Bienfait- Miner's Riot, Sept 29, 1931

Bienfait, Saskatchewan, Canada


Picture taken at the beginning of the Riot, corner of Souris Ave. and 4th St. in Estevan SK
Postcard Courtesy Grant Walker, Studio City, CA

Some of the Pictures below, were taken June 1999 by a Sony Digital Camera, one of the first available so quality wasn't the best.


Tuesday September 29, 1931
The Bienfait Coal Strike resulted in the death of these 3 miners in Estevan, near the Courthouse, on 4th St. Estevan, during a Striker's Parade.
Repeated attempts by some, have tried to erase the yellow stripe, and the word “RCMP” from this headstone.
And then there is still those in the area who restore this graves headstone, to this condition shown above.


Names on the headstone above
P. Markunas age 28
N. Nargan, age 28
J. Gryshko, age 29

Peter Markunas- age 28, born in Lithuania,
his widow, Amelia, nee Billis, re-married John Budris, who also passed away
Peter worked at M & S mine prior to the riot

All 3 of these men buried in Bienfait, are considered Martyrs of the Labour Movement.

These are also the spelling of the names recorded in the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan.

Leader Post in Regina in 2005 stated the names as:
Nick Nargan (23), Julian Gryshko (26), and Pete Markunas (27)

In the Estevan Mercury, dated Oct 1, 1931, they list these names:

Dead:

Julian Jryshko,
age 35 of Bienfait, striker, employed at M & S Mine, Leaves Wife and one child, shot through abdomen,
(near Fegan Service Station in some records, I believe it was Robert Buck Fagan's Garage),
Identified Wednesday by Steve Stepanski, His Body was claimed by his wife.
Died in the waiting room on arrival at the Estevan Hospital

Nick Narwan, age 26, of Taylorton, striker, employed at M & S Mine, He was single, shot through heart,
Identified only by a Union Card in his pocket, His Body was Unclaimed,
Shot dead, while standing on the Fire truck defying the police.

Reported Dying:

Pete Markunas (See Above)
(alt spelling Markini) of Bienfait, striker shot in right leg, in Weyburn General Hospital.
He died early Friday Morning, 3rd man to die during the riot, Buried in Grave Above.

Louis Revay
Of Crescent Collieries, striker, shot in chest and right thigh, in Estevan Hospital.
Louis Revay was among those immigrants arrested, charged with unlawful assembly, and ordered deported.

Mike Kyatick
of Crescent Collieries, striker, shot above heart, bullet entering from rear, in Estevan Hospital

Injured:

John Forberg of Roche Percee, striker, bullet wound in left leg, in Estevan Hospital.

Frederick “Fred” Konopaki, (alt spelling -Konopacki) striker, bullet wound in left leg, in Estevan Hospital.
b- Mar 6, 1894
d- Feb 4, 1954
buried in Bienfait Cemetery
He was married to Nettie Konopaki, nee ?
b- Oct 14, 1896
d- Nov 16, 1976
buried in Bienfait Cemetery
Fred had a brother Alex Konopaki.
b- Mar 25, 1901
d- Mar 4, 1983
buried in Bienfait Cemetery
Alex married Mary Bozak
b- June 25, 1909
d- Jan 1, 1973
buried in Bienfait Cemetery
The 2 brothers ended up owning a coal mine in the area.
They worked at the National Mine at the time of the strike.

Fred and Nettie had a son John Konopaki
b- Jan 10, 1918 in Bienfait SK
d- Jan 16, 2007 in Red Deer AB, age 89
wife Mary V. Lylyk
another son Walter Konopaki
b- Nov 20, 1925 in Bienfait SK
d- June 18, 2007 in Moose jaw SK, age 81
married Helen Marie Konopaki, nee Bookout
Wrally Konopaki, lives in Penticton BC
William “Bill” Konopaki,
wife Lenore nee Mantei, lives in Penticton BC

Tony Stankewich, striker, bullet wound in left leg, in Estevan Hospital.

Steve Daryluk of M & S Mine, striker, bullet wound in right leg, in Estevan Hospital.

Charles Grigalis, of M & S Mine, striker, shot in toe on left foot, in Estevan Hospital.
Born in Lithuania, arrested, tried and jailed, after the strike.
He was fined $150.00, and spent 2 years on his own reconnaissance, after paying $1,000.00, and 2 sureties of $500.00 each.

Clive Butterworth of Estevan,
Music Teacher, bullet wound in right thigh in Estevan Hospital. Shot while walking up 11th Ave.


Clive Butterworth 1946
Oct 30, 2011, I received a nice email from Clive's son, Simon Butterworth.
Turns out Clive told all his relatives about this story, over the years.
It also turns out he was a teacher at the Potter's School of Music, in Estevan, at the time of the riot.
Teaching music and playing the piano thru the depression.

Miss L. King of Nelson, Lancashire, England, shot through left shoulder, in Estevan Hospital.
Visiting a Mrs T. Orr, and shot while watching from an upstairs window.

Frank Hanna of Frobisher, Garage man, shot in right leg, bone fractured, in Estevan Hospital.

Constable Sutherland, RCMP, severe scalp wounds, released from hospital Wednesday morning.

Constable Palmer, RCMP, shot through left arm bone fractured, released from hospital Wednesday morning.

Ewald Krueger, Estevan, bullet wound in left cheek. He was standing on the roof of a house nearby.

Tony Marten, age 15, Estevan, shot in right arm, just above the wrist, in Estevan Hospital.

Mike Pulhauriski, found by police in bed, at M & S Mine, Wednesday,
with severe bullet wound in back, taken to Estevan Hospital.

Estevan Chief of Police Alex E. McCutcheon, deep scalp wound from blow on head.

Detective Sergeant Mortimer, RCMP, badly bruised shoulder.

Sergeant John Molyneux, RCMP, left ear torn.

Four other Police Officers were treated for wounds, no names shown.

Next came the Canadian Press, Articles below printed in every newspaper in Canada.

Newspaper articles on the strike aftermath.


Sept 30, 1931



Oct 1, 1931


Oct 2, 1931


Oct 3, 1931

Oct 5, Article- Estevan accused to stand trial in March 1932
Oct 5, 1931 article

Then came more Trials, the next Spring

Mar 3, 1932


Mar 4, 1932

John Robert Brodie Biography


This is a Plaque placed by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour,
unveiled by Amelia Billis Budris, Peter Markunas's widow


Estevan Courthouse, Location of the 3 Miner's Deaths

Old Mining Car Location, corner of Souris Ave. and 4th st. in Estevan, is called “Coal Miner's Corner”


Coal Miner's Corner


The Estevan Mercury Front Page Article about the Strike and Riot, on display at the Bienfait Museum

I now believe Nick Nargan's actual name was:
Nykola Nargan, b- 1904

I believe he came to Canada Jan 11, 1930, arriving in St John, NB, on the Duchess of York, C.P.O.S.
When he arrived he was age 26, so when he died he might have been age 27.
Per an email from a relative, his sister was Justyna Nargan, b- 1906
She arrived in Canada July 31, 1926, on board the Montclare, age 20.
Both ships left Liverpool England, Both shown as Polish Nationality.
Father's name- Wasyl Nargan.
Pretty sad to think he was in Canada only for a year, and a bit, when he was shot and killed.

Link below to read an article in the Leader Post in Regina
http://library.usask.ca/sni/stories/con13.html

Steve Hewitt wrote this article ca 1997
http://lltjournal.ca/index.php/llt/article/viewFile/5066/5935
This article was written by documents that were kept secret for decades, and finally released.

Funny after 70+ years, we are just now hearing the whole truth, of what happened in Estevan that day, and why.
These documents and findings, in brief, put the blame on the mine owners, and managers at the time hiring scab workers,
which provoked the riot in the first place.
We now know Charles Campbell Morfit (see below) hired a dozen scabs at the Western Dominion Mine,
a number not big enough to run the mine, but enough to stir up the miners on strike.
Sgt Mulhall, of the local RCMP was quoted in reports he made, that he blamed this one episode for the whole strike.
Charles Morfit was involved in strikes in Pennsylvania, where the police just mowed the miners on strike down,
and he wanted to see the same here, and was provoking the striking miners, just to achieve this end.
Was he charged for inciting a riot? NO! Funny thing he worked for a company in New York
who for almost 20 years prior, had contracts in Communist Russian mines
and here was this guy, preaching about the evils of the Communist Union?
Wonder how the guys in Russia would have liked to hear that back then?
There is some reports of the Estevan Council Meeting minutes, Held in the morning, before the riot,
where supposedly a rush stop order, to the parade, was passed, were altered,
Or should I say, at least “allegedly appeared” to be altered.
Another book, thinks this might have happened, but not convinced it did.
During the Commission, written transcripts of a phone call made to stop the parade were entered as evidence.
Now I'm not a CSIS member, but in 1931 they wrote down what they said over the phone?
You could barely talk over a phone in those days.
I know they used the press to promote how terrible the Communist Union was and how great the Owners were to stop it.
It could have been a union formed by the Catholic Church Priest, and these guys would have found fault with it,
let's face it, they DIDN'T WANT A UNION AT THE MINES!
The Commie, Red thing, was the biggest red herring in the world.
And Joe Q public believed it. Still to this day, I might add. If it was in the Mercury, it was True.
I know some think there was a cover-up. Others don't
Some think the RCMP were right, Others don't
Some think the Managers and Owners were right, Others don't
I'm afraid I am now a strong member of the DON'T side.

The RCMP head in the area at the time, Sergeant William Mulhall, was sympathetic to the miners.
I do not think this would have happened, if he was left in charge.
The head officers in Regina replaced this fellow, with their own Riot Squad, who were sympathetic with the mine owners,
and in my opinion went looking for a fight. I know one thing for sure, 3 young men died, trying to make a living.
I don't care who is right or wrong, that is the worst part of this.

Both Nick Nargan and Julian Gryshko were card carrying members of the Communist Party of Canada
which at the time was the “Red” scourge of the Earth, and the big thing the management of the mines pushed in the press,
to throw off the masses from joining a Union. Funny thing the scare is still around today.
Now it's “the Unions are too big” scenario.
The Conservative press will push their agenda to protect the Rich Class, always have, and always will.
Companies want Canadian and American Dollars, they just don't want to have to pay Union wages here.
That's why you have India, Pakistan, Philippines, China, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, etc getting the jobs.
There are NO Unions there, They have child labour, poor working conditions, etc.
And a bunch of poor people stepping over each other for the jobs.
In all of these countries there are some of the richest men in the world.
Funny how that works.
1930's we were fighting the Communists, today they own a lot of the big natural resources in Canada,
and we are begging them to buy more!

In my alleged opinion, I can see now those court cases back then, seem to be all “fixed” or maybe “bent”
on the side of the owners. The laws have always been on the side of the Business owners.
That is, and will always be, the case.
A working man only has his labour as a tool. He can either work, or not work.

Slowly we are seeing changes to the way the RCMP handles strikes, and protests.
But there is still room for improvement there as well.

The trial of the Communist leaders of the Union, blamed for the riot, and eventually charged,
was held in the new Estevan Court House.
Judge John Fletcher Leopold Embury, from Regina, presided.
He was born Nov 10, 1875, in Thomasburg, Ontario.
By Nov 1, 1916, He became a Brigadier General in WWI, 13th Brigade, 5th Division.
He was eventually on the Saskatchewan Supreme Court.
He ran as a Conservative Member of Parliament.
He was also a member of the Masons.
Most of the Owners of the Mines, and most members of the RCMP at that time, were Masons as well.
I do believe they take an oath to protect each other under any circumstances. Sounds Like a fair trial to me!

Here is another book you can read for yourself, written by a Methodist Minister at that time.
“All My Life”
Rev. Albert Edward Smith
An Autobiography
1871-1947
You read this book on “ www.ourroots.ca ” Read Chapter 12 there
Miner's Blood on Estevan Coal
He does not mix words, tells it like it was.
He became a member of the Communist party,
and was sympathetic to the Communism movement,
and friends with the Union leaders.
But as a Reverend, would he lie?
You make that decision.

Go to my Books, Video Page
and check out other information available on this subject.
Every book has a different opinion.
One thing I will add, is this story is NOT talked about enough.
It is a story NOT talked about at all in the Bienfait Estevan area.
The newer generation have never heard of it,
and the older generation don't want to be reminded of it.
I take the stand, EVERYONE should know, and NEVER forget.
It is like saying we shall never remember the soldiers in WWI or WWII
It is a story that should be taught in schools.
Are we still afraid of the “Red” “Communist” connection?
It's like still being afraid of the boogey man, in my opinion!
I am more afraid of Capitalism now, than that.
Just have to look at the world economy in 2017.
Capitalism has not worked too great for us either.
Anyway whoever was right or wrong:
The Coal Miners, The Union, Estevan City Police, RCMP, Judges, Estevan City Council, Mine Owners, Biased Newspaper Reporting, Communist Movement, Capitalist Movement, Many Fraternity Organizations at the time, The Federal Coal subsidy that was instituted before the strike, making Alberta Coal as cheap in Winnipeg, as Bienfait coal, or maybe the Truax-Traer strip mine shovels, that out placed hundreds of workers, Maybe all need to take a portion of the blame, some more than others.

Push a good man in a corner, and look out, he will fight hard to come out.
The miners were pushed, and pushed hard.
I think it could have been a peaceful march, as others before it were,
but this all changed with the edict to bring in the RCMP Riot squad.
There never was a threat made by the miners on anything in Estevan.
They could have caused major damage at the Crescent Mine, when they stopped to pick up men there,
if there was anything like that on their minds.
That decision to make a big deal of the situation, making the RCMP in Regina think this was 500% worse than it was,
changed the outcome of this day.
It should be talked about, not covered up.
Learn from the mistakes made, don't keep making the mistakes.
Study it, don't hide from it!
Talk about it, don't stick your head in the sand, and pretend it did not happen.

