BUTTE - On April 21st 1920 a group of striking miners from Butte marched up the Anaconda Road demanding better pay and working conditions from Anaconda Co. They soon found themselves fleeing in terror from a hail of gunfire.
“And they opened fire on the men, shooting many men, most of the men, in the back. The men that were shot were all shot in the back,” said Butte historian Julie Crowley.
Sixteen men were injured and one man, Thomas Manning, died from his wound.
“When the firing stopped and the smoke and dust literally went away, faded away, the neighborhood children went out and picked up the miners hats that blew off the men’s heads as they were feeling the gunfire,” said Crowley.
Some say it was hired guards from the Anaconda Co., also known as company goons, who were ordered to fire on the unarmed men. Though the company claims their guards were fired upon first.
An inquest into the incident revealed little.
“All they concluded was that Thomas Manning was dead. They never did find or know who actually fired the shot that killed Thomas Manning,” said Crowley.
Crowley, who grew up on Anaconda Road, has been researching the massacre for years and was surprised to find Manning had an unmarked grave at Holy Cross Cemetery. With funding from the Central Montana Building Trades and Construction Council, she was able to get Manning a new headstone.
“And I made a promise then that I would make sure he had a tombstone,” she said.
Thomas Manning was an immigrant from Ireland who’s dream was to work here and raise enough money to bring his wife and child to America. Well, that dream died on the Anaconda Road, but Julie is hoping this headstone will make sure Manning’s legacy lives on.
“When we go work an 8-hour day, when we have a vacation, when we have a social safety net, social security, Medicare, we have safe working conditions, those weren’t just handed to people. People like Thomas Manning and others, Frank Little, they put their lives on the line for that. They lost their lives fighting for that,” said Crowley.