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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Felix Martinez and Virginia Buster

Born in the late summer of 1866 in Mora County, the northeastern part of New Mexico, Virginia would be one of the few Anglo families raised in a predominantly Mexican and Pueblo region. Just outside of Santa Fe and Las Vegas, Fort Union was established as a protection post for the Santa Fe Trail. Contrary to the family lore as recited and written in a letter by great-grandson, Ron F. Hagquist, Virginia’s family did not come from Virginia, her father was not a judge, and he did not have three daughters of whom he dragged all the way out west after being heartbroken from his wife’s death. In attention to, one has to question about the nature an Indian attack on the Santa Fe Trail, not providing a date or offering a location despite that the Utes and Apaches did have quite a terrorizing reputation.  Between local newspapers, and good old fashion U.S. census, the only information that was correct had be the fact her father was indeed widowed, but only had two daughters, and he worked in the milling industry, not in the judiciary facet. 

Virginia’s father, Isaac Newton Buster of Pulaski County, Kentucky had been a handful of white settlers seeking a way out of poverty. By the age of 18 in 1855, five years after New Mexico officially became a U.S. territory, he followed the Santa Fe Trail for a new life. Mora County supplied grains to feed soldiers at Fort Union, Isaac being among them by working as a miller, and later in life, possibly a mill owner. He kept neutral during the Civil War, avoiding enlistment on either side as there are no records of military service, and New Mexico Territory abolishing slavery from its province by 1863, a year ensuing a failed attempted by the Confederacy to take over.  At the beginning of 1864, he married a native born New Mexican, Dorloitas Dillet, thirteen years younger than him. Virginia was about six or seven when her mother died, and her only sister, Mary, was a toddler. Within a year or two, her father remarried exactly ten years after his first marriage to a Josefa, another New Mexican native, but eighteen years his junior. By 1876, as Colorado shifted into statehood, Isaac moved his family to be near the coal industry of Trinidad, to supply grains to the miners, only 130 miles away. Virginia would brave her third life changing event in another four years by becoming a child bride, after her family returned to Mora County where she married. The 1880 census revealed bit of a blended house with her father and sister, half-brother, step-mother and even her step-uncle, who was a widower and also working as a miller, all living under the same roof, an indication of financial struggles as well as personal ones.

Virginia grew up in an environment when girls married young, and married men a lot older than themselves. Did her experiences differ from the rest of the country? The 1880 census revealed that 11.7% of wives were between the ages of 15 to 19,  but in New Mexico, influenced by poverty, religion, and cultural mixing, the rates were far higher. Point in case, her mother-in-law was 40 years younger than her father-in-law.  Pressure exacerbated by expectations to marry, to marry while still in her teens, and to become a wife confined to the home, thereby maintaining traditionalism, Virginia finished her fourteenth year in marriage, and already Catholic when her father had converted to Catholicism from his marriages.

Because Virginia Buster's father worked in the mill industry, his connections opened an opportunity for her to meet someone like Félix Martínez; someone who definitely had been considered quite the catch.  Handsome, gleaming a smooth and oblong face that sported a fashionable goatee like Paul Gauguin's, intensely dark eyes widen with wonderment and intelligence, honorable, and prominent while still exploring ambitions as tall as the Taos Mountains, Isaac and Virginia were easily smitten.  Not only could Martínez trace his linage to colonial Spain, his ancestors living in the New World longer than the Busters, he also had two distinctive features that set him apart from the New Mexican Hispanic and pueblo community: one, he had light skin, and two, he acquired wealth quickly. In turn, the shy girl whose diamond face, hazel eyes, and thinly, stretched smile caught his attention. Her inexperience and innocence, tied to the mercantile industry that he and her father were a part of, solicited a match. Whether the pressure for Virginia to marry young was influenced by a blended household filled by a desire to escape from, especially being sent to a convent, or she was deemed of marriageable age, her wedding photo revealed uncertainty, and even a hint of sadness in her eyes, in spite of the lavish dress she was furnished in, promising her future of unimpaired wealth and prestige. The family story even revealed that the photographer told her to smile, that she was beautiful and had to smile.  With a nine years difference between them, at least the gap was narrower than her parents, and especially her in-laws, reasonably forging a better match. They would have seven children, three daughters and four sons; and Virginia would be 31 with her last child. 

But there’s more to their story. The family legend described how Martínez had lost his business in an all-consuming fire, but he was able to retrieve coins from the ashen rubble. A week later he went to the Sacred Heart Convent to ask Virginia’s hand in marriage, offering a blackened silver dollar as a promise to not only rebuild his wealth, but to become one of the wealthiest men. Her great-grand son, Hagquist, had questioned the authenticity of the tale, but when he found a bag of coins in mint condition with the exception of one, darkened and warped, and dated 1879, he became a believer. Another story in print suggested the fire happed six days before their wedding date. 

Named after his father, Martínez was born in late March of 1857, the same month when the Dred Scot case ruled that Black Americans weren’t recognized as citizens and when John Breckinridge became vice president, (the one John David Buster of Kentucky’s 3rd Kentucky Infantry attempted to arrest Breckinridge for treason in 1861.) Despite that New Mexico had a low percentage of whites living in the territory, however since emerging to the U.S., all future governors were of Anglo descents appointed by each sitting president. The status of race ripened into separation of power, slowly undoing equal partnerships between Euro Americans and Mexican Americans at the seams, tearing completely by the 1920’s.  The pueblo Indians, however, have always been considered at the bottom of the barrel; a misunderstood peoples that persists well into today, therefore, the notion of race has an acute history. Not only was Virginia’s mother and step-mother listed as “white” in the census, even though being of mixed heritages, Martínez and his family were listed as “white” as well.

The 1880’s revealed a rising concern in attitudes. An article written by Edmund F. Dunne, an American politician and jurist who served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Arizona Territory, laid out his defense for people of New Mexico:

In your article yesterday on “The New Mexican Scandal,” … You are entirely mistaken in supposing that the people of New Mexico to whom you refer to as Indians with only about one-quarter admixture of white blood. The small contingent of Spanish blood mixed with the great body of native, producing only a mongrel race with all its vices and none of the virtues… That’s where you are wrong. The old Spanish settlers of New Mexico and their descendants have shown as much pride of race, as high regard for the purity of their blood as any other people that ever set foot on this continent.. You can go through New Mexico to-day and you will find that notwithstanding three hundred years of Spanish contact… the old families have preserved the genius Spanish type with remarkable purity… Go to New Mexico and mix… and you will find, not the little, black, weazened cut throat, murderous greaser type, mestizos, zambos, and outlaws… Having lived more than a year in New Mexico… I feel it my duty… to give my opinion, found on experience, as against yours… 

In spite of his effects to sound conscientious and supportive, due notice that Dunne not only excluded the pueblo community entirely, emphasizing on the European connection, but also reinforced bigoted language. The Albuquerque Morning Democrat had argued again and again to have its people recognize as citizens, stating, “We do not hesitate to say that the Mexican population of this territory includes honorable, intelligent, refined and dignified gentlemen and ladies, and they should be accorded all the rights that pertain to citizenship.”  It was a circumstance where the minority imposed distrust, and the main reason why it took over six decades for New Mexico to become part of the U.S. This type of prejudice would inspire Martínez to up his game.

