Arthur G. Burgoyne_
Eighteen and Ninety Three_
Homestead_ A Complete History_
The feeling of ownership had a place in the reasoning of these simple people. Many of them had bought and paid for their homes and were pillars of the borough government. Some were still paying for their dwellings—paying off the mortgages held by the Carnegie Company, which had been in the habit of helping those who cared to build, and which even did a regular banking business for the advantage of its employees.
The Fourth of Chapters_
Planning a Siege—History of the Pinkertons—Hatred of Organized Labor For Soldier Policemen—Frick's Cold-Blooded Letter—The Sheriff of Allegheny County is Enlisted in the Carnegie Forces—Millmen Dispose of a Sheriff's Posse—The Gathering of the Invaders—Departure of the Pinkerton Barges for Homestead.
While Mr. Frick's men were busily engaged in perfecting a martial organization and putting the government of the town of Homestead on a war footing, Mr. Frick himself was not idle. He did not waste any time in considering projects for immediately introducing non-union men into the mills, being well aware that, if men foolhardy enough to take the risk of "blacksheeping" at Homestead could be found, it would still be impracticable to get them past the picket lines of the locked-out steelworkers, and that, even if a force of non-unionists could be piloted into the mill their presence would be the signal for an attack by the union men and possibly for the destruction of the firm's property.
Mr. Frick had another plan—a plan suggested by his successful encounters with the Connellsville coke-workers. He conceived the idea of garrisoning "Fort Frick" with a sufficient number of armed and disciplined Pinkerton guards to hold any attacking force at bay and later on to bring in non-union workmen under cover of the Pinkerton men's rifles.
How long this project had been maturing in the mind of the Carnegie Company's chairman cannot be told. Certain it is that he had made up his mind to carry it out long before he met the wage conference committee for the last time, and that when, on June 23, he went through the form of a discussion with Mr. Roberts and Mr. Roberts' confreres, he had not the least notion of coming to any kind of an understanding other than that which might be brought about by force.
Mr. Frick was too well acquainted with the estimation in which the Pinkerton men are held by the labor unions to underrate the import of his action, and can hardly have been ignorant of the fact that in bringing on these myrmidons, he was making doubly sure of sanguinary times at Homestead.
A sketch of the personnel and methods of the "Pinkerton National Detective Agency," as it is styled by its chiefs, will make clear to the reader the reasons for the hatred and contempt entertained for this body by workingmen everywhere.
The agency was founded in 1850 by Allan Pinkerton, a young Scotchman, who had been brought into public notice at Elgin, Ill., by his success in ferreting out a counterfeiter. Allan Pinkerton's fame as a detective became national. He organized a war secret service, was trusted by Lincoln, whose life he once saved; by Grant and other national leaders in war times, and aroused continual interest by his strokes of skill and daring. The enterprise from which sprang the Pinkerton "standing army" of to-day was set on foot in a shabby little office in La Salle Street, Chicago, and there the headquarters of the agency still remain.
Pinkerton detectives came into great request and were soon engaged in the unraveling of crimes and the hunting down of criminals all over the continent. Allan Pinkerton meanwhile discerned a fresh source of profit and turned it to account by hiring out his men as watchmen for banks and great commercial houses. The "Pinkerton Preventive Watch," composed of trained men, uniformed and armed, and acting independently of the municipal police, was established.
The emblem adopted by the agency was a suggestive one. It consisted of an eye and the motto, "We never sleep."
As old age came on Allan Pinkerton and his business kept growing, he turned over the work of supervision to his sons, William A. and Robert A. Robert was placed in charge of a branch bureau in New York and William remained in Chicago. Agencies with regular forces of men were established in Philadelphia, Boston, St. Paul, Kansas City and Denver. By communication with these centres, the chiefs could control, at a few days' notice, a force of 2,000 drilled men, and this could be expanded by drawing on the reserves registered on the books of the agency for service on demand, to 30,000, if necessary,—more men than are enrolled in the standing army of the United States.
When a large number of recruits is needed, the Pinkertons usually advertise in the newspapers asking for able-bodied men of courage, but without stating for whose service. In New York, prospective recruits are brought to a building on lower Broadway where the Pinkertons have an armory, stocked with Winchester rifles, revolvers, policemen's clubs and uniforms. After the number of men needed is secured, the addresses of the eligible applicants for whom there are no places are taken and they are notified to hold themselves in readiness for a future call. Men who have served in the army or as policemen receive the preference.
Pinkerton detectives have no real authority to make arrests. They are rarely sworn in as special constables or as deputy sheriffs and the uniform which they wear is merely for show.
Of late years they have been employed very frequently to protect the property of great manufacturing corporations during strikes or lock-outs. This is, without exception, the most trying and perilous service which they have to undergo. The pay is good, however, the rate agreed upon for duty at Homestead, for example, being $5 a day for each man.
