William Bauchop Wilson
Strike of 1899 - 1900
The Blossburg Advertiser August 25, 1899, Vol.15, No. 38
Said Mat to Hugh, Look at my shoe,
Fired by the success of Field Marshall Haggerty, and to show that he, too, could get up a parade and figure in a public exhibition, Leftenant Nearing like another Peter the Hermit got up a procession of 125 mine mules last Saturday and started on a perilous and tedious march to Copp Hollow. As he sat on the poop deck, abaft the binnacle, of a brindle mule, the Leftenant looked like a Marshal of France and a Prince of the Empire. As he loomed up, about ten o'clock, there was pride in his port - defiance in his eye. His gallant band had no music to keep them in step, but an occasional hee-haw from their capacious throats, proved to the undaunted leader that "our flag was still there." The Leftenant's followers lagged by the way, winked at the handsome fillies along route, cappered like kittens in the dirty Tioga, and acted as if they were wild with joy when they passed the Advertiser office. One wise-looking old mule grinned and seemed to say, "He makes Haggerty look like a nine-spot." The poet laureate of Dutchtown composed a thrilling ode for the occasion.
The statement that the hospital was decorated for the occasion is false.
The drouth in Morris Run was so bad that water had to be hauled by a team. Last Friday Supt. Nearing refused the inhabitants the use of the horses and wagon to haul water. They had to carry it a long distance now. Air alone is free there and if there was any way to shut that off it would be done, as it is, the mines are not bursting from a pressure of pure air. The Advertiser mentions this for the following reasons: Coming down from a meeting at Morris Run with McKay, Wilson and others, it was asserted that Nearing had changed; that he would not do any more of those things which made his friends grieve and the victim rage with wrath. It was cited that he was reaching the sunset of life and that the future had no opportunity for him, that after the 37 years of superb service he had given the company, his wages were cut in half, and himself liable to be thrown aside like an old shoe, like Sloan of the Lackawanna, and his reflections on what had passed had mellowed his heart, and age had softened the acridness of his nature. These assertions, the Advertiser contradicted, and said that Nearing would reach 100 years and live to eat the goose that ate the grass from his employees' graves; that age could neither soften nor infirmity curb his pettiness; that it was born in him and with his last gasp he will do something akin to the water incident.
Fall Brook miners laid down their tools last Friday. Nothing but Antrim remains at work.
President Mitchell and Secretary Pearce, of the National Board, U.M.W. of A., reached the hard coal regions this week and at once began a movement looking towards the bettering the deplorable conditions of the miners there. Success to them.
The scientific world is all agog over Marconi's system of wireless telegraphy. But Marconi's is a has-been compared to the self-registering and automatic invention of Tom Haggerty. During the strikes in Central Pennsylvania, it was nothing to have the news of a meeting bulletined in towns 20 or 30 miles away in as many minutes, by this system. The result of the vote in Morris Run was known at Congress Corners in 12 minutes, and it was posted on the Advertiser's bulletin board in eight minutes after it was announced at Morris Run. Haggerty is going to have it patented and his three confederates in this county will be wearing diamonds next spring.
Haggerty hied himself to Antrim on Tuesday to take in the situation and get a correct estimate of the miners' conditions. He spoke to a largely attended meeting and thoroughly explained the situation. Two or three tried to speak when Haggerty thought a chairman should be chosen. William Cowan then addressed the meeting and said that the company had used the men fairly, giving them two advances voluntarily and the decency with which they were treated by Supt. Howell made them loath to do aught to embarrass him. He said they were only five cents under the district price, and since the change in relations of the coal company to the railroad, he thought if the miners went on a strike the mines would close down for good and they would have to seek work elsewhere. Haggerty replied if that were true, then they all ought to join the organization, so that if the mines were closed they could show a clean bill of health, as the organization had won the advantages now enjoyed by a hard battle and it did not propose to allow miners who were too cowardly to join a union, to reap any of the advantages which that union had secured for its members. Then a cross-fire of debate occurred between Messrs. Haggerty, Cowan and Estep, during which much irrelevant matter was injected into the discussion. The matter of organization was deferred until later in the week.
Mr. Haggerty called on Supt. Howell and had a pleasant interview. An appointment was made for a meeting on Thursday of Supt. Howell, William B. Wilson and Thomas Haggerty. The latter said Mr. Howell was a gentleman in every way and deserved all the kind words spoken of him by his employees.
