The Corpse On
by MaryJoy Martin
On August 8, 1907, newspapers in
Telluride, Colorado, declared that the bones of William J. Barney had been
recovered from a shallow grave on Boomerang Hill, thus proving the Telluride
Miners' Union had butchered him in 1901. Many mine owners, newspaper editors,
and Pinkerton detectives claimed the union had inaugurated a reign of terror
with Barney's slaying, a nightmare of brutality that would end only when the
union men and their families were driven from the region and their leaders were
hanging from the gallows.
The belief that the Miners' Union was a pack of assassins and its victims were numerous has endured for more than a hundred years. Yet meticulous research has revealed no reign actually existed, and the supposed victims were, in fact, alive long after their alleged murders.
Capital versus Labor
When miners demanded living wages, humane hours, and safe working conditions, mine owners answered them with hired killers and Gatling guns.
The Corpse on Boomerang Road not only shatters long-held convictions, it also unravels several murder cases and exonerates those unjustly accused. It presents unmistakable evidence of a conspiracy between the Pinkerton Detective Agency and the Telluride Mine Owners' Association. This book tells the story of a struggle between labor and capital in the first part of the twentieth centurya time when mine owners could purchase the state militia to deport union men, when editors could slander and condemn union leaders without justification, and when Pinkertons could plot the arrest and conviction of innocent men on behalf of big business.
This is also the story of Vincent St. John, one of the most influential labor leaders the West produced in its early years. He was an officer in the Western Federation of Miners, and as president of Local 63 at Telluride, Colorado, led a successful strike against the Smuggler-Union Mining Company in 1901. In 1902, he and Union secretary-treasurer, O.M. Carpenter, inspired the rank and file to build a state-of-the-art brick hospital, union hall, and library. The building still stands as a symbol of solidarity in Telluride.
John became an organizer for the WFM and later became general secretary of the
Industrial Workers of the World, 1908-1914. He contributed significantly to the
cause of labor, yet has been nearly forgotten because he was a humble,
The Corpse on Boomerang Road finally brings to light the chilling hatred and relentless persecution of organized labor in San Miguel County, Colorado in the early twentieth century.
Copyright © 2004
The Corpse On
All excerpts are copyrighted material, used with permission
Many have called the Western Federation of Miners the most militant union in the West. This militancy intrigued author MaryJoy Martin, who sought the truth behind the shadowed tales of butchery and violence...
From the PREFACE:
I have heard the Western Federation of Miners called the Western Federation of Dynamiters. I have heard this union denounced as worse than Highbinders and Black Hand societies and the members labeled as the scum of Europe, rabid anarchists, rank socialist agitators, and blood-thirsty assassins, with a huge slush fund for the legal defense of their hired killers. At Telluride, Colorado, the WFM Local Number 63 was accused of inaugurating a Reign of Terror in which murders and assassinations were commonplace and those they disliked were said to vanish under the most vile and mysterious circumstances. By numerous accounts the Miners Union men, particularly the officers, were degenerate, corrupt, menacing, frenetic, bomb-throwing, felonious, godless, indefensible, illegitimate sons of soulless hags.
From Chapter One:
Like threads made of shadow and wind, the mystery of William Julius Barney has tangled the serenity and startling beauty of San Miguel County for more than a century. Barney had vanished from Telluride in 1901 and the Mine Operators' Association declared union officers had brutally slain him. The governor of Colorado and the sheriff of San Miguel County declared the same. The county commissioners, attorneys, editors, the adjutant general of the Colorado National Guard, and the man known as the Great Detective, James McParland of the Pinkertonsall declared the homicidal Telluride Miners Union, a local of the Western Federation of Miners, had murdered William Julius Barney.
The Journal versus the Examiner
The two newspapers in Telluride became a battleground, with the Journal condemning the Miners' Union and the San Miguel Examiner defending it.
The quintessential weapon in the MOAs public opinion war against the WFM was the publisher or editor who despised the Federation more than the MOA did, for seething animosity always failed to recognize truth or fact. In Telluride the local MOA found such a chambermaid in Francis Edward Curry, editor of the Daily Journal. Curry was a man whose festering bitterness assured he would willingly discredit, disgrace, or dishonor the WFM, spilling his twisted news across the state via the Associated Press....