The way I look at it, after the Royal Commission, after months of deliberation,
changes to the way these mines could operate took place.
If like the owners claimed, there was NO problem in Sept 1931, why were the changes instituted?
There is NO doubt in my mind the reason is, what they were doing was as bad as slave labour.
Safety regulations be damned. It was full speed ahead for the almighty buck!
NO ONE can change the facts of this. They can sugar coat it, but can not erase this fact.
Strikes do not happen for NO reason. Contrary to what the Press like to publish,
They love to print that All Unions are: TOO BIG, TOO GREEDY, TOO POWERFUL.

We are seeing another threat today, with the RCMP and the taser.
Yes it is better than bullets, like they used in this riot.
But is it necessary to fire it at an unarmed single man, if there is 4 officers around him?
Even if he was holding a chair and a stapler??
If 4 trained men can't handle him, there is something wrong with the men! If they can not subdue a single man, what are they trained for?
If the guy has a weapon, gun or knife, then I can see using it.
But isn't pepper spray a lot better? I haven't heard of one person dying from it yet!

In this case the question comes down to, did the miners have guns? Who really shot first?
But again, I repeat, it would not have happened, if no RCMP line was there.
Armed confrontation, leads to Violent Confrontation.

I had a phone call ca2009 from a young girl, who was doing a report for school,
and she picked the Estevan Riot in 1931, as her subject.
Her mother told me she asked her if maybe she shouldn't write about it,
maybe her teachers would be mad if she wrote about this
If she said something bad about the RCMP for instance.
Here we live in Canada, and we still fear what we say, and write.
I am glad her mother encouraged her to continue.
It will be a learning experience for her classmates, and a big one for the teacher no doubt.
In her interview with me, she asked some very good questions, her last question caught me off guard.
it was “what is the moral of this story?”
Tough question for a young writer!
All I could think of quickly, was If all Businesses treat their employees fairly, this will never happen again.
After I got off the phone, I thought of others.
She did an excellent job in preparing for the phone call.
At her age, I had a tough time writing anything!
Even copying from the encyclopedia was tough!
OK, maybe I did this once or twice!!!
I could have been an honour student with the internet now!
Don't even need to write, just copy and paste!
I applaud her on her report, and not quitting, and would give her 100%
for writing what she wants, about whatever she wants!
That is why we are free Canadians!

more links below,
Please Note- These are not my sites:

You Tube Video Song About The Riot
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9x98tPD_Tw&feature=related

The 2 articles below are Socialist sites. Yes, can you imagine reading a Socialist Document??

A great article on the events of the day
http://www.socialisthistory.ca/Docs/History/Buller/AB10.htm

Annie Sylvia Buller
b- Dec 9, 1895 (in Montreal per some records) (Ukraine in others) marriage record states born in Rumaine
d- Jan 19, 1973 in Toronto, ON, age 77
married Harry Guralnick Nov 9, 1924
Jewish Parents, father- ?, mother Catharine
brother- James F. Buller, age 33, in 1921, Railway Accountant
sister- Mary Buller, age 29, in 1921, Jewelers clerk.

Annie defended herself, in this “Inciting a Riot” trial.
I know lots of folks in Estevan and Bienfait, blamed this lady for the riot.
In hindsight, 70 some years later, was it her fault?
Also notice- No women were on the Jury!
She spoke her mind, and she went to jail.
Not once, but many times.
Life was different back then!

Charles Campbell Morfit
b- July 16, 1881, in Baltimore, Maryland, USA
d- June 29, 1960, in Columbus Ohio, age 79
He was a “Consulting Mining Engineer” hired by “Western Dominion Collieries”
He came to Canada, age 50, July 23, 1931, checking in with Customs in Regina. Funny not in Estevan?
He came 2 months prior to the Riot! Now what was the reason for him coming?
1910 he was in West Virginia, 1920 he was at Huntington ward, Cabell, West Virginia,
1930 he was in Brooklyn New York, 1940 lived at #379 Washington Ave., in New York, New York, USA
He married May Manley Hall in 1906 in Fairmont, Marion, West Virginia, USA.
She has Genealogy ties to Daughters of the American Revolution.
b- May 4, 1883, Marion County, West Virginia, USA
they had 2 children I know of:
son- Rev. Charles C. Morfit Jr. b- June 2, 1907 in Wilsonberg, Harrison Co., West Virginia, USA
He married Sara Margaret Bowers and daughter Sue H. Morfit., b- July 29, 1908 in West Virginia, USA
she married a R. W. Shanklin, and lived in Panama City, Florida in 1957.
Father- Dr. Charles McLean Morfit, Mother- Mary Elizabeth Fiske
siblings:
Clarence Mason Morfit- also a consulting engineer
Catharine Campbell Morfit
Ada Fiske Morfit
Mary Fiske Morfit




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  • Last modified: 2018/02/24 09:58
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