But before full segregation divided Mexican Americans among Anglo Americans, Martínez flourished. Northern New Mexico had escaped the violence inflicted by the Lincoln County War and Geronimo’s defiance, allowing him to peacefully advance; although Las Vegas had its fair share of outlaws passing through, entertained by dance hall girls and gambling brought on by the railroad. People like Doc Holiday, Jesse James, Billy the Kid and the like had passed through the next biggest town between Independence, Missouri and San Francisco.  Gunslingers, shootouts, and lynched mobs were not absent from the scene, and while Martínez stayed clear from those associations, he may had been attracted to assisting in civilizing the town’s rough edges.

The level of his success depended on both his ambitions and the color of his skin. Because his European ancestry made him appear lighter skinned than most, plus staying out of the sun by working his way up in the mercantile industry, his shrewd business mind and work ethics were not only recognized, but also rewarded. Starting out as a low level clerk, his business degree from St. Mary’s College improved his chances to climb-up the ladder as he continued studying business in Pueblo, and soon rose to partnership within less than a decade. His education opened him both Spanish and English; an ability to navigate in two cultures. The Busters more than likely crossed his path in Trinidad, Colorado just before he returned to El Mora, New Mexico and thus, continued the relationship by the time the Busters had also returned, a mere 30 miles between them. A year before his marriage, Martínez sold his partnership to establish his own, alongside of building a cattle business to compliment his wealth. The fire did not hinder his ability to reclaim his success, and neither did the expansion of the Santa Fe Railroad.

Martínez’s ambition outgrew commercialism. While his riches celebrated his reputation, he felt he had a higher calling: politics.  In 1886 he was first elected at country treasurer, then Territorial House of Representatives two years later, all under a Democrat seat. New Mexicans of the Democrat persuasions tended to be the elite, in which, Martínez, surely was part of. Since becoming a territory, New Mexico experienced factions that essentially boiled down into two short-lived parties from the nuevomexicano elites: the Native majority and the wealthy Pro-American minority.  The Hispanos longed to keep the status quo while the Pro-Americans longed for expansion, and aggressively pushed for modern land grants which overrode Spain’s and Mexico’s original land grants to the pueblo communities. The land grabs of New Mexico mirrored in the same practice as to what happened in Oklahoma. 

Between Martínez’s real estate, timber, and cattle industries, these investments afforded him to purchase a newspaper out of Santa Fe called, La Voz del Pueblo, translation: “The Voice of the Community.” Relocating the publication to Las Vegas, he fulfilled both roles as president and editor. His motivation was to inform the community about the going-ons from within, (announcements, advertisements, etc.,) but, most importantly, his articles focused on many serious issues such land-grabbing of communal land owned by the Pueblo peoples, double standards within the law, wages gaps, and inequality of living standards between the Anglo-Americans and nuevomexicano.  His moral obligations shifted into political ones. And people knew him, respectfully referring him as “Don Félix.”  His children would refer him as “the Governor” not only due to his involvement in the community, but also because he was strict disciplinary, owning a specific tall, wooden chair he utilized for “the lecture chair”. 

After finishing his four years as clerk of the U.S. and Territorial Courts for the 4th Judicial District, he had bigger plans than little Las Vegas. He met William Brian Jennings during the 1896 Democrat Convention in Chicago, and a year later, he and his family moved to 236 Tobin Place in El Paso, Texas. 

He left his home because he wanted more political influences. The fight for New Mexico’s statehood lingered much longer than it should have, a frustration Martínez no doubt grew weary of, so, when he resettled, El Paso seemed more promising for his career. Not to mention that Texas was strongly a Democrat powerhouse, unlike New Mexico Territory. Why would Martínez become a Democrat when, at the time, Democrats were former Confederates? Remember, politics from over a century ago had different viewpoints than today. At one point, the Democrats were the ones who held onto the beliefs of states’ rights and minimal government involvement, perhaps playing into Martínez’s favor as a capitalist and as a citizen of New Mexico; however as a community leader, the Populist movement also intrigued him. He probably wasn’t too happy with the railroads having control over how much to charge businessmen, as well as passengers, for using transportation of its services, especially for the goods and cattle industries. Not to mention the civil rights aspect which could help advocate his status as an American with a Mexican linage. He had hoped to merge the Populist movement with the Democrats; a conviction he held onto until his death. A reformer in some ways, and a traditionalist in most other ways. Despite defending farmers, ranchers, local businessmen, and his Mexican American heritage, and pushing to end gambling and prostitution, unfortunately women were excluded from his campaign for equality despite publicly acknowledging women’s influences in society later in his life.  Black Americans were excluded entirely. 

He chose El Paso as another opportunity, perking his interest to help civilize the growing wild town as he had done so in Las Vegas.  And it was no coincidence El Paso perked his interest. He remained close to his Mexican roots, sitting on the boarder of the U.S. and Mexico, to advocate harmony and equality between the two races. Martínez likewise had a keen sense that El Paso would grow much more quickly than Las Vegas, brought on by the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad and where the border town sat. He continued his habit of owning the local newspaper, El Paso Daily News, invested into real estate by opening El Paso Realty Co., co-organized the chamber of commerce, but then, took his roles a bit further: he purchased El Paso-Juárez Railway Co. while serving as several directors within the community, and doggedly assisted to facilitate a dam for irrigation from the Rio Grande and filter proper sewage for its citizens. 

He ran for senator in 1912, and not surprisingly, he lost. The reasons weren’t necessarily tied to his political ideals, but rather to a somber truth: because he was of Mexican origin. Anglo Americans who held political power couldn’t conceive it, regarding him as a second class citizen in spite of his wealth. The first Mexican American to win the senate seat was Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo in 1928 from New Mexico. For Texas, it wouldn’t be until 1956 with Henry González, two years following the civil rights case, Hernandez v. Texas, which finally confirmed Mexican Americans as U.S. citizens and, thereby, having equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Another example the bigotry Martínez endured came down to purchasing a car. When he arrived at one of the only two automobile establishments in El Paso, he wasn’t too concerned about changing his work clothes after inspecting his irrigation on his ranch. He waited for the salesman to assist him, but during the wait, he was completely ignored. Martínez marched across the street to the other dealer where he purchased a Cadillac—fully in cash. That Cadillac owner, C.P. Henry, would later become his son-in-law, by the way. Martínez then drove to the first dealership to not only show the commission the dealer missed out, but also, to tell him off. 

