The men affected so promptly taking them at their word and leaving has caused the superintendents to give out through their mouth-pieces that "things will be different in a short time;" [that is when the 10 per cent advance is put aside and we get Maple Hill going] "We are going to open more coal." Ah. But the men are not paying any attention to this chaff. "Vain is the net when set in sight of the bird."
The Blossburg Advertiser May 19, 1899, Vol.15, No. 24
The Berwind-White company has conceded the advance and on June 1st the 10,000 miners in its employ will be paid at a rate of 50 cents a ton in Clearfield, Centre, Cambria, Jefferson, Elk and Somerset counties. This is, indeed, glorious news, as it averts a general strike in Central Pennsylvania. Berwind-White company was the key to the situation. Other companies in that region manifested a disposition to grant the advance, but were deterred by an uncertainty as to what Berwind-White company would do. Now that that company has conceded the advance, it is clear sailing all though that district. We most earnestly call of the Grit's scribbler at Phillipsburg to this fact and ask him how it tallies with the prognostications of his malice inspired mind? One of the delegates to the Clearfield convention informs us that the editor of the Grit's mining department wilfully mis-stated the facts and garbled the scale agreeded upon.
What will be done about the advance in Tioga county? Bide a wee. To use Sam Patch's aphorism, "Some things can be done as well as others." The thing which kept many men from leaving this region was that they were afraid of a strike on June 1st. Now there is nothing to keep them it is safe to say that there is nothing so attractive in working two days a week in the low, dirty coal, under the district price as to hold them here.
The Blossburg Advertiser May 26, 1899, Vol.15, No. 25
The statement of the Grit's mining correspondent that the advance made by the Berwind-White company was "voluntary," is an absolute falsehood. Cervera's surrender to Schley was the same kind of a "voluntary" act. To reverse a popular saying, "If you see it in the Grit's Mining correspondence it aint so."
When the ax fell on May 1st, the miners were thrown off their pins, so to speak, but the ease with which the discharged men got better work at better pay elsewhere has brightened them up, and many of those retained are leaving every day.
There was a large and enthusiastic meeting of miners in Arnot opera house Tuesday evening to hear Edward McKay, of Pittsburgh, member of the national executive board, U.M.W. of A. The first business was to hear the report of the committee sent to ask for an advance in the price of mining, after June 1st. After hearing Supt. Lincoln's reply the committee was sent back with instructions to again ask for the advance and to request him to attend the joint conference of the miners and operators at Clearfield next Tuesday. David Wylie was selected as the miners' delegate. Then William B. Wilson introduced Mr. McKay. He made a grand speech, full of facts, buttressed with impregnable and eloquent figures. His fine speech was punctuated with hearty applause. Mr. McKay is one of that devoted little band, who started out in 1897 to lift the miners from there then deplorable conditions, and succeeded far beyond their wildest dreams. In this district alone the state and national organizations have raised the wages of the miners from 12 to fifty per cent, aggregating over $2,000,000. In addition 40,000 miners in this district will receive an advance of 5 cents a ton on and after Thursday, June 1st. By the power of their organization they are enabled to meet the operator face to face, have abuses remedied and checkweighmen put on the tipple, and agree upon a scale which gives the operator a profit and the miner a fair wage. Mr. McKay is a native of county Durham, England, has been a miner since he was nine years of age. He is admirably fitted for the position he holds and his earnest and plain way of stating his facts at once appeals to his hearers. His has a good stage presence and he made a deep and favorable impression here.
Mr. McKay addressed about three hundred miners at Morris Run on Wednesday evening. He eloquently showed by facts and figures the benefits of organizations and gave unanswerable reasons why they should join hands and reap in an advance in wages. He urged them to send a committee to Mr. Nearing, ask for the district price, invite him to attend the joint convention at Clearfield and to send a delegate themselves. What action they will take remains to be seen. At an interview in the Seymour House, Nearing told McKay to give the men at Morris Run good advice. This Mr. McKay did to the fullest extent.
The Blossburg Advertiser June 9, 1899, Vol.15, No. 27
There is a paper published in Pittsburgh called the "Trades Journal." Its principle trade seems to be a stager at an attempt to make an effort to try to disrupt the organization. Its mining news is evidently the production of the paresis patients in the incurable ward at Morganza. A saturnine ass, whose melancholy eruptions denote a diseased and morbid imagination, in his weekly and incoherent gibberish by shouting "no surrender." Just what Magdalene has to "surrender" does not appear, yet it is plain that DeArmitt got his manhood for less than the district price - 73 cents over an one and a half inch screen.
