Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

C & H replacement workers eating and enjoying their coffee. Imported men brought in to work during a strike were often referred to as scabs. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives)

C & H replacement workers eating and enjoying their coffee. Imported men brought in to work during a strike were often referred to as scabs. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives)

Despite the strike continuing on for over a month, many mines were experiencing some degree of operation by the last days of August 1913. This was in no small part to local miners deciding to go back to work as well as the dedicated recruitment of scabs by large companies like C&H. Regional recruitment in local states, particularly urban areas like Chicago, became increasingly popular toward the end of summer and into the fall of 1913. Hundreds of workers came north to supplement those local workers who were not a part of the strike and wished to return to work. The past month had been one of constant demonstration (peaceful and not so much), frequent parades, rioting, violence, and the loss of life. Yet, underground and surface work had been roaring back to life by the end of summer in Michigan’s copper district.

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

Strikers going to hear John Mitchell speak in August of 1913 in the Calumet district near Laurium. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives.)

Strikers going to hear John Mitchell speak in August of 1913 in the Calumet district near Laurium. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives.)

On Saturday, August 23, famed labor leader John Mitchell, former president of the United Mine Workers of America, second vice president of the American Federation of Labor, visited the Copper Country to address the copper miners’ on strike. He presented two addresses, one in the morning in Calumet and an afternoon speech in Houghton.  These appearances were meaningful to strikers because Mitchell was one of the more prominent labor leaders of a widespread national reputation to visit the district in the early weeks of the strike. National leaders in the WFM, the locals, and strikers regarded these speeches as a considerable advantage to their cause. Mitchell’s visit came in the midst of a back to work movement that had started amongst other miners who were not sympathetic to the principles of the strike, so the visit was well-timed to address issues of dissension amongst workers. By this point C&H had several shaft houses open as well as the Lake Linden stamp mill.  Recruitment campaigns in places like Chicago, as well as the return of workers who left in the early days of the strike meant the back to work movement was gaining momentum just as the strike was also claiming higher numbers of supporters.

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“Mitchell Will Speak to Striking Miners: Calumet Workmen Pleased with Announcement of Visit of Famous Leaders,” San Francisco Call, August 22, 1913.

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

The Putrich family after moving to St. David, Illinois. Standing, left to right: Fabian, Frank, Mary (Mrs. Joseph Tadejevic), and Paul. Sitting, left to right, John, Sylvia (Mrs. John Tomlianovich), Antonia (Grubisich), Joseph, Josephine (Mrs. William Aubrecht). [The family's boardinghouse in Seeberville, near Painesdale, was the site of an August 1913 shooting. Strike deputies fired shots into the building, killing Steve Putrich and Louis Tijan.]

This picture is of the Putrich family after they moved to St. David, Illinois, circa 1925. Mrs. Antonia Putrich is seated in the middle of the photo. The family’s boardinghouse in Seeberville, near Painesdale, was the site of the shooting that claimed the lives of Steven Putrich and Alois Tijan, whose death inquest was adjourned for one week on this day in 1913. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives)

The inquest into the death of Seeberville murder victim Alois TIjan, which started yesterday, was postponed at noon today when Angus Kerr, attorney for the family of the deceased, provided a list of sixteen additional witnesses to be subpoenaed.  The inquest was postponed for one week. There were a few witnesses on the stand today, including Mrs. Antonia Putrich, who lived in the house at the time of the shootings, and a neighbor, Mrs. Liisa Miitka. The deputies charged with the shootings were scheduled to take the stand but they did not testify, resting on their Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.

Putrich and Miitka did their best to provide their witness testimony, although it was difficult for Mrs. Putrich, a native Croatian speaker, because the regular court interpreter could not be obtained for the morning session. Putrich provided testimony through a substitute interpreter and testified that “She took a baby into her arms and ran ‘down the road,’ returning when the firing ceased.”[1] However, despite attempts to provide her account of the events, Mrs. Putrich was dismissed and recalled later, with today’s testimony stricken from the record, because the stand-in interpreter proved to be inadequate.

