Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

The October 23rd telegram to Governor Ferris from Guard General Abbey. (Photo courtesy of the Archives of Michigan)

On this day in the strike Michigan National Guard General Perley L. Abbey sent the above telegram to Governor Woodbridge Ferris. It reads as follows:

Lawlessness broke loose throughout district today. Northwestern train windows smashed with rocks. 30 men broke into workmen’s home at Quincy. Row with deputies at Quincy. Paraders at Calumet armed with clubs. Three fights, 2 deputies badly cut up. 13 strikers arrested. 4 arrests near Ahmeek for shooting up workmen’s premises. 2 arrests at Allouez. Picketing throughout entire district.

Animosity and the accompanying violence show no signs of slowing down on this day in the strike.  According to the Archives of Michigan, “in the three weeks following this telegram, more than 400 people were arrested, and confrontations with the Waddell men continued. Parades led by local icon “Big Annie” grew in popularity as the strikers united behind their martyred comrades.”

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

This is the first page of the letter urging the eviction of men living in company housing but supporting the strike that Haller sent to MacNaughton on this day in October 1913. (Photo is courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archive)

This is the first page of the letter urging the eviction of men living in company housing but supporting the strike that Haller sent to MacNaughton on this day in October 1913. (Photo is courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archive)

On this day in the strike Frank Haller, superintendent of the Osceola Consolidated Mining Company, sent the above letter to James MacNaughton, General Manager of the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company, the firm that owned Osceola Consolidated. The letter is a list of men from the Osceola mine location who were living in company housing while participating in the strike. Haller urges MacNaughton to evict the strikers: “Herewith please find lists of tenants who have made themselves obnoxious and undesirable since the strike began and should be evicted.”  A second page of the letter says “there are others at each location who are not working and may have to be evicted later; it would be well to start action on this list as soon as possible.”

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

Underground photo of a massive piece of copper and miners at one of the Ahmeek mine shafts. (Photo courtesy of the MTU Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives)

Underground photo of a massive piece of copper and miners at one of the Ahmeek mine shafts. (Photo courtesy of the MTU Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives)

Guy Wilkins, a clerk in the supply office at the Ahmeek mine, was shot and seriously wounded this morning. Wilkins was on his way to work shortly after 7:30 in the morning when he was stopped by a group of ten men in North Kearsarge. His union card was demanded and when he replied that he was not a WFM member “the crowd set upon him.”[1] Wilkins started to run to avoid a confrontation, but as he ran away one of the men drew a gun and shots were fired. A bullet went through his body and left Wilkins in critical condition. At the time of reporting the injury was not fatal. This story is yet another example of the bitter community divisions and the ensuing violence that took place during the copper strike era.


[1] The Calumet News, October 6, 1913.

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

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.