His senate loss didn’t prevent him from severing a public life. The Mexican Revolution would personally affect their family. Already having political experiences in negotiations, including acting as interpreter between then President Taft and President Díaz in 1909, he was called upon again. When Díaz decided not to retire from politics and ran again in 1910 to which he put out a summons for his opponent’s arrest, and called himself the victor, the dictator unleashed a rebellion against him. Extreme poverty and debt peonage allowed a bandit to become a folk hero. With the help of Poncho Villa, who captured the city of Juárez, Díaz resigned and Francisco Madero became the new president by 1911. Madero wasn’t equipped to handle the political stage, and another rebellion went against him, with Díaz plotting from behind the curtains. Poncho Villa was arrested and imprisoned for theft of a mule, although he managed to escape into the U.S. He had planned to warn Madero about a plot to overthrow him while Villa was imprisoned, but it was too late. Madero was assassinated by March of 1913. 

During this upheaval, Poncho Villa took advantage of the instability and often raided across the Mexican/ U.S. border to fund the on-going revolution. If the family story is true, then the mayor of El Paso requested if Martínez could establish a peaceful agreement with Poncho Villa and his militants from raiding the border town. He met the infamous bandit on the outskirts of Juárez where they exchanged pistols as a symbol of harmony. The Colt .38 revolver had remained with the family for quite some time; the grandson would eventually inherit it. Being the portraits and biographies of the progressive men of the West and Who's Who on the Pacific Coast supported Martínez’s 1911 peace attempt between Madera and Díaz, and since Villa supported Madera, it could have been a plausible family story.  The revolution bled into El Paso in the spring of 1911, and that was why Martínez was called upon. But peace wouldn’t happen for another ten years, and so, as the fighting persisted, so did the raids.

The instability affected Martínez’s oldest daughter, Flora, the most. She married an employee of apothecary, essentially a pharmacist, Matias P. Hernández in 1898, one year after Klondike, Alaska in search of prosperity.  In 1901, they moved to Juárez, Mexico, where Hernández worked for the Saminego drug store, and began a rather successful career.  Hernández, being a member of city council, was marked for death in 1913. They crossed the border, leaving behind his property where Villa raided his store and slaughtered some of his horses for food. They took their three young sons, ages from one to eight years old. Unable to return to Mexico, Flora and Hernández moved on her father’s acreage in New Mexico to farm as a living.  In 1919 they attempted to clean up the mess left behind, eventually relinquishing their properties while they were forced to rebuild their lives in El Paso.  

Meanwhile, in 1913 Martínez was called upon once more, this time to serve as an ambassador in South America, and at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition the following year under the authority of by his friend, Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan. The goals were to bring partnership and diplomacy for the Panama Canal project which was planned to be completed within the year after a decade worth of construction. He bumped into Teddy Roosevelt during a hunting trip in Argentina and later watched Roosevelt’s flamboyant daughter, Alice Longworth, from a distance smoke cigarettes with the men in a cigar parlor while in Panama, much to his shock and distaste. Martínez revealed his opinion in a letter that survived, stating, “She, the daughter of a great man, looked like thirty cents of Panamanian money compared to the well-behaved South American ladies.”  Irony would follow when one of other his daughters, Reyes, (and the one who married the Cadillac dealer,) would become a “thirty cents of Panamanian money” after his untimely passing in 1916, and eight months before witnessing the first woman elected into Congress. This would be four years before women could vote on a federal level. It would have been interesting to know whether Virginia agreed with him or not, or eventually sided with the changing times.

Martínez’s dogged morality had rubbed many people the wrong way. He mobilized the platform of his newspaper as one method to shut down 162 saloons, cleaning up El Paso against gambling and prostitution.  Often he would receive death threats which motivated him to carry a cane and a silver whistle. One family lore told a story of an attempted assassination, but specific details of how, where and when were absent and no other resources can be found to verify the story. Because he was a man of peace he never toted a gun around the town in spite of El Paso’s reputation. One of his peers described him as such:

Félix Martínez kept his private and domestic affairs very much to himself.  But he did not hesitate to talk about his philosophic, religious, or ethical beliefs—indeed, he was something of an apostle, an evangelist, of his own particular cult of thought and belief.  He had a religion of his own, and was orthodox in nothing, except in a belief in a Supreme Being, in the brotherhood of mankind, in the essential justice of the universe, in final rewards and retributions, and in progress.  He was a great reader and student of philosophy and history, and speculated much in realms of thought seldom invaded by the average man. 

At the end of his life, he assisted in establishing El Paso Public Library, what would become University of Texas, and the Elephant Butte Dam. Pneumonia took his life in March of 1916 when he was 58.  On his death certificate, under “color or race,” he was listed as American, and his occupation as capitalist. Inarguably, he was the utmost influential Hispanic of his time. A building at the New Mexico Highlands University is named after him. Virginia would outlive him by 50 additional years, almost reaching to the age of a hundred, and watching the growth of El Paso change from the Six Shooter Capital to Sun City, and would produce the best Tex-Mex cuisine in the state.

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Northern Coal Field War and the Battle at the Hecla: Sheriff Sanford Buster

The Louisville Historian
Winter 2014
by Ron Buffo

The discovery of massive coal deposits in Colorado beginning in the 1860s combined with the increased need for energy resources to fuel the industrial juggernaut of the United States created an opportunity for incredible economic growth. In order to utilize the subterranean energy, large numbers of workers were necessary to extract the coal and, beginning in the 1880s, the immigration of foreign laborers was encouraged and made real. Early immigration (1840-1860) brought people from Northern Europe and later immigration (1860-1890) added Southern and Eastern European countries as major contributors to the workforce in the United States. Colorado miners in the Southern fields worked primarily for the Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I) company owned by John D. Rockefeller whereas miners in the Northern fields worked for a variety of operators. The most prominent company in the Northern fields was the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company owned by John Roche. What the owners had in common was their great dislike of labor unions (particularly the United Mine Workers of America) and their concerted effort to stop any organizing or influence attempted by the unions. Giving in to the demands of organized labor such as increased pay, shorter work days and weeks, better safety conditions, and a check weigh man from the ranks of the workers only decreased the profits of the company. By 1910 the UMWA, after years of trying to negotiate with the coal companies in Northern and Southern Colorado, declared a strike in the Northern fields prompting the walkout of over 3,000 miners. The Southern fields would follow in 1913. (Following the strike declaration, mine owners proceeded to fence off the mine properties, install searchlights and machine guns on towers, hire professional detective agencies to secure the compounds, and provide onsite living accommodations for the strikebreakers and their families.)

