Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews

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Donald Mitchell

Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Louise Adams
Interviewed by Sandra Cason
Date of Interview - 10-12-1979

Don Mitchell
Date of birth - 12-21-1899
Wife - Mary Faith Woodard
Parents – Dan Mitchell and Hannah Pointer
Ethnic group – Scottish, English
Family origin - Mother - London; Father - Scotland,
Date of Family arrival in County – Before 1890 via Kansas
Location of first family settlement – Rouse, Mother from Raton

SC: “So, Mr. Sporleder has the first school picture.”

DM: “Well, he's got it in his book. See, he put out I don't know how many books but his first book had a picture of the first schoolhouse in town. It's just an adobe house.”

SC: “Where was that?”

DM: “Out here on the Huerfano. The old man, gentleman, Kimbrell, helped build that. That's the one that built that. Have you ever been to the cemetery here?”

SC: “No.”

DM: “Well, that mausoleum's his. He said to his wife, he wanted to be buried on the ranch. He was pretty sick, said, 'I want to be buried on the ranch'. She said, 'No…' He said, 'Well, they won't bury me no place else underground.' And when he died he already had that paid for. So he's buried above ground.”

“So what do you want? I don't know...”

SC: “Well, what we're doing is just talking to people who've lived here for awhile and we're going to do several things. Some of this will go to the library. They have a county archives, the historical is putting together. Then part of it will be used to develop a local history for the schools, a local history book to teach local history in the schools, because kids don't learn about the history here. So anything you want to talk about the area.”

DM: “I don't know. I was born out here at Rouse in 1899. The mining camps where I was born, out here, I don't know whether you know where that's at or not. Do you know where Capps' place is?”

SC: “I know where Rouse is out there.”

DM: “Mining camps. There used to be a lot of mining camps, they used to be stretched out here. See, there was Cameron, Walsen above here, and Rouse. There used to be a camp right at the foot of Seventh Street here. Then at the foot of that hill. I guess you've been to Bear Creek and seen those foundations all in there, that was Cameron. Then there was Ravenwood, then there was Hezron, then there was Pryor, Lester and Rouse. It was all camps. Had a lot of homes. People lived in 'em. I got a picture of my Dad in Hezron.”

SC: “Great.”

DM: “In about 1907. I just happened to see that one here and I wouldn't let nobody have it. Picture of my dad, 1906, or 7 or 8, I don't know which, and that was at the mining camp at Hezron. That's my dad.”

SC: “That's great.”

DM: “See, that's where they tied up horses and here there was the mine office at the side here and this is what they tied their horses to, in them days. And this is later on. This is around in the '30's, my dad and mother, before they passed away. But outside of that, that's about the only pictures and I used to have a lot of 'em. That's my dad, there, see.”

SC: “Yes. Those are wonderful. So your dad was a miner?”

DM: “Oh, yes. And I worked in the mines. Started in the mines when I was about 18. Well, you couldn't do much before that. Used to be... I got a brother, he still lives in California. He started at 13. And he had a man's job. Drove a mule and that was a man's job. And he worked in the coal mines all his life and retired in about '69 or '70. And the mines was all shuttin' down. That's the only reason he retired then. Told him, 'You might as well get your miner's pension and Social Security because they'll all be shuttin' down.' His wife's folks all moved to California, they was miners, too, so he went out there. And he loafed about a month, couldn't loaf any more, went looking for a job. So they told him they said, 'What's the matter, ain't you got nothing to retire on, a man your age?' He told 'em, 'No, that ain't it,' he said. 'I just can't take loafin,' he said. So they said, 'We'll give you a job around here sweepin' up.' He said, 'I don't care what it is long as it's something to do.' Big plant there, big outfit. So he did, he worked there sweeping up and things and job manager come through there different times while he was there and finally come along and he told the foreman, 'Hey, take that man off that broom. He's too good a man.' And they give him a pretty good job. And he stayed there I don't know how long till they told him, 'Now you've got to retire.' Well, he retired about a month again, and went looking for another job. And he worked till he was right up around, about 80. He's going strong now.”

SC: “That's your brother, huh? What is his name?”

DM: “John Mitchell. And my daughter was just out; she lives out there, too. And I asked her, 'How's he doing?' Oh, she said, 'You'd see the back of him you'd think he's a young man.' Now most of these men that worked in the mines all their lives, I don't know why I haven't got that way, they get humped over. But he's just like a soldier, perfectly straight. She says he'll go down the street and to look at the back you'd think he's 21 years old.”

SC: “Did you have other brothers or sisters?”

DM: “Yes, I had a brother killed here in Turner Mine.”

SC: “How did that happen?”

