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Virtual Museum of Coal Mining in Western Pennsylvania

Digital Coal Research Library
The 20th Century Society of Western Pennsylvania
Links to:
Coal Miners Memorial Southwest Nos. 2, 3 & 4 Mines & Coke Works, Tarrs, East Huntingdon Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA

Coal Miners Memorial Morewood Mines & Coke Works (Southwest Nos. 1 "A", 1 "B" Mines & Coke Works), Morewood, East Huntingdon Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA

History of the Morewood Mines & Coke Works (Southwest Nos. 1 "A", 1 "B" Mines & Coke Works), Morewood, East Huntingdon Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA

Morewood, A Coal Company Patch Town, Morewood Mines & Coke Works, Morewood, East Huntingdon Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA

Coal Mines of Westmoreland Co., PA Main INDEX
Township Map of Westmoreland Co., Pennsylvania
Map of H.C.Frick Coke Co. Mines
Map of R.R. Transportation System Westmoreland Co.
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Massacre at Morewood Mine & Coke Works,
(Coal Miners Strike of 1891),

Village of Morewood,
East Huntingdon Township,
Westmoreland County,
Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

A Tribute to the Coal Miners that lost their lives during the Morewood Mine Miners Strike of 1891, Village of Morewood, East Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Compiled & Edited by
Raymond A. Washlaski

Raymond A. Washlaski, Historian, Editor,
Ryan P. Washlaski, Technical Editor,

Updated Oct. 19, 2008

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The following is a condensed version of the events that took place at the Morewood Works in 1891. A more detailed account is available in the book, "The Shots Fired at Morewood" by Emöke Pulay.
In the 1890's, when coke was king, and the Connellsville Coke Region was the palatial seat of rule, labor disputes were fairly common.  The coal strike in the Connellsville Coke Region in 1891 led, like many labor dispurtes, to ciolence, which culminated, but did not end, in the death by shooting of nine strikers outside the Morewood Coke Works, near Mt. Pleasant, PA on April 2nd, 1891.  This incident, alternately dubbed "The Morewood Massacre" or "The Morewood Riots," remains mostly forgotten, or overshadowed by more famous incidents of violence, such as that which took at the Homestead Steel Works.

In 1890 the UMWA scale committee drew up a list of demands for the upcoming year. The last year's scale of wages was due to expire in February, 1891. The demands submitted to the operators included; weighing of the coal at the tipples, an eight hour work day, extra pay for working in a wet place, for working with another man, or for narrow work, approximately a 10% raise for most miners, a limit on house rent, a mandatory 3 day notice for strikes/lockouts/quitting or firing a man, and that "none but union men shall be employed and non-union men shall be discontinued in service" as soon as their places can be filled.

(Drawing mourning the miners killed at Morewood courtesy of the Pennsylvania Labor History Journal.)
Unfortunately the coke business was suffering a depression at the time. In December 1890, twenty per cent of H.C. Frick's coke operations were shut down due to a lack of demand for coke. The scale committee presented the proposed scale in January, 1891 to the operators who refused it and instead demanded a decrease of 10% in wages due to the poor condition of the coke market. On February 2, 1891 both sides agreed to a work stoppage that would begin on February 10th. At this time labor leaders expressed willingness to compromise but not when it came to paying below the present rate of wages. The large operators were inflexible and a region-wide suspension of work began. The H.C. Frick company stated: "This should not be considered as a lockout or a strike, merely a suspension of work pending the adjustment of wages, and we want it distinctly understood that we will be ready at all times in the take up the wage question with you or your representatives." Both sides took this agreement in a friendly spirit, each seeing it to their own advantage; the operators saw no opportunity to sell coke at the time and the labor leaders thought the work stoppage would deplete the current coke supply and help drive the price up enough to induce the operators to pay higher wages.