After the 1910 strike declaration there would be four years of animosity, hatred, and violence between striking miners and mine operators, strikebreakers, Colorado National Guard (also known as the Militia), and detective agencies. The Ludlow Massacre on Monday, April 20, 1914 and the news of the deaths of four children and eleven women at the hands of the Colorado Militia helped to incite the Northern Field miners. Along with the three previous years of tension with the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency the Northern Fields were ripe for violence. An explosive mixture was made up of spotlights shining into town at all hours of the night, armed detectives walking the streets of Louisville and Lafayette, gunfire being exchanged between the Hecla Compound and town, and the ever present “scabs” and their families. (The location of the Hecla was at the present location of the Louisville King Soopers at 1375 E. South Boulder Rd.) The most objective account we have of the events in Louisville leading up to and including April 27th, 1914 comes from the deposition of Boulder County Sheriff Sanford D. Buster. He had been Sheriff since January 1913, was well aware of the explosive situation in the coalfields in his jurisdiction, and was compelled to be fair-handed with the strikers and coal mine operators alike. Buster’s deposition shows a chronology of events beginning on Thursday the 23rd with his visit to the Gorham Mine in Marshall to investigate armed strikers where he found “a house full of men armed with rifles.” They said they were getting ready to defend themselves against “scabs” who were bent on killing them. From Marshall, Sheriff Buster went to nearby Superior, back to Marshall, and finally arrived in Boulder on Friday, April 24th at 2:15 a.m. Upon his arrival in Boulder, Buster was informed that shots were fired at the Gorham Mine so he quickly went back to Marshall but was not successful in finding the culprits. Buster went back and forth all Friday night the 24th and Saturday the 25th between Louisville, Marshall, and Superior in an attempt to stop potential violence. 

The Sheriff continued his diligent appraisal of the communities at the request of Governor Ammons and District Attorney George Carlson of the 8th Judicial District. (Carlson would win the election for Governor in November of 1914.) On Monday the 27th Buster received a phone message from Carlson telling him that the mine operators and the UMWA came to an agreement that turned over control of searchlights and machine guns at the various mine compounds to the Sheriff. This was an obvious attempt to defuse the tensions and Buster immediately sent deputies to the Mitchell, Gorham, Simpson, and Industrial mines. The Sheriff would personally take over the searchlight and machine gun at the Hecla. 

Buster left Boulder at 8:30 p.m. on the 27th and arrived at the Union Hall (just south of present day Blue Parrot Restaurant) at 9:00 p.m. To his amazement he found approximately 400 highly agitated miners and, after explaining the plan to secure the mines with deputies, was met with some agreement but also with a rousing call to arms by Joe Potestio, the local UMWA secretary.  3 Potestio said that this agreement was a ploy by the company to tie up the Sheriff and his men and then shoot up the town without restraint. The meeting ended around 10:00 p.m. and shortly after Buster was informed that there was shooting at the Vulcan mine in Lafayette. Without hesitation the Sheriff told Deputy Ivan Criss, Potestio, and local President Pat Powers that they were to accompany him to the Hecla on foot. Potestio refused to go and Powers was later sent back to call UMWA  leaders Edward Doyle and John Lawson. Buster and Criss made their way from the Union Hall to the Louisville Depot and proceeded north on the railroad tracks on their way to the Hecla Compound. What unfolded before their eyes was the appearance of scores of miners running, with rifles, from their houses toward the railroad tracks and firing at the Hecla. 

(These .30/.30 repeating rifles had been shipped to Colorado by the Union and handed out to the striking miners. It was a common occurrence in the months leading up to this day for striking miners and detectives who manned the Hecla Mine compound to trade gunfire, usually at night. The spotlight from the mine would be directed towards town for harassment purposes and would be met with gunshots from Louisville. Those families who lived on the northeast border of Louisville proper were forced to sleep in their cellars and some even relocated young children to other families for their protection. Mike Buffo was in his outhouse, located at the corner of South Street and La Farge Avenue, when a bullet from the Hecla penetrated it and creased the top of his hand. For years after the event, houses in town had visible bullet holes in their siding. Additionally, it was common practice for passengers on the Interurban train going to and from Boulder through Louisville to be ordered to lie on the floors of the train to avoid being shot during the random firefights taking place.) The Sheriff and his Deputy had made it half way to the Hecla when they were forced to head northeast across the field to the house of town marshal Al McDonald. Buster and Deputy Criss left McDonald’s house and proceeded northeast to the Hecla compound and, unfortunately, were caught in the crossfire between the striking miners in town and company detectives in the mine. The two men had to take refuge in a nearby house and were pinned down by the continuous gunfire until 3:30 a.m. when there was a lull in the action. From the house Buster was able to call the Hecla compound to ask them not to shoot into town and that he was coming to the mine. During this time striking miners had taken positions in an empty ditch bordering the north side of the mine site using it as a defensive trench and, perhaps, a jumping off point to attack the compound. The ditch was flooded by the farmer (Rosenkrantz) through his own initiative or coercion by a command by the compound guards. Three striking miners would be wounded during the “attack” on the Hecla from gunfire directed by Baldwin-Felts guards in the compound. 

The gunfire began again at 4:00 a.m. with less intensity and Buster was able to go back and forth between the Rex #1 mine and the Hecla. The shooting stopped between noon and 12:30 on Tuesday the 28th and Buster was able to enter the Hecla compound to assess the damage. Photos show numerous bullet holes in the mine boarding house and company workers’ houses. Thousands of bullets had been expended the previous night and Buster would find two strikebreakers wounded inside the Hecla compound and one strikebreaker dying. Estimates at the time  reported that in excess of 25,000 rounds had been fired. 

After hearing about the events in Louisville, “concerned” citizens from Boulder made an attempt to recruit armed volunteers to help the Sheriff regain control of the situation. While that did not happen, reaction from the state was immediate with orders from Governor Ammons to send the National Guard from Canon City to Louisville the next day on April 28th. These were the very same soldiers who participated in the violence at Ludlow, so there was great anxiety in Louisville about what could happen here. Outside of Louisville the crew of the train carrying the 128 soldiers refused to continue, so the trainmaster and dispatcher took over. The train was fired upon and the Militia walked the rest of the way to town, marched through town, and encamped at the Hecla. In those first days following the violence, General John Chase, commander of the Colorado National Guard, closed all of the saloons in Louisville and an attempt was made to disarm the miners. Also, additional Colorado Militia members were brought to Louisville from Boulder and Longmont, bringing the total to 250 men. (Company D of the 3rd Colorado Cavalry out of Boulder had the dubious historical distinction of having participated in the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864, although these men in 1914 were far removed from that event.) 

