Thursday, July 2, 2015

Seeberville Shootings: The Unbelievable Story of Thomas Raleigh

One of the worst early, violent events against organized labor during the strike was the shootings of unarmed striking workers in Seeberville. We examine the event in the book, but found some damning historical documents regarding one of the principle actors in the event: Thomas Raleigh.

For some background on the event...taken from Community in Conflict:

The crowded, hardscrabble back streets of a ramshackle mining location [Seeberville] was the
setting for possibly the most notorious of the Waddell-Mahon men’s exploits. This ghastly event occurred in mid-August 1913, and the labor newspapers were quick to print a nuanced recounting of the event: “The character of these bloodhounds dressed as humans revealed itself for the first time on August 14th when they executed one of the most cold blooded massacres known to the history of the American workers’ battles in Seeberville location near Painesdale.”

Antti Sarell, who wrote for a Finnish-language labor newspaper, Tyomies, further described the event:

For absolutely no reason six crooks identified as sheriff ’s deputies, of which four were Waddell-Mahon’s Detective Agency gun hounds, attacked the men of Croatian Joseph Putrich’s boarding house, driving the men from the courtyard to the inside of the house and after that shooting in through the house’s windows with their revolvers. The consequence was that 18-year-old striker Aloiz Tijan was instantly killed and a striker named Steve Putrich died from gunshot wounds some days later. Two other strikers and the infant who was in the arms of the house’s lady suff ered gunshot wounds, with a shot of the revolver burning the child’s face. After they had committed this cruel deed, the gun hounds went to the road in front of the house where they loaded their revolvers again and jeered amongst themselves 'we wonder how many dead bodies there are in the house.'

Naturally, Sheriff Cruse, who had hired the men, did as much as possible to hinder eff orts to locate the assailants and bring the shooters to justice. After finally rounding up the suspects, the sheriff ordered the arrests of six “murderers”: James Cooper, Arthur Davis, William Groff , Harry James, Edward Polkinghorne, and Thomas Raleigh. According to Sarell, “The hounds that had committed the massacre were let to be on the loose for a long time before the sheriff , pressured by public
opinion, saw that it was better to take them ‘under his surveillance’ in the county jail where they weren’t treated like other prisoners at all, but were allowed to live like kings.”

That was our rendering of events from the historical sources of the labor press. What was especially intriguing was that while five of the men were eventually tried in court for the crime; one, Thomas Raleigh got away. Houghton County officials (including law enforcement, mine managers, and elected officials, who were often mine managers) claimed to have no idea of what happened to Raleigh. The Waddell-Mahon Detective Agency, who employed Raleigh, also was not helpful in determining Raleigh's whereabouts after the shooting.

We found documents that suggested otherwise! I'll include the first round of these documents below and then more in the next post along with more interpretation from Community in Conflict. The documents below were scanned from the originals contained in Tech's Copper Country Historical Collections.

As can be seen from the signature, this was Tom Raleigh reporting back to a handler at Wadell-Mahon regarding activities of organized labor in New York City. Raleigh was even using Waddell-Mahon stationary. The Waddell-Mahon Detective Agency was the company hired by Copper Country mine managers as additional security and company police during the strike. Some of these men were also deputized by Sheriff Cruse to police and ultimately strike-break during the labor action as Houghton County deputy sheriffs. Raleigh was one such deputy and he was one of the shooters during the Seeberville incident. After Fall 1913 Raleigh was a wanted man in the Copper Country--wanted for murder--so it is odd that he was writing to his employer in January of 1914. Amazingly, he was still on the job. So the Waddell-Mahon company was still employing Raleigh, a wanted man, in trying to union bust.

One begins to wonder, who else knew Raleigh was in New York City?

More to come in the next post...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

102 Anniversary of the Strike: Sharing Primary Documents

Community in Conflict brought to light new and sometimes controversial research on the study of the 1913-14 Strike. As historians we stumbled upon some new primary sources that added to the understanding of the event and we would now like to share some of these sources with the general public. Knowing that a primary source is a historical document produced at the time of the event in question, we think that the public might find these original documents interesting and of use in future research on the event. As the 102 anniversary of the strike rolls around we thought it might be a good time to share some of our research.

The first such document (image below) is really the first piece of primary evidence that let us as historians know that there was more to the story of the 1913-14 Strike than many had written about before. This telegraph between C&H management used coded language to describe events during the strike. There are hundreds of such documents in the C&H archival collection at the Copper Country Historical Collections at Michigan Tech. For most of these coded messages a translation of the telegram is located along with the original message. These coded messages led us to look deeper into the archival collection because we began to wonder, "Why might a company need to send coded messages...what intrigue was behind the messages and what intrigue might also be ahead?"

The short answer to this question: a lot! And, we'll share the other documents on this site in the coming weeks and months.

This document from C&H Superintendent James MacNaughton to C&H President Quincy Shaw demonstrates the use of a coded message to disguise the interests of the mining company during the strike. Original document housed at the Copper Country Historical Archive, Michigan Technological University. Scanned by Gary Kaunonen.