By March the labor leaders were willing to return to work at the 1890 wages but the operators were under no pressure to back down. On March 25, 1891 the H.C. Frick Coke Company and McClure Coke Company posted at nearly all of their works a sliding scale of wages, in which wages would be determined by the selling price of coke, based on a $1.75 per ton minimum. The scale, which was to last for three years, gave the men a nine-hour day, precluded the possibility of striking, and was signed on an individual basis with each man who wanted to work.

It was also accompanied by this notice:
We have this day posted a sliding scale, under which we propose to operate this plant after work is resumed. The plant will start as soon as any or all men are ready to go to work under the scale. All the old employees will be taken back; no one will be discriminated against in any way, nor will any one be required to join any organization, or to leave any organization.
When this plant shut down, we posted a notice, stating we would be ready and willing to take up the wage question, either with you or your representatives, at any time; but up to date, your representatives have not done anything in the matter. We...believe that after reading and thinking over it carefully, you will agree that it (the scale) is a most liberal arrangement for the men.
We regret that on account of the depressed condition of trade, we will not be able to run all of our works...

Labor leaders delared this an insult and claimed the companies had been trying to trick the workers by posting the scale late at night, and as if it was approved by labor leaders.

This apparent victory of the operators soon created conflict. The coke works began to resume. The miners that had not returned to work began to exhaust their limited funds, and many families suffered destitution. The miners began to riot, showing hostility towards those who returned to work, and toward the immigrants imported to take their places.

In early March, 1891, General Manager Lynch of the H.C. Frick Coke Company, announced at a meeting that he would discuss no terms other than a 10% reduction, at which point the meeting disbanded. The labor union was also upset over an operators importation of Pinkerton detectives to guard his works. By the end of March, many works were running but few at full strength.

The average striker suffered many hardships during the course of the strike including poverty and homelessness, and was irritated by the presence of new laborers brought in to replace the old. Violence was erupting as people were being evicted from their coal company owned homes. During evictions, the property of the family in question was loaded onto a truck, removed from the coal company property, and usually dumped in the road outside of the coal patch.

The Morewood "B" Shaft Mine and 162 Morewood Coke Ovens had been shut down due to economic difficulties before the strike began. Two weeks after the strike, the Morewood Mine strikers ran into conflict with the operators, who were employing 30 men to remove water from the mine. The strikers claimed that the removal of water didn't neccessitate this many employees, and were afraid that they were being "induced" to mine coal, which might help break the strike.

The most serious of the pre-shooting riots took place on March 30, 1894. The Morewood Works itself and the patch were at this time surrounded by a large fence to keep all but working employees out, and was guarded by deputies under the direction of Sheriff Clawson, who had arrived early because of rumors of a raid on Morewood. Clawson had given his deputies orders not to fire and did withdraw the deputies at the approach of a large crowd of up to 1000 mine workers. The crowd, led by a band, performed many acts of destruction including tearing down the fence, burning tools, opening burning coke ovens, breaking company store windows, and tearing up the coke oven charging larry tracks. The only violence done was the bloodying of Mine Superintendent Morris Ramsay's nose. Three leaders, identified as John McCarty, John Hale, and Joseph Yenrack were arrested and taken to the Greensburg jail.

After this raid, Sheriff Clawson telegraphed the Governor for the use of the arms of the 10th regiment of the National Guard. The Governor refused and Clawson made his request again. The Governor again refused, and by Wednesday, the situation seemed to have quieted down. By Wednesday evening, the fence had been repaired, and twenty deputized members of the 10th regiment, under the command of Captain Loar, were guarding the property, armed with rifles and accompanied by forty non-militia deputies.

Late Thursday night the strikers were holding a meeting at the Standard Works. When the meeting broke up at around 2 or 3 a.m. a large crowd of people accompanied by a Marching Band, began to march down the Stonerville (Alverton) Road toward the Morewood Works. Morris Pigman, manager of the Standard Company Store, and John Hart mine-boss at the Standard Mine, testified that the men cut the telegraph wires at the Standard Company Store so that no warning could be sent to the Morewood Works.

