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The Superior Coal Company, a subsidiary of Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company, established their office in Gillespie, and bought 40,000
acres of coal and mineral rights in 1903 from the Dorsey family and began to sink mines to furnish coal for their locomotives. |
Number 1 (1903 - 1951) was to the north and east of Benld at what is now Eagarville.
Number 2 (1903 - 1952/3) was to the south of Benld at Sawyerville.
Number 3 (1904 - 1953) was to the west of Benld at Mount Clare.
The establishment of Benld occurred in 1903 and incorporation took place in 1904. The primary mode of transportation to and from work was walking. Benld was laid out in the midst of these three mines, making the walking distance only two to three miles at the most.
Situated in almost the middle of three mines, Benld furnished the residences of the immigrants that settled in this area to work in the coal mines to raise their families. People came from many countries, some of which are Austria, Bohemia, Croatia, England, France, Galecia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Russia, Scotland, Slovakia, and Sweden.
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In the spring of 1911, much disagreement among the different nationalities that worked in the coal mines created a "war like" environment.
More trouble occurred in the spring of 1912.
Some of the newspaper accounts of the events describe the life and times during the strife.
National Guardsmen set up camp to keep order during
unrest on part of the local mines in 1911 in Benld.
The Rock Island Argus, March 21, 1911, Page 1|
MILITIAMEN ON GUARD AT COAL MINES
Ten Companies Sent by Governor to Gillespie, Ill.
RIOTS ARE THREATENED
Foreigners Surly When Union Declines Permission to Strike.
Gillespie, Ill., March 21 -- Ten companies of militia are on duty at the mines in this vicinity.
The miners at Benld became dissatisfied a week ago with working conditions and quit work. Union officials having ruled against a strike, the Americans returned to work. The foreigners have been endeavoring by means of force and otherwise to get the Americans out.
DRIVE DEPUTIES AWAY.
Trouble became acute last night after deputy sheriffs of Macoupin county were driven away. An appeal was then made to the governor for troops. About 1,000 foreigners who gathered this morning, and arriving to Americans out of the mines one and three. They then returned
THREATENED TO RESIST.
_?_ night a vigilance committee of citizens patrolled the street. Other armed citizens were ready to meet the marchers from Benld, and declared an Intention to attack them should they enter the town. The conservative element prevailed, however, and, after marching through the town and after visiting the two mines, the foreigners returned to Benld.
MAY DISARM THEM
Colonel Lang, commanding the troops, proposes to march his men to Benld and disarm the belligerents. If necessary he will proclaim martial law. Citizens here fear bloodshed at Benld, as it is said the foreigners are drunk and in a disagreeable temper.
1,000 IN BAND.
There were nearly 1,000 men in the procession of foreigners that came from Benld. They were armed with a varied assortment of firearms, old rifles, muskets, shotguns, revolvers and Winchesters, and marched to the music of an Italian band. Crowds watched them from the sidewalks and, despite the threats made during the night that they would not be allowed to march through Gillespie, the demonstration passed without opposition.
The procession first stopped at mine No. 1, passed through the main street of Gillespie, thence on to mine No. 3 and back to Benld.
OBJECTED TO REFORMS.
Three months ago John P. Reese came to Gillespie from Iowa to take up the superintendency of the properties. Reese inaugurated several changes and reforms that were not favorably received by the foreign element among the miners. A strike was inaugurated but the union officials declared it illegal and ordered the men back to work. The foreigners refused to obey orders and have been in an ugly mood several days culminating last night in the demonstration at Benld that caused the authorities to ask the assistance of troops.
NO ONE AT WORK.
When the mob reached mine No. 1 they found no one at work the miners acting upon advice to absent themselves until tomorrow when they will return to the mines under the protection of soldiers. The marchers then passed through town to mine No. 3. which they also found deserted. They then returned to Benld, where the saloons are still open.
HAVE BEEN DRINKING.
The foreigners, it is said, imbibed freely and it is feared will resist the attempt of troops to disarm them. Sheriff Etter has sworn in 100 deputies and backed by the soldiers will this afternoon attempt to arrest the rioters.
TOWN IS QUIET.
