William Bauchop Wilson
Strike of 1899 - 1900
The Blossburg Advertiser August 4, 1899, Vol.15, No. 35
Last Friday evening a Morris Run miner asked the Advertiser to "roast Nearing for the way he oppressed the miners and for not giving them the advance." Not by a mile, be the same more or less. If one-half that the miners twitted each other of at the meeting at that place Friday night is true, someone needs a "roast," but it is not Nearing. We have known him for 35 years - know every hair in his crafty old head, and know that he never did anything to his employees other than that which they permitted him to do. Why should the Advertiser make an ass out of itself and "roast" Nearing, when by a vote of over two to one the miners themselves declared they were satisfied?
Tuesday the Berwind-White company granted the five-ninths differential, Ii.e. 2 ½ cents advance on machine mining.
Over 1,000 miners have left the Elk Garden region in West Virginia. The operators refused the advance and the miners packed their bundles and left. Three mines are closed down for want of miners and two others have only got about one-third the usual force. The operators are unable to fill their contracts and are in a bad way.
The miners meeting at Morris Run Friday night was the largest this year, and the most exciting. The meeting was called to order by W.B. Wilson, who said that every miner in the Central Pennsylvania region had been given the advance except those in Tioga county. He showed by the record that this county was working under the district price and that it was due to the men at Morris Run that this was the case. The committee sent to see Supt. Nearing made its report to the meeting, which was substantially as follows: Nearing said he could not grant the advance, as the company had lost money on 150,000 tons of coal the first part of the year and the men had to make it up. He said that "his own salary and that of every other official of the company had been cut down 50 per cent." Jas. Pedalty moved to go home and hold a meeting Monday night it was ruled out of order. A Polish interpreter then explained the report to the Polanders present. A motion was made by some woodsman that the report be accepted and the committee discharged, which was carried. Pat Driscoll moved that the miners continue work. It was moved to amend Driscoll's motion by refusing to work until the advance was granted. This precipitated a discussion and Owen Isaias said if Wilson would guarantee him that Fall Brook, Antrim, Patton, etc., would come out and not load Morris Run orders, then he was in favor of striking. Mr. Atkinson stated that he was not in favor of striking, because he only got one turn, where as others got two turns, and while he would only get ten per cent the two-turners would get twenty per cent, etc., etc. Owen Isaias made some withering remarks on the two turn system and John Carr twitted Isaias of getting a ½ turn for a boy under 12 years old. This called for some vulgar and fighting talk, but no blows were struck. It was then agreed to vote on the amendment, by separating the men in two crowds - those in favor of working to remain in their places, and those not, to move to the left. While the vote was going on Pat Driscoll, a brother of the boss, was accused of attempting to prevent a fair vote and a fight was in sight, and in the confusion the vote was lost track of and a fiasco resulted. Driscoll was directly charged with attempting to kick us a muss to prevent a vote, and a free fight seemed imminent. The tellers reported the amendment lost by a vote of 135 to 65. William Whalen then advised the men to go home and have nothing more to do with the meeting, as miner's meetings were not needed. The motion was lost. Then a man moved that a committee of six be appointed to get men to sign an agreement not to take two turns, and share the work equally. Again a row started, but was quelled in time to prevent any serious results. This motion was carried. After selecting the six men the meeting adjourned, to meet at the call of the committee.
The two-turn business at Morris Run is worked as follows: suppose there are 100 cars of coal to be loaded and 50 miners to do it. Twenty five of the miners would get three cars each and the other twenty five miners one car each. This is manifestedly unjust and is, with the race hatred scheme, the most potent factor in keeping the men divided on all questions beneficial to themselves.
Apropos of the loss on the 150,000 tons of coal, it may be noted that Vanderbilt's son-in-law, the Duck of Mawbok, lost $35,000 on a horse race recently.
National organizer William Warner and 45 miners were arrested in Somerset county for holding a meeting on the highway. "Broad and free is the king's highway," for everybody but an American miner.
