Ludlow and the Colorado Coalfield War

In September 1915, he visited Colorado to learn firsthand of the conditions in the strike district, visited miners in their homes, and questioned their wives about their satisfaction with company housing. At the end of his trip, on October 2, 1915, Rockefeller, announced CF&I would adopt a new plan that would provide workers with greater influence in determining work conditions and other issues affecting miners. The proposal, known as the Employee Representation Plan, or more popularly as the “Rockefeller Plan,” gave workers the right to bargain collectively through elected representatives and participate in annual conferences with management.

Miners would not lose their jobs for joining a union, and shopping at company stores would not be compulsory. A new system of benefits was established, and committees of miners’ representatives could make recommendations regarding mine safety, health, sanitation, recreation, and education. A new corporate welfare program would improve and expand housing and other facilities in the company towns. CF&I miners strongly approved the plan and for the next 20 years the Employee Representation Plan, a substitute for independent unions, had an enormous impact on the labor movement in the United States.

Ludlow Massacre Monument, Colorado by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, 2018

Ludlow Massacre Monument, Colorado by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, 2018

In April 1917 the United Mine Workers Association erected a permanent granite monument at Ludlow on a 40-acre piece of land they had purchased near the town of Ludlow. The monument commemorates “the ground where our fellow workers, their wives, and children gave up their lives in the cause of unionism.”

United Mine Workers of America dedicated the monument on Memorial Day, May 30, 1918. The afternoon ceremony attended by approximately 3,000 miners of diverse nationalities, their families, and the general public. An American flag covering the shaft of the stone monument was removed by survivor Mary Petrucci. The memorial recognized the sacrifices of the women and children of Ludlow through its inclusion of a sculptural figure of a mother and child, as well as a male figure representing the miners. For the first time in the history of the UMWA, all of the union’s executive officers assembled outside of their headquarters, traveling to Ludlow for the ceremony. Unnoticed by most of those in attendance was John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The Rocky Mountain News reported Rockefeller stood “with head uncovered in a throng of Greek, Polish and Slavic miners” as Mary Petrucci removed the flag covering the monument.

Ludlow, Colorado Townsite today, by Dave Alexander, 2018.

Ludlow, Colorado Townsite today, by Dave Alexander, 2018.

On a Sunday in June in each succeeding year following the dedication, union members and their leaders and families, as well as the general public, have gathered for a memorial ceremony in honor of those who died at Ludlow.

After the Ludlow Massacre, national recognition of working conditions in the mines turned the tables in favor of organized labor, and in following years working conditions for the “average” American greatly improved. The eight hour work day became industry standard, overtime was paid, and working conditions and safety measures improved across mines, mills, and factories nationwide. Wages and benefits were also improved.

It wasn’t until December 1933 that the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company signed a contract with the United Mine Workers of America and the Rockefeller Plan was abandoned.

In the meantime, the town of Ludlow continued on until the coal mines began to shut down in the 1940s. By 1950, Trinidad and Aguilar were the area’s only incorporated towns and livestock-raising had replaced coal mining as the most important industry. At this time the former mining towns of Rouse, Delagua, Ludlow, Berwind, and Bancarbo had become small agricultural communities, each having less than ten families. Valloroso, at the Bear Canyon No. 6 mine in Road Canyon, was the only remaining coal mining town.

Ludlows post office closed in 1954 and at some point, the entire town was abandoned. The ghost town lies .4 miles south of the Ludlow Massacre Memorial. Several deteriorated post-1914 buildings continue to stand behind a barbed wire fence.

The Ludlow Tent Colony Site was designated as a National Historic Landmark in January 2009. The memorial is located about 14 miles northwest of Trinidad at I-25 Exit 27, follow County Road 44 about ½ mile to the memorial.

About two miles west of the Ludlow Memorial, on County Road 44, is the old mining site of Hastings. Here, 121 men died in a mine explosion in 1917. A small monument indicates the site. There are just a few remnants of mining activity including a few old buildings and several coke ovens.

 

Ludlow, Colorado School, Kathy Weiser-Alexander, 2018.

Ludlow, Colorado School, Kathy Weiser-Alexander, 2018.

© Kathy Weiser-Alexander, August 2018.

Also See:

Colorado Ghost Towns

Colorado Main Page

Ghost Towns Across America

Hastings & the Worst Mining Accident

Sources:

Brown, Robert L.; Colorado Ghost Towns: Past and Present; Caxton Press, 1972

Life, Death, Iron

Ludlow Tent Colony Register of Historic Places Nomination

University of Denver

Wikipedia

Ludlow Slideshow:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *