The Pullman Strike of 1894: Part 2

By Mick Woodcock

Last week we left Prescott with a dwindling supply of goods, but with little other evidence the Pullman strike was affecting the community. However, events in neighboring California affected Arizonans who were there at the time. The July 4th edition of the Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner had the following: “President Debs, of the American Railway Union, has ordered a strike on the entire Southern Pacific system, on account of the discharge of three brakemen, who refused to go out on a train last night with Pullman cars attached. Everything is tied up in consequence of this order….”

Another article indicated the Southern Pacific Railway engineers all handed in their resignations on July 3rd. This precipitated a riot in Sacramento. A mob took control of the depot and prepared to fight it out with California militia troops called out to protect railroad property. Prescott’s July 4th edition of the Arizona Weekly Journal Miner reported “Sacramento, July 3. – 4:30 p. m. – A howling mob is now in possession of the depot. The police and deputy marshals are powerless. United States Marshal Baldwin narrowly escaped being killed. The eastern overland which was to go to San Francisco this afternoon was cut in two by the strikers. The marshals and police have given up the fight…” The next day was equally tense according to the Prescott paper: “The situation is again becoming critical. Troops are preparing to march to the depot. The strikers are congregating, many of them armed…”

By July 7th trains were moving from California eastward. The July 11th Arizona Weekly Journal Miner stated, “The Santa Fe sent out the eastern overland on time this morning, with Pullmans attached, and with fifty United States soldiers on board, who will go as far as Needles. The train was crowded with passengers, among the number being the two judges of the supreme court of Arizona, who had been detained here for ten days by the strike.” Other Arizonans traveling from back East also reported being delayed by the strike.

In Arizona the Atlantic and Pacific Railway ran trains despite many of its workers being on strike. Of forty-six conductors and brakemen, all but two were striking. Fifty-six of sixty engineers were on strike. Of 671 track men, only two quit. Thirteen of fifty-five bridge and house carpenters were on strike. Of eighty-five pumpers and water service men, three were striking.  These were terminated from the company with no possibility of being rehired.

Apparently there were few problems like violent confrontations in Arizona, although the July 25th Arizona Weekly Journal Miner indicated warrants would be issued for the arrest of some strikers and indicated others had been to Prescott on court business related to the strike: “The railroaders and other citizens along the line of the A. & P. railroad, who were in Prescott on court business connected with the strike, signed a card before leaving for their homes in which they expressed heartfelt gratitude and thanks to the people of Prescott for the extreme kindness shown them during their stay in this city and for the many favors shown them. Some of them were strikers, while many were not, but one and all conducted themselves in a way that they won the respect of all with whom they became acquainted. Even those who had no sympathy for the strike had kindly feelings only for the individuals whose misfortune it was to participate in it.”

As today, our predecessors were divided on the issue of organized labor. However, they did not allow it to split the community or affect its hospitality to those from out of town.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at archives.sharlothallmuseum.org/articles/days-past-articles/1. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to dayspast@sharlothallmuseum.org. Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 2, or via email at archivesrequest@sharlothallmuseum.org for information or assistance with photo requests.

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