The Morris Run committee called a meeting for Wednesday to make a report, and over two-thirds of the miners were present. David Hayes was the chairman and was fair and impartial. The committee reported that it had visited the miners and all but four had agreed to give up the extra turn. A Polish interpreter explained the report to his countrymen. A long debate followed. It was moved that a committee be sent to Supt. Nearing and ask him to abolish the extra turn and report to another meeting last night. The extra turn men were bitterly denounced and a great deal of harsh exhibited. A drunken Pole attempted to discredit the committee but he was sat down on. An amendment was offered to quit work until the extra turn was abolished, and not send the committee as Nearing would tell them to "go to h-ll - it's none of your business," as he did the other committee. Pat Driscoll said that this was a move to undo what was done at the meeting Friday night. W.B. Wilson counseled the miners to send the committee and exhaust all conservative measures before striking. Driscoll said Wilson had no business there. Wilson replied that if Morris Run was the only mining town in the world then he would have no right there, but other miners outside of Morris Run were interested, and accused Driscoll of starting the row Friday night to prevent a fair vote. Driscoll broke out in a vulgar and profane tirade and the Morris Run miners hissed him until he said down shame-faced and abashed. While the debate was going on, Driscoll said not all the miners were there and, pointing to some half-grown boys, asked if they were miners, and if they went on a strike, he would work. Wilson replied that if the meeting voted to strike the man who went to work was a blackleg and that the boys had a right there as they had turns and worked in the mines, and that Nearing had said that the girls had voted at the last meeting. This called forth a question which caused a big laugh. Wilson then asked the crowd about Morris Run filling Erie cars and an explanation and denial were made. After considerable talk a committee was chosen to interview Supt. Nearing and ask him to abolish the extra turn and give each man a proper share of the work.
The result of the 50 per cent cut in the price of Czaring is plainly seen. When the full price was paid sober, brainy, canna men were chosen to represent the Fiat at miners' meetings.
We hope no Scion of the Vanderbuilt dynasty will "scab" the Czar out of his job. "See the rent damned Casca made," the Advertiser will pathetically explain, and roast the scab like a Apache would a captive Greaser. What is a scab?
One of the noble four refused to give up his extra turn because he said he had a cow to keep. Valuable cow.
The meeting last night at Morris Run last was very short. Thomas X. Jenkins was chairman. John Graham reported that they went to Nearings house and he called them by their proper name by saying, "Good evening, Gentlemen." He said Mr. Nearing told that he had run the turn long enough and that it was all right. The bosses were to do it and it was settled. Graham insinuated that something mysterious happened at the interview which the miners could not survive the shock of hearing, but with an effulgent smile he assured them it was all right.
The Blossburg Advertiser August 4, 1899, Vol.15, No. 35
The Coal Company at Antrim, has an order from the D.L. & W. Railway for five cars a day and the chutes are being altered so as to allow the big D.L. & W. cars to go under. A Salt Company at Silver Springs, N.Y., and one at Warsaw, N.Y., take about five cars a day and the Central takes twelve cars. The above named orders, together with local orders, will amount to nearly twenty-five cars a day, giving the miners about as much work as they can do. It is said that Fall Brook is about to abandoned and that some of the people will move to Antrim.
The Blossburg Advertiser August 11, 1899, Vol.15, No. 36
A man from Arkansas was here last Friday and Saturday looking for coal miners. He got none, as Tioga county miners would not work in a stockade. The Arkansas coal is a thin, dirty scene, and it takes skilled miners to dig it. The company with thin coal letting its skilled miners go, stands a mighty poor show of getting miners, as there are too many mines of thick, clean coal being opened.
If Supt. Lincoln would but use his eyes he would see that Supt. Nearing is making a laughing stock of him. While Lincoln is getting rid of his men Nearing is hiring them, and when Lincoln wants men he won't be able to get them, as it takes something besides main strength and awkwardness to dig the Arnot coal. Right here, whether rightly or wrongly, a large number of Blossburg miners believe that Nearing plan the move whereby they were discharged from Arnot and Landrus on May 1st, in consequence of which their homes were broken up, their families scattered and their property depreciated. At Arnot it is believed that when Lincoln sent for the committee two weeks ago he meant to pay the advance, but after an interview with Nearing tried to pass it off as a joke.
We have it on reliable authority the reason why Antrim miners were granted the advance was, the miners were leaving in such numbers that the company was forced to offer some inducement to hold the men. At Morris Run, where the men bitterly complained, no effort has been made to get the advance. With the operators offering a dollar a head to men sending them miners, the Morris Run men let themselves be led around by the nose and refused to try to better their conditions.
Antrim miners got a raise of five cents a ton for loading machine-dug coal.
Forty miners left Arnot on Monday in a special car for New Berlin, Conn., where they will work for a bridge company. Physically, each and all fit to enter a regiment of grenadiers.
During this week over 90 miners left Arnot for other fields. Twenty-two are going to-morrow and thirty-six on Monday and Tuesday. Agents for other coal companies are sending after these men daily. The old town wears a deserted look. Both of the brass bands and both of the ball clubs have but one or two members left. At least two of the strongest societies cannot muster a quorm. Judging by the changes on our subscription books fully 500 men have left this region. When Lincoln gives the price, and work starts, he will look in vain for men and he will understand what the Advertiser told him five months ago, "some things can be done as well as others," and putting a boy at a man's job is a costly move.