DM: “Well, I was working there, him and I, and during the summer things'd slow down. Maybe work three days a week, sometimes four. Them days was working six days a week, see. Well, I run what they call a hoist. That's, I don't know whether you know what a hoist is or not. It's a round drum with a steel cable. And see the mine, these mines are on a pitch like this. Well, you drop these cars down to where the men are loading at different places down below, you drop 'em down there, there's track open down there, and you pull 'em up with this hoist. They run down their self. Wrap around the drum, pull up the hoist, then you pull 'em up and throw a switch and drop 'em onto a parten, they called, and the motor usually took them out to the main haulage way and then the big group and hoist from the outside took 'em to the outside. This hoist was sitting up above here, kinda up above, and had been overworked, see they put the coal on up there. And I worked that day. See, what we used to do, take turns about. One idle day, I'd get an extra day. Next idle day, because what they was doing, was what they called “developing.” That's just driving straight entries, they called 'em, and later on they'd turn big rooms off and take all the coals, but that's what's called “developing.” They had to keep that ahead to keep on a coming, see, so I'd work them, so they'd work them idle days, so I'd run that hoist during the work days and on idle days I'd get one extra day running it and my brother's get the next, see. Well, I'd run it three straight days, three workdays I'd run it, three straight workdays, and that day I see they had a little fire. And I went to the boss that evening and I told him, 'Hey', see what they have was a big curtain down there to shoot the air up around there, that's to keep the gas and air around in there. I told him, 'You better get some air up in there,' get this canvas that was there, but the cars going through back and forth hooked on and finally tore it down and instead of that air going in there it was coming straight through, see. So I told him, and he said, 'Why don't you fix it?' 'Well,' I told him, 'I don't get time.' When I got there in the morning I stood there riding the hoist up and down and never got one second away from there. I said, 'You know I don't have no time to fix that.' Well, anyhow next morning my brother, he always had what they called rope runner. That's the guy that stayed down below and hooked the cars on. So my brother went up to the hoist where he had an electric switch. And he put the electric switch in and the boy down there gave him a bell. They had bell signals, you cross these wires and made the bells ring. One was to pull up, one meant to stop if you was going, two to drop down slow and so on like that. Well this guy rang this bell that sparks out and set that off and exploded and killed him. And the fellow down below, he was in the thick of it. It blowed him in what they call the back entry. See they drive entries along and they put stops and cinder blocks to keep the air going around. Blowed him plump through into the back. Many a people couldn't wonder why, how come, he come out of it; see, it burned him pretty bad and he was unconscious and lot of fellows couldn't wonder why it didn't kill him. Figured that knocked him out, but it didn't. That blowed out and he went with it.”

SC: “When was that?”

DM: “That was in '32. You know, that's why I think our time is set. Because I used to work in Dawson, New Mexico. And I worked there before and helped clean when they had an explosion there. They use a lot of motors. There's not too much of an incline and they use a lot of motors there. It's the Ingall's place now, but that place used to have 14 big mines, and I guess there's around between 8 and 10 thousand people. The company owned everything; it was up in a canyon way up in the mountains, see. So from what they call the ouside I went into the partner what they call the partner, way inside, about a mile and a half. Then I could pull my cars and get these back. Well, the last trip at night was the man. That took all the men out. Well, they just got outside and some of the men always worked at night… timbered, run pumps, I think there was supposed to be about 18. And they'd already went in. And we just pulled out and it exploded.”

“Then I come back up here and worked awhile and went back down there again and I knew, see, knew lot of them fellows there. And there was two brothers and they was both foreman at these mines. And I didn't intend to stay down there but my folks was living down there so I went down there to see them. So he said, 'Come on and work for me.' I was in the barbershop getting a haircut. Well, I said, 'I didn't come down for a job.' 'Come on,' he said, 'I need a motorman.' One brother by the name of Chick and the other by the name Jim, I'd worked for both of them before. So I said, 'OK.' He said, 'Come on up Monday, and I'll put you to work.' I went up Monday morning and something happened, he had to go somewhere, and he left word he had to go but be sure and be there Tuesday. Well, as I started to walk away from there his other brother Jim hollered at me and said, 'Hey, come on go to work?' He said, 'I need you'. Said, 'I need a new man'. 'Well', I said, 'If I see him, he says ok, will you come on?' 'Sure.' So somehow he got him contacted so I went to work for him. I worked one week and that mine I was supposed to work at blew up. Killed every man in there, which was 140. So I think, looks like a person's time is set. How I missed, things, see.”

SC: “You had some close calls.”

DM: “Yeah, that's what I say. I just missed 'em, see. That's the way things happen. Like that brother coming after me to work for him. If that brother showed up that day I'd a worked for him and I wouldn't be here to tell it. And that's twice that's happened. So I begin to think the good old Lord sets a date for us.”

“Yes, these mines was pretty rough work in them days. Human being didn't mean anything. See before they paid... before they didn't pay no compensation, see. A man didn't mean anything. Well, I tell you what a foreman right out here told me one time. See, we was down at the bottom, what they call the main haulage way, what they call the slope brings all that coal outside, runs up on the tipple, they drop in on railroad cars. Well, every once in a while one of them cars, sometimes they'd run 14 cars at a time, sometimes they'd break loose, or a pin slip out or something, no rope or nothing on 'em see. They'd come down but they'd come down like a streak of lightning. They'd run away, and he was driving mules down below, taking the coal, hauling coal up the big... Super come down and he said, 'Hey,' (cause they run away like that, you know), 'Any mules killed?' That's the first thing he asked. 'No,' he said, 'any men killed?' Then they passed that compensation law, and when they passed that they had a runaway and he said, 'Any men killed?' 'No,' he said, 'ay mules killed?' Said used to be mules first, Mule used to cost us $250 and a man, all we'd do is hire another one. That's about the way they thought then. Now.. I went all through this.. Ever heard of that?”

SC: “What's that?”

DM: “1913, 14, 15 Strike. We went all through that.”

SC: “Tell me about that.”

DM: “Well, my dad, we were at Walsen camp before that strike. See, before that these companies told you where you had to live, where you buy your groceries and everything. In those days if you'd go downtown and buy groceries and the company found out, you was fired. That was the conditions in them day and they didn't pay nothing neither. Well, they had that strike, see, and my two brothers was working in the mines at that time and they both went out on strike. I used to hike, us kids used to hike from 7th Street down there. I used to live a block above where the railroad crossing is on the right side there, there was a two story house next to an insurance or I don't know, something. Steve Phelps lives there now. We used to all hike to Hill School. Never miss a day, no matter how deep the snow. Never thought about lunch, nothing. There was no such thing as missing a day of school, no matter what kind of weather. Well, funny thing. Charlie Marck, he's living in Aguilar now, he left here when he was a kid and I hadn't seen him here until about two years ago. Him and I played hooky. All these houses wasn't up here. We was up in this prairie and there used to be what they called Macalauly Mine, right up above it. The railroad track used to go right here in front of the door. They took that track out since I've lived here. And we's roaming around up there you know and all at once we heard, sounded like new roofing and we thought they was roofing with this here galvanized tin, looked like new roofing and we thought they was roofing a building or something up at the mine. Bang, bang. Pretty soon you could see a streak of dust cross that hogback. And here come a Negro fellow, elderly man, come across from over that way. They used to take to the mine in a canvas bag. Miners used to take their own powder in to blast the coal, see. Call them powder bags. He had a powder bag and he heard that shot and he said, 'Come on you boys, get down outa there. This here is a war.' And we was coming down out of there the militia was in front of us and there was a doctor or dentist or something, Lesser, Lester or something like that his name was, and he was an officer in the militia, see. And they was coming up, all in formation. And we watched them and they was going straight up the hogback, see. I don't know if it was true or not, but they tell me he made this remark when he was down there, 'Gonna get me some miners' teeth for watch charms.' I don't know whether that's true or not, but that's what was reported to us. Anyhow, he went up there, and I think what they thought they'd see the militia and scare 'em. Because they were marching in formation. They let 'em march right up there to the hogback and when they just about got there, they'd turn loose on 'em and we'd see 'em running and jumping in ditches and everything else. See, there's a water tank up there that's still there. You can see part of it. Have you ever noticed that up on the hill?”

SC: “On the Hogback?”

DM: “No, you know 7th Street? Well, Walsen camp was just above that on the hill. I guess it's still there, the water tank. They used to have a big searchlight on that and you couldn't walk anywhere, they'd put that on you and watch you over. And they had a big machine gun and they'd turn that machine gun loose. That was the start of it. Well, I'll tell you what I think really started it, here, see they attacked at Ludlow. Have you been down to Ludlow?”

SC: “No, I haven't but I've read about it.”

DM: “Well, they that monument there and that cellar is still there. See, all them canyons used to have camps all along that you lived in and the company practically owned you. And this strike was the same strike. Well, what they did, the militia came in here for the state. Was supposed to just come in here and keep the peace and not take either side. These miners didn't have no place to move out when they moved out of the camps. So the union back east sent some money out here and bought tents. And they bought lumber to build and built up so high. So they bought some land there. That's where that place is at. Great big place there, it's close to the railroad depot there, and they called it Ludlow Tent Colony. We had one here, down at that end of town. And all those people went on strike, went down in there. Well, them fellows they used to import them, foreigners to take their jobs. Well, they'd meet them down to the train 'cause they was shipping them in boxcars, any way they could get them in see. Well, these fellows would meet them and say, 'Now get out of here, we're on strike.' Well, that was a thorn in the company's side up there, see, to have a colony there. I was living in Rouse, I was at that time there was coal trains and just behind a Delafiori's. Do you know where Delafiori's space is there? By the railroad track, that restaurant. Right in back of that was the water tank where the coal trains took their water and on this side of that street. Along the railroad, on the opposite side from there, was the coal shoots, these big coal shoots. And we used to go to the show for 10¢ and we used to walk that railroad track going to school. Used to have where the two railroad crossed down here switch gates, so they wouldn't run into each other and us kids would be going to school and train come along and we would open the gate for the brakeman or sometimes he'd go by and we'd close behind. This way we wouldn't get the catch of it, see. So we got to know a lot of the fireman and brakeman. So I was coming along and it was a real moonlight night and I was coming from the theatre. The train was taking water and I went over to talk to them. It was coming this way. And he told me, he said, 'Don, I'm afraid we're going to have trouble in the morning at Ludlow.' 'Why?' Said, 'I seen the militia planting machine guns on the upper side of the track from the tent colony.' See the tent colony was below the track, right down here. And the track here. He said, 'I seen them. It was a moonlight night and I saw them planting machine guns.' And they did. Next morning just open fire down there, women and children and all, see. And this is what the militia done before. Said, 'We come in here to keep peace. We're not going to take either side. We want you to give all your guns up.' And most some of 'em did but some wouldn't give 'em up, just kept 'em anyway, and they didn't know it, see. If it wasn't that, they'd a been helpless, but they held 'em off a little, see. And they had this tent and they had a cellar underneath and they got the women and kids under there, they thought it'd be safety. And they come along poured coal oil on there and set it on fire. And that's what happened then. And I tell you, that cellar right there yet. But they cemented it so it stays and that's what that monument is about. That cellar, see. Then these fellars, Montana and all of it. Your papers would never tell you the facts. What they put in the papers was all lies. They never give you the facts. What they put in the papers was all lies. They never did give you the facts, well, these companies controlled the state. Well, they went ahead, Montana went ahead and rushed guns and ammunition and everything down there. They managed to fight back. They sent all these guards. I don't know how many guards they had at these camps up here, all kinds maybe 20, 30 guards each. They's supposed to be government so they knew they'd go down there. So these men here, they went and took these camps over, back of the Hogback here. They took this Hogback, and they started on them. And that was to keep them from going down there, see. Then they used the company stores out here to feed themselves.”

“Yeah, heck, was nothing to go down there to the courthouse and see men going down the street with rifles over their shoulders.”

“You take the working men, had a terrible time of it. When I was going to school, that's before this broke out, going to school up there, just got home from school, that house, and I looked up the street, in them days didn't have automobiles, wagons. Well, I seen, I didn't know what it was all about, but I seen a man in a wagon and I'm going to go up there and look in, see what I can find out. There was a rail fence. Used to be a hole where there was a bullet net in that top railing. I seen this man standing up to the wagon like this and taking his gun and shooting down see, these guys standing along the fence, with his rifle. Then he jumped off that side and run over that way. I couldn't, I was just a kid, 13, 14 years old, seen him run across toward the railroad tracks as hard as he could go. So I went to the back yard to see what the heck was going on and boy he tore down, still on a dead run. And I guess he went to the courthouse. Well, I think there was 1 or 2 men killed. And I knew that rail there. Hit that rail there. And many a time I think as I go by there, I should see if that hole's still in there, or whether they changed that rail or not. That's the house, you know that station that's always empty on that side, first house this way. It's grey, that fence, that was the railing that was shot. Then they told me a fellow by the name of Jess Russell shot these guys. What it was, they was harassing him but they didn't have no guns. They'd haul down in a wagon to get the men that was going to scab on these men. These men was harassing them so they just up and shot them. It was a terrible life. When that strike was over. See, a lot of 'em blamed it on Rockefeller. See, Rockefeller had men hired and they didn't give him the true story about it, see, but when this happened he come out here to see about it and then things changed. It was always to the better then. He built nice YMCA's to entertain 'em, and really did change things a lot. When I was on strike here one time, that was after that, I was, my folks were living in Dawson and I was just going to go down and visit them, over the Federal highway going over Raton Pass, New Mexico had the state militia stopping everybody. Yeah, on the Federal highway. And there was some fellow from back east, I guess he was a well known fellow or something, and he went up there and they stopped him, and he said, 'I'm gonna get through here. So I guess it come back, and I guess to a gas station it was on this side, and I guess he called Washington D.C. about it, and they opened it right away. So you can see how these companies just took over. Now I think it's going just a little too far the other way. Lot of times these miners have so many uncalled for strike. That's what I mean. Can't be halfway. Used to be terrible the other way, but now a certain amount has gone the other way. They used to ship men here from all over.”

SC: “Was that after the strike.”