W.B. Wilson returned home on Tuesday from Jefferson county.
If the Advertiser had the power to enforce its decrees, it would make it a penal offense to work in a mine during the months of June, July and August. Look at the miners in this region now, and then recall their sallow and sickly looks when they came out in June. There is not a man among them but has lengthened his life by his living in the sunshine and fresh air.
Nearing is reported as saying that he had run the mines long enough and would let the Advertiser run them. Too busy, W.S., trying to find out whether the hospital deserves the name by which it is popularly known here.
The Blossburg Advertiser September 1, 1899, Vol.15, No. 39
Field Marshal Haggerty left Monday for Eleanora. He carried with him the hearty wishes of the mining population. He will soon enter into the hard coal region and those interested will find him a gallant and modest champion of labor. Success to him.
Lieut. Jenkins of the United States Signal Corps made numerous experiments with Haggerty's system of signaling last Saturday, and said that it is far superior to any in use in the army. From five to thirty miles, he says, it is more rapid and more reliable than the heiograph, which can only be used on clear days. William Boncer of Arnot will shortly apply for a patent in this county, and Daniel Barr and Matthew Farrel will have control of the European end of the business.
Monday the Erie company presented its employees with a copy of the ten-day notice. Tuesday the men went in the mines and took their tools out, and what is left of the English-speaking miners employed by that company in this county will be soon be gone to other regions. They will neither bend nor break on this wage question.
The majority of miners have left Morris Run already. It is stated - or rather whispered - in Morris Run that Nearing told some of those going away to remain. While he did not say openly that the advance would be given he wished to convey that impression.
The prospects now are for a long suspension, and as it is but a short time until cold weather the sooner the miners get work elsewhere the better it will be for their families. The company will drag matters a long until winter and then the men will the alternative given them of either returning to work without the advance or have their families thrown out in the snow.
If the Erie company desires liquor sold in Arnot it should apply for a license and do it openly and above board. There has been an effort made to convey the impression that District Attorney Dunsmore connives at the illegal sale of liquor in Arnot. The Advertiser has investigated the case and finds that it is an atrocious calumny on Mr. Dunsmore. And further, the Advertiser is prepared when it states, that if that illegal whiskey selling is continued one moment longer some one or two will get in the county jail. There is a way to find out whether this is a "bluff" or not, and that is to "call" it.
Shakespeare truly wrote: "The evil men do lives after them." The ten-day act is an apt illustration. The thing which it exasperates in these so called contracts is, that the courts will not recognize the conditions under which they are obtained. In a contract between individuals, when it can be shown that the contract was obtained by force, fraud, coercion or deception, the courts will intervene and declare such contract null and void. But the instant a corporation is made the defendant of such contract the courts only recognize that "it is so nominated in the bond." It is because the courts have sustained such contracts under the plea of the constitutional right of contract that the laws of Pennsylvania passed to secure justice to her workmen, are turned to ashes by the courts. The law says Jones shall not do a certain thing. The courts hold that Jones has a constitutional right to make a contract which enables Jones and Smith to do an unlawful act. For instance: The law of Pennsylvania states that a ton of coal shall be 2,000 pounds, and fixes punishment for violation of that law. Yet when the Blossburg Coal Company will not employ a man unless he consents to give 2,460 pounds for a ton of coal, the courts hold that that is a lawful contract. It over looks the species of coercion employed by the company and rules as if the miner had of his own free will entered into that contract to violate the law of Pennsylvania. The law states that a miner shall be paid in lawful money every two weeks. The same species of coercion is employed to violate that law but the courts refuse cognizance of coercion.
John Mitchell, National President of the U.M.W. of A., in his address last Friday to a mighty assemblage of miners near Hazleton, made the following justifiable criticisms of the courts of the United States. It was justified by over one hundred decisions bought and paid for by the corporations from the men who have made the halls of justice hated and despised by the toilers. President Mitchell said: "Personally, I am opposed to strikes, but if the time comes when a strike is a necessity, I say strike with telling effect and until the last man falls. You have no redress in the courts, where, if you asked for justice, you find the door closed. The powers that make and execute the laws are opposed to the interest of labor. I can cite as an instance the Arkansas case, when a corrupt Federal judiciary said if you do not want to work you can go to jail, and in jail some of those men are to-day. In Chicago a year ago the miners and operators met and adjusted a scale of wages that was satisfactory. That is the court to which an appeal made be made - to your own court."