Benld, Ill., March 21. -- The arrival this morning of the militia from Springfield and Danville found this mining town quiet. The miners, who, had been armed and troublesome for several days, suddenly left for one of the nearby mining camps. No word has been received as to their progress towards the different camps. Trouble is feared if the militia undertakes to disarm the striking miners. Leaders of the miners' union are endeavoring to induce their men to return to work.
NO DEMONSTRATION MADE.
Springfield, Ill., March 21. A report from the commander of the troops at Gillespie says the Benld miners met the troops on arrival there but made no threatening demonstration.
Urbana Daily Courier, Urbana, Illinois, March 22, 1911, Page 1|
ILLINOIS TROOPS SENT TO END RIOTS
Take Possession of Benld and Overawe Aliens.
WHOLESALE ARRESTS DUE
Strike at Superior Coal Company's Mines Follows Reforms Displeasing to the Foreigners -- Saloons Ordered Closed.
Gillespie, Ill., March 22. -- With soldiers of the Illinois National Guard protecting the three mines of the Superior Coal company and patrolling the town of Benld, south of here, immediate danger of a battle between the foreign coal diggers and the English speaking miners has been averted. The civil authorities are preparing to prosecute those who bore arms in a demonstration calculated to awe their brethren who wanted to return to work.
Operations in mine No. 1, located here, and one of the three shafts owned by the Superior company, were resumed today. Orders were also given that such workmen as desire may return to work in mine No. 3. There are 325 guardsmen on duty.
Arrests Are to Follow
Sheriff Elmo Etter of Macoupin county, is in Benld with a force of fifty deputies and co-operating with Col. Edward J. Lang, commanding the National Guard. State's Attorney James Murphy of Carlinville is also on the scene giving the sheriff counsel.
That wholesale arrests are to follow is the statement from both the state's attorney and the sheriff. Warrants will be issued for all who are known to have borne arms.
The saloons have been closed at Colonel Lang's "suggestion." There are 23 saloons in Benld, one for every 104 inhabitants.
When it was realized that the petition presented by Mayor Romell to Colonel Lang would not accomplish the desired result, a citizen's committee, composed of F. W. Edwards, Louis Toiga and Edward Lowery left town for Springfield to personally urge Governor Deneen to call the troops off.
May Withdraw Troops.
A long distance telephone message to Benld from this committee conveyed the information, that the chief executive had said the troops "might be recalled today."
Colonel Lang and Sheriff Etter visited the three mines of the Superior Coal company after camp had been pitched near the interurban railroad station. The reconnisance completed, patrols were located at the three mines and other patrols assigned to duty in the town of Benld proper.
When the first squad was sent out on patrol duty a large crowd collected, pressing closely upon the guardsmen. An unidentified miner sprang at one of the men with an open knife. The guardsman presented the bayonet end of his rifle and charged. The man fled.
Armed Men in March
Five hundred strong, armed with a varied assortment of firearms, old rifles, muskets, shotguns and revolvers, and marching to the music of an Italian band, the foreign-speaking miners of Benld conducted a sunrise demonstration against their English-speaking brethren of Gillespie, hollering, yelling and calling upon those who stood upon the sidewalks to get in line. The procession passed through the main street. Counseling of the older citizens and business men of Gillespie against the commission of any overt act prevented bloodshed.
Three months, ago John P. Reese came to Gillespie from Iowa to take the superintendency of the three properties of the Superior company. Reese inaugurated several changes that were not favorably received by the foreign element among the miners.
Gillespie News, Gillespie, Illinois, March 22, 1911
Urbana Daily Courier, Urbana, Illinois, March 23, 1911, Page 7|
Miners Strike Disapproved.
Springfield, March 23. -- That the Illinois State Mine Workers' association will not sanction the strike of miners at the Northwestern Railroad company's mine at Benld was decided at a meeting of the executive board of the organization, held at state headquarters in this city. A message was directed to the strikers notifying them that their action is not approved by the association, and they will be ruled out of the mine workers union should they hold out.
The True Republican, Sycamore, Illinois March 25, 1911, Page 6|
ILLINOIS TROOPS GO HOME
Sheriff Tells Governor He Is Able to Keep Peace at Benld and Gillespie.
