The Great Railroad Strike of 1877
Document 5C: Strike of the Trainmen

Albany Argus masthead

scanned newspaper article
scanned newspaper article, part 2

Transcription of
The Albany Argus:
Tuesday, July 24, 1877, Vol. LI., No. 18.987
(original spellings & punctuation maintained)


Trouble began with the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. The trainmen struck on Monday, the 16th, and gathered in the depot at Martinsburg to prevent the moving of the trains with other hands. They drive from the engine those who were willing to work on the company's lines. The town authorities being powerless to suppress the riot, appeal was made to the Governor of the State (W. Virginia), Hon. Henry M. Matthews. The Governor responded at 10:10 A.M. of Tuesday, placing at the disposal of the railroad authorities two military companies stationed at Martinsburg. Col. Faulkner was placed in command.

The strikers and their families gathered in the roads of the company, at an early hour Tuesday morning. They were armed with every conceivable weapon, and as the train was about to start they rushed upon it and cut the couplings of the cars. Col. Faulkner ordered them to disperse, and they responded with jeers and threats, and finally opened a fusilade of small arms upon the soldiers, one of whom was wounded. The commanding officer then ordered the men to fire, and the order was obeyed. The friends of the strikers gathered to the number of about one thousand. No trains were moved that day. At three o'clock in the morning of the same day a train was thrown from the track at Baltimore, and no trains left the city that day. The strike extended to Wheeling, on the Parkersburg branch. Governor Matthews went to Grafton, and was stoned at the Grafton house, by friends of the strikers. The rioters held possession of the road all day Wednesday. The militia were in sympathy with them. There were but four companies in the State, the Legislature having prohibited military organizations. Application was accordingly made to the Federal Government for aid.

Federal troops arrived at Martinsburg at 6:30 A.M. on Thursday. The strikers decided to demand $2 per day. A proclamation from the President was distributed at all points on the road. The strike extended from Baltimore to Chicago, and over all the branches of the road. Trains were moved from Martinsburg, under protection of the Federal troops. One engineer marched to his engine waving his pistol over his head, the strikers falling back before him. One of the ringleaders of the rioters was arrested, and warrants were issued for the arrest of several more.

The same day (Thursday) the strike began on the Pennsylvania Central, at Pittsburgh. The grievance there was an order doubling up the freight trains, and extending a day's trip. Formerly a trip to Derry (48 miles) was considered a day's work, while under the new order a day's trip extended to Altoone (116 miles). Hence, the strike. Eighteen trains were stopped at Pittsburgh, by the strikers.

Friday was marked by a bloody riot in Baltimore, which is without parallel, except the attack upon the Massachusetts troops while marching to the relief of Washington in April, 1861. Pittsburgh was taken possession of by the strikers and their sympathizers, numbering several thousand. The spirit of both sides is well illustrated in a dispatch elsewhere published. The strike extended to the Erie road, at Hornellsville.

The stirring events of the week culminated in the terrible tragedy at Pittsburgh on Saturday, details of which have alarmed the country. The strike extended to several other roads at the West. At Hornellsville, one B.J. Donohue was in command, and issued orders with regard to the dispatching of trains. He was chairman of the companies of the trainmen, and held the Erie road entirely under his control for the time being.

Last Updated: January 17, 2012