In the great strike on the New York Central railroad, which cost the Vanderbilt corporation $2,000,000, the item for Pinkerton service was about $15,000. The guards were posted at danger points all along the line. Conflicts with the strikers were frequent, and, in many cases, the guards used their rifles with deadly effect. On August 17, 1890, they killed five persons, one a woman. So freely were the Pinkerton rifles brought into play during this trouble that the people of New York state became thoroughly aroused and forced the legislature to pass an anti-Pinkerton bill.
The agency was responsible for the killing of a boy during a longshoremen's strike in Jersey and at Chicago during the Lake Shore railroad strike a man named Bagley fell a victim to Pinkerton lead. The guard who shot Bagley was spirited away and never brought to justice.
Pinkerton guards have done duty in the miners' strikes in the Hocking Valley, at the H. C. Frick Company's mines in the Connellsville region and at Braidwood, Ill., as well as in all the great railroad strikes since 1877.
In recent years, the conversion of the guards into an irresponsible military organization, with self-constituted authority to overawe striking workmen has provoked a feeling of intense hatred on the part of organized labor towards these soldier-policemen. Attempts to abolish the Pinkerton system by legislation have succeeded in only a few states, New York and New Jersey among the number, for the reason that the corporations which find use for armed mercenaries have sufficient wealth and influence to control legislative action.
Congressman Thomas Watson, of Alabama, a representative of the Farmers' Alliance, introduced a bill in Congress making it illegal for private persons to maintain a "standing army" to usurp the police powers of the states, and made a strong plea for its passage, but the measure failed. The great industrial corporations have a hold upon the federal legislature too strong to be broken by the insistence of common people.
As has already been told, the men of Homestead entertained a profound abhorrence of the Pinkertons and were resolved to push resistance to any extreme rather than permit themselves to be whipped into submission by armed hirelings. They had no knowledge of Mr. Frick's dealings with the agency, although their familiarity with the Frick policy in the coke regions, coupled with the equipment of the mill property for occupation by a garrison excited a well-defined suspicion of what was coming.
Mr. Frick gave the final order for a supply of guards in a letter written to Robert A. Pinkerton, of New York, on June 25, the day after his meeting with the wage committee from the Amalgamated convention. The order was given in as matter-of-fact a manner as if the Carnegie chairman were bespeaking a supply of coke or pig-iron.
"We will want 300 guards," he wrote, "for service at our Homestead mills as a measure of precaution against interference with our plan to start the operation of the works again on July 6, 1892."
"These guards," Mr. Frick went on to direct, "should be assembled at Ashtabula, O., not later than the morning of July 5, when they may be taken by train to McKees Rocks, or some other point on the Ohio River below Pittsburgh, where they can be transferred to boats and landed within the enclosures of our premises at Homestead. We think absolute secresy essential in the movement of these men, so that no demonstration can be made while they are en route."
As Mr. Frick acknowledged in his letter the receipt of "your favor of the 22d," it was evident that the negotiations with the Pinkerton agency had been pending for some time.
Immediately after having despatched his order for a Pinkerton battalion, Mr. Frick sent for Captain Rodgers, of the towboat Little Bill, and directed him to fit up two barges with sleeping accommodations and provisions for 300 men, who were to be taken on board at some point not then determined, brought to the works at Homestead, and subsequently lodged and boarded on the barges.
He also notified the sheriff of Allegheny county, William H. McCleary, through Messrs. Knox & Reed, attorneys for the Carnegie Company, that there would be a strike at Homestead and that 300 Pinkerton watchmen had been engaged, and requested the sheriff to deputize the entire force; that is to say, to appoint them police agents of the county. The sheriff maintained afterwards that, on the advice of his attorney, he had declined to deputize the Pinkerton men until they should be installed in the mill and had reserved the right to act at his discretion when that time came. Mr. Frick, on the other hand, declared on the witness stand that the sheriff consented to deputize the men and assigned his chief deputy to swear them in.
The train was now laid; the fuse was lit, and all that remained to be done in the Carnegie camp was to wait for the explosion.
To disarm suspicion on the other side, however, Mr. Frick, as the crisis approached, gave out information leading the public in general and the locked-out men in particular to believe that he meant to rely on the ordinary processes of law to protect him in the non-unionizing of his works. On the evening of July 4, after a conference with the other chief officers of the firm, he furnished a statement to the newspapers alleging that there was no trouble to be feared, that the men were weakening, a large number of them being anxious to get back to work, and that the plant would be placed in the hands of the county, the sheriff being requested to furnish enough deputies to ensure adequate protection.
With all his firmness, the doughty chairman of the Carnegie Company dared not make a clean breast of his program. The way for the coup de grace had to be cleared by strategy and dissimulation.