When Mrs. Miitka took the stand she testified that she witnessed the events after the shooting started. She did not know how the trouble began. She claimed she saw the deputies (“strangers” as she called them) standing close to the house with their guns shooting directly into the open windows of the Putrich house. Mrs. Miitka wasn’t sure how many men there were, only that there were many, and that one of the strangers was shooting at “every window.” The Calumet News noted that interest in the Seeberville case was high and the courtroom where the inquest took place “is crowded daily.”[2]

In other news from the strike, intimidation cases are cropping up regularly in the local papers. Mile Lonchar, a striker, was arrested last night and sat in jail today on the charge of assault and battery. He was sentenced to sixty days in jail after throwing a stone at a deputy on the C&H property.  Mone Orlich was arraigned this evening in 1913 after being arrested for intimidation of several workers passing through the C&H field last night. Orlich allegedly shook his fist at these men, threatened them, and warned them to quit working for the mines. A postal employee from Calumet was one of the men stopped but claimed he was not threatened by Orlich.


[1] Calumet News, “Tijan Inquest is Adjourned for One Week,” August 22, 1913.

[2] Ibid.

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

Guardsmen and their tents in front of the Red Jacket Shaft, 1913. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archive)

Guardsmen and their tents in front of the Red Jacket Shaft, 1913. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archive)

The copper district was seeing major transitions on this day in 1913. Despite a news article earlier in the week that said Governor Ferris and the military board believe the strike situation still required a strong presence, the number of troops had decreased greatly on this day 100 years ago. In a board meeting on August 18, the military board met and determined “the withdrawal of troops is not deemed advisory.”[1]  However, the total strength of officers and troops had decreased greatly from the count of August 13. On the 13 there were roughly 2800 officers and men in Calumet but on August 20 the force was reduced to roughly 100 officers and 1200 National Guard troops.[2]

Additionally on this day in the strike the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company saw one of its stamp mills reopen to process the rock coming out of open shafts. On August 18 the C&H Company opened its fifth shaft. During this week in the strike the major companies had been seeing an influx of men returning to work, especially from those who had left the region when the mines initially shut down at the start of the strike. The announcement that the C&H Company and some other mines were resuming some operations encouraged those who wished to return to work and reapply to their jobs.  Although “pickets were unusually numerous” at the working mines this week, especially with the reopening of the fifth shaft and the Calumet stamp mill in Lake Linden, there were no reported instances of violence at these particular picket lines.[3]


[1] The Calumet News, August 18, 1913.

[2] The Wolverine Guard, vol. 8., no. 1, January 1988, p. 11.

[3] The Calumet News, August 18, 1913.

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

Funeral procession in Calumet for Putrich and Tijan, the victims of the Seeberville murders. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives)

Funeral procession in Calumet for Putrich and Tijan, the victims of the Seeberville murders.  The funeral services took place in Calumet, some 20 miles north of Painesdale and Seeberville, at the only Croatian Catholic church in the area.  (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives)

The funeral for Steven Putrich and Alois Tijan, the victims of the shootings at Seeberville, took place today in the Calumet district.   The outpouring of sympathy was overwhelming as estimates of 3500-5000 strikers, strike sympathizers, and community members showed up for the funeral procession, with several hundred attending graveside services.  The caskets were carried in horse-drawn carriages, with young women dressed in white behind 18-year old Tijan’s carriage, a Croatian custom. As Tijan died an unmarried young man the Daily Mining Gazette reported that the custom signified “that the dead died with his life incomplete, as he had not married and reared a family.”[1] The procession was a blend of somberness and solidarity for the strikers and their sympathizers. At the gravesite in Lakeview Cemetery, which had been adorned with eight American and Croatian flags, strike leaders made passionate speeches and paid their respects to the fallen. One WFM leader blatantly accused Houghton County Sheriff Cruse of the murders because of his support of the Waddell-Mahon men, and went on to note that any mining officials and community members against the strikers had blood on their hands from the Seeberville incident.

Although the two were buried in unmarked graves, Putrich family descendants started a family collection for a headstone and a marker was placed at the grave on May 8, 2004. One family member said “If you don’t know and remember your people in the past, you have one generation and that’s it – no one would know what your family did.”[2] The marker serves as a monument and commemorative tool, providing a link to the past events at Seeberville.


[1] Daily Mining Gazette, August 19, 1913.

[2] Daily Mining Gazette, May 22, 2004.

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

Soldiers and mine workers go underground in C&H's #5 shaft, during August of 1913. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archive)

Soldiers and mine workers go underground in C&H’s #5 shaft, during August of 1913. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archive)

According to mining officials from the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company the strike situation has been improving. As of this day in the strike, 4 shafts are hoisting copper on C&H properties and management expects to open more shafts and rockhouses soon. There are roughly 3500 people reporting to work at C&H on this day. All shops and offices are fully staffed and more underground employees are coming to work.  Tomorrow’s Daily Mining Gazette reports that “as far as the C&H property is concerned the strike is ineffective at the present time.”[1]


[1] Daily Mining Gazette, August 17, 1913.

