Monday, January 18, 2010


From a University of Idaho Ph.D thesis by Stanley Stewart Phipps, 1983, and book published in 1988 by the same title and author: From Bull Pen to Bargaining Table. The Tumultuous Struggle of the Coeur d’Alenes Miners for the Right to Organize. 1887-1942. The poem (song lyrics?) below attributed to “a Coeur d’Alene Miner”, from Freeman’s Journal, June 8, 1900. This item was brought to my attention by our friend Gary Eller.

From Gary's website: The Old Bull Pen (Mrs. Mary Cleopatra Robinson? Auntie Rhodes? 1899). Lyrics for this song were found in the University of Idaho Ph.D. thesis by Stanley Stewart Phipps (1983). Most likely this is the song of this name that is mentioned in an aside in Way Out in Idaho. In other places, there is a suggestion that it was written by Mrs. Mary Cleopatra Robinson, “the nearly blind poetess-laureate of the Couer d’Alenes.” A melody has not been found, but a plausible air is the classic Irish protest song “Wearing of the Green”.

--Gary Eller

Be sure to check out Gary's "The Idaho Songs Project." I wonder if a recording session and setting these lyrics to a melody is in our future?

I have added a photograph of Governor Steunenberg and General Merriam from a previous blog post. See another related blog post, Insurrection is Proclaimed/Sixty Rioters Arrested.

Here is an article from my site that is related to the bull pens: 3/15/1900 - Discarded His Army Button


The old bull pen is empty now. There are no prisoners there no more.

The miners are all turned out, and the warden has closed the door.

In eighteen hundred and ninety nine, this famous pen was built.

And numerous were the prisoners, there without one stain of guilt.

Brave me that fought in ’61 to break slavery’s cruel chains,

Were guarded there by Negro brutes, in that bull pen in the Coeur d’Alenes.

It was one despot Steunenberg that built this Siberian pen.

And Merriam with his Negro brutes and bayonets herded us in.

From May until December they kept us in that pen,
And treated us like savages instead of working men.

There liberty once found a home, but you can now look for her in vain.

For martial law and bayonets rule in the once fair Coeur d’Alenes.

Hundreds of us lived within those dark and gloomy walls.

One small window in the gable to furnish light for all.

“No mercy to those cowards show” one haughty captain cried.

“No more than a snake you know” a Negro fiend replied.

If I were guilty of a crime a trial we justly claimed.

And a removal of troops and bayonets from our homes in the Coeur d’Alenes.

We were herded just like cattle, and formed all in a line.

And with bayonets drove to dinner each day just like so many swine.

Sour was the bread they gave us, and rotten were the “spuds”.

With coffee black as midnight made by a scab called Tubs.

Our table was old Mother Earth, our chairs were just the same.

Now that is how the miners lived in that bull pen in the Coeur d’Alenes.

Permits they would not give us, yet they made us work each day,

For the Standard Oil monopoly, for which we got no pay.

At last we tried to escape, and tunneled underground.

But when thirty feet from liberty, some of our plans were found.

Brutal Captain Edwards, in command, soon this information gained.

And gave us inhuman treatment in the bull pen in the Coeur d’Alenes.

They fed us on bread and water till nine long days had fled.

And before our eyes they burned the straw from our impoverished bed.

For seven long, weary hours each day they stood us bareheaded in the sun.

And if one faltered in his track he would be braced up with a gun.

The Spokesman Review these facts would hid; but its lies were all in vain.

For the world now knows the truth, of that bull pen in the Coeur d’Alenes.

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