Descendants recount the Ludlow Massacre 100 years later
The Ludlow Massacre, one of the most violent days in labor history, took place on April 20, 1914 on the prairies of southern Colorado. The massacre was part of the Colorado Coal Field Wars, a longer conflict over dangerous working conditions and unfair labor practices, which left dozens of people dead including women and children.
The memories of Ludlow were difficult for those who lived through the violence. Yet, Ludlow formed an important part of their family legacies. Here are the stories of four descendants whose families were part of Ludlow.
Going on after tragedy: the Petrucci family's story
Mary Elaine Petrucci's father, Frank Petrucci was born in Ludlow in 1919. It was just five years after his parents, Thomas and Mary Petrucci, lost four children there.
Mary Elaine says her family was profoundly affected by the tragedy at Ludlow. They didn't often talk about it, but it was always a part of their lives. Mary Elaine and other relatives learned about the Petrucci family's from what her grandparents and aunts and uncles recalled and by reading historical accounts.
Born in Italy, Thomas immigrated to the United States when he was 16 and not long after he arrived, he began working in the mining towns of southern Colorado. Mary was born in Hastings, another mine town not far from Ludlow.
Before going on strike in fall of 1913, Thomas worked on the tipple, a structure used for moving coal from the mine cars to railroad cars for transport to smelters or for other uses.
He was paid in scrip that was only good at the company store, where the family had to buy all of their supplies. The Petrucci family lived in company housing. Thomas, like other miners, felt controlled by the mine company.
When the strike began, the Petruccis and other families were evicted from their company owned homes. They moved to union sponsored tent colonies on the prairie. They suffered through a terrible winter in their tent. Snow piled up and cold winds blew outside, while mine company guards and militia men on the payroll of the mine company harrassed the strikers and fired gunshots into the camp.
In February of 1914, the Petrucci's oldest child Bernard became ill. The mine company men wouldn't let Mary take him to Trinidad to see a doctor. The 6-year-old died in the Ludlow camp.
Then, on the morning of April 20, 1914, the day after the residents of the Ludlow tent camp celebrated Greek Easter, more violence broke out. The strikers and the militia began shooting at each other.
In the ensuing chaos, many women and children tried to escape down arroyos or into the hills around the camp. Mary Petrucci took cover with her children: 4-year-old Joe, 2-year-old Lucy and infant Frank, in a cellar dug beneath one of the tents. Three other women and 11 children climbed into the pit with them.
Then the militia torched the tent colony. A mattress fell across the entrance to the pit where Mary and the others huddled, trapping them as the encampment burned above them.
Mary Petrucci and another woman were the only ones to survive the fire. All the children and the other two women suffocated and died in that pit.
Just one month later Mary travelled with an entourage of strikers’ wives to the east coast to talk about what happened at Ludlow. Because of her grief during the tour, Mary broke down and had to return to Colorado. Before she left the tour, Mary spoke with a reporter and said she didn’t know how she would ever be happy again.
She said, “You are not to think we would do anything differently another time. We are working people, my husband and I. And we are more for the union then before the strike. I can’t have my babies back. But perhaps when everyone knows about this then something will be done to make the world a better place for all babies."
After the Ludlow massacre Thomas and Mary began to rebuild their lives in Ludlow and they started a new family. They named the first three children after the children they lost in the fire.
Thomas went back to work at the mine. The couple built a house from railroad ties, doors and corrugated tin. And they had six children. Eleven years after the massacre, the Petruccis left southern Colorado to make a new life in Joliet, Illinois.
The Bartolottis lose a husband and father
Josephine Bartolotti was just nine-years-old when her family moved to the Ludlow camp during the strike.
Josephine’s daughter, Jodene Parlapiano says her mother told her a little about the day of the massacre, but the family didn't talk about it much. So, when Jodene went to a museum exhibit about Ludlow, she was surprised to see her mother and her aunt in a large photo of some of the children who lived at the tent camp.
John Bartolotti was a 45-year-old miner in southern Colorado. He and his wife Virginia immigrated to the United States from Italy. They had seven children, including three from Virginia’s previous marriage.
Josephine was the middle child. She and her younger brothers hid in a barn during the fighting and the others hid in a well. They hid until dark and then they ran east down the Apishapa River.
John Bartolotti was killed during the Ludlow Massacre and was buried in the Catholic cemetery in Trinidad. The family moved to Trinidad after John died. Virginia died eight years later at the age of 42 and was buried in the same cemetery. Every year Josephine and her sisters would visit their parents' graves.
The Andreattas hide guns and ammunition
Beverly Musso grew up calling her great grandmother Maria Andreatta "Big Nonna" and heard stories of what happened at Ludlow from her.
Musso keeps a copy of a newspaper profile of Maria that contains more of her recollections from that time. Maria was 92 when the article was written in 1958.
Maria and Bartolo Andreatta married in 1888 and immigrated to the United States in 1893 from Austria via Argentina and Italy. Bartolo became a coal miner at several mines in Colorado. In 1901 the family homestead land near the Spanish Peaks southwest of Walsenburg. They built a house and worked the land. But still, Bartolo worked in the mines for another nine years.
When the strike began in 1913 the Andreattas knew from their own experience of working in the mines why the miners were striking and wanted to do what they could to support them. They hid strikers who were being sought by the militia and cached guns and ammunition for them.
Bartolo stashed guns under the floorboard of the farmhouse, while Maria hid ammunition in the beehives in her yard or sewed it into her clothing to keep the militia from finding it.
The militia would use sticks to stir in the flour, sugar and coffee bins to see if that’s where they could find the ammunition and guns, but they never thought to look in the hems of her skirts.
The Correnti family helps the strikers
Dave Bomar grew up knowing that his great grandparents Tony and Minnie Correnti had a truck farm in near Ludlow where they raised goats and sheep. They sold produce, cheese and milk to the miners living in the tent cities east of their farm.
As the violence increased, Tony Correnti wanted to help the strikers, who were his friends. Correnti nailed his rifles under the tin of their shed so they wouldn’t be confiscated. Bomar still has the pistol given to Minnie to protect herself and her children during the violence.
But the militia placed a machine gun on a hill above the farm and threatened them saying they would shoot if they offered assistance to the strikers. During the massacre Correnti's wife physically restrained him from getting the weapons and entering the fray.
Bomar's grandmother was a young girl during the strike, and like many who lived in the area during that time, she didn't like to talk about it much. And Bomar says there little about Ludlow in his history textbooks when he was growing up.
After Ludlow, Bomar's grandfather became a coal miner in southern Colorado and eventually died from black lung.