Miners Strike at Broadford

On July 20, 1884, the miners at the Minnie Moore Mine went on strike and the mine was, in consequence, closed. Several causes were stated for this move. One was that the miners did not receive their pay on pay-day; another, that the owners of the Minnie Moore had determined upon reducing the miners’ wages from $4 to $3.50 a day; and another that it was attempted to reduce all top men, blacksmiths and carpenters $1 and laborers 50 cents a day. Ten days later, the miners resumed work at the Minnie Moore, their demands having been complied with by Superintendent Palmer. On January 20, 1885, Captain Lusk, superintendent of the Queen of the Hills Mine, informed the miners that owing to the low prices for lead and silver, and the high rates for freight, etc., his company could not afford to pay $4 per day but would pay $3.50. If the men would submit to a reduction temporarily, when the price for lead and silver advanced, wages would be advanced. But the men peremptorily refused to accede to a reduction. The Queen of the Hills Mine shut down forthwith.

Superintendent Palmer of the Minnie Moore Mine, having decided on a similar reduction of wages as that announced by Captain Lusk, the miners at the Minnie Moore went on strike on February 4, 1885. On February 12, 1885, a complaint was filed in the probate court of Alturas County charging 12 men at Broadford with conspiracy. A warrant of arrest was thereupon issued for the arrest of these men.

The complaint charged that these men belonged to the Broadford Miners’ Union, whose object was to fix and maintain the rate of wages; that the Queen of the Hills and the Minnie Moore Mines are the two most important mines in the vicinity of the said town of Broadford, and have heretofore’ employed nearly all the miners at work in said vicinity; that on or about the fourth of February, 1885, fearing and believing that the owners and managers of said mines would no longer continue to pay the wages of $4 per day, and for the purpose of compelling the said owners and managers of the Queen of the Hills and Minnie Moore Mines to guarantee to Broadford Miners’ Union that the rate of wages per day for miners working in the mines should continue to be $4, the defendants and numerous other members of the said Broadford Miners’ Union, did, unlawfully and fraudulently conspire, with force and arms, feloniously and injuriously to trade, to prevent any and all persons whomsoever from performing labor or mining, either for wages or by contract, or under lease, to either mine. The 12 men surrendered voluntarily when in formed by the sheriff that he had warrants for their arrest. The preliminary examination of the 12 members of the Broadford Miners’ Union began in the probate court on February 13, 1885, and continued until February 23d, at which time the Court took the matter under advisement. The following day, Judge H. C. Street announced his decision, which was to hold seven to answer for conspiracy, in the sum of $500 each. Bonds were supplied instantly and defendants returned home.

On February 24, 1885, some men, on their way to the Queen of the Hills and Minnie Moore Mines, were stopped by an angry crowd at Broadford, who loudly declared that no work would be done until the mine-owners should guarantee $4 per day. The second batch of 14 members of the Broad ford Miners’ Union was arrested on the following day. Their bonds were fixed at $500, which they gave and were released from custody. The managers of the Minnie Moore and the Queen of the Hills refused to pay $4 but offered $3.50 per day. They claimed that, during the preceding three months, the depreciation in price of lead and silver had entailed a loss of $15 per ton of ore. The Daily Times of February 28, 1885, said: “For some time past it has been evident that no men would be permitted to work in the mines at Broadford on any other terms than the payment of $4 per day wages, and that violence would be resorted to, if necessary, to prevent men from going to work, either on contract or for less than the wages required by the Miners’ Union. This state of affairs caused consider able alarm in the community, and it became evident that something should be done to assert the supremacy of the law. The miners of Broadford, except on two or three occasions, had behaved remarkably well for men on strike, and it was hardly deemed probable that they would openly defy the law; but as there was a bare possibility that they might do so, the sheriff, moved to act by a requisition in due form, concluded to summon a posse to set to work what men were willing to work.

“The preparations such as procuring badges, guns, ammunition, and appointing deputies were completed last evening, this morning, the superintendents of the Queen of the Hills and Minnie Moore companies, having announced their working force ready, the sheriff and his deputies marched to Broadford, escorting seven miners, which were all who were ready to go to work. “The sheriff’s force consisted of about 12 deputies from Hailey, and about 20 from Bellevue. All being ready, the force left the Minnie Moore office, in Bellevue, about half-past 11 o’clock, and marched to Broadford. On arriving there, a crowd of men numbering about 120 were seen standing on the sidewalk or in the street, by the side of the road. Of the men standing there, the majority were armed and kept their hands quite near their side and hip pockets, but they did not make any move to use arms. It was evident, however, that they were determined, in case of an outbreak, to make a bitter fight. “For a moment the sheriff’s force halted, and divided, one-half going to the Queen works, the other half to the Minnie Moore, where the men who wished to do so went to work.

