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BISBEE DEPORTATION

The Bisbee Deportation is on the Wobblies Way Tour, and the Copper City Territory Tour

The Shattuck & Arizona Mining Company, Phelps Dodge, and the Calumet & Arizona Mining Company prided themselves on leading the industry by providing for the workers and their families, always paying higher-than-average wages and listening to them.

In fact, the Bisbee Mines avoided organized labor unions until 1933 when the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers (IUMMSW) came to Bisbee and successfully organized many miners.

round white labor union symbol on black background

The avoidance of labor unions didn't happen without effort. Every time the price of copper declined or the economy struggled, labor unions were quick to seize the opportunity.

Another group responsible for jeopardizing a miner's job security was the Cousin Jacks, whose superior mining skills and equipment eliminated many mine jobs in Bisbee.

cousin jack miners heading underground

The first organized labor union attempt came from the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) in 1904. The attempt failed and failed with future attempts as well, although coming close in 1907.

white wfm button with blue writing

The mining companies aggressively handled WFM union members and/or sympathizers and were quick to terminate suspected culprits. The mining companies also stockpiled copper ore in the event of a strike but none took hold.

The WFM, however, was tame compared to those who rolled into Bisbee in 1917. The new, aggressive labor union was financed by Germany and was an international labor union. They were The International Workers of the World (I.W.W.) and were known in Bisbee as the "Wobblies". 

black and white union propaganda

The wobblies' presence in Bisbee was a problem with the mining company bosses because World War One started and America was at war with Germany.

Even the WFM distanced itself from the wobblies as soon as possible because of their associations and radical and unreasonable operating methods. Furthermore, the wobblies were anti-American and pro-Germany.

A quoted example from wobbly propaganda in Bisbee: "slow down, the hours are long, the pay is small, take your time, and buck them all".

soldier shooting gun

In June of 1917, the wobblies called a strike in Bisbee and disrupted copper production during WW1. The strike caused fighting in the streets between "scabs" and miners. Tensions were high and conflicts erupted all over Bisbee.

 

Even Cochise County Sheriff Wheeler asked the federal government to intervene because of the threat of serious violence and was turned down. 

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Another volatile situation was happening across the US/Mexico border with the Mexican Revolutionary War and Germany promised the fighting rebels they would give the Gadsden purchase back to Mexico after WW1.

The Bisbee copper mines and production were surrounded by German influence with the wobblies and the war across the border.

soldiers firing an artillary gun

On the night of July 11, 1917, a meeting happened that included John C Greenway (GM for the C&A), Walter Douglas (President Phelps Dodge), Lemuel Shattuck (President Shattuck & Arizona), and Sheriff Wheeler (Cochise County Sheriff). The four decided a deportation was the safest resolution for the wobblies and their supporters.

 

On July 12, 1917, the Bisbee Deportation started. 2200 deputized miners from Bisbee and Douglas rousted 2000 wobblies out of their beds at 6 am. The deputized miners wore a white handkerchief around their arms for identification and were issued firearms.

portrait of john greenway wearing suit and bow tie

The deputized miners also seized the Western Union Telegraph and all other forms of outbound communication to perform the deportation in anonymity. Even the Buffalo Soldiers at Camp Naco didn't know what was happening up the hill in Bisbee.

The deputies organized the strikers in front of the Copper Queen Library and started the march through Jiggerville, Lowell, Warren, and finishing at the Warren Ballpark, 3.3 miles away.

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At the Warren Ballpark, each striking miner was interviewed and given the chance to return to work. 1186 strikers said no and were loaded onto 23 cattle cars from the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad above the ballpark. The cattle cars were sent by Walter Douglas.

During the deportation, Sherriff Wheeler rode in a car holding a giant machine gun to insure the process went smoothly.

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John C Greenway, ever the leader of men, spent the day at Warren Ballpark trying to convince the wobblies to return to work and avoid deportation.

The cattle cars left at 11 am and had three inched of manure on the floors. The train stopped for water once and finished its journey at 3 am in Hermanos, New Mexico. The wobblies were led to Columbus, New Mexico where they stayed for two months.

miners being loaded into cattle cars

Although federal investigations ensued about the deportation and many were arrested and sent to trial, no criminal prosecution followed through and the conflict ended.

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