In honor of Labor Day I am going to write about Governor David Hanson Waite. Waite was involved in the Denver City Hall War of 1893, and the labor wars in Teller County in 1893.
David Hanson Waite was Colorado’s 8th Governor. He was a Populist that was elected in 1892. He had a conflicted time in office. In March 1893 Waite was involved in the “Denver City Hall War”. Let me recap it. In 1893 a new city charter decentralized Denver’s government powers into six different administrative departments. Two of the officials would be elected, two would be appointed by the Denver mayor, and two would be appointed by the governor. Waite’s authority meant he could remove and hire police and fire department commissioners. As these commissioners were corrupt, Waite tried to remove them from office in March 1894. They refused to leave City Hall. Waite called in Federal Troops from Fort Logan to remove the commissioners.
Cooler heads presided, shots were not fired, and the matter was settled in court. It was within his powers to remove the commissioners but it was not within his powers to call out the Federal troops which trained two Gatling guns and two pieces of field artillery on the City Hall. The destruction of City Hall would occur decades latter by the wrecking ball. Waite’s challenges continued.
In May of 1894 miners in Cripple Creek called a strike. The panic of 1893 sent silver prices plummeting. The mines in Cripple Creek were mining gold but with so many silver miners unemployed, the mine owners pressured the miners to take smaller pay and longer hours. The miners organized and struck. At the center of the conflict was wages. Miners worked eight to ten hours a day for $2.50 to $3.00. The mine owners wanted to impose a ten hour day for $3.00. If you wanted to work eight hours your pay would be cut to $2.50 per day. The miners wanted $3.00 for an eight hour day. Waite called out the state militia in favor of the miners.
Again Waite was at the center of a another conflict. This time it was called the “Battle of Bull Hill.” El Paso County Sheriff, Frank Bowers organized a force of 1500 men including the Denver policemen and firemen that were fired in the City Hall War. The miners fortified a mine on Bull Hill to fight against the sheriff’s forces. Again Waite was able to quell the conflict. That June of 1894 the striking miners won their demands, helped by Waite’s influence. An unusual occurrence in labor wars.
Although Waite had progressive ideas for government such as Women’s Suffrage, income tax, eight hour work days, secret ballots, and direct election of US Senators, he was not re-elected. He ended up back in Aspen where is passed away in 1901.