The sheriff led the detail to the Minnie, and after seeing the men to work returned to the Queen, where he collected his force and marched it back to Bellevue, not one insulting word having been heard, not a blow offered. The sheriff’s posse had been in Broadford just one hour. “The effect of the demonstration by the sheriff’s posse, this morning, will be good. Those of the miners who might have been led into deeds of violence have seen that the law would not countenance such acts; that, furthermore, the people propose to have peace, and that the men who desire to go to work, no matter at what wages, or whether on contract or day’s work, will be protected, and all will be more careful to keep within the law. “Whether the mining companies will secure men for less than the Union rate remains to be seen.” On March 2, 1885, “Ex-United States Marshal E. S. Chase, who is in charge of the deputies at Broadford, came up this afternoon for a change of clothes. He reports the Queen and Minnie working full-handed, with good miners, and the superintendents refusing work to many who apply, because unable to work them to ad vantage.

A contract was let today by Superintendent Palmer to run 1000 feet east of the shaft, in entirely new ground. Work upon this will begin tomorrow morning.” March 17, 1885. For weeks the members of the Miners’ Union of Broadford and Bullion felt the necessity of an authoritative statement on their part that would quiet all apprehensions, on the part of mine-owners and the public generally, in regard to their intentions anent the pending strike and the occurrences possible in consequence thereof. General anxiety, if not alarm, prevails in time of a strike. To subdue this alarm, the union leaders were determined to make a demonstration. To that end, a general invitation was extended to their members throughout the region to gather at Broadford to attend an open air meeting, to be addressed by fellow-members, after which a committee, three from Broadford, three from Bullion, and three from Ketchum, would be appointed to confer with Superintendents Cecil B. Palmer and J. A. Lusk, of the Minnie Moore and the Queen of the Hills, respectively, and their counsel, J. H. Harris.

The miners began coming at once. All day and evening, teams brought them down from Bullion, Deer Creek, Ketchum and the surrounding gulches. At 10 o’clock in the morning, the main body of visiting members arrived from Bullion, and numbered over 100. They were joined by about 50 from Ketchum, and all left for Bellevue, where they formed in procession and proceeded to Broadford. On the outskirts of Bellevue, they were met by the Broadford Miners’ Union, and escorted to the mines. The miners and mine-owners being anxious that the difficulty be settled, Colonel Wall and Martin Curran consented to act as mediators, and proceeded to the Queen of the Hills works, where Messrs. Lusk, Palmer and Harris awaited them. Fulton Haight and Judge Turner also accompanied them. The superintendents of the Queen and Minnie stated they were willing to listen to any proposition the miners wished to make. They had none to advance. All they wished was the right to work their mines as they saw fit. Colonel Wall and Martin Curran went back to the miners, who were in front of their hall. Barney McDevitt, Charles O’Brien, James Gunn, Eugene O’Callaghan, W. H. Atkinson, David Lawrence, James McPherson and Alex. McPhail were appointed a committee to confer with the superintendents. It proving satisfactory, Colonel Wall so reported, and the committee proceeded to the Queen works.

The mine approaches were fortified, bulkheads of solid timber having been erected at all points easy of access. Behind these bulkheads deputies were stationed, who were armed with rifles and revolvers. There were probably 250 union miners in Broadford. Shortly after 4 o’clock, the committee returned and reported that they had failed to come to an understanding, that Superintendents Palmer and Lusk would not recede from their position. Barney McDevitt, president of the Broadford Miners’ Union, thereupon made a violent speech, saying, substantially, that they would get $4 per day, or blood would run in the streets of Broadford and Bellevue. He concluded by calling on the men to capture the mines. The flag of the union was then unfurled, arms were brought from the hall of the union, and some 50 armed men ranged themselves in line behind the flag. President Atkinson, of the Bullion Union, jumped on a box and called out: “Halt! There! As president of the Bullion Union, I command every man to keep quiet. You will retire to your hall, and deliberate upon a future course of action.”

Ex-President Gunn of Bullion, and Eugene O’Callaghan of Ketchum, also addressed the crowd, advising them to refrain from violence. They were ably seconded by many others. District Attorney Hawley addressed the miners, urging them to refrain from carrying their threats into execution. Sheriff Furey and Deputy Sheriff Pat Furey were talking to the foremost men all this time, holding the crowd back, and succeeded in obtaining a parley. It was then agreed that the sheriff should proceed to the Queen works and inform the men at work that the union wished to speak to them. This was done. The men came, and were requested to refrain from working until the trouble was over. Most of them consented. Sheriff Furey then drove up to the Minnie in a buggy, with President McDevitt, and the men there also quit work. It being about time for the night shift to go on, a crowd collected in front of McFall’s Hotel to escort them out of town, the understanding being that not a hand should be laid on, nor a threat uttered, to one of them.