The Blossburg Advertiser September 1, 1899, Vol.15, No. 39
After Supt. Lincoln discharged the miners living in Blossburg, some 15 or 20 of them found work at the tannery in this place. Yesterday these men were all discharged and paid off at the Seymour House, while on their way to work. Several had stated that they were told that they were discharged because of their being miners. If this is true, the situation is this: You must either work in a coal mine or at nothing.
DOWN GO THE MINERS
If they were discharged because they had taken part in the strike this would be the situation. They were not satisfied with the price paid, decently quit work at mining and sought other employment. Then because of their not accepting the Blossburg Coal Company's price they can't work for the United States Leather Trust. As there is no business connection between the two, you can draw your own conclusions as to the process by which this act was arrived at.
The Blossburg Advertiser September 8, 1899, Vol.15, No. 40
Wednesday morning 41 miners left in a special car from Arnot to Robertsdale, Huntingdon county, they were joined here by nine miners from Morris Run. Joseph Brooks, of this place, wrote to F.F. Lyon, formally superintendent at Arnot, who resides at Robertsdale, inquiring about the work. In reply Mr. Lyons stated that the company was working two veins, 40 feet apart. The upper vein is from 3 feet to 3½ feet thick with two inches of bony about eight inches from the bottom. The lower vein is 5½ feet thick, with 3½ feet of clean coal on top, then from from 9 to 26 inches of slate and then coal. The company is paying the district price with all that implies. The men who left are all sober, steady men and skilled miners.
Peter Adie has returned to his home in Arnot after a long absence in Australia. He is a large share holder in the Sunday mine on the Maharatta River. He says there are but slight opportunities in Australia for a working man, compared to the United States, and that Congress Corners is good enough for him.
The Erie company presented five miners at Landrus with a free ticket to Prosperity on Monday, in the shape of ten-day notices.
Is it a matter of Superintendents? Consider the past.
The average yearly output of coal of the Blossburg coal company is 300,000 tons. The average price per ton asked by the miners, and which is one of the chief things in dispute, is 6½ cents. This would make the increase to the coal company, if it acceded to the request of the advance, $19,500. The rental from the buildings, houses and stores, at Arnot and Landrus, is over $40,000 per annum, over twice the amount of the advance. Supt. Lincoln told the committee several months ago that the company got $1.14 a ton for its coal. That would make the selling price for the 300,000 tons at $1.14, amount to $342,000. He also stated that it cost the company $1.11 to produce it, leaving $9,000 profit. The rental is clean profit, indicating that the company gets a $50,000 profit on a business of $350,000, over 14 per cent while the $19,000 indicated by the advance would equal but 5 per cent, leaving the company over nine per cent, a fair profit surely.
Since Supt. Lincoln made that statement, the mines from whence the Erie gets its coal have advanced the price of mining coal from 40 cents a ton to 50 cents. Several firemen on the main line of the Erie, with whom we are personally acquainted, state that it takes one-third more of the Jefferson and Elk county coal, which the Erie is using, to raise the same amount of steam as the Blossburg coal, but there is an occasional chunk of bony in it. Reducing these statements into shape, it shows that it costs the Erie $1.76 for coal to produce a given amount of steam, when by using its own coal the same steam would cost $1.18, providing they paid the advance.
These figures apply with greater force as Morris Run. There are nearly the same number of houses, and it is safe to say that out of every dollar earned there, 60 cents of it goes to the store, market or saloon. There is a good, round profit made on that 60 cents, too.
Consider the events as they have arisen since Supt. Lincoln has taken charge, beginning with the Maple Hill incident, the discharging of the 250 Blossburg miners, and the strike. The company has not made one conciliatory move, but on the contrary has shown a supreme indifference, whether unfeigned or feigned no one can tell. Supt. Lincoln treats the whole thing as a hugh joke. If any want to leave and ask him for a pass, he grants it, and wishes the departing one, "Good luck." He has given several first-class recommends to aid them in procuring work elsewhere. To those who have met the "blood and iron" methods formerly used, this conduct is an enigma. The miners are as equally firm and equally courteous. If any of the men could do him a good turn they would do it.
