Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Buried History

Boulder -- and nearly every place around it -- was originally a mining town. You wouldn't really know that now; Boulder became a full-fledged university town early and that's defined its identity.

One of the writing projects I'm working on incorporates a massacre of striking miners as a minor plot point, based in part on the famous (and Woody Guthrie-popularized) Ludlow Massacre; doing some research on that, I stumbled upon violence much closer to home.

Out in eastern Boulder County, the little town of Serene became the scene of a bloody incident during a state-wide 1927 coal strike. The story in brief -- a much more in-depth account, as well as a book on the killings, is here -- the Columbine Mine was one of the few mines to remain open during a state-wide coal strike called by the International Workers of the World. Some of the miners continued working, others picketed.

On November 21st, police and mine guards refused to let the strikers into Serene -- things escalated, and machine guns were brought into play. Six strikers died, dozens of people were wounded.

This all happened just miles from where I grew up, but I never heard about it until coming across it during my research a few weeks ago. Part of that is my own fault -- despite being raised here, I always took little interest in local history. But even so, it seems impossible that an event of such magnitude (in what has forever been a small community at heart) is so little-known.

Out in Lafayette, a town that's more in touch with its mining past, there are a few more signs and tributes. Five of the slain miners are buried under a monument at Lafayette Cemetery, seen below (set up only in 1989). The Lewis Home -- a meeting place for miners during other strikes -- is now a mining museum (closed the whole time I'm here, alas).

Serene, these days? The whole town is buried under a landfill, apparently. That's history for ya.

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Completely, 100% unrelated to the slaying of striking miners: I've got a preview of sorts of the Thrashers up at Hockey Rants. Check it out.

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