Unfortunately, Jack Haines, an old Bullion miner who had persistently refused to join the union, came out. He was at once collared by two or three men, and kicked and beaten. As soon as he could he ran into the hotel, a dozen infuriated men following. But the shift had scattered through the back streets and taken to the main road. Some union men had already driven back a part of the shift coming from Bellevue to go to work. There being no one who seemed disposed to go to work, the union men dispersed, and quiet prevailed all night.

The following morning the visiting members of the union returned to Bullion, Ketchum or Deer Creek, where they are employed. Acting Governor Curtis and General Brisbin, of the United States Army, arrived in Bellevue on March 18, 1885 and began examining the situation. General Brisbin spoke substantially as follows: “Governor Curtis and myself have come over to settle this thing, and we will not leave until it is definitely settled. With the causes that have led to the conflict we have nothing to do. If the sheriff or the local authorities declare themselves unable to preserve order and protect men who wish to work at any wages that they see fit, or if the process of the local courts is resisted, it will be our duty to enforce the laws. I can get United States troops here from Boise in a few hours, but I do not believe that any will be required. In a day or two we shall be better informed and will know just what we should do in the premises. But this much you may depend on, and that is, that employers have the right to say what they can afford or are willing to pay, and they shall be protected in the exercise of this right. And while any man, or men, acting individually or collectively, have a right to refuse to work for the wages offered, they have no right to prevent from working others who may wish to work.”

On March 20, 1885, the situation at Broadford was practically unchanged. Men were working in the Minnie Moore and the Queen of the Hills mines, but only about half the force employed previous to the 17th instant. Some of the men sent over to work were stopped, and some were again stopped in the morning. A meeting of citizens was held in Bellevue, to consider the situation, and a committee was appointed to interview Governor Curtis and General Brisbin, and demand that troops be brought in. Governor Curtis replied that the power of the county to preserve the peace had not been put to the test. That if it was, and the disturbances were not squelched, he would make the requisition for troops, but that, until that was done, he was powerless. General Brisbin reassured the citizens, saying that it was the governor’s intention and his to enforce the laws. But he wished to satisfy himself that force was needed, before using it.

March 23, 1885, the trouble at Broadford was as far from settlement as ever. The men going to work at the Queen, were stopped by Union men, on the Broadford road, and turned back. A number of deputies were thereupon ordered to escort the men to the Queen which was done, not a union man interfering. Brevet Brigadier General Brisbin returned this morning on the train. He was dressed in full uniform. Last week he came in civilian’s clothes. He was accompanied by his adjutant and two non-commissioned officers. He expressed himself as ready to act. He went on to Bellevue. He had orders from the secretary of war to bring all or a part of his command
(which includes infantry, cavalry and two gatling guns) to Wood River for the summer. Twenty union men were arrested.

Three days were consumed in the taking of testimony in the probate court concerning the riot of the 17th at Broadford. Judge H. C. Street, after summarizing the case, went on to state that the evidence showed that the crowd were called together to prevent work on certain mines at certain prices, that after failing peaceably to accomplish their objectives, they prepared to forcibly carry out their demands, that incendiary speeches were made and commended by the crowd, that they prepared by force and arms to carry the works and take the mines, that the sheriff of the county was defied, resisted and assaulted; that out rages by the mob were perpetrated on various individuals, that arms were in the hands of many of the crowd and an unlawful object openly avowed, that confusion resigned supreme in Broadford for hours, that persons outside the crowd were terrorized thereby. He certainly must conclude, he said, that there was a riot on that occasion.

Having carefully examined the evidence he declared it to be his duty to hold the defendants to appear before the grand jury, in bonds fixed at $1000, $750, $500, respectively. Five defend ants were held to give $1000 bonds each, five to give $750 bonds each, and five to give $500 bonds each. The grand jury, which met in June, 1885, in their final report found 17 true bills and ignored 13 charges. Two of the union miners were charged with felony. Nolle prosequi was entered in both cases. One defendant was then charged with assault and battery, to which he entered a plea of guilty, and was fined $50, the other defendant was charged with assault, to which he entered a plea of guilty and was fined $20. In the latter part of March, 1885, Superintendents Lusk and Palmer stated that the Queen of the Hills and the Minnie Moore mines were full handed with miners working at the rate of $3.50 a day.

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