Many affect to believe that there is a settled purpose to eliminate the present mining population from Arnot and Morris Run and bring in a new lot who will more docile. The history of such attempts in this State give the "more docile" theory a black eye. There looms up Morewood, Jimtown, the coke regions, Meadowbrook, Mt. Carmel, Pittston, Hazleton, Pana, Grape Creek, and wherever it has been tried. In this county the companies first tried Swedes and later Poles. In a few weeks they got to understand and who are quicker to protest and stand firmer than these men?
The local union has issued the following:
There are but three coal companies between Blossburg and the Maryland state line who have not granted the advance. They are the Morris Run and Erie companies in this county, and at Listie in Somerset county. All three of these companies have given the advance at the other mines operated by them. Why it has not been given at these three places has never been made clear.
It has been stated that Congressman Connell, of Scranton, is one of the largest stock holders in the Blossburg coal company. If this shall be found true, then his political sun has set, as there is a local union of the U.M.W. of A. in every hamlet in Lackawanna county, and he, too, will find "that some things can be done as well as others."
There have been many hard strikes in this region. The first we recall was at Fall Brook in 1862. There was another in 1864, and then came the great strike which began in 1865 and ended May, 1866. It was during this strike that the ten-day lease was born. In 1874-5 it was a lock-out by the company, beginning in September and ending the following April. Families of miners were thrown out of the company houses in mid-winter. The men gave the companies a terrible beating and settled on their own terms. Wayne McVeagh was Attorney General of the State and John Tomlinson Chief of the Bureau of Statistics. Between them they harried the coal companies for their illegal acts, until they were glad to settle with the miners. There is, unfortunately, no Wayne McVeagh in the Attorney General's office. He held that a contract which violated law, was not an exercise of the right of contract, but a conspiracy to violate the law. The courts of that day would have sustained him, but not now. Ex-Judge Agnew also gave these companies a body blow for entering into an agreement with the Barclay Coal Company. Those who desire an argument against trusts will find in the syllabus of the Supreme Court decision rendered by Judge Agnew one containing the law, rendered by an uncorrupted Judiciary. What would have been his decision upon the action of Nearing and Lincoln simultaneously discharging their Blossburg miners? There was a small strike in 1877 and one lasting from January until May in 1880. The men won both but some of their leaders given bossing and others were black-listed. Alex Dunsmore destroyed the blacklist against himself by adopting the "shot-gun policy." The rest of the strikes are easily recalled. But two were lost - those of 1865 and 1894. Many believe that the latter would have been won but for the cowardice of John McBride. Others do not think so, as the blight of Clevelandism was on the land.
Several of the mine committee at Arnot, have gone away but their places have been filled by appointment by the proper authority.
Several of those at Arnot who received a pass to Prosperity via the ten-day notice, have moved their families to this place.
The Blossburg Advertiser September 8, 1899, Vol.15, No. 40
After the old Psalmist had found one man who told a straight story, he wrote, "I said in my haste all men are liars." We thought so Saturday. The statements in the Advertiser last week about the miners employed at the tannery being discharged because they were miners is untrue. We were told that story by men with reputations for truth, who are affirmed that they knew it was true, but upon investigation we found the story arose from the way the men were notified of the scarcity of bark. The bark boss finding that there was not enough bark to last all the men all day went out and said: "No more work for miners to-day." Three or four called for their time and were paid off. The others were put to work Saturday when more bark came. The Advertiser sincerely regrets that it was led into publishing the story, but in this town and even at other towns the story was current talk. It is one of the three times the Advertiser has been led astray by apparently truthful stories, and at the earliest possible moment take pleasure in setting the tannery people right. The ridiculous stories which arose out of this bark affair and were common talk on Thursday would give Ananias a pang of jealously. It is such incidents which cause editors to become gray early.
ABOUT THE TANNERY
The Blossburg Advertiser September 15, 1899, Vol.15, No. 41
Upon petition of the Blossburg coal company, Judge Mitchell granted four writs of ejectment against men living in the company houses in Arnot. On Monday Sheriff Johnson went to Arnot to eject the tenants, but upon his arrival he found three of the families gone, and the fourth preparing to leave. So he had no work to perform in that line. This unpleasant duty is none of the sheriff's seeking, it is one of the unpleasant duties attached to the office, such as hanging a man. A few years ago, Judge Stanley Woodward, of Luzerne county, declared the ten-day law unconstitutional. Also a few years ago, Judge Mitchell in a long opinion, declared that [L. S.] written on a legal document was not legal evidence that a document had been legally attested, yet the ejectment writ, under which these families were dispossessed had [L. S.] written in, while the law itself had been declared unconstitutional, and some of the things were set forth under a vague "& c." but everything "goes" when a corporation wills it.