On May 3rd, after a request from the Governor, the Twelfth U.S. Cavalry with 158 troops arrived from Fort Robinson, Nebraska and took over security detail from the Colorado Guard to the great relief of the citizens. They were greeted with the local brass band and scores of people from Louisville and Lafayette came out to see the troops who would stay for approximately one year. During that time the military command would confiscate weapons and ammunition and were able to bring a semblance of peace to the surrounding areas. The strike would continue until December 1914 with the result that the miners could return to work but without any of their demands being met. The length of the strike, biased publicity, and popular opinion against them made it difficult for the strikers to make much headway so most were simply happy to get their jobs back. After the Long Strike there would be more labor conflict, wages would slowly increase, working conditions remain extremely dangerous, and miners would continue to die and suffer horrific injuries. (Between 1900 and 1914 an average of 93 men would die in Colorado coal mine accidents per year. In 1910 there were an extraordinary 323 deaths. In 2013 there were 20 deaths in coal mine accidents in the United States.) 

Sheriff Sanford Buster showed tremendous courage in dealing with the volatile factions of strikers, detectives, and militia and it is remarkable that he didn’t lose his life when caught in the crossfire on that Monday night in 1914. He tried to remain as neutral as possible within the law and it is likely, had someone else been in his position, there would have been more injuries and loss of life. After being Sheriff for two terms, Buster was Deputy County Assessor and County Commissioner. He died in 1938.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Miriam Amanda Wallace (Ma) Ferguson

*Decedent from Micheal Marion Woods Sr. and Elizabeth Woods Wallace (first cousins Margret Woods, Micheal's daughter, and Andrew Wallace, son of Elizabeth, married in Virginia,) making her a distant cousin to Major Claudius Buster of Brenham, TX- less than 100 miles from each other.  Also related to William Marion Buster whose grandparents were likewise first cousins, Isabella Woods and Private Claudius Buster.

Miriam Amanda Wallace (Ma) Ferguson (1875-1961), first woman governor of Texas, daughter of Joseph L. and Eliza (Garrison) Wallace, was born in Bell County, Texas, on June 13, 1875. She attended Salado College and Baylor Female College at Belton. In 1899, at the age of twenty-four, she married James Edward Ferguson, also of Bell County. Mrs. Ferguson served as the first lady of Texas during the gubernatorial terms of her husband (1915-17), who was impeached during his second administration. When James Ferguson failed to get his name on the ballot in 1924, Miriam entered the race for the Texas governorship. Before announcing for office, she had devoted her energies almost exclusively to her husband and two daughters. This fact, and the combination of her first and middle initials, led her supporters to call her "Ma" Ferguson. She quickly assured Texans that if elected she would follow the advice of her husband and that Texas thus would gain "two governors for the price of one." Her campaign sought vindication for the Ferguson name, promised extensive cuts in state appropriations, condemned the Ku Klux Klan, and opposed passing new liquor legislation. After trailing the Klan-supported prohibitionist candidate, Felix D. Robertson, in the July primary, she easily defeated him in the August run-off to become the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. In November 1924 she handily defeated the Republican nominee, George C. Butte, a former dean of the University of Texas law school. Inaugurated fifteen days after Wyoming's Nellie Ross, Miriam Ferguson became the second woman governor in United States history.

Political strife and controversy characterized her first administration. Although she did fulfill a campaign promise to secure an anti-mask law against the Ku Klux Klan, the courts overturned it. State expenditures were slightly increased, despite a campaign pledge to cut the budget by $15 million. The focal point of discontent centered upon irregularities both in the granting of pardons and paroles and in the letting of road contracts by the state highway department. Ma Ferguson pardoned an average of 100 convicts a month, and she and "Pa" were accused by critics of accepting bribes of land and cash payments. Critics also charged that the Ferguson-appointed state highway commission granted road contracts to Ferguson friends and political supporters in return for lucrative kickbacks. Though a threat to impeach Miriam Ferguson failed, these controversies helped Attorney General Daniel James Moody defeat Mrs. Ferguson for renomination in 1926 and win the governorship.

Miriam Ferguson did not seek office in 1928. However, after the Texas Supreme Court again rejected her husband's petition to place his name on the ballot in 1930, she entered the gubernatorial race. In the May primary she led Ross Sterling, who then defeated her in the August runoff. Her defeat proved fortuitous politically because Sterling, rather than she, was blamed by the voters when Texas began to feel the full impact of the Great Depression. In February 1932 she again declared for the governorship; she promised to lower taxes and cut state expenditures, and condemned alleged waste, graft, and political favoritism by the Sterling-controlled highway commission. After leading Sterling in the May primary by over 100,000 votes, Ma Ferguson narrowly won the Democratic nomination in the August primary. She then defeated the Republican nominee, Orville Bullington, in November to secure her second term as governor. Her second administration did not engender as much controversy as the first, despite dire predictions to the contrary by her political opponents. The fiscally conservative governor held the line on state expenditures and even advocated a state sales tax and corporate income tax, although the state legislature did not act on these proposals. Mrs. Ferguson continued her liberal pardoning and parole policies, but even that action did not stir as much controversy as in her first administration since every convict paroled or pardoned represented that much less fiscal strain on the state during the depression.

In 1934 the Fergusons temporarily retired from direct involvement in politics and also refused to seek office in 1936 and 1938. However, Ma Ferguson did declare for governor once again in 1940. Although sixty-five years old, she alleged that she could not resist a "popular draft" for the nomination and joined a field of prominent Democrats that included incumbent governor W. Lee O'Daniel. Ma's platform advocated a 25 percent cut in state appropriations, a gross-receipts tax of .5 percent to raise social security funds for the elderly, support for organized labor, and liberal funding for secondary and higher education. O'Daniel proved to be too popular to unseat, but the Ferguson name was still strong enough to poll more than 100,000 votes. After her husband's death in 1944, Miriam Ferguson retired to private life in Austin. She died of heart failure on June 25, 1961, and was buried alongside her husband in the State Cemetery in Austin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Norman D. Brown, Hood, Bonnet, and Little Brown Jug: Texas Politics, 1921-1928 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1984). James Edward Ferguson Collection, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ouida Ferguson Nalle, The Fergusons of Texas, or "Two Governors for the Price of One": A Biography of James Edward Ferguson and His Wife (San Antonio: Naylor, 1946). Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary (4 vols., Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1971-80). Women of Texas (Waco: Texian Press, 1972).