Be certain to check back for more primary documents as we document the documents we used in telling the sometimes controversial working-class history of the 1913-14 Strike. We will publish documents pertaining to the use of labor spies by mining companies to infiltrate the Western Federation of Miners, the tragedy at Italian Hall, and the search for the men who murdered the strikers at Seeberville.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Calumet's Butler Row Housing--Immigrant Life in Industrial Calumet

Life in Calumet's industrial spaces was cramped, especially for the area's immigrants. In Community in Conflict, we detail one such space--the Butler Row Houses. Packed into this group of attached houses with about 5,000 square feet were almost 90-some people. Maps and an image of the row houses show the utterly cramped conditions in which some immigrants lived.

The Butler Row Houses, to the left of the "D" in the center of this image, show the tiny, cramped living conditions where sometimes a family of 5-10 would live. The above image is from a turn-of-the-century Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Calumet.

This circa 1910 image of Calumet shows the Butler Row Houses. The houses, which are shown at side view (the almost round shaped roof) in the center of the image just behind the road that runs through the center of the image, were packed tightly into Calumet's urban setting. Keweenaw National Historical Park archivist Jeremiah Mason shared this photo with us and it is from the Park's collection of images.

From Community in Conflict:

A snapshot of the lives of eastern European working-class immigrant families
can be seen by examining the Butler Row Houses, an approximately 5,600-square foot
structure comprised of eight miniature boardinghouses in Calumet. Packed
into the Butler Row Houses were dozens of working-class immigrants at the time
of the 1910 U.S. Census. The Butler Row Houses was actually a row of small, one and-
a-half-story houses connected by common outside steps. These houses were
approximately 562.5 square feet each and were subdivided into two units. Within
these small units lived large groups of working-class families with up to twelve
residents per house. Tellingly, the row of boardinghouses was marked “tenement”
on a 1907 Sanborn map, and in terms of living conditions the Butler Row Houses
differed little from the tenements of major eastern cities. Eighty-one working-class
immigrants and American-born children squeezed into these cramped spaces.

Th e Millers—Louis, Margaret, and Mortiz—were one such Butler Row Houses
family. Louis, the husband, father, and “head” of the family, emigrated in 1901 from
Croatia. By 1910, Louis had taken a job at Calumet where he, like so many local
Croatians, worked as a trammer. Margaret, Louis’s wife, a Croatian-born woman
who immigrated to the United States in 1908, worked as a boardinghouse keeper,
tending to the family’s boarders and their infant son, Mortiz, who was born in
Michigan. Th e Miller household also included seven Croatian-born boarders, all of
whom labored as trammers, as well as Annie Yalich, an eighteen-year-old Croatian
woman who worked as a servant in the home.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Italian Hall 101 Years Ago

In honor of the Italian Hall victims, I'm posting an image of the December 26, 1913, edition of Tyomies that labeled their deaths as "Murders." This gut-wrenching headline and the article detail how Finnish immigrants associated with the labor movement saw the deaths of their fallen Fellow Workers. Additionally, I'm posting a translation of the article that was done by a pro-company Finnish-language speaker. This translation was used as evidence for the efforts to round up editors at Tyomies and charge them with crimes for reporting the labor perspective on the event. The newspaper and article about the horrific loss of life at Italian Hall are reminders of the price paid by those who fought for our labor rights today, and the importance of free speech and the 1st Amendment! Seems it is under fire as much today as it was on December 26, 1913.

The translation of the headline and article (from the C&H Collection, Michigan Technological University's Copper Country Historical Archives):

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Community in Conflict Wins State History Book Award

Plaque given to award winners from the Historical Society of Michigan.

Aaron (right) and Gary accepting the award given to us by Historical Society of Michigan's Board of Trustees President Robert Myers from St. Joseph, Michigan.  

Gary giving a few "Thank Yous" after accepting the award in Kalamazoo's incredible downtown historical museum. 

Gary (left) and Aaron displaying their awards. 

Gary and Aaron standing beside Michigan State University Press' Assistant Director and Editor-in-Chief Julie Loehr. Michigan State University Press did very well at the state history awards, as two other offerings from the press received state history book awards. 
We are excited and proud to announce that Community in Conflict has won a 2013 Historical Society of Michigan Book Award. This award, given yearly to Michigan's best historical publications, cements the fact that Copper Country history and the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike are worthy of statewide recognition. Aaron and I are excited that we were able to bring this history forth, while honoring those that were historical actors in the strike. 

Historical Society of Michigan director Larry Wagenaar commented that this year's field of nominees for the award was top notch, and that picking winners was difficult. Aaron and I are certainly honored that the book was chosen, and thank Michigan State University Press and Julie Loehr of MSU Press for nominating the book, and the Historical Society of Michigan for choosing the book as an award winner.

