Utah History to Go
Legendary Mother Jones Came to Help Striking Utah Coal Miners
Mining and Railroads
Railroads in Utah
Emigration Canyon RailRoad Served SLC Builders' Needs
Golden Spike National Historic Site
The Salt Lake City Railroad strike of 1890
"Tieing" Utah Together: Railroad Tie Drives
Utah's Interurbans: Predecessors to Light Rail
Colonel Connor Filled a Varied, dramatic role in Utah
Charcoal Kilns and Early Smelting in Utah
Old King Coal-A long, Colorful Story
Castle Gate Mine Disaster
Games of the Coal Camp Children
Mother Jones Came to Help Striking Utah Coal Miners
The Scofield Mine Disaster in 1900 Was Utah's Worst
Copper Mining
The Mountains Held a Treasure Trove of Minerals
Silver in the Beehive State
When the Horn Silver Mine Crashed in
Minor Gold Rushes, Major Gold Production
Some Utahns Went For the Gold in California
The Growth of Utah's Petroleum Industry
Southern Utah's Boom and Bust Uranium Industry
"Dinosaur Rush" Created Excitement in Uinta Basin
1883 BlaZe Spurred Creation of Fire Department
Trading With the Nevada Mine Camps
Development of Brighton Resort
Utah's First Large Factory Opened in Provo in 1872
Attic Papers Reveal Jesse Knight Ventures
Sam Gilson Did Much More Than Promote Gilsonite
The Wenner Family Enjoyed Life on Fremont Island
Father Lawrence Scanlan Established the Catholic Church
Desdemona Stott Beeson Was Determined to Work
Sister Augusta and Catholic Education in Utah
Latinos at the Kennecott Copper Mine
The Gardo House
Dream Mine
Mining and Sports

Jeffrey D. Nichols
History Blazer, March 1995

Wherever American workers struggled to improve their conditions of labor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Mary Harris Jones was likely to be there. A tireless champion of workers' rights, Mother Jones, as she was called, was involved in the great railroad strike of 1877, the Haymarket riot of 1896, and the steel strike of 1919. In April 1904 she came to Carbon County, Utah, to assist coal miners in their strike against the Utah Fuel Company.

The Castle Gate coal mine employed so many Italian immigrants that it was known as the "Italian mine." The miners went out on strike in 1903 seeking better wages and hours and recognition of the United Mine Workers union. Mother Jones came to Utah at the behest of the UMW immediately after she was ordered out of the striking mining districts of Colorado by the governor.

Already well-known when she arrived in Helper, Mother Jones quickly garnered attention when she promised to "agitate, educate and aggravate" on behalf of the miners. She told reporters that "...Mormonism is about as good as any of the rest of the religions, as all the churches and preachers are in league with the big thieves and join hands with corporations in oppressing the poor laboring man." The Deseret News sought to discredit her, claiming that she had been a Denver brothel keeper and "an erstwhile fast friend of Kate Flint, one of the pioneer scarlet women of Salt Lake."

Both fearless and compassionate, she endeared herself to ordinary working men and women with her forthright manner and lack of pretension. When, for example, after serving Jones her dinner at a Helper hotel the waitress brought a finger bowl to the table, the labor advocate, speaking so everyone in the dining room could hear, said: "Take it away my girl....such things are not for me, they only give some poor overworked girl extra work at washing dishes." The story quickly spread throughout the town.

Jones, called by the press a "well-preserved woman of about 60 years of age" (actually 74), soon met with labor organizer William Price who was confined with reportedly the worst case of smallpox that the local health officer, Dr. Holmquist, had ever seen. The doctor quarantined Jones, and she was forbidden to address strikers at an open-air meeting in Helper. The quarantine shack was burned down, however (apparently by strikers), forcing her to seek shelter at a lodging house. She later claimed that a company detective tried to rob her there at gunpoint, mistakenly believing that she was the guardian of the strike fund.

Mother Jones broke quarantine a number of times in the next few days, once addressing evicted miners in their tent colony. The local papers reported that she was about to lead a force of strikers--with women and children at its head and backed up by at least 150 armed men--who planned to march on Castle Gate and retake their company housing. The Deseret News claimed that "Castle Gate Italians, until goaded by this Amazon, had kept themselves within the law and very few arrests were made....[Jones] has become a ranting vixen seeking to lead a mob of destructionists into the execution of some diabolical plot...." Alarmed local citizens called for the state militia, but Sheriff Hyrum Wilcox formed a posse instead and arrested about 120 miners. The mass arrests broke the strike, which ended shortly thereafter.

Mother Jones later wrote that she had been held captive under the pretext of quarantine for 26 days, although research indicates it was probably less. She left Carbon County for Salt Lake City near the end of April and then continued west to San Francisco where more strikers awaited her encouragement. Viewed as a compassionate Joan of Arc by many American workers, Mother Jones lived to age 100, fighting for labor most of her life.

See Dale Fetherling, Mother Jones, the Miners' Advocate; Eastern Utah Advocate, Salt Lake Tribune, and Deseret News for April and May 1904; and Allan Kent Powell "The 'Foreign Element' and the 1903-4 Carbon County Coal Miners' Strike," Utah Historical Quarterly 43 (1975).


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