The history of the Lattimer Massacre is a complicated one. Historical accounts vary, court documents are lost, the landscape has changed, and the event and issues remain very sensitive to many people today.
What we do know is that working conditions in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania, where the Lattimer Mine exists, were deplorable in the late-19th century. Immigrant mine workers went on strike to demonstrate for fair wages and better working conditions. Up to 400 men marched from town to town in August and early September 1897, closing down mines along the way.
Sheriff James L. Martin, after hearing reports of violent marches, published and read a riot act in English to the Slavic, immigrant miners. He deputized Hazleton-area men prepared for civil unrest.
But the miners, armed on previous demonstrations, marched unarmed the day of the massacre. As they approached Lattimer, Sheriff Martin raced on Hazleton’s trolley line to stop the workers before they arrived at the mine. When the marchers arrived, peaceably, they were met by nearly 90 lawmen with Winchester rifles.
There are conflicting views about what happened next, but in the end 25 men died immediately or shortly after the bloody event. Many more were wounded. No deputies were killed and only one severely wounded.
In the following months Sheriff Martin and his deputies would be acquitted of any wrong doing. The trial has alternately been held as a model for protection of law and a mockery of justice.
In the following years attempts at memorialization have come and gone with varying degrees of enthusiasm and success. Today there stands a monument known as Remembrance Rock in Lattimer near the massacre location, along with a Pennsylvania state historical marker. There is also an historical marker in Hazleton, near Harwood, commemorating the march to the Lattimer mine. These serve to remind us of Lattimer’s place in labor and immigration
Novak, Michael (1978) The Guns of Lattimer. NY: Basic Books
Pinkowski, Edward (1950) Lattimer Massacre. Philadelphia: Sunshine Press.
Turner, George A. (1990) The Lattimer Massacre. The History of Northeast Pennsylvania: The last 100 years. Second Annual Proceedings of the Pennsylvania Community College Education Conference Center.
Articles from the Citizen’s Voice (Osterhout Free Library), Hazleton Public Record (Hazleton Area Public Library), Hazleton Standard-Speaker, Pottsville Republican, The Sentinel (Hazleton Area Public Library), Wilkes-Barre Record (Osterhout Free Library), Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader (Osterhout Free Library)