Jerry Kopel


The Enoch Pratt Free Library in downtown Baltimore only had several books on Colorado when I visited there in December, l947. My goal was to learn a little about the state where I would begin college in January on the GI bill after U.S. Army service.

One book was thick, huge, with small print....not very inviting. The other book was "Out of the Depths" by Barron B. Beshoar, and I borrowed it.

As a result, the first knowledge I absorbed about the state that would become my home for the next 47 years...was the Ludlow Massacre...a defining moment in the history of the U.S. and Colorado labor movement.

It happened eighty years ago in April l914, and began when United Mine Workers sought to be recognized as the union for the miners. Colorado Fuel and Iron refused their demands. The key strike was north of Trinidad at Ludlow Station serving CF&I, a Rockefeller subsidiary. Strikebreakers were imported. Strikers and their families were thrown out of company towns and moved into tents at Ludlow.

Governor Ammons sent the Colorado National Guard which surrounded the tent city with machine guns. Strikers and their families dug holes to hide in under their tents. Shooting began. The militia set fire to the tents. Afterwards, from under where one tent had stood, the charred bodies of two women and eleven children were recovered from the hole that had been dug. Miners, militia, and mine guards also died.

About a thousand miners then began what could be termed a state of insurrection. Along a forty mile front, the miners attacked coal camps and drove militia and mine guards before them. President Woodrow Wilson sent the regular army to restore order. The United Mine Workers, which did not win the strike, did erect a large monument which stands directly over the dug hole where the thirteen bodies were recovered.

Barron Beshoar was born and grew up in Trinidad. His grandfather, a former Confederate surgeon, came to Colorado after the civil war and started the Pueblo Chieftain and Trinidad Advertiser. His father, Dr. Ben Beshoar, was physician to the United Mine Workers and treated the wounded after the Ludlow Massacre.

In the first paragraph of Beshoar's forward to his 1942 book I read:

"The 1913-1914 strike was not a purely Colorado matter as the state was merely the testing ground for two divergent principles of life. On the one hand, firmly entrenched and in full power and strength, were those who held to the theory that all benefits properly trickle down from above, and on the other were those who devotedly maintained the democratic proposition that men and women who toil with their backs and hands are entitled to share in the fruits of their productive labor."

Beshoar, who would have been about seven years old at the time, writes:

"I have recollections, some dim, some sharp, of cavalrymen, with gleaming sabres herding the people along Main and Commercial streets in Trinidad, of militiamen searching our house for guns and dumping the contents of bureau drawers on the floor while my mother watched them with loathing and contempt, of miners with red handkerchiefs around their necks and rifles in their hands who hailed my father with jovial but foreign-sounding cries that sounded like "Hello Doc Bee-shoo."

I had a reason to read "Out of the Depths" again in 1951 when I was graduated from the University of Colorado and took my first newspaper job at the Walsenburg World Independent. Several of the law deputies etched by Beshoar as vicious bullies who hurt and terrorized innocent people were still living there....their past acts generally forgotten.

But it wasn't until 1957 that I had the opportunity to meet and become a friend of Barron Beshoar, who worked for Time-Life in New York and Los Angeles, and who returned that year as Denver bureau chief. He died in l987 at age 80.

The UMW lost the 1913-14 strike, but in l9l5, the Colorado General Assembly, as a direct result of Ludlow, created the Colorado Industrial Commission and the Workmen's Compensation Fund.

Beshoar ends his forward with these words: "And lastly, the author would like to say that this work was undertaken, not to rub salt in old wounds, but in the hope it may contribute something toward a better understanding of unionism, of its motivations and its aspirations.

"There are lessons to be learned from the strife of the past, and there are warnings, too. In this day and in this time, when American institutions are under deadly assault from without, management and labor must realize they have common goals and common interests and that without the one, the other can not survive."



Jerry Kopel writes a column for the Statesman based on 22 years past experience as a state legislator.

Home  Full archive  Biographies  Colorado history  Colorado legislature  Colorado politics   Colo. & U.S. Constitutions  Ballot issues  Consumer issues  Criminal law  Gambling  Sunrise/sunset (prof. licensing)


Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel