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6. 1916

News from Home


"We laid him down in yon green garden,
With Union men on every side,
And swore we'd make one mighty Union,
And fill that gallant man with pride."

Butte mining was synonymous with ‘Unions’. Numerous unions made their home in Butte. As early as 1878, Butte workers unionized forming the Butte Miners Union #1. This Union evolved into the Western Federation of Miners (WMF) with one-third of national membership hailing from Butte. An annual Miner’s Union Day picnic became an opportunity for union members and their families to celebrate and was complete with drilling competitions and other similar contests. A ‘sour note’ to union prosperity played out about 1912. The Company issued ‘rustling cards’ to prospective new hires. If you didn’t have a card, you couldn’t be hired. Of course, the Company controlled who received the cards and, thus, kept out those it deemed undesirable. Throughout and beyond Henry’s time in Butte, the Company and the unions had an uneasy relationship and each would persist in testing the strength of the other.
Henry J. may have had some forewarning of the situation in Butte.  It’s possible that news reached Ireland of the events of June 13, 1914. The day of the annual celebration of Miner’s Union Day a bitter battle broke out between opposing Unions. A crowd ransacked the Butte Miner’s Union Hall after their own parade had erupted into a riot. Accusing WFM leaders of election fraud and collusion with the copper companies, the insurgents blew up the Union Hall, leading Montana’s governor to send in the state militia to restore order.  While the city was under martial law, company officials withdraw union recognition, leaving miners on both sides of the dispute without job protection. So by the time Henry J. reached the mines of Butte, the era of the closed shop had ended.  

 Butte Miner's Union Hall

1916 brought news from home. In July, James Larkin arrived in town to speak to the miners about the “Rising”, when on April 24; Pádraig Pearse had stood on the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin and declared Ireland a Republic. Thousands came out to listen to Larkin and undoubtedly Henry J. and his co-workers would have been among the crowd. Larkin, who was reared by his grandparents in Newry, Co. Down may have perhaps recognized the Mourne dialect as he mingled among the crowd. Then in late October Henry will have received the sad news that his mother had died on October 21, and was buried in the family plot in Massforth graveyard, Kilkeel.


The gravestone of Henry J.'s mother Anne Doyle who died  in 1916 - also her husband James Doyle.  Miners of Mourne, Montana, Butte, Co. Down, N.Ireland.


The final resting place of Henry's mother and father - Anne and James Doyle.
At the time of his mother's burial, Henry was working in the Copper Mines of Montana.

Up Contents 1. The Arrival 2. The Immigrant 3. Life in Butte 4. Bucket of Blood 5. Life in the Mines 6. 1916 7. Speculator Mine 8. WOBBLIES 9. St. Patrick's Day 10. The Wedding Sources Reader's Comments



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