Thomas Haggerty a National Organizer of the U.M.W. of A., is here, and will hold several meetings. He was Field Marshall during the exciting contests around DuBois this summer. Be sure and hear him at Morris Run to-night.
One of the Erie mines in the Toby Valley is closed up for want of miners. Just what will happen to two of the Erie mines in this county when Supt. Lincoln grants the advance. Possibly if the strike lasts a week longer three mines will close for want of men.
The Advertiser received a letter from Morris Run saying that the Advertiser should "show up Nearing." We say once more that Nearing is not the one to blame. He only does what the people let him do. As long as they let themselves be led by Pat Driscoll and Jim Pedalty, just so long Nearing will do as he pleases. As we will print the letter next week, we simply ask are the miners of Morris Run led by Pedalty and Driscoll?
Supt. Lincoln entertained two committees on Monday in his usual genial manner, and contributed an hour of gayety to enliven the dull situation. Oh, yes, things have changed.
The miners at Arnot request the Advertiser to state that they have the utmost confidence in their mine committee. Others will do well to attend to their own business. When their advise is needed it will be asked.
The Blossburg Advertiser August 18, 1899, Vol.15, No. 37
"Why don't the miners from Arnot and the organizers of the district let the Morris Run miners alone? There have been ten meetings held there and both times when a vote was taken a majority of Morris Run miners have voted to continue work." This question which many are asking requires a rather lengthly explanation.
There are in district No. 2 fourteen counties in which bituminous coal is mined. There are in those fourteen counties in the neighborhood of 45,000 miners. On March 23, 1899, a convention was held in Tyrone, Blair county for the purpose of considering the deplorable conditions under which the miners of this district were laboring. It was found by the reports of the various delegates that nowhere outside of Siberia were a set of men more grossly imposed upon than in the mining regions of Central Pennsylvania. The price paid for mining coal was found to be anywhere from 18 ½ cents up to 61 cents. It was agreed by that convention that an effort should be made to raise the price of mining coal to 50 cents or its equivalent. That is to say if coal was thicker or thiner, the differential price paid was to be equivalent to 50 cents.
To go back a year or so, the national officers of the U. M. W. of A. had inaugurated just such movements in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and the Pittsburgh region of Pennsylvania, and were everywhere successful in equalizing the prices, by means of joint meetings of operators and miners and by methods of striking. Excepting at Pana, Ill., where the strike has been in operation since 1897 and attended with such scenes of violence and bloodshed as has been seldom noted in the history of mining, the national officials met with uniform success, and it was thought a similar method might obtain in Central and Northern Pennsylvania.
With this end in view William B. Wilson, president of district No. 2, addressed a circular to each of the coal operators in the 14 counties, asking for a joint meeting of the miners and operators at an early date, to try and agree harmoniously upon a price which would be just to all concerned. To the eternal credit of the coal operators along the Beech Creek railroad be it said that they immediately sent a favorable answer and suggested Clearfield, Clearfield Co., as the meeting place. The Beech Creek operators have a long and honorable record for upright treatment and just methods in dealing with their employees. And in this long and honorable career the name of Hon. James Kerr, like Abou Ben Adhem's, has "led all the rest."
The Beech Creek operators made a conditional advance in wages. It was given with the understanding that if the Berwind-White company, i.e. the Pennsylvania railroad, and the B.R. & P. railroad operators did not grant the advance, then the Beech Creek miners were to be reduced to the former price. By means of strikes and strikes alone, the Berwind-White company, the Erie, except in Tioga Co., the B.R. & P. Company and all other operators were forced to grant the advance. But the seven labors of Hercules were laid upon Wilson and his fellow-officers. If they could not get the advance for all, then those who had been given it were to loose it. That seems unfair on the face of it. When Wilson and Rice had an interview with Mr. Robinson, of the B.R. & P., they attempted to show him that the out-put from Tioga county was not a drop in the bucket. He said: "If you have 10,000,000 bushels of wheat, which you want to sell for $1.00 a bushel and I have only 10,000 bushels which I am selling at eighty cents, then my 10,000 bushels at eighty cents fixes the price of your 10,000,000 bushels." This left no resource to the officials but to get the 1,000 men in Tioga county in line in order to save the wages of 44,000, who had fought a six weeks' strike, some of whom had been turned out of their homes under Pennsylvania's infamous ten day act, that right arm of heartless cruelty, oppression and wrong. Wilson and McKay placed the situation before the miners in Tioga county. The Arnot miners responded promptly to the call of their brethren. Antrim miners plead that they were so reduced by starvation and poor work that they were unable to aid. It was a pitiful tale of suffering which Antrim delegates related in the opera house in Blossburg. At Morris Run a peculiar situation had to be met. Meeting after meeting was held, interpreters were present and explained the situation to the Polanders, but when a vote was taken a clique of about 100 were able to out vote the rest.