Last Saturday there was a meeting of some miners at Morris Run. The meeting was composed of eight Polish miners who owned farms and three English speaking miners. After some talk, a committee, was sent to Supt. Nearing to ask if they could return to work at the old price. He replied that they could. Then they asked him if he would start the mines on Monday. He said he could not do so, but would on Tuesday, provided fifty miners would agree to return to work. Then a meeting was called for Monday afternoon at 2 PM. Thirty-five Polish miners and twelve laborers responded and Fizzle scored a goal.
Two advances have been made in the selling price of coal within the past month. One advance was 15 cents and another of 20 cents. The Coal Trade Journal says:
"Bituminous coal is in good demand, for there is great activity in all industrial pursuits using this coal either for steam raising or for other purposes where coal enters in; as a consequence, the owners of this grade of fuel are inclined to hold prices much more firmly than was the case at the earlier part of the season.
"There is every indication that before many weeks are over there will be a material advance in the price of soft coal in the Buffalo market. There is a decided scarcity of fuel there, and few of the shippers are getting over one-half of the capacity of their mines.
"In nearly all the markets, prices have gone up from 10 to 15 cents, and it is predicted by some of the best posted men in the market that still another advance amounting to 25 cents a ton made be looked for in the near future.
The price advanced the last time 20 cents, instead of 25 cents predicted by the Coal Trade Journal. How will these advances affect the companies in this region? There have been three advances in the selling price of coal since June. At that time Supt. Lincoln said that the company made but three cents a ton on its 300,000 tons. The two latter advances prove that he would be getting the sum of 20 plus 15 plus 3 cents, minus the 6 ½ cents asked for by the miners, or a total of 31 ½ cents more in all. That would leave him a profit on his 300,000 tons of $94,500. If the company, as it said, could not afford to pay the advance in June on a margin of three cents it certainly can now on a margin of 38 cents and a raising market. The selling price of coal has advanced six times the average amount of the advance asked by the miners. There is now a chance for the company to recede from its position and use as an irrefutable claim, that the state of the market now permits it to do that which it was unable to do in June.
Supt. Lincoln's pigs ear, at Arnot, is flourishing. We say "Supt. Lincoln's pigs ear" advisedly. He knows that it is there and with his consent it is there. He may not share the profits, nevertheless, he is the man who permits it to exsist. Some of those who were to be subpoened at the next term of court, on this case, asked to be let off, alleging that the company would black-list them and persecute there families. We ask the lawbiding citizens of this county to remember this lawlessness when the Blossburg coal company goes into court asking for a balm for a sore toe. Last spring a Sunday excursion was run to Gaines to see an oil well shot. Some sodden scoundrels from Potter county came to Gaines and opened up pigs ears, and behold! Sheriff Johnson laid the hand of the law upon them the very next day. In Arnot this thing has been going on for over a year unmolested. The law requires that the Constable shall visit licensed places three times a year, but it does not require them to report pig's ears. Arnot constables take advantage of this and stay away, and thus can declare that they have no "official knowledge" of that which is known to everybody in the town. We asked some of those who are talking in a big bow wow strain of what they are going to do with the Advertiser. What divinity hedges a coal company's pig's ear? Why should it escape the provisions of the law which falls on a reputable hotel keeper, if he should by chance violate the law? A license can be procured without any trouble. Judge Mitchell would grant Lincoln a license for the asking. There is no excuse in the world for a pig's ear at Arnot and Supt. Lincoln is responsible for the one that is there, for, if he exercised the power given him by the ten-day act, he could close it at once. The law will close it Lincoln or no Lincoln, anyway.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN.
We did not build this church in order that the altar might be turned into a labor bureau, nor do we think that our priest should become a labor runner for a corporation.
We greatly deplore this act, believing that it will stir up race hatred and cause our church to become an object of scorn.
There were but 8 miners of our church responded to this call and 24 laborers. In the name of the Polish people of Morris Run, we repudiate the acts of Felix Glabowski and Felix Katloski, and hope other miners will not blame the Polish people for the acts of these three - Glabowski, Katloski and Deminski.