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Bisbee Deportation: Butte & Bisbee outrages scored by brave woman representatives

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Bisbee Deportation: Butte & Bisbee outrages scored by brave woman representatives

  • Strikers in Bisbee's Warren Ballpark, having been forced there at gunpoint by a vigilante posse.
    Strikers in Bisbee's Warren Ballpark, having been forced there at gunpoint by a vigilante posse.

Note: For the anniversary of the Bisbee Deportation, the Sentinel is reprinting an article by Rosa McKay. McKay represented Cochise County in both the Arizona Legislature from statehood until 1923. On July 12, 1917, an armed posse rounded up workers at the mines in Bisbee who had been striking for two weeks, as well as supporters, family members and others who were on the streets that day, and loaded them in cattle cars. Eventually, they were dropped off in Columbus, New Mexico. This account originally appeared on August 23, 1917 in a publication called Appeal to Reason. - Ted Prezelski

For fourteen years I have claimed Bisbee as my home. But after Thursday, the twelfth day of July. I hang my head in shame and sorrow for the sights I have witnessed here. When the full truth about Bisbee reaches the outside world, it will be looked upon with deserved aversion.

In this article I shall give an honest and unbiased statement, from a fair and impartial standpoint, of the labor situation in Bisbee today. I belong to no labor organization or mining corporation. I am merely an onlooker and spectator, and a firm believer in the constitutional rights of all American citizens, whether by birth or naturalization, the rights that our forefathers fought, bled and died for.

On June 27 of this year the Industrial Workers of the World declared a strike here, and the majority of the workers of the district responded. It is claimed by the union officials that eighty per cent answered the call, while the companies, through the press, conceded thirty per cent. However, that matters but little; the fact is that the companies were crippled, one shutting down entirely, and the production of copper was curtailed to a great extent.

It was admitted by hundreds of men that I talked to personally, that the demands of the strikers were very reasonable, and that the men asked for nothing that they were not entitled to, being the abolishment of the sliding scale, the medical examination, and a flat daily wage of six dollars for eight hours. There were a few other demands of less importance, all for the betterment of conditions of the underground workers.

* * *

During the two weeks that elapsed between the calling of the strike and the deportation, to my own knowledge and observation there were no acts of violence committed, and the law was abided by and obeyed to the very utmost. The men all seemed patient and cool and at all times conducted themselves in a gentlemanly manner.

On the eleventh day of July, the city park, that was built with money contributed by the public and dedicated to the use of the public, was closed to the strikers. There were many among them that had contributed. That being the only place where they could hold their public meetings, it hurt, of course, but they took it calmly and good naturally and many remarked that perhaps it was for the best.

On the following morning a posse organized by the sheriff of Cochise county, and composed of in the neighborhood of a thousand men, the majority of the business men of the district and the “Workmen’s Loyalty League” which comprises all the men that remained loyal to the companies, invaded the entire district, armed with guns of all sizes and descriptions. Some had clubs. Every man who was known to be, or who declared himself to be a striker or strike sympathizer, was taken peaceably or by force, and marched down, at the point of a gun, to Warren, where they were interned at the ball park, and a little later loaded in box cars like cattle, and sent out to Columbus, New Mexico.

Two lives were sacrificed. One of the men killed was a company employee, and a member of the sheriff’s posse. The other man who forfeited his life was a peaceful, law-abiding citizen, of an excellent character and reputation [James H. Brew]. He was not member of the I. W. W., but had come out on strike, because he believed that the demands the boys were making were fair and reasonable, and if he could not help their cause he would not deter it. Many other good, loyal American citizens, good workers, old timers, property owners, taxpayers, took the same stand. Had this man belonged to the Industrial Workers of the World, this sad tragedy would no doubt have been averted, for their policy was law and order, and each member was instructed to offer no resistance, resort to no violence, no matter what took place.

* * *

This man had not been counseled, he had no instructions other than those his own free conscience gave. So he said the night previous to a friend, when he learned of the raid that was to take place, that “if they came after him they would have to take him dead”, for he had committed no crime, violated no law, and he did not care to be disturbed. He must have meant what he said, for that fatal morning, when the deputy walked up to the steps of his door and knocked, he asked who was there. He was told it was an officer of the law, who wanted him. He asked if he had a warrant and what the charge was. He was told that there was no warrant, and that none was necessary, and if he did not come right out he would be dragged out. His reply was a bullet in the officer’s face. As he stepped out on the porch to see who the man was that was intruding upon his rights, another deputy who stood in the yard nearby shot him through the heart, thereby doubling the tragedy.

Another deplorable incident occurred when three or four armed deputies broke down the door of a man’s house, walked in and pulled him out of bed; and, when his wife interceded and begged them to allow her husband to dress and eat his breakfast, she was slapped and pushed out of the way, and the man was dragged out of the house in the sleeping garment. The wife threw his trousers to him through the window and he dressed in the street.

In another instance an aged, gray-haired man, past the three score mark, was taken from his home and because he faltered in his step, one of the deputies, a young man hardly past thirty, jabbed him in the ribs, and said, “Step up there, we have no time to wait for you”. This was a personal grievance because the old gentleman had expressed his sympathy with the strikers, as he was in no way affiliated with the union.

For the first time in my residence in Arizona I was insulted by some of those gunmen. I also saw a man wearing a star strike a woman in the chest. And there were other such cases, from all I can learn.

On visiting Columbus, New Mexico, where the deported men were in camp, a week later, I called on one of the military officers in charge and asked him if he would give me some information that I was looking for. The information that I was seeking was to find out definitely the correct and exact number of married men, etc., and he furnished me with the following:

Married men_______________433
Men with children____________309
Registered for draft_________472
Paid up Liberty Bonds________205
Membership for Red Cross_____520
Property Owners______________266
Naturalized citizens_________468

Is the American government, that we have loved and upheld since our birth, going to stand for such lawlessness and deportation?

Will Uncle Sam investigate this matter and bring those responsible for these detestable and shameful acts to account?

All these facts, upon investigation, can be substantiated by eye witnesses. A federal investigation is surely in order.

Rosa McKay (1881-1934) was a member of the Arizona House of Representatives from 1912-1923 from Cochise County and after 1919, Gila County.

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