DN: “Well, for that purpose, to scab. They shipped 'em in there thick, cheap labor. Lot of times it wasn't, they didn't need the men, but they, people, they was glad to get over here and work for any wage to do whatever the company tell 'em. I used to drive a mule and they give me so many men to haul coal. They give me 10 just come. Couldn't speak a word of English. That's the way you'd get 'em. And they'd send 'em in from Mexico, too.”

SC: “Mexico?”

DM: “Yeah. Well, I tell you, what they was doing then. They'd ship them in to work in the beets, you know, the beet fields. Well, there's just a certain season of beet fields and then whenever the beet fields was over they'd turn 'em loose to work in the mines. They done that yet, ship 'em in to the beets. Next year they'd ship a bunch more to the beet fields. Now seems like greed, sure was. Well, there was a certain amount of that going on now. But then, well, far as law, the company was law. That was all ordinary man, he didn't have any protection from the companies in the whole state. It's better now than it was then and the companies, well, Rockefeller, he didn't know what was going on, 'cause he really made a big difference. In these camps they built some nice homes. Fix things up. YMCA's, and the men was treated much better. After he found out how it was. And they built big YMCA's. I know people in Walsenburg used to come out to the dances in the YMCA's, they had such a nice YMCA. But they always have to have something to draw attention.”

“You ought to stop to see that at Ludlow. The cellar is still there. Great big area. That was what they called the “Ludlow Tent Colony” and people lived there, even in the cold weather. Rough winters, too, some of those winters were.”

SC: “How long was your dad on strike?”

DM: “The whole strike, yeah, 1913, 14, 15, and then they blacklisted my dad. That's how come my dad went to New Mexico. They had a mine explosion down there and they needed men to get down there and clean it out. Killed 365 that time. Two mines went up and killed 365. He went down there and helped down there and that's how he come down there. Now, you take my dad, he just went on strike. Never bothered no one, just stayed home. Now my oldest brother, he took an interest. Had a big parade out to Walsen camp. They didn't hurt nobody, but he led the parade with an American flag. Stuff like that. But they blacklisted my dad and what I can't understand they didn't blacklist none of these foreigners that come in here. But lot of them was both sides I guess. Stool pigeons for the company, but my dad never done a thing, but they blacklisted him. All he done was moved out and stayed at home. Didn't bother nobody.”

SC: “Where did your dad come here from?”

DM: “He come from Scotland when he was 18 years old. And my mother came from London, England when she was 8 months old. And my dad told me when he left there he had made up his mind he would never go back. He would come to the United States and if he didn't like it here he would go to Australia. Yeah, he was through this country in the early days. He went plumb through the states. All they had to eat was potatoes to eat and went on horseback. He said wasn't that he didn't have the money but there wasn't anything to buy. No place to buy.”

SC: “Did he come to Colorado when he landed?”

DM: “No, come to Kansas. Carbondale, Kansas. Little mining place there. Near Topeka. He came there, then later out here. See, I got relatives galore in Kansas and don't know a one of them. Cause I was raised out here and they were raised there. You take, I had one here, had a cousin come here and said he was a relative of mine. He said, 'Why don't you come back and visit some of these relatives?' I said, 'I don't know any of 'em.' He said, 'Well, stay two days each one and you'd be there six months.' He said, 'Topeka, Wichita Falls and Kansas City, you cousins galore.'”

“Well, I'll tell you about my oldest brother. He was in the First World War. He was an ornery guy. What started him off was, they sent him to Camp Robertson in California. They had him digging trenches like he was at the front. He'd been working in the mine, so he could dig trenches. But there was a little guy next to him and he'd never worked in a mine and didn't know how to dig or nothing. So my brother got his share dug and was helping him and a lieutenant, a West Point lieutenant, come down and told him, 'You don't help that guy. Get out.' So the lieutenant left, and as soon as the lieutenant left he started helping the other guy and they put him in the brig. Next morning they had him out around the officers' quarters with a bag and a stick with a nail in the end picking cigarette butts up and cleaning up. Here come this… it was on a Sunday morning, here come this same lieutenant. He'd been in Los Angeles, see, brought two young women, big as Dixie, come over to him, walked up. Says, 'Yeah, I'm the one put him in here.' And my brother let him have it with the broom. So he put the biggest part of his time in the guard house. So when they went to ship him across, they shipped him from to New York, and they told him 'Listen, if you sign parole, we'll ship you over, and if you don't you won't go.' He said, 'Listen, I ain't lost anything over there, and if you want to ship me, all right, and if you don't all right, but I ain't signing nothing.' But they sent him anyway. So he was over there and he was in that McCarthy outfit, supposed to be the greatest fighters they had over there. And you know what it was made of? Butte, Montana miners and Colorado miners, what it was made of. So they was over there and what happened see, they was at the fight front fighting pretty hard and there was three days and they didn't have nothing to eat. So he told these fellows with him, 'Gosh, I'm wearing down to nothing. Let's go back to one of these Frenchies and get something to eat!' So they went back to this French house to get something to eat. And they got to drinking this wine. And all the time he was in the service he hadn't had a furlough or nothing. So both of 'em just kept on and they ended up in Paris. And the military police arrested him. So next morning military police that arrested him wanted to get the outfit he was from and said, 'What outfit you from?' And told him and said, 'What state you from?' Said, 'Colorado.' And this police looked at him and said, 'Your dad couldn't be Dan Mitchell, could it?' 'Yeah.' 'Well,' he said, 'your dad and my mother is brother and sister!' Yeah, that was in Paris. Yeah, that's how he met him. But I guess my brother done a good job. He had an old car. Don't know if you remember, but you threw the top back, and him and me went to Pueblo and he had his hat in the back seat and we was driving along I guess the wind blew his hat out. Pretty soon a car come along side there. It was just old dirt, gravel roads, honking his horn, he pulled in front of us, what the heck, and a guy come along said, 'Hey, you lost your hat!' We looked, and 'By God,' he said, 'that can't be you, Johnny Mitchell, is it?' And he said, 'Yeah!' 'My God, you'd be the last guy I'd thought!' See, what happened, they had West Point officers, and when they was going to the front, first big shell they heard the officers quit. They sat back and they didn't get no place. They took and busted everyone and put all these hardrock miners in as officers and that's what made that such a fightin' unit. So he said, 'He's the orneriest bugger in the world in the army, but when you needed him at the front he was the best!' Yeah, that's what he said. And he said, 'You know in them days when you went you'd go over the top they'd set a time date, time, 3, 4 o'clock whatever. Go over the top of these trenches. They'd set a time and all these guys would be down praying he'd be walking around saying, 'If you're going to die, die!' 'Cut out this silly stuff!' Said he'd go after them and a good thing too, as he perked a lot of 'em up. Said, that's what he'd used to do. Said he was the orneriest guy in the army they'd ever seen, but when I needed him he was the best.”

“Yeah, he's going strong out there. He's 90.”

“Yeah, a miner's life was a pretty rough life. I tell you what I will say, you take at these camps, you never heard of anybody every beating anybody out of a nickel any way or form, shape.”

SC: “People got along better then?”

DM: “Yes. Somebody come and said to you, 'I want to borrow $10,' you'd be as safe there as putting it in the bank. You try that now.”


SC: “So that's one of the big differences now...”

DM: “Oh, yes. You take the men, they respected each other. If someone took sick everybody was there wanting to help. They don't have that now days. People don't even know who their neighbor is. They don't want to know. It's changed entirely. Now I notice there's a terrible change. See, we lived in these camps. This county used to be at one time 17,000. It's not quite 7 now, so you can see how it's gone. Used to live in these camps. Couldn't walk the street on a Saturday night it was so crowded. Had more people in the middle of the night than they do now. Saturday evenings. Let's see. Started Toltec, Pictou, Maitland, Morning Glory and then there was a few camps in between there but what I mean is, they had camps there. Then there was Gordon then Rocky Mountain, Little Turner, Big Turner, Sunnyside, Big Four, Alamo. And that was just mining camps.”

“In those days you just had dirt roads, didn't even have bridges, you went down in the arroyo. Now there's nothing out there and they've got an enormous road.”

“It went out and wandered around. Used to go out of the Hogback there. Over the Hogback and over to these camps. Same way between here and Trinidad. All them camps. We lived at Delagua a lot. See, Delagua and Hastings was in a certain canyon. Delagua had five mines and I guess there was around 1,500 to 2,000 miners in that camp. Then on further all the way to Trinidad.”

SC: “Was your dad here during the 1903 strike. Do you remember any stories about that?”

DM: “Yes.”

DM: “No, I was only 3 years old. I remember, all I remember was we was living at Hezron and it was shut down on that strike. So my dad was living in a mine that wasn't working so he didn't have to go on strike. I don't know why it was shut down. It wasn't shut down for good. And I remember men there with rifles. Guards I guess. I remember seeing them.”

SC: “Did you have just the two brothers?”

DM: “No, I had three brothers and two sisters. I got a sister yet living, but she's living up in Boulder. The two oldest is living. She's older than me. The two older than me's living and the two younger. Well, I had the brother got killed. Then I had a sister and brother younger than me.”

SC: “Where did your dad and mom get married?”

DM: “I think it was in Carbondale, Kansas.”

SC: “And then they came out here?”

DM: “Well, they lived awhile in Kansas City because my oldest brother was born in Kansas City.”

SC: “Do you know what year they came here?”

