WE NEVER FORGET: Alexander Obremski Who Gave His Life in Freedom’s Cause at Rugby, Colorado on May 18, 1907

Link up in one socialist company;
Evil must perish!
Only together and united!
Long live the Western Federation of Miners!
-Alex Obremski

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WE NEVER FORGET, Alex Obremski, Rugby CO May 18, 1907

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Alexander Obremski
Union Organizer for the Western Federation of Miners

In 1907, Alexander Obremski was a union organizer for the Western Federation of Miners, working in the very dangerous field of the Trinidad area of southern Colorado. The field was considered to be so dangerous that organizers took the precaution of traveling in pairs.

On the evening of May 18, 1907, Brother Obremski was shot down in a saloon in Rugby, Colorado, near Trinidad, by Juan Espinosa, “a Mexican allegedly hired by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) for this purpose.” [See below.]

A large funeral was held in Trinidad on May 22nd to honor the intrepid union organizer. He was survived by two brothers who lived in Starkville, Colorado.

According to M. E. White who had charge of WFM headquarters in Trinidad:

Much credit is due for the three hundred members initiated here in the last five months, and at Pueblo, to the faithful and diligent work of your organizer, Brother James Peretto, and the late Brother Obremsky who took their lives in their hands in the work of educating the slaves of this district.

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SOURCE I

Essays in Colorado History, Issues 5-10
Colorado Historical Society, 1987
(Search with “alex obremski” reveals signature: “Alex. Obremski.”)
https://books.google.com/books?id=_ngjAQAAIAAJ

Note: not available online except in snippet view. By using various search-words, I was able to bring up some relevant information. I will be attempting to track down this source in a library.

Page 55-

Alexander Obremski (1876-1907)
Correspondence from Trinidad, Colorado
Published as “Korespondencje. Trinidad, Colo.” in Robotnik Polski

Page 56-

His union connection proved dangerous, as confirmed by his change over a two-year period in Robotnik Polski from a street address in Trinidad to a post office box number. On May 18, 1907, he was fatally shot in Pio Michele’s saloon in [Rugby, near Trinidad.]…

Obremski was killed by Juan Espinosa, a Mexican allegedly hired by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) for this purpose. Obremski received a large funeral in Trinidad on May 22. He was survived by two brothers in Starkville, Colorado.

Page 57-

The following letters by Obremski are of interest for several reasons. They are contemporary accounts by the WFM organizer of the Slavic miners in southern Colorado about whom little has previously been written. They are probably some of the few extant Polish-language letters from that part of the state dating from the period of the 1903 coal strike.

Note: in 1903, the United Mine Workers of America was conducting a strike of coal miners in the Trinidad area, and the members of the Western Federation of Miners were on strike in both the Cripple Creek and in the Telluride districts. [See below.]

Page 59-“Alex Obremski,” signature

Page 98-“Obremski, Alexander: southern Colorado labor organizer, 7:55-57”

Page 99-“Obremski’s death was written up in the Trinidad Advertiser, ‘Unknown Slav Is Killed at Rugby’ (May 19, 1907)…”

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SOURCE II

Out of the Depths
The Story of John R. Lawson, a Labor Leader

-by Barron B. Beshoar
(First edition, April 1942
Lawson died May 12, 1945 at age of 74.)
Colorado, 1980
https://books.google.com/books?id=gQ4eAAAAIAAJ

Lawson describes organizing in Trinidad during this period:
(Note: Beshoar did not specifically cite his source for the following, but most likely taken from his interview with John R. Lawson, who had the dangerous job of union organizer for the UMWA, also in the Trinidad area, during this period.)

[Union organizers] traveled in pairs after one of their number, Alex Oberlinsky, a skilled organizer, was attacked and killed by a Mexican gunman in near-by Rugby. A coal company official, posting as a deputy U. S. marshal, saved the murderer from an angry crowd and promptly disappeared with him.

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SOURCE III

Hellraisers Journal, Saturday June 29, 1907
Denver, Colorado – W. F. of M. Convention Wants Investigation
W. F. of M. Convention Demands Investigation Into Murder of Organizer Alex Obremski

From the Official Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Convention, Western Federation of Miners of America, Held in Odd Fellows Hall at Denver, Colorado, June 10-July 3, 1907:

Communication read to convention:
From: Earl Cooley, Trinidad, Colorado, May 27, 1907.
To: Mr. M. E. White, Trinidad, Colorado.

You have asked me for my opinion as regards the death of Alexander Obremski who was murdered at Rugby, Colo., on the evening of the 18th day of May, 1907.After careful investigation into the evidence which I heard at the coroner’s inquest, I have come to the conclusion, and I think I am correct in it, that Obremski was killed after careful deliberation on the part of his assailant. I find from the evidence that while to a casual observer it might appear that Obremski was killed by some drunken Mexican who desired to become a bad man. I am convinced that the murder was a premeditated one, because the murderer, after having been identified by those present, denied having fired the fatal shot, but testified in his own behalf that he had been set upon and beaten by one Pio Michelh and exhibited before the coroner’s jury his head which was pretty badly cut up.