Springfield , Ill., March 23. -- The state militia sent Tuesday morning by Governor Deneen on request of Sheriff Etter of Macoupin county to keep peace at the mining towns of Benld and Gillespie have returned home. The order for withdrawal was issued when Sheriff Etter made formal request of the governor assuring the executive that he was confident there would be no trouble and that he could handle the situation.
Urbana Daily Courier, Urbana, Illinois, April 5, 1911, Page 7|
Strike Settlement Expected.
Springfield, April 5. -- It Is probable the miners' strike at Benld will be settled this week. The miners local at Benld and Gillespie have opened negotiations through the state miners' organization, and a final termination of the trouble, which resulted In calling out the state militia, will be adjusted. It was rumored the operators of the mines were considering a proposition to shut down for the summer months.
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Urbana Daily Courier-Herald, Urbana, Illinois, May 10, 1912, Page 1|
STRIKING MINERS SHOOT EACH 0THER
Special to The Courier-Herald :
Gillespie, Ill., May 10. -- Five men were shot in a riot among 300 miners at Benld, a coal town two miles south of here today. A strike for some time has been on. Strikers appeared at the mines early today and wanted to return to work. A battle occurred, when men gathered to prevent other men from working. The mine is owned by the Superior Coal Co. Foreigners are arming themselves and the sheriff expects further trouble and is busy swearing in deputies to prevent trouble.
The Rock Island Argus, May 10, 1912, Page 1|
SHOTS ARE FIRED IN MINE RIOTING
Guns Used by Both Sides.
Benld, Ill., May 10. -- One man was fatally and three seriously injured in a revolver fight participated in by 900 miners of the Superior Coal company today. The trouble was due to a disagreement whether the men should go to work. The same forces fought yesterday with clubs. One had a broken arm. All are foreigners.
Urbana Daily Courier-Herald, Urbana, Illinois, May 11, 1912, Page 1|
MANY INJURED IN COAL MINE RIOT
Police Charge Mob of Men and Women.
FOREIGNERS ARE LEADERS
Five Shot in Illinois
Springfield, III., May 11. -- A disagreement between foreign and American miners at Benld, Macoupin county, as to whether they should go to work without awaiting the result of the referendum vote now being taken in the state, resulted in one man being fatally injured and four others wounded. About 500 American miners from Gillespie, who were going to work in mine No. 3, were attacked by a similar number of foreign miners from Benld, who work In mine No. 2. Shots were exchanged between the two bodies, with the above result.
The Rock Island Argus, May 15, 1912, Page 1|
Want State Constabulary.
St. Louis, May 15. -- As a result of the riot at Benld, Ill., coal operators of the Fifth and Ninth Illinois districts were named as a committee to meet with representatives of labor organizations to demand the establishment of a state constabulary.
Macoupin County, Illinois Sheriff in 1911
|He was born on August 21, 1875 in Western Mound Township of Macoupin County, Illinois|
The son of George Davidson (1845-1920) & Mary C. (nee McCoy) (1852-1908) Etter
The 1880 & 1900 Census lists him as living with his parents in Western Mound Township of Macoupin County, Illinois
His occupation in 1900 was : School Teacher
According to History of Macoupin County, Illinois, by Charles A. Walker; S. J. Clarke Publishing Company; 1911
Elmo Etter was elected Treasurer in 1906
Elmo Etter was elected Sheriff in 1908
1910 Census shows him as a Roomer in the household of Alexander & Flora G. Bell
residing in Ward 2 of Carlinville, Macoupin County, Illinois
with his occupation as Treasurer of Macoupin County, Illinois
In the above newspaper accounts during the spring of 1911, he is Sheriff of Macoupin County, Illinois
World War I Draft Registration (September 12, 1918) :
Elmo Etter, Born on August 21, 1875
Tall, medium build, blue eyes, dark hair
424 North Broad, Carlinville, Macoupin County, Illinois
Mine Carpenter for Standard Oil of Indiana, at Carlinville, Macoupin County, Illinois
Contact - Mae Etter
1920 Census - Residing in Ward 4 of Carlinville, Macoupin County, Illinois
Spouse is May Etter
Occupation is Coal Miner
He died on July 21, 1923, of a heart condition (per Coroner's Inquest of July 25, 1923)
He is buried in Carlinville City Cemetery, Carlinville, Macoupin County, Illinois
|Coal & Coal Mining in Illinois
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