The locked-out men celebrated Independence Day with due patriotic fervor. The force of guards was increased from 350 to 1,000, the picket system being expanded so as to form an outline five miles in extent, covering both sides of the river.
In the afternoon an alarm was sent in to headquarters. Two men had been seen landing from a boat near the works and were taken for spies. Quick as a flash a thousand men rushed to the river bank and inclosed within a semi-circle of stalwart forms the place where the suspects had landed. It proved that the latter were merely honest citizens of the town returning from a picnic across the river, but the incident showed how effectually the men kept themselves on the qui vive, precluding the entry of an enemy at any point.
When Sheriff McCleary reached his office in the Allegheny County court-house, on the morning of July 5, he found awaiting him a formal application from the Carnegie Company for the services of one hundred deputies at Homestead. The Sheriff was discomfited by the demand. His predecessor in office, Dr. McCandless, had been forced to engage in a long and irksome legal battle in order to recover from the Carnegie Company the money due for the service of deputies at Homestead in 1889, and the prospect of a fresh dispute over the pay of special officers was not inviting. So Mr. McCleary, who was gifted by nature with a strong tendency to evasiveness, returned an evasive answer, and conceived the idea of going to Homestead with his own office force of twelve men and making some sort of dignified showing pending the arrival of that army of Pinkertons, which he already knew to be moving on the devoted town.
The Sheriff and his little posse proceeded accordingly to Homestead and were received by the men, if not with cordiality, at all events with decent consideration. A proclamation was issued embodying the usual warning against breaches of the peace. Then a phalanx of strong-limbed steel workers escorted the officers to the mill and pointed out that nobody was trespassing upon or damaging the Carnegie Company's fortified territory.
The sheriff stated that, under the law, the company should be permitted to bring in whatever men it chose and to operate its own works.
The men responded that neither the county authorities nor anyone else would be permitted to bring non-union men into the mill, and, having thus emphatically signified their purposes, escorted the sheriff and his followers—all of them more or less afflicted with nervousness—to the railroad station and saw the little party safely out of town.
Had the sheriff been less evasive, less nervous, less of a politician and more of a man, there was still time for him to avert disaster. He, as chief police officer of the county, had been informed of the coming of Mr. Frick's hired army. He could not fail to be aware that a collision between the Pinkerton men and the 4,000 steelworkers was bound to come, that blood would run like water at Homestead, that demoralization and disgrace, and perhaps even heavy financial loss to the county would follow, and that, therefore, to remain supine in the face of all this, to let the crash come and not lift a finger to prevent it was literally a dereliction of duty.
There was no obligation resting on this official to keep Mr. Frick's operations secret. On the contrary, he was under a strong moral obligation to prevent the execution of those operations at all hazards by giving them prompt publicity and enabling the exhaustion of all available legal means of stopping an invasion of the county by armed mercenaries of a class condemned by law in two neighboring states and bitterly hated by workingmen in every state of the Union.
It did not appear to occur to the sheriff that the hiring of Pinkerton detectives was an offensive arraignment of himself as the county's chief executive officer. The one idea uppermost in his mind seemed to be to steer clear of the whole unpleasant business as far as he conveniently could and to trust to luck and the Pinkertons to pull Frick through somehow.
Decidedly a weak and inefficient man, this sheriff. For the time being, he had abdicated in favor of Frick and the Pinkertons and it would not be his fault if the devil were not unchained.
And now from a score of cities came the Pinkerton myrmidons to the headquarters at Chicago, few among them knowing or caring on what mission they were bound, as long as they got their daily rations and their daily pay, but all comprehending that blind obedience was the watchword. Captain F. H. Heinde had been detailed to take charge of the expedition, and under his guidance the men proceeded from Chicago to Youngstown, and thence to Bellevue, on the Fort Wayne railroad, opposite the Davis Island dam, arriving at this point at 10:30 o'clock on the evening of July 5.
Early in the day, Mr. Frick had issued final orders to Captain Rodgers, directing him to tow his two barges down the Ohio River to the dam in time to meet the battalion of Pinkerton guards. Captain Rodgers duly carried out his orders. With the boats Little Bill and Tide, each having a barge in tow, he arrived at the dam at 10 P. M. There he was met by Colonel Joseph H. Gray, Sheriff McCleary's chief deputy, who had been dispatched by the sheriff to "keep the peace," if his own testimony and that of the sheriff are to be accepted, whereas, according to Mr. Frick's story, his real mission was to deputize the Pinkerton guards and thus render the county liable for the acts of these strangers.
At 10:30 P. M., the trainload of guards arrived; the men embarked in the barges; the Little Bill and the Tide puffed away as cheerfully as if they were towing a pleasure party, and in the stillness of the beautiful July night the expedition moved slowly in the direction of Homestead.