Spark of the Great Strike

The Spark of the Great Strike Martinsburg, West Virginia Paper 1877 On July 16th several firemen and brakemen on The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad refused to work the trains and caused a massive buildup of train traffic in Camden Junction just outside of Baltimore. The strikers gave their reason for striking; a 10 percent wage cut taking affect that day. (NY Times) The strikers overtook trains and there was even a report of a beating taking place of a fireman who continued to work. The company had been prepared for a strike and a force of 40 police officers was sent to disperse the strikers. Strikers refusing to go back to work were quickly replaced and the trains were quickly running again after the delay. The town of Martinsburg, Maryland was to be the focus of many train workers in the area to make a stand. (Bruce) The town was basically built around the railroad. Most of the residents worked for the railroad and were upset that wages were not higher. Residents of the town had resentment for the leaders of the railroad. They believed that the few leaders had too much pay for themselves. This growing dissatisfaction was fueled by the new wage cut. Martinsburgs police force was very small making it the optimal spot for resistance. After news of the failed strike in Baltimore had spread, a group of workers led by Richard Zepp, a railroad brakeman who had grown up in Martinsburg, sparked a strike by abandoning a cattle train and taking a stand by saying that no trains would be allowed to leave in either direction until the 10 percent wage cut was lifted. The mayor of the town ordered the ringleaders of the strike to be arrested. The crowd had grown in numbers and had become rather excited, the police were helpless to do anything. Noone could be found who would attempt to take out the train. By nightfall the yard was surrendered to the strikers. When morni…

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