When the men reached the company store at Morewood, where a number of the deputies on duty waited under the orders of Deputy McConnell, they stopped for a moment. Then they continued down the road toward the gates of the works where Captain Loar and his twelve men were stationed. Captain Loar and his men shot two rounds into the crowd, causing the immediate death of six of the marching miners, and leaving an unidentified number wounded. Three other wounded miners were found in the road, one of whom died shortly afterward, one who was injured in the leg, and one who was found underneath a dead man. Two more men died of wounds they received. The deceased were listed as:
Paul Dohannis/Donahas/Dohannas, Hungarian, of Standard Mine, single; shot in the head, died in the company store.
Valentine Zeidel/Zerdel, Hungarian, of Donnelly Mine, single; shot through the neck.
James/Josef Brochto/Bachio/Procte, Polish / Hungarian, single, of Tarrs; shot through the breast.
Jacob Shucaskey, Polish / Hungarian, of Tarrs; shot through the head. wife/wife and five children in Poland/at Tarrs.
John Fudora/Tudore, of Standard Mine, single; shot above left eye.
Antonio/Anda Rist/Rest, Polish, single, of Standard Mine; shot through the head.
Cresezo/Cresinger Rinevo/Buero, Italian, of Tarrs Mine, single; shot through the breast.

Two more died later of their wounds:
Joseph Klossman, of Donnelly Mine, married.
Paul Galinsky, of Spring Garden Mine, married, 6 children.

The first seven bodies were removed to the undertaker's stable where they were visited by thousands of mourners. These seven were taken by train, to be interred at the Scottdale cemetery in one large grave measuring sixteen by seven by five feet. Six of the caskets were carried by pall-bearers from the train depot to the Scottdale Catholic cemetery, two miles away; the other was conveyed in a hearse. Although the roads were particularly muddy, there was an extremely large turnout, but none of the expected unrest manifested itself.

Part of the peace at the funeral may have been due to the presence of the National Guard. Sheriff Clawson repeated his appeal for troops to Governor Pattison, and this time the reply was affirmative. Colonel Hawkins of the 10th regiment was ordered to "Put regiment under arms at once, with ammunition, to the support of the Sheriff of Westmoreland county at Mount Pleasant. maintain the peace, protect all persons in their rights under the Constitution and laws of the State. Communicate with me." The 18th regiment was also put under arms and soon followed the 10th to Mount Pleasant, and General Wiley of the Third Brigade was ordered to assume command.

The 18th regiment soon left but some companies of the Tenth remained for some time helping to serve eviction notices.

The shooting resulted in several arrests. Warrants were sworn out against Captain Loar and his eleven deputies for feloniuos shooting, and against General Managers Morris Ramsay, of the Southwest Coal & Coke Company, and Thomas Lynch, of the H.C. Frick Coke Company, as accessories to the crime. All of the deputies gave themselves up and furnished the $300 bond, except Harry Gilbert, who could not be found. They were again arrested on the charge of murder and released on $3000 bond each. Almost thirty strikers were arrested for participating in the March 30th riot at the Morewood Works and ten of those, including several band members were convicted. Captain Loar and the deputies were acquitted of the crime, as was most often the case, were the coal companies controled the Governor and the courts.

More detailed information can be found in the book,
"The Shots Fired at Morewood" by Emöke Pulay.
The Book is available  for $10.00 plus shipping from: Mt. Pleasant Area Historical Society, P.O. Box 263, Mt. Pleasant, PA  15666

"Coal Miners Memorial, Morewood Mine & Coke Works
(Southwest No. 1 "A" & B" Mines),
Village of Morewood, East Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania"
"History of the Morewood Mine & Coke Works
(Southwest No. 1 "A" & B" Mines),
Village of Morewood, East Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania"
"Morewood, A Coal Company Patch Town,
Morewood Mine & Coke Works
Village of Morewood, East Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania"
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