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Ludlow Massacre Site

Las Animas County, Colorado

On April 20, 1914 a battle broke out between Colorado National Guardsmen and striking coal miners at the tent-colony home of 1,200 miners and their families in Las Animas County, Colorado. The Ludlow Massacre, the deadliest single event in the Colorado Coal Wars of 1913–1914, resulted in the deaths of 19 or more people, including 12 women and children who had been sheltering from gunfire and suffocated in the fires that consumed the tent colony.

The miners were striking for the right to unionize and demanding that coal companies comply with Colorado mining law. Governor Elias M. Ammons had activated the National Guard to defend the interests of the coal company owners.

The massacre escalated an already violent situation, and President Woodrow Wilson eventually deployed the U.S. Army to quash the clashes. The Colorado Coal Wars may have been the deadliest labor conflict in U.S. history, with an estimated 69–199 people killed. Public outrage led to reforms, including child labor laws and the 8-hour workday.

The Colorado Coalfield War Project began in 1996 under the leadership of Drs. Randall McGuire, Dean Saitta, and Philip Duke. Their team used archaeology to locate and excavate the former tent colony and surrounding areas, largely confirming the miners’ account of the massacre.

The site of the tent colony was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2009, and 2014 marked the centennial of the Ludlow Massacre. The anniversary was commemorated by an exhibit at the El Pueblo History Museum and an issue of History Colorado’s Colorado Heritage magazine. In that issue, high school students from the Colorado Preserve America Youth Summit concluded that Coloradans need to honor the memory of “what happened at the Ludlow Tent Colony National Historic Landmark and at the same time work to ensure that it never happens again.”

Today the Massacre Site is owned by the United Mine Workers of America, who erected a monument to remember those killed that day.


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