DM: “I don't know, because let's see. My sister and next to oldest brother, my oldest brother was born in Kansas and I think my next to oldest brother and sister was born down in Dawson, New Mexico in a mining camp out of Raton. Then my dad worked at the coal house that was down here toward the bill side. I don't remember that, see. But my dad was there and then they started New Rouse, up in the Canyon there and I was born there. And I am pretty sure my dad and my uncle started the Rouse mine from the dirt, left the old Rouse mine at the same time to go and start that. I was born there in 1899.”

SC: “What was your uncle's name?”

DM: “Hershfeld.”

SC: “That was your mother's brother?”

DM: “That was my mother's sister's husband. He was a Scotchman, too.”

SC: “Do you think the family were miners in Scotland?”

DM: “Oh, yes. My dad worked in the coal mines over there when he was 9 years old.”

SC: “What did you do when you started?”

DM: “I started at Dawson. Funny thing about it, I started working for the company store there. A young fellows close to my age worked in the mines. One of them, I was what you call the... boss. That was the one that took care of all the boulders. I was working for the store there and he said to me. Store didn't pay nothing like the mine did. He said to me, 'Why don't you come to work for me?' I said, 'No, I'm afraid of the mines!' He said, 'Well, try a month and if you don't like it you can quit. I'll give you a good job working on that outside motor!' So that's how I got started. But my brother, that was the first job he had and he was 13 when he started. Then my other brother was only about 14 when he started. They started real young.”

SC: “Did you work in the mines all your life?”

DM: “No, I was quite a roamer. I'd pick up and go. I worked in Seattle and different places like that. I'd go through Indiana and roam around. I don't know why. I always wanted to see outside the hill. I'd get a pretty good stake and I'd get up and go. Did that till I got married. Got married in '27 then I had to quit. But I done a lot of that. But I always ended up back in the mines. Cause it was more secure than anything. I went up to Denver, but I couldn't see how people lived up there with what they paid them, with families. Them days it wasn't handed to you. One time I went 13 states, worked only 6 days.”

SC: “When was that?”

DM: “That was around '23. I think there was a kind of a depression on. Cause I know I went into Butte, Montana, I mean Helena, Montana, right in the heart of town and every other big business house was empty. And Montana, there was towns there deserted, just like these movies. You know, these false front towns. Had a lot of them. Small towns. Many and many. Not a soul in them.”

“No, they didn't hand you nothing in them days.”

“We used to ride what they called “side-door Pullman” railroad cars. Well, I tell you, there was a train come into McCook, Nebraska, and I knowed there was on every train, even women on there. I knowed there was a lot on there, but I got on at night and next morning picked up a paper and said there was 140 on that train. Some newspaper guy there was counting us. Oh, yes, it was really tough. There was just no work. And I know here out of Spokane, they was shipping these two big barrels, guns, I don't know what they were, if they used them on ships, but it took two big flatcars, flatbeds, to hold him two big barrels. And it was coming just about dark. Here comes someone along, pretty small, and he was having a hard time and I give a hand and laid by these barrels. I thought it was a couple of kids. You found bookkeepers and everything on them cars. They said to me, if you happen to be awake when we hit Spokane, will you wake us up. So went along and waked them up. Two young women. That's what it was. There were bookkeepers and every kind of person you wanted to find riding them boxcars. And they think they got a tough time now days. I think it was 13 or 14 states and I worked 6 days. It was a good thing we saved quite a bit. We slept in boxcars. Took an old straight edge razor and a strap and wore it down through here. That's how we'd get a shave. Yeah, these sort of people now don't know how it is. But you know I wouldn't trade all what I seen there. I'd a done it again if I had to. That was quite an experience. I learnt more there about different people and how people are than I could have learned any other way. That was quite an experience. But I always drifted back to the mines.”

SC: “When were you married?”

DM: “1927.”

SC: “Who did you marry?”

DM: “Mrs. Waters; her name was Waters. But that was this Kimbrel, Grandpa Kimbrel, the one I told you about the grave. That was his granddaughter. I got two daughters, in California. I did have a boy. He passed away. One's in Arizona and one's in California. Grandpa Kimbrel was the older gentleman. Kimbrel there's a few around here yet. But they're just half. See Grandpa Kimbrel was married twice. Him and his first wife separated. They had George Kimbrel; them that's around here now is from this George Kimbrel. My wife and George Kimbrel were half brother and sister. The offspring of this George is around here. One has a ranch in the Huerfano and one at La Veta.”

SC: “Do you remember the depression here? Was it hard here?”

DM: “The depression. The mines practically closed down. Wasn't much going on. The war stopped that. People don't realize it, but I think we were closer to having a dictator then will ever come again. See, I was, Mrs. Roach, her dad owned Rocky Mountain Coal. That was a pretty good sized coal company out there. I got to know her pretty well.”

