The story of the history of a newspaper can never be complete without including the news that it carries. The reporters, editors and publishers, whose personal stories can be interesting and can also impact a community, are of little importance when it comes to the news that any newspaper carries within its pages. And so it is with the history of the Sun Advocate and its predecessors.
The 1920s was a time of watershed news in Carbon County. Probably the most well-known event in that decade of local news interest was the Castle Gate mine explosion which took place on Mar. 8, 1924. The disaster took the lives of 175 men. In some cases, it wiped out many of the male members of families, ranging from sons to brothers and husbands to uncles. The explosion left behind 417 dependents from 114 of the miners who died. There were 266 children without fathers, and 25 expectant wives who would end up having babies without husbands to help them. In five families' cases, there were seven people who were dependent on the dead breadwinner. The methane gas that had ignited in the mine had wiped out a large part of a community's wage earners.
But while that story is well-known among modern day miners and mining history buffs, others have forgotten that, just at the end of the 1920s, another mine disaster in Standardville took another 23 lives. Today, such a story would gain worldwide attention.
Mining was, and is, dangerous, but other events connected to mining also took headlines during the third decade of the 20th century.
Two years before the Castle Gate disaster, labor troubles flared up when a group of labor-connected men fired on a train headed to Scofield during a coal miners' strike. The train carried company guards who were being sent to Pleasant Valley to prevent the miners there from unionizing, and to protect miners who continued to work despite the strike.
The April 27, 1922 issue of the News-Advocate said that the incident was bound to bring federal troops to the area because of the shootings. Three men were shot, including a former federal marshal who was working for the company as head of the guards. No one died, but a horse was killed by a volley of bullets. One man, who was transporting the injured former federal marshal, had an "outlet" in his hat (a hole caused by a bullet), but was not injured. According to the paper, the governor had ordered federal cavalry to be loaded on trains from Salt Lake (Ft. Douglas), but T.F. Kelter, county sheriff at the time, asked that the troops be held back because he thought he could take control of the situation.
At the time, the tone of both the News-Advocate and The Sun leaned toward the companies and labeled labor agitators as troublemakers and imports who were allegedly brought in to cause problems. Some of the resentment by longtime locals compared to the new immigrants working in the mines was obvious. In the article, the paper pointed out that "90 percent of the Americans in the county are working" and that outsiders were the cause of the troubles.
Within the next week, both papers reported that strikers had intimidated people driving on roads in Spring Canyon and near Scofield. The reports said strikers had shot at people and that many families had been threatened that if their breadwinners continued to work, bad things would happen. On May 4, no less than four front page articles were printed relating to the situation, including one in which the Kiwanis Club of Carbon County debated the merits of the strikers and their claims. However, in that meeting, the club members mostly complained about the cost to the county for the police protection needed in the mining areas. There was a feeling expressed that state government should pay for controlling the trouble, because only 1 percent of the coal produced in the county was used in the county and the rest of the state ate up the other 99 percent. And, by that time, the governor, rather than threatening to send troops to the area, told the county to handle it themselves.
According to the editor of the News-Advocate, one of the "agitators" came into the paper's office and told him how to handle the news. He retorted with the following editorial (called "No outside advice needed") published on the front page on that same day.
"An imported parasite whose name we did not catch and for which we do not give a rap visited the News-Advocate Saturday to tell us how to run the paper. He was politely told to go to the dickens. If a committee of bona fide Carbon County miners, level-headed and disposed to obey the law, want to talk to the manager of the News-Advocate, they will be given an impartial, respectful and courteous hearing, but we have no time to waste on outside agitators. These outsiders claim they are running the strike in Carbon County and that the lawless, foreign element will obey them. Women and children are being shot at on public highways, men are being intimidated, and officers have been shot. The suffering public can draw its own conclusion as to who is responsible. As for foreigners who care nothing for the law or for human life, they cannot tell the News-Advocate anything, neither about the strike or anything else. We want no agitators, parasites or trouble breeders to take our time."
Regardless of the paper's stances, however, the present troubles would go on and generate more news in the county for some time.
Editors note: This is one in a series of stories concerning the history of the Sun Advocate which will celebrate its 120th anniversary in 2011.