Archaeology at Berwind

The decaying ruins of a once bustling coal mining community called Berwind litter a stretch of narrow canyon, less than three miles from the site of the Ludlow Massacre. The people who participated in the 1913-14 Strike lived and labored in Berwind and dozens of other mining camps like it. The remains of homes, schools, administrative offices, and industrial equipment run along the sides of Berwind Canyon Road for over a mile. As part of this project, some of the things we are interested in is how people lived in the coal camps, how these conditions led to the strike, and how conditions changed as a result of the strike. To answer these questions we needed to locate archaeological deposits at Berwind that dated to before and after the strike.
Our work at Berwind was aimed at forming an overall picture of the town and its growth and locating areas that might contain the sorts of archaeological remains that we are interested in. The work at Berwind required a truly multi-disciplinary approach, combining archaeology with historical documentary research and oral history interviews with people who had lived in Berwind Canyon.

Figure 1:

We surveyed and mapped the entire town area, recording each feature, such as foundations, walls, etc. (Figure 1) We discovered a number of geographically distinct areas, including areas associated with different classes and ethnic groups. After completing the map, we conducted a surface collection of those artifacts that can be dated firmly from each area in order to trace the development of the community over time and to determine if certain areas were occupied before the strike, and if others were occupied after the strike. We walked over each area scanning the surface for artifact scatters, specifically those with temporal markers such as colored glass, tin can types, electrical accoutrements and container closures that would allow us to narrow the date of occupation in each area. Our analysis suggests that there is at least one area that was occupied previous to the strike and appears to have been abandoned shortly thereafter. This is particularly significant given the fact that Berwind was a densely occupied and growing community, doubling in population after the strike. Nearly every inch of space that was habitable was occupied.
We also did some test excavations in four areas of the town where we discovered deposits from both before (ca. 1890-1914) and after the strike (1915-1931). These sorts of deposits can give us information on how life really changed for the miners and their families as a result of the strike and the reforms that followed.
Berwind was a community, where miners and their families lived their daily lives. We were fortunate to have a few people who remembered their childhood at Berwind and other nearby camps. These interviews greatly complemented the archaeological research we are doing. Our informants have added important information about the things that we are finding at Berwind, and they have added dimensions to our understanding of daily life in the town. Both oral history interviews and documentary research have helped us to identify features in the town and establish the presence and location of ethnic neighborhoods. The oral history interviews also supplied us with a more textured understanding of daily life in the coal camps, providing information on the personal and intimate side of community life.

Public Interpretation

Over the years, we have had a lot of interest in the archaeology at Ludlow and Berwind. In addition to talks and tours given to visitors to the monument, we had a number of more formal presentations at clubs as well as archaeological conferences. These include: 4-H Club, Trinidad Historical Society, the Pike's Peak Chapter of the Colorado Archaeological Society, and AFL-CIO Union Summer interns. Each year one of the Principle investigators speak at the Memorial Service and explain what the project is up to and how the projects activities increase public awareness of events like the Ludlow Massacre.
In addition to public and professional talks, we have a traveling exhibit of the archaeological project. We also have two trunks that travel to schools to teach about the events at Ludlow and how to do archaeology. For information about our class room trunks, please contact Dean Saitta in the Anthropology Department at the University of Denver. An updated exhibit is also on display at the History Museum in Trinidad.
As part of our efforts to raise public awareness of Ludlow and the coal camps, Dean Saitta has offered several Teacher’s institutes which present materials for K-12 teachers on the Coal Field War and Colorado labor history.

Future Fieldwork

We are currently concentrating on lab analysis of previous field season’s materials and are not planning to return to the field for the 2003 field season.

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