“I was working here and I tell you what they did. It was really the government was dying to take control. They wasn't giving it to people that needed it. They was giving to people that would do what they wanted. We had a union then and I was secretary of the local and we had a lot of miners that was laid off. And they used to live down in those little homesteads down around and they laid them off and they didn't have a thing to live on and they couldn't get anything. So we took up a petition. First we come down here to the office. They come to the door wanted to know what did I want. Still they wouldn't do nothing about it.”

“So then it went on. We wasn't working. Mrs. Roach's mines up in the North was working pretty good so she told me any time I come up there to see a certain guy and I could get work up there. So I was figuring on going up there. So I guess they thought I was going up to see Costigan. She was quite a friend of this Costigan, and he was a United States Senator and I guess they thought I was going up to Costigan to complain or something, I guess, I don't know what else it could be. But I was going by that place and they had, and he was stool pigeon for the offices… said, 'Saunders wants to see you.' He said to me, 'I understand that you're going to Denver.' I said, 'Yeah!' 'Well', he said, 'no use in your going up there. We'll give you a job as timekeeper on these projects out here, want to see you work. Don't want to see you move.' I thought it was funny. Never did give me work before. So I took the job. And here I found out what they thought I was doing was going out to see Costigan. Thought I was going to go up there and tell him what was going on. It wasn't the men. So then they put me as supervisor. Then, so this is how they'd work it. When election time come along they'd pack 'em. Put everybody on. And then they'd come and tell them how to vote. Actually told them. And if they didn't they laid them off. There was guys with big families, lots of children. I told them, said, 'Hey, man what's the matter with you? These fellows got big families and they need something to eat.' 'We don't care.' And he went around and told some of them, 'You've got to give so much to Roosevelt's campaign.' Oh, it was a dictatorship going, see, and he run every ruling and election there was and he really had a hold here. And he had it. It was a good thing, things happened like they did, 'cause he was dictating everything.”

SC: “That was a WPA project?”

DM: “They had them all over the country. He really had a hold. If there ever was dictators that was it.”

SC: “What was the name of the coal company here during the depression? Was there one company that owned most of the mines?”

DM: “The big company that always was here, was CF&I.”

“They still hold most of it. Do you know how they got most of it? The homestead days. See, when you first homesteaded, you got the mineral rights. They'd start to close up on you and got these mineral rights.”

SC: “Bought it up from the homesteaders.”

DM: “When you started out got the mineral rights. Don't any more. Got the mineral rights to start with. That's the way they got it.”

SC: “Bought it right up there.”

DM: “No, that was the nearest, I always say. Didn't realize it, but come nearer to have a dictator. Well, I tell you, we took a petition up, I think there was 160, all signed it, and I signed it as secretary. See, my name there? Said, 'What is this for?' I said, 'I'm secretary. See my name there?' Said, 'What's it for?' I said, 'Read it.' They sent it up to Washington. So you can see how it was getting to be.”

SC: “Right down to the local level.”

SC: “Were you in politics at all? Do you remember stories about the beginnings of the Democratic Party here?”

DM: “I used to be.”

“I tell you what, one time here used to be Republican. The companies was Republicans and the county used to be Republican, like it's all Democrats now. The ones that's good Democrats now was good Republicans.”

“I worked at Turner out there and I knowed it was rotten when the Republicans run it, so I was voting for the opposite party. Worked at Turner there. Around 160 miners, inside and outside. Me and my oldest brother was the only ones that voted Democrat. They controlled the ones.”

“When the miners got the union that kind of broke it up. But now it just went to the other side. There's another gang here in town. It's as bad as it was, almost. So I don't take no more interest. You go across the country most people say the vote don't do no good, and it's a bad thing because we could easily lose our freedom. A lot of people don't realize. I didn't think so much about losing it, but I talked to this woman from Germany and she was over there during Hitler's time and she said, 'You know, you people could be taken over so easy, you wouldn't realize it.' She said, 'We were watching it closer in Germany than you people here.' We never dreamt that Hitler would take over. We woke up next morning and you never believed it was going to be this way. Cause you can't give no human being too much power. I found that out. You give any one man too much power and he's a dictator. I seen them in office and when you give one man too much power, the more power they got the more dictator they are. Just seems like human nature. Give him too much power, he don't know how to handle it. That's my experience.”

“You live in town here?”

SC: “I live in Gardner.”

DM: “Heck, there's a fellow here in town from Gardner, give you a lot of Gardner stuff. Just came back.”

SC: “Who's that?”

DM: “Name is Miller. Tell you where he's staying. You know the old Klein Hotel? He's come back here to try and sell some lots up there. Not the Klein Hotel, Kirkpatrick. Just him and a couple other guys staying there.”

“There's some properties been left from way back. He had to come in and get it all straightened out. Run across him down at the senior citizens. He's staying there.”

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