It is plain that the mining correspondent of the Grit has been getting it in the neck. His pitiful attempt to explain away his slobber over the Berwind-White company makes matters worse. He reluctantly admits that the organization forced the advance, yet he fails to explain that the great and good Berwind-White company made it such a way as to embarrass temporarily the organization and prevent the machine miners from getting their dues. Neither does he recall his wilful falsehood about that company always being first to grant an advance. Possibly the reason why Kinsloe's "critics are not posted on insidematters" is, because they were not carted to the office of Berwind-White company in Philadelphia and filled with inspiration for double-leaded lies. The lies deceived no miner, for all know that the operators along the Beech Creek railroad were nearly always prevented from doing justice to their miners by the hoggish policy of Berwind-White Co. The machine miners along the Beech Creek would be getting the Tyrone scale but for the dirty trick of the Berwind-White company. No one knew this any better than Kinsloe when he penned his lying gush.
Rev. Klucker, former pastor of the Baptist church, is here on a visit. He resides at Patton and says about 200 miners could find work there.
A Mr. Haggerty, of Shawmut, Elk county was here Tuesday looking for 150 miners. He stated that he could get plenty of the riff-raff from Continental Europe, but that he wants English-speaking miners. He said his company had thoroughly investigated this phase of the labor question and found that American miners and the miners from the British isles do not commit any crimes against property. The high character borne by the miners of this section especially attracted him here. He made no mistake on this score and he will find the miners in this county good citizens in every sense of the word.
When Supt. Lincoln discharged the Blossburg miners he expressed great sympathy for the men. He stated that he would do all he could to get them work elsewhere, as far as he could would give them recommends and transportation. He also stated after places had been provided for all the Arnot miners he would hire the Blossburg miners. A diligent inquiry reveals the fact that Supt. Lincoln has faithfully fulfilled his promises. Now comes some men, who claim to be Supt. Lincoln's mouth-pieces, and say that he discharged the Blossburg men from an ulterior purpose. They assert that they knew these men were to be discharged months before they were, and further say it was not because of dirty coal, but in order to get rid of certain men for serving on committees, and that they will never get work there. These statements of Mr. Lincoln's supposed confidents place him in an unenviable light as they say in effect that he is guilty of the grossest hypocrisy and falsehood. These men never sought places on committees. These men were selected to represent the views of all the miners, not their individual views, and the miners have always backed up their committees. If they knew to a certainty that these men were discriminated against for serving on committees Supt. Lincoln would have a strike on his hands inside of 24 hours. He may get a different story from his bad advisors, but the above is solid truth.
Supposing that to-morrow a committee would wait on him and demand: first - the district price. Second - abolishment of the 260 pounds tare. Third - the committeemen given their places back. Fourth - these terms to go in effect on Monday morning. What could Supt. Lincoln do? He would have to comply or loose all his miners, for they are getting invitations from all over the state offering them work. Bide a wee.
The north drift at Arnot is being reopened and it is stated that more of the Blossburg miners will get work in it.
The associated press dispaches say that a general strike has taken place at DuBois, Houtzdale and in Jefferson county. It would seem from this that the machine miners are determined to get justice and were not deceived by Berwind-White's stratagetic move or Kinsloe's flapdoodle. We hope that some of our many readers will send us the facts in the case.
As we go to press it looks as if the Erie company would either have to grant an advance or face a strike. The advances due and their demand a just one and ought to be granted with no delay.
The Blossburg Advertiser June 16, 1899, Vol.15, No. 28
The Erie miners in this county were determined to exhaust all resources to prevent a strike before taking that action to secure the district price. After Supt. Lincoln's refused the advance two weeks ago a committee was sent back to him to try and arrange a joint meeting between representatives of the Erie miners of Tioga, Jefferson and Elk counties and Manager Gardener of the Erie mines and to again ask for the distict price. Lincoln agreed to telegraph to Gardener and inform him of the matter. Lincoln said that Gardener was unable to meet the men as he was going - well say to Mexico. Lincoln again refused the advance. A meeting of the Erie miners was held in the Arnot opera house Monday night to hear the report of the committee, and to take action thereon. The committee stated that Lincoln refused to grant the advance, giving as a reason that the Blossburg coal company got but $1.14 for its coal on the car while it cost the company $1.10 1/2 per ton to get it on the car. W.B. Wilson was then called upon and he explained the mining situation. He said all of the miners in central Pennsylvania, except some of the Berwind-White men, were out for the district price. Excepting here, all the Erie's soft coal miners had struck. That the policy adopted by the district officials was to wait a short time till the organization was perfected, but that the men demanded it now. That there was a greater demand for an less stock of coal on the market than at any time since 1865. That if Erie got a small price for its coal, it got it back in freight and it was only taking it from one pocket of one company to put it back in another pocket of the same company. That if the Blossburg coal company granted the 8 cents per ton asked for, that it would bring the highest price paid at Arnot to 75 cents, while the price paid in central Pennsylvania was 45 cents. The meeting place for these competing coals was at Lawrenceville. The haul from Arnot to Lawrenceville was nearly 30 miles while the haul from Clearfield to Lawrenceville was over 180 miles. The rate charged per ton mile was 3 mills, making it cost the Clearfield shipper 54 cents to get a ton of coal to Lawrenceville, while it cost the Blossburg coal company 9 cents. Then the 75 cents paid at Arnot plus the 9 cents freight makes 84 cents that it cost the Blossburg coal company to get a ton of coal to the competing point. The 45 cents paid in Clearfield plus the 54 cents freight, makes it cost the Clearfield shipper 99 cents to get a ton of coal to the same point, leaving 15 cents per ton in favor of the Blossburg coal company.