John D. Huddleston

Reprinted with permission from the Handbook of Texas Online, a joint project of the Texas State Historical Association and the General Libraries at the University of Texas at Austin. © 2003, The Texas State Historical Association.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

William Marion Buster: The Rough and Tumble of Johnny Reb

Elizabeth & William M. Buster
The Rough and Tumble of Johnny Reb
Experience of 1861-1865. From the time he left his home, south of Rockport, MO until the close of his service in the Army. Became a POW for 2 years
First Missouri Calvary, C.S.A.

I left my home in Atchison County, Missouri near where Langdon now stands and started for Dixie Land under the leadership of John Thraikill.  Our first stop was at Jim Gilkerson's somewhere north of the city of Fairfax now stands where we got our supper and our horses fed and then departed for parts unknown to me.  We followed the bottom road to Mound City and arrived at a point somewhere on the Nodaway River sometime in the early hours of the morning and camped in the heavy brush along the stream.  But secured our meals and horse feed from James Thraikill, an uncle of our leader.  When darkness again shrouded the earth we mounted and left our friend and started on our way and came very near to coming upon a regiment from St. Joe.  Had this happened, I am unable to say what would have occurred as our leader was a man who was never known to run from any fight.  We passed five or six miles to the left of St. Joe and made our next stop between Platte City and Plattsberg, where we remained until darkness again fell around us.  Then departed and rounded up, the next stop being at Memphis on the Missouri River, where we remained in the woods in hiding all day and crossed the river in a flat boat in the darkness of the night.

Gen. Price
After we had crossed the river, we began to think that the Kansas Jawhawkers were afraid of us so began to travel in the day time, and could see squads of men in the rear who did not seem over anxious to overtake us which they could have easily have done had they any desire to do so as our horses were pretty badly used up by this time.  We traveled about as we pleased as we felt we were among friends and I guess we were as no one seemed to have any desire to cause us trouble.  We at last arrived at Old Pap Price's headquarters on the Noosha River near Sedalia where the next morning where we pulled up stakes and departed for Springfield, Missouri, where we went into encampment for the winter and we had a good time with plenty to eat.  (William officially enrolled in Springfield in December 25, 1861.) 

In the Spring of 1862 the Yanks began to think they wanted a little blood-spilling and started a squad of Calvary toward Springfield. The came within fifteen or twenty miles of us one bright shiny morning when we were ordered to saddle our horses and mount, and away we went to meet them and held them in check until Pap Price could get his provisions and war supplied hold.  We succeeded in holding them by resorting to skirmishes until we were ready to retreat to Springfield where we [sic] and marched to within one hundred yard of their lines which were formed in the neck of the prairie and fired a broadside at them.  I never learned how many were killed, if any, but do not think there were any killed on our side, but our leader, John Tharikill, had a holster (Army pistol) shot from his hand and was disable a few days.  We then fell back to Springfield where Gen. Price had his provisions and supplied packed and the Army then started on its march to Boston Mountains.  Our regiment fell into the rear of the Army and was the rear guard during most of the march, a distance of about one hundred miles.  I have since met one of the Yanks who followed us from Springfield, and many and funny are the stories they tell about capturing our supplies.  But I tell them they never did capture any of our supplies as we were the rear guard most of the way and they never crowded us either.

We remained at this camp without disturbance until a few days before the Battle of Elkhorn, when we were ordered to strike our tents and start north, the Yanks coming south, and we met [Franz] Siegel and Bentonville, Ark., who would fight a while and then fall back.  We followed him until we got to the place where the battle Pea Ridge, Ark., was fought, where we were ordered to fallback, and I never knew why that order was given, unless it was because we had lost two commanding officers on our extreme left at the Battle of Pea Ridge. (Our regiment was on the right.)  Siegel's Army would fall back every time we came up to them and they did not follow us as we fell back to Desark, Ark.  During this march we never caught sight of a Yank, nor heard a gun fired.  At Desark we were dismounted and our horses sent to Texas and we never saw them again, but we were paid for them.  We were placed on a boat in the White River, the boat was almost as wide as the river and we wound up at Memphis, Tenn., where we remained about 2 weeks, then placed aboard (railroad) cars and sent to Corinth, Miss. It was the intention of our superiors to get us to Shiloh, but the battle of Shiloh was fought on the day we arrived at Corinth so we were unable to take part in the scrap.

We remained at Corinth, as I remember it, for a month or two, when the Federal troops began to advance on Corinth and were met by Confederate troops at Gun Town, north of Corinth. The part of the Army, to which I belonged, was marched out six to eight miles east of Corinth, then north, the intention being to come in behind the advance and cut off from the main Army and take them prisoners to Corinth, but the learned of our intentions and we only succeeded in exchanging a few shots with them as they retreated to the main Army.  After which we went back to Corinth and got ready to evacuate, which we did in a week or two, and went south thirty to forty miles to Tupelo, where John Sharp Williams resides, where we remained two to three weeks. We then went on a raid to Hallow Springs, and from there to Iuka, taking everything we came to but the Federal troops, who could outrun any Johnny in the Command.  At Iuka we got more army supplies than we knew what to do with for the time we had to stay, but we held the place for about a week and then succeeded in getting most of provisions away.

When [William Starke] Rosencrans came back we had one of the hardest fights we had ever been in, but succeeded in driving him back about half a mile, as had been our habit, but he refused to be driven further, so we lay on the battle field with the dead and dying between our lines, neither side being able to help them.  But we finally got most of our men cared for as we did the driving back. our wounded were carried from the field of battle and were cared for, as were many of the Union soldiers who were wounded during the advance.  Along towards morning Price began to take us out and we fell back to Iuka, while Price's Missiouians were left to bring up the rear.  The Federals ran a battery up on a hill, about half mile from us, and opened fire, but they got high and hurt us very little. So we got started away at last and ran pretty lively about all day, they followed pretty lively too.  

Fort Robinette, Corinth, MS
We arrived near Tupelo and rested for a week or two then started towards Memphis, and as the Union Commander was in the dark as to where we were going, Memphis, Bolivar, or Corinth, which were in a semicircle, we made a move as if going to Bolivar, where General [Edward] Ord was in command, but turned and went to Corinth where Gen. Rosencrans was in command of the Federal Troops.  We took two lines of breastworks [temporary fortification made of wood and mud breast high, allowing soldiers to shoot in standing position,] when night came on and stopped the battle until 9 o'clock the next morning.  When the signal gun boomed forth the command, away we went for the fray.  Fort Robinette lay directly in front of us, and it being the best fortified place on the line, we took it and captured their cannon and we thought we had everything our way, but the division on our right failed to come up in time and we were forced to give up everything we had captured and fell back, it being far worse going back when it was coming up, we retreated over the very same ground that we had advanced over the day before. 