The Pinkertons and the mine operators in
Telluride fed the murder story, adding victims to the list, and naming the
president of the Telluride Miners Union, Vincent St. John, as the
murderer. Later, union secretary, Oscar Carpenter, was listed as an accomplice.
From Chapter Six:
St. John's work to unite the ethnic groups within the union was finally realized, for the delegation consisted of Italians led by James Roner and Vic Boggia, Austrians led by Louis Macari, Irish led by Jerry O'Rourke and William Brennan, and Finns led by John E. Conn and John Barthell. They numbered about four dozen. At 5:00 a.m., just as the night shift was coming off work and the next shift was about to go on, a delegation of about a dozen strikers approached the men at the Sheridan, demanding the nonunion men quit work immediately. The union committee told them if they left peaceably, there would be no trouble. They preferred that the men would join the unions cause. The Examiner reported the delegates were unarmed, but the men in the ranks behind them were carrying weapons.
sheriff was afraid to attempt riot control (the rioting lasted a few hours),
St. John rushed to the scene on the mountain. He was instrumental in bringing
hostilities to an end. A few days later, the company signed a fair wage
agreement with the union. Despite the settlement, management determined to
destroy the thorn in its side: Vincent St. John.
The maggots had got their work in in the intestines... (from the confession of Steve Adams, National Pinkerton Agency records)
According to Adamss confession, his instructions from St. John were to find the body, remove the clothing, and bury the body separate from the clothing so no one could identify the remains by the clothing. Adams told McParland, The body had on a coat, vest and trousers, also a pair of hob-nailed boots. He knelt beside the body and stripped it down, dumping the clothes and boots in a sack. He said Carpenter couldn't stand the stench and got deadly sick, leaving the job to Adams.
Adams's chilling confession seemed genuine in its ghastly detail. Yet taken as a whole and placed against actual facts, court documents, and scientific analysis, the confession crumbles completely. Author MaryJoy Martin presents a clear case of conspiracy in THE CORPSE ON BOOMERANG ROAD, a conspiracy with the destruction of the Western Federation of Miners as its goal.
Was Will Barney really murdered?
Copyright © 2004
for The Corpse
on Boomerang Road
A century ago a war between union organizers and mine
operators rocked Telluride, Colorado as Western miners sought a decent wage and
safe working conditions. MaryJoy Martin has produced a superb chronicle of
those deep-seated conflicts. The Corpse on Boomerang Road is an
excellent contribution to local history, mining history, and an understanding
of 19th century labor issues in the American West. The cast of characters is
all here, from Colorado governors doing the bidding of wealthy mine owners, to
miners valiantly standing up for their rights despite real threats of violence.
This is valuable, carefully researched history and it must not be
done a brilliant research job. This is the definitive history of
Tellurides War on Labor 1899-1908. Exhaustive. A masterpiece of
historical detective work
And its not just great history. Its
a great read.
Charlie Langdon, Senior Critic
For the entire review, click here:
The Durango Herald
This is a long and complicated story,
extensively researched and richly told.
This is an extremely readable book... and
it provides the best available portrait of Vincent St. John
done a real service in telling his story, and placing it in the company of the
Telluride miners with whom he fought so valiantly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A native of Florida, MaryJoy Martin moved to Colorado in 1958 and was
educated in Denver. As an investigative journalist with a background in history
and the criminal sciences, she has been writing about the state's mysteries for
thirty years. Her books include the popular Twilight Dwellers: Ghosts, Gases, and Goblins of
Colorado, and the recent, Something in the Wind: Spirits, Spooks, and Sprites of the
San Juan. An extensive traveler, she
has written articles on a wide range of subjects for state and national
magazines and newspapers. She is also a columnist for the regional parody
newspaper, the San Juan Horseshoe.
Copyright © 2004
THE CORPSE ON BOOMERANG ROAD:
Telluride's War on Labor, 1899-1908
by MaryJoy Martin
Hardcover * 6x9, 380 pages,
photos, bibliography, endnotes, index
Web site designed by Grasshopper * copyright © Spes in Deo Publications 2004, all rights reserved.