A motion to stop work until the advance was granted was then made. It was ably debated in all of its phases for nearly two hours and after various amendments had been made and withdrawn, it was voted to suspend work on Wednesday. It was so suspended on that day and all the Erie miners are now idle.
A committee was appointed to visit Antrim and Morris Run and explain the situation to them. A very large meeting was held at Antrim. Wilson explained matters and a motion was carried to hold another meeting on Wednesday evening. It developed at the meeting that only one mine there was working and that six men were crowded into one room. It is stated that the other mine works only when the glass factories work, as the coal from that mines is used exclusively for that trade.
Wednesday morning Supt. Lincoln posted a notice stating that all miners who had not gone to work Wednesday were discharged, and must apply to him for work. This means that he has declared war on the organization. It begins to look as if the wage question had opened the ball and that the matters which have caused so much friction for the past two years, were to be fought out.
Kinsloe, the Grit's man, has been "trun out" of the miners's convention for his conduct. He attempts to make a vacuous imagination supply the facts for his column of "news." To make a "mining bureau" out of disjointed imagination and a typewriter qualifies a man for a position as boss-carpenter on a castle in the air.
The miners strike through out this district brings out the usual gratuitous advice from the monopoly press to the miners to be law abiding. Why bless their strabismus-eyed soul and trust-cankered heart, if the miners were but one-tenth as lawless as their employers, it would need a regiment of regulars at each mine.
A county mass meeting of miners held in Blossburg yesterday. Antrim sent delegates who reported that the men there had had only two days a week for the past seven months. Most of the families there were living from hand to mouth, and that the company was debating whether or not to close the mines for good.
A call for a report from Morris Run elicited the answers that they were all at work. An explanation was made that at the mass meeting Wednesday night it was unanimously agreed to attend the mass meeting at Blossburg but after the meeting those who only get one turn insisted that those who got two or three turns should go and vice versa. To explain. For some inscrutable reason, some men at Morris Run are given two or three times as much work as others. An interpreter stated to the meeting that the men who received this extra work were willing to share it equally with others. A vote of thanks was given to the delegates from Antrim and the men who came from Morris Run. The effect of Antrim remaining in was shown to be as follows: in previous strikes the Erie miners had made it a point to get the Fall Brook's miners out, while the great bulk of the Erie miners in Elk and Jefferson counties were at work - a spigot and bunghole arrangement. Now it was different. All the Erie mines in the state were closed up as tight as a drum. If Antrim did not send out any more coal than at present no particular harm would be done. It was a pathetic tale of privation and hardship in Antrim which the Antrim delegates related and they presented their case with great ability.
A motion to hold a county mass meeting at Morris Run to night was carried and a rousing meeting will be had. During the debate on this one man sprung a surpise that by alleging that Supt. Lincoln's discharge order was a fake. When asked if he had seen the order he was silent.
This order made the men more firm and silenced those who were wavering as they all see it is a case where they must hang together or get victimized singly. Some super-sensitive persons attempted to construe the holding of a mass meeting at Morris Run as a reflection upon the miners at that place. This was like Kinsloe indignantly denying the charge that the district officers had sold out, when no such charge had been made and created a general laugh. We all know that the Morris Run men are slow to act, but they are like Brer Tarrypin, "when he ketches holt it's got to thunder before he lets go."
It is stated in all seriousness that when the Arnot miners stopped work Supt. Lincoln expected the Blossburg miners would take their places. "And yit they say keerds is a waste 'o time."
The Blossburg Advertiser June 23, 1899, Vol.15, No. 29
The strike situation at Arnot is Landrus is unchanged. Neither side has made any advances toward a settlement. The Erie miners in other places are standing firm.
About 300 men from Blossburg and Arnot, headed by a good band, went to Morris Run last Friday evening. Their purpose was to hold a mass meeting. Wilson spoke and after a long wait five men were selected as a committee to wait upon Supt. Nearing and ask for an advance in wages and the aboliton of the double turn system. The five selected a rendesvous for the following day and at the appointed time but two showed up and Fiasco scored a touch-down.
What will be done in the future at Morris Run is uncertain. The men who get the double turn profess willingness to forego that advantage and share the work equally. The company is not sending any more coal than its usual one train a day.
There is nothing of interest to report from this region.