Lest we Forget
At Dawn November 21, 1927, Six Union Miners were killed at the Columbine Mine fighting for a living wage and a measure of human dignity. Five are buried here:
Jerry Davis 1906-1927
John Eastenes 1893-1927
Frank Kovich 1885-1927
Nick Spanudakhis 1893-1927
Mike Vidovich 1892-1927
Rene Jacques 1901-1927
is buried at the Louisville, Colorado Cemetery
For sixty-one years the graves of those killed in the strike were unmarked. A recently installed historical marker recalls the Columbine mine and the massacre on Highway Seven, one mile west of I-25. Also a beautiful new marble monument in the northeast corner of Lafayette cemetery bears silent testimony to those who died at Columbine.
LAFAYETTE – Carlos Cortez unwrapped a small packet of ashes yesterday, incanting as if he were freeing a spirit: "This part of you has been held prisoner in a government office too long, Joe. It's high time you got back to your own people again."
And with that, the Chicago poet and labor activist scattered the ashes of Joe Hill around the newest tombstone in the Lafayette Cemetery. The remains fell near the graves of five other labor activists killed in the same era.
Yesterday was the first time that the graves of five of the six miners killed in 1927 during a labor dispute at the Columbine Mine—in a town ironically named Serene—had been properly marked.
"It was a long time coming," mused Tom Eastenes, who joined about 200 other friends and relatives of the victims, labor officials and others for ceremonies at the graveyard. The Colorado Labor Forum, the Industrial Workers of the World, the United Mine Workers and the Lafayette and Louisville Historical Societies all had worked on the project.
Most of Joe Hill's remains had been scattered across America 63 years ago, but a portion of the ashes were intercepted by a postmaster, who delivered them to the FBI instead, IWW organizer Gary Cox said. They remained in government storage until last year, when organized labor officials found out about the ashes and retrieved them.
Like Hill, Eastenes' father, John, had been involved in organizing his fellow workers.
Tom Eastenes recalled the November day in 1927 when his mother urged his father to stay away from the mine because of the trouble.
Machine guns had been installed near the mine, and hordes of police were patrolling the area.
When the miners arrived at Serene, they found the gates to the fence locked. First words, then rocks and bullets flew. The first miner shot and killed was John Eastenes, father of six.
"I was in school all day," Tom Eastenes recalled, "but the things I remember most vividly were the sirens."
It was clear something was wrong as the town's only ambulance "made several trips up and down Baseline. I remember looking over toward the mine and seeing a white cloud that had never been there before. Actually, it was tear gas.
"One of the miners stopped me in the street and asked my last name. He told me my father was dead."
June 11, 1989
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