Now comes the answer to the question, why such desperate efforts were made to get the Morris Run miners in line: the wages of 44,000 miners depended upon the action of about 100 men at Morris Run. Was that not a thing worth striving for? It seems an outrage on all equity that the actions of 100 men should jeopardize the question of better food, better clothes, better conditions, in every way, of 44,000 other men. In no other case in law, common, statute or fundamental, would the rights of 100 men be permitted to jeopardize the conditions of 44,000 other men. So the question had resolved itsself into this: the Morris Run miners had to either be persuaded to lay down their tools or the 44,000 suffer a reduction. Thanks to the courage, perseverance and ingenuity of Wilson, McKay and Haggerty, the men were brought out.
In this condition of affairs Wilson looked the ground over and said: "I'll have to send Tom Haggerty here."
Talk about your Dewey Guards,
Last Thursday a tall, loose-jointed, powerfully built man, with sandy hair, the steel-gray eyes you read so often about and so seldom see, a voice like a megaphone, and a smile as innocent and confiding as a babe's, came floating into town and announced himself as Thomas Haggerty, of Eleanora. In the argot of the street, he would be termed a "smooth article," so smooth in fact that there are no flies on him, for the simple reason they would slip off. He is an organizer of the U.M.W. of A. and his business here was to make one more effort to get the Morris Run miners to lay down their tools. He announced a meeting at the historic old slate pile for Friday evening, and large numbers attended. Haggerty made an eloquent speech, telling them the hard, cold facts, but before a vote could be taken a terrible storm came and broke up the meeting. Another meeting was announced for Saturday evening at 6 o'clock. Promptly at that time another large meeting was called to order and Pat Driscoll was chosen chairman. A motion was carried to exclude all under 21 years of age from voting. Then on a motion to go on a strike, a vote was taken which resulted in favor of remaining at work by 113 to 84.
This was a heart-breaker to the local contingent and they were greatly depressed. Not so with Field Marshall Haggerty. With the courage which remoulds broken opportunities into greater ones, he started early Sunday morning for Arnot, gathered the remnants of the two bands, enlisted the services of a hundred or so enthusiastic miners, appointed a meeting place at 2 o'clock Monday morning and at that hour began another Bonaparte march over the Alps to Morris Run. Just as the first rays of the morning sun began to purple the tips of the hills Field Marshall Haggerty and his brave band sailed into Morris Run to the tune "Yankee Doodle." The people of Morris Run were just preparing to go to work and men, women and children swarmed out to greet the marchers, and a joyful hullaballoo was soon in progress. They paraded through all the streets, creating such fun and merriment that no one went to work. After parading for a couple of hours, Morris Run hospitality came to the front and the marchers were given a hearty breakfast. Then a march for Blossburg was began, and about ten o'clock about 200 tired, dusty, sunburnt, thirsty, yet determined men came marching down Main street to Odd Fellow's hall where another meeting was held. After selecting a chairman and secretary Mr. Haggerty made a strong, able speech, advising them to organize and was followed by Richard Merrill, of Blossburg, who, in a short, impassioned speech, advised them to organize and stand firm for their rights. Both were heartly applauded. Then all other then miners were excluded from the hall and an organization effected.
During all the time spent in Morris Run there was not unpleasant incident nor a harsh word spoken, save and excepting by Felix the Farmer, of Dutchtown. Felix caught on. Nearing went to Mansfield for a drive and a foolish rumor was started that he was afraid to stay in Morris Run. There was nothing to be afraid of, and if there was, it wouldn't frighten Nearing. Those who started the rumor, don't know Mr. Nearing. A cornet and concertina were procured by some of the Morris Run people Monday night and they paraded and serenaded everybody in that town, not excepting Mr. Nearing, and there was no "Coxey keep off the grass" business, either.
Haggerty and his heroes spent the afternoon preparing for another parade in Morris Run on Tuesday. About three o'clock Tuesday morning the march was resumed and another two hours of fun and frolic were had at Morris Run. The people entered into the spirit of the thing and again the diversion was so great that none went to work. Tuesday forenoon but a few of the marchers came to town. In the afternoon another short, but decisive meeting was held at the slate pile. A motion to strike was carried by a vote of 165 to 11.
