An unquiet day at Hazleton.
Nearly two months have passed, and a mantle of snow covers the ground. The rigorous December weather has come and is causing widespread distress among the mining population of Pennsylvania. Forty per cent of the operatives of the Paradise Coal Company have been laid off, as Purdy declared they would be. This means that starvation is the grim spectre in six thousand homes.
The anomaly of miners in one town working at full time, and those of an adjacent town shut out, must be explained as one of the insidious methods of the Trust to create an artificial coal famine.
Gorman Purdy, whose word is law in the Paradise Company, had determined to exact an advance of twenty-five cents a ton from the retail coal dealers. To do this he had to make it appear that the supply of coal was scarce. This led him to close the mines in Hazleton. The miners in the town sought to force the opening of the mines by bringing about a sympathetic strike in the neighboring towns. To prevent this, the Coal and Iron Police have been brought to Hazleton to intimidate the miners and to suppress them by force if they make any concerted move looking toward bringing on a strike.
Preliminary to enforcing the order that debars such an army of men of the means of support, the Coal Magnates, at Purdy’s suggestion, have massed three hundred of the Coal and Iron Police in the town of Hazleton. This mercenary force occupies the armory, built two years before by the benevolent multi-millionaire Iron King of Pennsylvania, whose immense mills and foundries are situated some two hundred miles distant.
Sheriff Marlin is in command of the Coal and Iron Police. He has sworn them in as deputies, and each bears on his breast the badge of authority.
The propinquity of Woodward and the other small towns to Wilkes-Barre saved them from suffering the effects of a close-down. The Magnates did not desire to have the scenes of distress brought too near their own homes. So Hazleton and the outlying districts were selected to be sacrificed to the arbitrary coal famine. Day after day the idle miners congregate in the Town Hall to discuss their situation and to devise some means of relieving the starving families. These meetings are under the strict surveillance of Sheriff Marlin. Every letter that is sent from the hall is subjected to his scrutiny.
There will be no incendiary appeals addressed to the miners of other districts.
The newspaper correspondents, though they send accurate stories of the awful condition of the miners and their families, are disappointed to receive copies of their respective papers with their articles revamped, and the essential points expurgated, to meet the approval of the “conservative reader.”
“The committee on rations reports that the allowance for each miner and his family must henceforth be reduced to two loaves of black bread a day. As some of the miners have eight and ten children, an idea of the actual need of relief from some source may be formed.”