Thursday, August 31, 2017

Report on Event: "Our Families in the Battle of Homestead"

Over 100 people turned out on Saturday, August 26th, to hear about "Our Families in the Battle of Homestead", a presentation sponsored by the Battle of Homestead Foundation. The event took place at the Pump House in Rivers of Steel National Historical Area in Homestead, the site of the battle between striking workers and company-hired Pinkerton guards on July 6, 1892.
Waiting for the program to begin at the Pump House.

Two of those presenting oral histories, Luke Dowker (second from left) and John Asmonga (front, second from right) before the program began.
John Haer, President of the Battle of Homestead Foundation, introduced the program. To begin, student Julia Resciniti presented her display,"John McLuckie's Stand in the Homestead Strike of 1892," which won third place in the National History Day contest in Pittsburgh.

The main speaker was Trilby Busch, who gave a talk with accompanying slides about how she used the stories told by her father, Edward Busch, about his father and grandfather, as an inspiration for  her historical novel Darkness Visible: A Novel of the 1892 Homestead Strike.

Trilby wore her Grandfather Busch's nickle Elgin pocket watch, which he wore to work daily in the Homestead Works machine shop.

As an interlude, Carson Sestili sang, "Father Was Killed by the Pinkerton Men," a pro-worker song popular nationally in the fall of 1892.

Six descendants of strikers who were at the battle then told their family stories: John Asmonga, Bill Begley, George Debolt, Luke Dowker, Grace Jack Krepps, and Haydn Thomas. Without planning or consulting beforehand, all seven speakers touched on similar themes:

--The prioritizing of property rights over human rights at all levels of government during and after the strike. 
--The inaccuracy of documents of the time. Written accounts from newspapers to coroner's reports were often twisted or inaccurate--everything from misspellings to the deliberate suppression of vital information. Trilby discussed the coroner's report on her great-grandfather (See "Who Killed John Paul Busch?"), and George DeBolt told about how his great-grandfather was accused of murdering both a Pinkerton and striker. Bill Begley noted that the news reports of the time said that Thomas Weldon shot himself while taking or breaking a Pinkerton Winchester rifle. The report to the Allegheny Coroner by contrast states that Thomas Weldon was shot by an "unknown" person with a Pinkerton Winchester rifle.
Trilby introduces Bill Begley.

George DeBolt tells the story of his great-grandfather at the battle. George brought along the pitchfork his ancestor took to the riverbank to fight the Pinkertons.
--The conspiracy of silence about the battle and strike that has been in place since 1892. Grace Krepps said that when her mother (descendant of a replacement worker) married the descendant of a striker decades after the event, her mother was puzzled when her future mother-in-law made a snarky comment about the strike.  Her mother had no idea what she was talking about and had to ask her parents to explain the allusion. It's mindboggling that this event was the first time in 125 years that these stories about workers' experiences in 1892 Homestead were related publicly.

Grace Jack Krepps tells the stories of her grandfathers, one a striker, the other a replacement worker.
Haydn Thomas relates the ghost story surrounding the assassination attempt on Henry Clay Frick.

Eight descendants of George W. Busch were at the event, including all four surviving cousins. Back row, L-R: Trilby Busch (Edward), Grace Krepps (Estella), Phil Krepps (Grace's husband), Mark Simmers (Frances), George Schein and Britta Schein McNemar (Irene). Front row: Astrid Mueller (Trilby's granddaughter), Ceridwen Christensen and Morwenna Claire (Trilby's daughters).s

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Presentation on Workers in the 1892 Homestead Strike, August 26th, 2-5 pm

The Advisory Board for the 1892 Homestead Strike

As part of the commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the 1892 Battle and Strike, the Battle of Homestead foundation is hosting a presentation: "Our Families in the Battle of Homestead: Weaving Folklore into the Warp of Historical Fiction." Trilby Busch's historical novel, Darkness Visible: A Novel of the 1892 Homestead Strike, recreates the experiences of the workers and townspeople who witnessed the strike and battle firsthand. The author’s great-grandfather was killed in the Homestead Works in the immediate aftermath of the strike. A Steel Valley native, Trilby Busch will show how the novel weaves oral history and research into a insider’s view of the dramatic events unfolding in 1892. Carson Sestile will sing "Father Was Killed by the Pinkerton Men" composed by William Delaney in late 1892. Seven descendants of members of the strike committee and of strikers will also share their family stories. A reception afterwards will allow everyone to mingle and meet the presenters.

                Saturday, August 26th. 2-5 p.m. 
                            The Pump House, Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area
                                     880 E. Waterfront Drive, Munhall, PA

                                                  Free and open to the public.