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

View of the home in Seeberville, MI where Steve Putrich and Louis Tijan were killed. The Putrich boardinghouse at #17 Second Street in Seeberville was rented from the Copper Range . The man labeled "Dad" is Joseph Putrich, the woman labeled "Mom," is Antonia Putrich, the woman labeled "Aunt," is Josephine (Grubesich) Tijan, and the others are likely the Putriches' children and boarders/relatives. According to Kim Hoagland in her article "The Boardinghouse Murders: Housing and American Ideals in Michigan's Copper Country in 1913," Croatian immigrants Joseph and Antonia Putrich rented the house from the Copper Range Mining Company. At the time these photos were taken, they had four children under the age of four, one hired girl, Josephine Grubesich (Antonia's sister), and ten male boarders, including Joseph's brother Steve Putrich, who died in the shooting, and his nephews Albert and Louis Tijan (Louis also died in the shooting, and Albert later married Antonia's sister Josephine). The other boarders included John Kalan and his eighteen-year-old son Slave, John Stimac, and two others. This is a rare view of a working-class, boarding house interior. - Jeremiah Mason, with thanks to Kim.

View of the home in Seeberville, MI where Steve Putrich and Louis Tijan were killed. The Putrich boardinghouse, at #17 Second Street in Seeberville, was rented from the Copper Range Mining Company. Joseph and Antonia Putrich lived in the home with their children, relatives, and boarders. In the photo the labels indicate “Dad” (Joseph Putrich), “Mom,” (Antonia Putrich), “Aunt,” (Josephine (Grubesich) Tijan), and the others are likely their children, boarders, and/or other relatives. (Photo Courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives)

On this day in the strike a seemingly regular day ended in tragedy as a boardinghouse in Seeberville was shot up by deputies. On the morning of August 14, 1913 a group of strikers from Seeberville, a residential community of mine homes south of Painesdale, walked a few miles to collect their striker benefits from the WFM office in South Range. The men enjoyed some beer and conversation before they headed home. On the walk back the group separated and two men decided to cut across mine company property to take a shortcut, even though it was off limits due to the strike. Upon entering the company property they were confronted by the company watchman. A few words were exchanged, but the two strikers continued on home to Seeberville.

Upon arriving in Seeberville the two who took the shortcut met up with their other fellows from the boardinghouse, had supper, and enjoyed some ninepin on the front lawn. In the midst of their game, deputies came to the yard and attempted to arrest one of the men who took the shortcut through company property. John Kalan resisted arrest and went into the house along with his fellow boarders. Just as the deputies were about to leave, one of the boarders took a bowling pin and threw it at a deputy’s head. Without hesitation that deputy drew his gun and fired, with the remaining deputies joining in to fire into the house. Two men, Steve Putrich and Alois (Louis) Tijan, were killed and two others were wounded.  None of the men in the house were armed and the men who were hurt and killed were not involved in the incident at company property earlier in the day. One witness reported that the men “didn’t have anything to shoot with except the spoons they had in their hands while they were eating,” illustrating that the hail of bullets was an unwarranted response to a thrown bowling pin.[1] This tragedy is a prominent example of strike violence escalating quickly with horrific results. The Seeberville murders by their very shocking nature had a huge impact on the public at the time of the incident and they have also had a prominent part in the story of the strike.

For a unique perspective on the events and context of the Seeberville tragedy please see Alison Hoaglan’s article “The Seeberville Murders: Death and Life in the Copper Country in 1913,” available as a chapter in New Perspectives on Michigan’s Copper Country (2007). She not only discusses the events of the tragedy but also paints a picture of immigrant life and the company town, using the Seeberville murders and another incident, the Dally-Jane murders which took place four months later, as examples.


[1] Testimony of Antonia Putrich, Agust 22, 1913, The People vs. Thomas Raleigh, Edwin Polkinhorne, Harry James, Joshua Cooper, William Groff, and Arthur Davis, Houghton County Circuit Court Case #4230.

[2] Alison K. Hoagland, Erik C. Nordberg, and Terry S. Reynolds, eds. New Perspectives on Michigan’s Copper Country. Hancock, MI: Quincy Mine Hoist Association, 2007, 115-132.