Now I think that after Juan Espinosa, the accused murderer of Obremski, committed the crime that he was advised by friends to deny all knowledge of the affair and that he either inflicted upon himself the wounds which he had, or had some friend do it.

Now when I attempted last week in the District Court to have Espinosa plead, the court gave him time to obtain counsel which was alright, but which I think will take until next September, and I doubt very much that if the people here and the friends of Obremski do not take an active interest in the prosecution of Juan Espinosa that he will ever be punished, because I have already heard statements from some of the prominent officials of Las Animas County that as Obremski was only an agitator it did not make much difference whether or not he was killed or by whom he was killed.

The murder of Alex Obremski was one of the most cold blooded murders that was ever perpetrated in the history of Las Animas County, and I think that his friends should use every means within their power to bring the accused Juan Espinosa to a speedy trial that he may be convicted of the crime for which he is charged and while the witnesses are all present and their knowledge of the events of that fatal night are clear in their memory.

Resolution #75 read to convention:
From M. E. White, Trinidad, Co1o., June 10, 1907.

To the Officers and Members, General Executive Board, Western Federation of Miners.

Dear Sirs and Brothers: I desire to submit to you the following brief report of my acts since being in charge of the office at Trinidad, Colorado, for the Union-at-Large up to June 10th, 1907….

The opposition of the companies and the deputies is fierce, and the camps are closed against your organizers. On the 18th of May, your organizer. Alex Obremsky, was shot down in cold blooded murder, and it is up to you to devise ways and means to see that his murderer is given the dues coming to him and to get at the bottom of this murder.

Your organizers spent about two months of their time altogether in establishing a union among the wage slaves at Pueblo, where an organization was badly needed. Much credit is due for the three hundred members initiated here in the last five months, and at Pueblo. to the faithful and diligent work of your organizer, Brother James Peretto, and the late Brother Obremsky who took their lives in their hands in the work of educating the slaves of this district….

Yours in Union,
(Signed) M. E. WHITE.

At the killing of Brother Obremsky, up to date, I found that he had collected $26.00.

Resolution #76 read to convention:
From James Peretto, Denver, Colorado, June 15, 1907:

To the Fifteenth Annual Convention of the Western Federation of Miners:

Fellow Workers: I hereby submit my report as organizer for the Union-at-Large in Las Animas and Huerfano Counties, Colorado, which appointment I received from Brothers Moyer and Haywood two years ago….

There are in the District at this time a large number of Poles who are ready to be organized as they realize the need of organization and I am confident that all that is necessary is that you should send a capable Polish organizer who can explain to them in their own tongue the special advantage of the form of organization of the Western Federation of Miners and of the Industrial Workers of the World. I have been requested by them to bring before the Fifteenth Annual Convention the case of Alex O’Brinsky, a Polish organizer and a member of the Western Federation of Miners, who was brutally murdered by a Mexican employed by the mine operators, to whom he had made himself offensive by his agitation among their employes, and his efforts to organize them. I would recommend as strongly as I can that the Western Federation of Miners take up this matter in order that justice may be done, and I have assured the workers in my District that the Western Federation of Miners stands ready at all times to do as much for the humblest member of the organization as it is now doing for its general officers….

Resolutions adopted by the convention on June 20, 1907:
From the Committee on Organization:

Denver, Colo., June 17, 1907.

To the Delegates and Members of the Fifteenth Annual Convention, Western Federation of Miners.

Fellow Workers; We, your Committee on Organization, submit the following report on Resolutions Nos. 75 and 76: That the reports of M. E. White and James Peretto be accepted, and offer the following recommendations:

(a) That the organizer-at-large be authorized to form local unions wherever advisable.
(b) That a Polish organizer be sent to the Walsenburg district.
(c) That the Western Federation of Miners prosecute the murderer of our organizer, Brother Alex Obremsky, to the full extent of the law.

(Signed),
ROY COOK. No. 164,
F. H. LITTLE, No. 159,
JOE RILEY, No. 7,
H. C. MEISNER, No. 23,
W. T. QUINN, No. 144,
CHAS. BUNTING, No. 180,
ED. MOORE, No. 190,
I. W. SHANER, No. 229.

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See also:

Robotnik (gazeta)
https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robotnik_(gazeta)

About Robotnik Polski. (New York [N.Y.]) 1908-1967
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030474/

The Cripple Creek Strike
-by Emma F Langdon
(Use links at left for information on 1903 Colorado Strikes by WFM and UMWA mentioned above.)
(1908 publication is assumed since this version
contains history of 1907 Trial.)
Colorado, about 1908
http://www.rebelgraphics.org/wfmhall/langdon00.html

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Coal Miner’s Grave – Idaho Silver Hammer Band

This song was written by Hazel Dickens for Francis Estep who was shot down by gunthugs in West Virginia. It applies as well to Union Organizer Alex Obremski.