From the Historical Society of Michigan press release:

Society Presents 2013 State History Awards in Kalamazoo

posted Oct 1, 2013

KALAMAZOO–The Historical Society of Michigan presented the 2013 State History Awards Friday evening at its Annual Meeting and State History Conference held September 27-28 in Kalamazoo. The State History Awards are the highest recognition given by the state’s official historical society...

Publications: University and Commercial Press

Written by Aaron Goings and Gary Kaunonen and published by Michigan State University Press, “Community in Conflict: A Working-Class History of the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike and the Italian Hall Tragedy” received a State History Award as well. Goings and Kaunonen focused their efforts of the Michigan copper strike that received national attention and was a major struggle between labor and management. The strike was overshadowed, though, by violent incidents such as the Italian Hall Tragedy, in which dozens of workers and working-class children died. Goings and Kaunonen utilize previously unused sources such as labor spy reports, union newspapers, coded messages, and artifacts to shed light on this labor event.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Talk for the Painesdale Mine Shaft, Inc. Organization

Wrapping up talks for this year, I (Gary) did a keynote talk, well, really a reading of a paper for the commemoration of violence in and around the Painesdale and Seeberville areas a couple of weeks ago. Citing some of the new research on the Seeberville shootings of striking workers Alois Tijan and Steven Putrich, and some of the new research on the Dally-Jane shootings in Painesdale, I spoke about the specter of the strike's violence 100 years later.

The event, a commemoration of events in the Painesdale area, was held in the Methodist Church and also featured remarks by Rep. Scott Dianda, a member of organized labor and a beacon for the labor movement in Michigan's legislature.

Houghton's Daily Mining Gazette covered the event, which was well attended by about 100 people. The article from the Gazette is below along with a photo of Rep. Dianda at the podium, and me in the background taking notes on his talk. The Gazette article doesn't get all the facts right about the events at Seeberville, but does a good job summing the thoughts of the day regarding remembering the sacrifice of strikers while enduring the violence of the strike.

From Daily Mining Gazette reporter Garret Neese's article "A Time to Remember: Ceremony Held on 100th Anniversary of Miners' Strike:
HOUGHTON - A century after miners went on strike in the Copper Country, people met to remember the hardships and violence the miners endured during the strike.
A ceremony took place Saturday morning at the Albert Paine Memorial United Methodist Church in Painesdale.
The keynote speaker was Gary Kaunonen, author of "Community in Conflict: A Working-Class History of the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Mine Strike and the Italian Hall Tragedy."
Upon writing the book in 2011, he uncovered previously unseen mining company documents from the era that detailed a campaign of intimidation against the striking miners.
An incident in nearby Seeberville was "one of the most cold-blooded massacres" in the area's history, Kaunonen said. When one resident of a boarding house threw a bowling pin at a sheriff's deputy, he and others fired, killing two miners - Steve Putrich and Alois Tijan - who had not been involved. Putrich's infant son was grazed by a bullet. He retained the scar for the rest of his life.
Houghton County Sheriff James Cruse hindered efforts to find the perpetrators, Kaunonen said; eventually, six men were arrested. The whereabouts of one suspect, Thomas Raleigh, who escaped, were said to be unknown at the time. But Kaunonen found correspondence between the Calumet & Hecla Mining Co. and a law firm representing them that placed Raleigh in New York City. He was working for Calumet & Hecla to spy on the Western Federation of Miners.
In December, three people - Thomas Dally, Arthur Jane and Harry Jane - were killed at a boarding house in Painesdale.
John Huhta was eventually convicted of the crime.
But labor organizers said Huhta was a dupe, framed because of his ties to the labor movement.
"In reality, it was not Huhta ... on trial, it was the Western Federation of Miners," he said.
Ultimately, Kaunonen said, his research into the mining strike had revealed, beyond bureaucratic red tape, a "uniquely human story."
State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, felt a connection on multiple levels.
His grandfather worked at the mine in Painesdale; he also has a background in labor, having been past president of Local 5 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
He said many of today's families still have ties to the era of the mining strike.
"It's a part of who we are up here," he said.
Tours of the Champion No. 4 shafthouse, captain's office and house building were also available after the ceremony.
Deanna Niemi of Painesdale was interested in the incidents in Seeberville, where her grandparents were from and where she lived for a year as a child.
"It's important to remember them, the sacrifices," she said.
"And to keep that history alive, so future generations will know what went on in those days," added Ruth Wisti of Hancock.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Calumet Heritage Days 2013

I (Gary) was asked to give the opening talk for Calumet Heritage Days last night August 12, 2013. I spoke in the very beautiful Keweenaw Heritage Center, once the home of St. Anne's Catholic Church. The venue was amazing, but the acoustics were not so great for presenting.

This presentation was supposed to be the last of our full and very involved summer presentation schedule, but a new one was added on August 20 in Marquette. I will be speaking to a group of journalists about the 1913-14 Strike, in general, and plan to share some of our new research on Italian Hall. Specifically looking at the media coverage of the Italian Hall giving special attention to WFM media outlets: Miner's Bulletin and Tyomies.