The Great War looms on the horizon

Copper Country migrants intimately tied to the impending conflict across the Atlantic

Throughout the spring and summer of 1914, the Copper Country was busily engaged in rebuilding itself financially, socially, culturally, and in other ways, as well. In these endeavors, the communities received much help and encouragement from the mining companies.

The July 23, 1914 edition of the Daily Mining Gazette ran a lengthy article boasting in great detail how the mining companies were, just then, employing more men than any time in their histories. Even though the Western Federation of Miners had left the area and their eight-and-a-half-month strike had been called off in April.

The Gazette, apparently, could not resist using the article as a jab at the union and its Copper Country strikers. As the article pointed out, the new information was published on the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the strike. Editorializing aside, the DMG had sound reason for boasting.

For the month of July alone, the payroll of all mines combined totaled $1,350,000. The article went to state that the companies, all combined, “have on their payroll a force, accurately figured, of 17,205,” an increase of 2,225 over those employed on July 22, 1913, one day before the strike began.

“These figures spell a degree of prosperity for all of the people in the Country,” the Gazette stated. “The amount of money put into general business circulation Is larger than any time previously.”

Again, not being able to leave the past behind, the article writer again jabbed at the late strike and its union leaders, when it stated that:

“A year ago today, the day before the Western Federation strike was called, the district showed a total of 14,250. Yesterday these same mines had in their employ 16,505 men.”

The second total provided excluded the estimated 700 employees of the smaller mines in the district, like the White Pine, Naumkeg, North Lake, South Lake, Indiana, Old Colony, New Baltic, Oneco, and similar ventures.

Whatever reason the Gazette may have had in its drive to keep mentioning the past strike, the announcements and advertisements in the paper suggest that the residents and businesses were doing their best to put all that behind them and move forward.

The Painesdale Sunday School committee announced on July 23 that its planning of the annual Sunday school picnic of the Methodist Episcopal Church was completed.

“It is to be a real, old fashioned, Cornish tea-treat,” the announcement declared, “the kind the English people love to tell American boys about.”

Cornish people were behind the plans, the article continued, and “the youthful element of the Sunday school is expecting a good time.”

The Cornish-style picnic is a prime example today of how the various ethnic groups used social and church events to introduce other groups to elements of their own culture they felt were valuable and wanted to share.

Meanwhile, the next day, July 24, the Houghton County Fair Committee of the Houghton County Agricultural Society conducted its annual meeting and assigned tasks to its members for the upcoming fair.

On the bottom of Page One, however, was a small 1 1/2-inch square article that cast dark storm clouds on the eastern horizon.

“An Austro-Hungarian note to Serbia contained a list of demands for the supression of the pan-Serbian movement, and the punishment of those concerned in the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand,” the article reported.

The article’s concluding sentence stated that Vienna has set a 24-hour deadline for a response. There was more to it than that.

It was the next step taken by the empire under Franz Josef, who strongly wanted to annex Serbia into his empire, after Serbia had recently secured its independence from the Ottoman Empire. It was after securing unconditional support from Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm, Austria-Hungary presented Serbia with its July 24 ultimatum.

It demanded, among other things, that all anti-Austrian propaganda within Serbia be suppressed, and that Austria-Hungary be allowed to conduct its own investigation into the archduke’s killing within Serbia’s borders.

Wilhelm, by all accounts, still hoped to avoid war, pushing for a diplomatic solution; it was the German Military that wanted to go to war, states history.com.

In the causes of the outbreak of the Great War, however, it must be stated that those causes are still being argued and debated to this day.

On Feb. 12, 2014, BBC News posted on its website an article titled “World War One: 10 interpretations of who started WW1.” The article contains the opinions of 10 leading historians on who and what started the war. None of them agree, yet they are probably all correct.

Whatever the causes, or whoever is to blame, the United States felt it was isolated from a European war. But in the Copper Country, the majority of the 17,000 or so men employed in the copper mines, had immigrated from every country that would soon be caught up in a war between empires.

For those immigrant groups, this was was in no way some isolated event; everything that had prompted their migration had its origins in one empire or other, and they had left friends, family, culture and life behind. To them, regardless of what they had fled, it followed them to Michigan, and caught up with them in July and August of 1914. It would also dawn on the mining companies that the war in Europe would also impact them.

What happened in Europe would affect every immigrant ethnic group in the Copper Country, except the Finns. What happened in Europe after Aug. 8 would bring the events in Europe to the very living rooms of nearly ethnic immigrant living in the Copper Country.


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