It was a quiet, so-far uneventful day on the morning of April 20, 1914. The families of striking coal miners were making do in their temporary homes, which were a village of tents that had been provided to the miners by the United Mine Workers of America for their strike. Suddenly, complete chaos and bloodshed ensued, and it would come to be known as the “Ludlow Massacre” in Colorado and around the nation. It would never (and should never) be forgotten.

Since 1910, the hardworking Colorado coal miners had been debating whether to go on strike or not. On the one hand, the pay was decent for the times; but on the other, conditions were far from ideal, with Colorado’s mines being considered some of the most dangerous in the country (with death rates well above the national average). In September 1913, fed up with the owner (John D. Rockefeller, Jr.) and the mining company’s unwillingness to meet their demands, the workers went on strike, resulting in what would become a dark time in the state of Colorado.

During the following months, the mining company called upon the notorious Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, who were known for their less-than-traditional ways of breaking up strikes, such as shooting at random tents during the night and harassing families with their self-proclaimed “Death Special”: a steel-covered car with a machine gun mounted to the top. These acts, of course, only made the strikers more angry, causing them to violently retaliate. Things went from bad to worse, however, when then-Colorado governor Elias M. Ammons called in the Colorado National Guard, who sided with company management instead of remaining neutral.

Finally, on the morning of April 20, 1914, during negotiations between the camp leader and three Colorado guardsman (who claimed they were “checking in” on a report of a man being held against his will), two militia companies set up machine guns near the edge of the camp, with the intention of ending the strike one way or another. Gunfire soon erupted, lasting the entire day. By that evening, more than 19 were killed, including four women and 11 children, all of whom were sheltering in their tents during the rampage. The camp had been utterly destroyed, burned to the ground, and looted by both company militias and non-union coal miners.

The coming days lead to what would be known as the “Colorado Coalfield War”, in which mining union members repeatedly attacked the guards at other Colorado camps and set fire to company buildings. After 10 days and a death toll of over 50, President Woodrow Wilson sent in Federal Troops, who were able to disarm both parties and arrest several militia members.

Today, should you visit the former Ludlow Tent Colony Site where the massacre took place, you will find a stunning stone monument, which was erected by the United Mine Workers of America in 1918 as a way to honor the victims of that horrible day.

Had you ever heard of this dark day in Colorado history?

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