Gunboat 1861
When we got back to Hatchery River, Gen. Ord was there with his Army from Bolivar so after giving him a few rounds, Price took his Army thru the brush, down through the river and crossed on a hill-dam and got away from the Federals.  We finally rounded up at Jackson, Miss., and were not bothered by the Federals for a long time.  We lay back of Vicksburg, Mississippi all the winter of '62 and were there that the time the Gun-boats for for Vicksburg.  We often went to Vicksburg and looked at [Ulysses S.] Grant's Army that lay just across the river in Millikan's Bend, where, in the spring of '63, Grant made his attempt to charge the course of the river which he failed.  Sometime along about the first of April he pulled up stakes and started down the west side of the river to Bumont, or some such place, where he crossed over.  We were ordered down on the east side of the river to try and stop him, but he succeeded in crossing.  The Gun-boats succeeded in running past our batteries after a sharp fight, and one boat, on which Admiral Dewey of Manila fame [from the Spanish American War], was stationed was sunk. That was the place where he received his first lesson in warfare. 

Another of the boats was disabled but they killed Captain [William] Wade of the Second Missouri Battle of the Confederate troops. The first place where we struck any of Grant's forces was at Port Gibson, where we had a sharp engagement, but he, being in command of plenty of men, was able to send a detachment around our flank.  We fell back and skirmished with him all the way to Edwards Station, between Jackson and Vicksburg, where he flanked us again and then moved toward Raymond and captured the town, then marched to and captured Jackson, after which he turned towards Vicksburg.  We again set part of his Army at Baker's Creek, of Champion Hill as some call it, where we fought him all day.  But he kept sending his men, that were not engaged, around us, so we started to fall back about sundown and fell back to Black River and camped on the west side of the river until morning.

Battle of Vicksburg
During the engagement and retreat from Baker's Creek, Lt. Billy Hope of Co. E, Second Missouri Infantry, C.S.A., a Rockport boy, was wounded and, in the retreat, was carried on a litter for twenty-five miles into Vicksburg where he died pf his wounds. We were ordered back to the east side of the river the next morning to hold Grant in check until Pemberton could get everything into Vicksburg but we were unable to hold them for any length of time as they formed the line and charged us, capturing everything on the east side of the river. This was the 17th day of May 1863.  The went right on and encircled Vicksburg, their lines extending from the river above to the river below the town.  They charged two or three times in an effort to take the city by storm, but were repulsed every time with heavy loses.  They finally decided to starve us out, which they did, and on the 4th day of July Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg and we, as prisoners, were then taken across the river to the place where Grant had quarters the winter before.  

Confederate POW
We were kept there for about a week and then put on a boat and started upriver for Cairo, where we put on (railroad) cars and went through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, & Pennsylvania to Fort Delaware, below Philadelphia, where we were kept for about six months, with about half enough to eat, and from there we were taken to Point Lookout, Md., on the Chesapeake Bay, which was a very nice place and where we fared a little bit better.  We remained there for about seven months, then being sent to [Elmira], NY.,  where we remained about eight months.  At [Elmira] they concluded to exchange us.  We were then, in February 1865, sent south to Richmond, Virginia, where we remained about a week. 

On this trip we went thru North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, and on arriving at Mobile, had only time to shake hands with the boys and then ordered across the bay and try to hold A. J. Smith in check. He was advancing on Fort Blakeley. We had not been officially exchanged as of yet, but they came after us about the first of April and we were kept pretty busy, day and night, until the 9th day of April when they charged us and took us all in again.  We had crossed the bay in a pretty lively skirmish. But this 9th of April was also the day Lee surrendered his forces to Grant, so the business part of the scrap was almost over. [The Battle of Blakeley was the final major battle of the Civil War, with surrender just hours after Grant had defeated Lee at Appomattox on the morning of April 9, 1865. African-American forces played a major role in the successful Union assault. Mobile, Alabama was the last major Confederate port to be captured by Union forces, on April 12, 1865.  After the assassination of President Lincoln on April 15, 1865, other Confederate surrenders continued into May 1865.]  After our capture, we were taken back over the battle field and formed in a hallow square, and so kept that first night, during which your humble servant walked out of the square and thought he was on the road to freedom again, when a Yank you possessed a pretty good pair of eyes succeeded in perusing me to return to the square and wait for daylight.  

Ship Island, Mississippi
We were then sent to Ship Island, out in the Gulf of Mexico, where we were kept for two or three weeks, then placed onboard a Mississippi steamer and taken to New Orleans.  While we were on Ship Island we carried the wood to do our cooking a distance of six miles, through sand six inched deep, and every guard was a nigger.  Several of our boys were shot without any cause and we were at Ship Island when Lincoln was shot, which made matters worse than they otherwise would have been. The officers of the guard were white, and several of our officers, being with us, told them that if we were going to be shot down like dogs, then we would be all shot together.  They, very soon, put a stop to the shooting.

On arriving at New Orleans we lay on board the boat all day and at night fall were started up the river.  An Army friend and myself planned to make an escape, the only mean of so doing this was to jump overboard and swim to shore, which looked like jumping into a grave.  About midnight we plunged, just behind the wheel of the boat, a side-wheeler, and swan to shore.  Here we thought our troubles were over for we knew that most everything living around there were our friends.  So we went out across the fields until we came to a swamp, which we waded around in until we made up our minds that we could not cross it, so my partner, and three others who had swam out after us, held council and decided to go to a farm house and get the landlord to pilot us across the swamp.  We slipped up and found him out doing his chores and we made known our business.  We were told by him that we had better give up for escape was impossible, the swamp being ten miles across and practicably impassable, that every place that could be crossed was heavily guarded by Union troops. But we refused his advice and wadded up river and made our way for about six miles when we were captured & put in jail for the night.  The next day we were taken up river about ten miles and placed in a guardhouse with some of their own soldiers.  We were treated well and everything was done for our comfort.  

After two days we were put on a boat and sent up river towards Vicksburg where we heard that Johnson had surrendered our department.  We were taken to Black River and given our parole, within half a mile of where we had been taken prisoner two years before.  We were turned loose without money, clothes or food, and were hard pressed to guess What to do.  But we learned here that if we were to take the oath, we could get transportation home.  I told my partner that I thought this the best thing to do, but he declared that he would never do anything of the kind, so we parted company in the streets of Vicksburg and I have never seen or heard of him since.