Field Marshall Haggerty wore a grin on his broad face like a generous cut out of a watermelon. He said of all the plucking, tireless men he ever met, he would give the palm to Arnot. He said they repesonded promptly and stood firmly and there was not a murmur during the long march through the heat and dust. Haggerty's work was the subject of many compliments, because it was so peaceful, so amusing and yet so effective. Haggerty and "Marching through Georgia," will not be forgotten here in many a day. No one seemed to enjoy the thing more than Supt. Lincoln and he laughed all over his face when the men reached here.
Wednesday the Morris Run miners sent word to the Arnot men to come there and they would join forces and march to Blossburg and organize. The joint meeting was held at nine o'clock and heard the report of the committee to see Mr. Nearing. The report was that he would not pay the advance and that they were all discharged and those wanting work must come to him personally. At the close of the report a procession was formed, headed by a brass band with a drum corps, about 400 miners, started for Blossburg through the heat and dust. The procession arrived about 11 o'clock and after counter-marching on the Main street, marched to the Odd Fellows' hall. No one but Morris Run miners were admitted and they quickly organized themselves into a local of the United Mine Workers of America, selected a first-class mine committee and then quietly dispersed and went home.
Are these men entitled to the advance? No class of men are as great readers of newspapers as miners. Big bundles of daily papers published in Philadelphia and New York, find their way into each mining town, and they teem with stories of prosperity. The miners have had this cry dinned into their ears for two full years. Most of them voted for the "Advance Agent of Prosperity." The owners of these mines who reside in the cities have roared that prosperity is here till they are black in the face. These miners are working for 1894 prices - Cleveland panic prices - and if there is prosperity in the land, then these are eminently entitled to it, without having to strike to get a just share of it. When the prosperity orators go into the mining regions of Pennsylvania, the miners can and will say: "Oh h-ll! All the prosperity we have had we struck for, our families' suffered for. What thanks do we owe to anything but our organization?" The prices of food have gone up fully 15 per cent. The competitors of these Tioga county operators have granted the advance and these same companies have granted at the rest of their mines. Why not here. Manager Gardner of the Erie told Wilson that the matter rested with Lincoln. Is Lincoln to prove a "Horatius at the Gate," or merely a Mrs. Partington with her broom?
The merchants here are vitally interested in having the Morris Run men win. Morris Run people do but very little trading here. The reasons for this are so well-known that it is not necessary to state them. Steps have been taken by the men themselves to break upon the system which prevents a man, after earning a dollar by the hardest work in the world, from spending that dollar when and where he pleases. The men should receive cordial support in this undertaking.
James Sweeney, formerly of Arnot, writes the Advertiser that he had an interview with Col. Spangler and that Mr. Spangler would find work for 100 miners from here if they would come to his mines at Spangler, Barnsboro or Patton. In another column will be found an advertisement for miners.
The horse-mule dicker which caused a severance of diplomatic relations, is now a "closed incident." "An did I know he was so cunning" in a horse trade, "I would see him damned ere I" traded nags with him.
"Last Monday fifty striking miners left Arnot for Connecticut where they will work in a bridge works at wages less than they were receiving before they struck" - Galeton Dispatch.
The usually correct Dispatch has been misinformed. These men are now making from twelve dollars to fifteen dollars a week. But few miners have done as well as that in Pennsylvania for many years. These men are paid in cash every Saturday night, and its the "nimble sixpence" that keeps things moving. The men are working out in the fresh air; not in the atmosphere surcharged with the effluvia of man and animal; they do not have to stand in a state of armed neutrality to protect their civil and religious rights; they do not have to give a portion of their wages to pay a man to see that their employer gives them what he agrees to do. No superintendent is calling on them or their wives and saying, "We have a store; trade there or get discharged." They are located in the heart of enlightened America, in the vicinity of the best educational advantages, and no man takes more pride in educating his children than a miner. They are in the heart of the manufacturing region of New England and their sons can become skilled mechanics. They have a hundred advantages they did not and could not get in Arnot, any one of which out weighs any financial consideration. We desire to inform the Dispatch that the Decalogue is not Article 1st in a Pennsylvania coal company's charter and as the Dispatch is one of the very few papers which does not gibe at those who "earn their bread in the sweat of their face," we take pleasure in setting it right.
About one hundred dusty men went up to Arnot Wednesday singing:
"We never will retreat;