I went up to Provost Marshall's office to take the oath and get my transportation, but he wanted me to put my name down as a deserter from the Confederate Army, which I refused to do, my friend was gone and I felt very much alone, but was not, as there was a lot of Confederate soldiers in town who were in the same condition as myself.  They finally decided to give us transportation to the mouth of the White River, to get us out of town, and so we boarded the first boat that came up the river, but on arriving at White River, instead of getting off the boat, we hid on the lower deck and stayed there until we got to St. Louis, which was as far as the boat was going, so we were compelled to get another boat to bring us up the river.  

We went aboard the Emma, which had a few crew of white men, hunted up the Captain, told him where we had been and the financial condition we were in, and promised to do anything that we could do for transportation.  We were told to come aboard and finally arrived at Leavenworth sometime in the early part of the night.  May of '65, where I thought I was all right, I had plenty of friends just across the river on the Missouri side.  So I got up early the next morning and went down to the ferry to cross, but was told by the guard on the boat that I would have to get a pass before he would let me cross.  I went to the Provost Marshall's office, told him where I had been and what I wanted, but could not get a pass without someone to vouch for me, but I had not been there for some time and knew no one in  Leavenworth.  I was up against it again, but a friend of mine on the Missouri side heard that I was on the boat and he came across as soon as he could get there and offered to get me a pass.  But I declined to have him do so as I knew some horse robbers who lived over in Platte County, who were continually annoying returned Confederate soldiers, and I would not allow a friend to compromise himself by vouching for me under the circumstances.  As the boat [sic] upriver from St. Louis was going to land at Weston, I again boarded it and landed on the Missouri shore and walked back to my friend's house, opposite Leavenworth.  His name was R.B. Sissle. He died last fall, one of the heaviest landowners of the west.

In conclusion, I want to say that the Missouri Army never went into engagement, either against breastwork or a line of battle that the enemy was not compelled to fall back, except of Franklin, Tenn. where we went up against breastworks which we could not go over, but we stayed until the Union forces left, about midnight, and left us in possession.

I wrote this article at the request of my good friend, John G. Sutton, who, at the time I was thinking of joining the Army, strongly advised against such action, advising me that it was going to be a hard long fight and that I would face many hardships, and probably lose my life, and I never would have joined the Army had it not been for the fact that the part of Missouri from which I went to war was at that time overrun by a damnable set of robbers as ever run loose. [The Jawhakers.]  Taking advantage of the squally conditions of the time to ply their depredations, and many were the dastardly acts that can be testified to by some of the older settlers of that community.  So I entered the service and stayed until the "Battle of the Blakeley Sea," near Mobile, Alabama, in which it is claimed, the last cannons of the war were fired.  I found that the advice, which I failed to heed was true, and many were the hardships endured by the boys on both sides who started out for a vacation of a few weeks, and to put a stop to the War of the Sixties. 

retrieved from, published Nov. 20, 2013

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Bound Out: Children as Indentured Servants

We’re going to briefly revisit the practice of indentured bondage. Although the comparison of slavery and indentured bondage is far from being balanced, and not by any means equal to the experiences, there is no debate about that, however these two intuitions reveal an objectification about Western society: the misuse of labor under a Christianized nation.

Five of William Buster/ Bustard's third great-grandsons were “indentured out” in 1844.  This accepted procedure was also referred to as “binding out.”  Trying to solve the problem of vagrancy with Anglo children started with the Tudors.  During Henry the Eighth’s rein in 1535, poor children between the ages of five to fourteen, “may be put to service by the governors of the cities, towns, etc., to husbandry, or other crafts or labours…”   In other words, they were forced into the positions of apprenticeships if they were caught stealing or begging, which could be a good thing, if they weren’t exploited and abused by those in charge.  And just six years before indentured servitude became a thing, the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601 began the process of “binding out” for both adults and children, sparing with the rise and functionality of the workhouses as a means to fill in labor shortages while repositioning the poor.  This Elizabethan law was designed to alleviate the financial burden of the poor within their local communities. Churches and justice of the peace were given the authority to decide who needed to be “bonded out” to tradesmen and husbandmen, to even extend this law into colonial Virginia, “to be brought up in some good and lawful calling.  And whereas God Almighty, among many his other blessings, hath vouchsafed increase of children to this colony… who if instructed in good and lawful trades may much improve the honor and reputation of the country…”  

Two hundred and forty-five years later, “binding” continued to be of use, so by the time Charles Woods Buster of Pulaski County, Kentucky died in 1841, his wife, Stacey Reynolds, was unintentionally placed in an awkward finical position with ten children.  The mixed feelings of panic, dread, and melancholy surely overwhelmed her.  She inherited her husband’s land, but had to use her children to harvest a meager living.  After two years struggling to keep her family fed and together, the courts stepped in. John Milton age six, Charles Woods Jr. age ten, Henry Clinton age eleven, David Garrison age thirteen, and James Madison age sixteen, were “bound out” to neighbors until they were legally twenty-one when they could vote as responsible citizens. Charles and David went to the same family, under the patriarch of Alvin Jones, who already had five children of his own; and Henry and James went to the Muse brothers, an indication that the courts and neighbors were trying not to spread the Buster brothers too far away from each other and from their mother. 

Now it’s unknown whether Stacey volunteered her five sons out of sheer desperation, or if these five were the most unruly out of the ten and the court deemed it necessary to interfere, but this transition from being “indentured” as a means to relocate into foster homes was the next transition from economical “binding” to genuine child welfare. In the document of Charles Woods Jr., a line “to treat in a humane and tender manner”  was important enough to indicate a sincere concern for the well-being of children. The notion of foster care for orphan children had been around since the early Christian churches during the Roman era, placing orphans with widows, but it wasn’t until the early 1900’s in America when the government began to pay people for taking care of children in foster homes instead of being “bound out.”  It’s also important to note that the five boys were taken care of well enough to at least live into their adulthood, and each to have even gotten married before pushing up daisies.  John Milton lived the longest, remarkable at the age of ninety-six, and had moved westward to the harsh Nebraskan plains when he died during the height of the Great Depression in 1934.  His mother, Stacey, did remarry to a James Gabriel Daulton in 1845, who was fifteen years her junior, and had six more children.  The sting of being abandoned by both parents, whether by death or the court system, and remarriage with additional siblings, can only be imagined. 

The intentions of “binding out” were twofold: One, to turn the poor into law abiding citizens who would not become a financial burden on society. And two, it provided free labor for the community, even if on a temporary basis. Before there was a foster care system that attempted to focus more on the protection and the welfare of children, for centuries children were considered as a viable workforce, alongside of adults. This procedure of “binding out” continued well into the 20th century, still under the implication of apprenticeship and with establishment of the orphan train phenomenon which transported inner city children to farmers so that they could learn a trade. The orphan trains officially ended in 1929 while child labor laws were put into effect in 1933.