Friday, August 19, 2011

What? The Rockerfeller Family Did What? No Way!

So it was just another Sunday on Ellis Island, tourist coming and going, families interested in searching their ancestry, Park Rangers giving tours, tourist wandering around and me awaiting someone to ask for my assistance in searching through the ship manifests in order to find their great grandparents entry into America. It was then that a woman and her two Greek companions asked me to help them in a search they called impossible.

It started out like any normal session. General introduction stuff, basic background on the person and then they dropped the bomb on me. The family explained to me that they were in search of the immigration records for a Elias Spantidakis. Now the name did not jump out at me but the events he was a part of sure did. They explains that Elias Spantidakis was the first person killed at the Ludlow Massacre. It was at this point that I figured they were crazy. But we searched and searched and they persisted of the man immigrated through Ellis Island. I know the trouble with searching for Greek names so I tried every possible spelling, partial spelling searches, everything and anything. The result, nothing.

Why you may be asking, especially since I didn't believe them, well I was intrigued, that's why. And they were so sure of themselves and had the proof to back it up. The proof you may ask was letter written by the man himself. In his letter's described his entrance to America and the finding of work and the large Greek communities out in Colorado. He also told a story of a gentlemen he traveled to America with. So since they were there I figured what the hell and looked up that name. Again, no results but they were not deterred. They actually told me why there is no records of either man, the Rockefeller Family. That's right, they are convinced that the Rockefeller's had the record destroyed. But before we get into that let me explain a little more about Mr. Spantidakis.


The family explained the me that Elias Spantidakes headed out west and like most immigrants wanted to became an American. So, Spantidakes applied for citizenship and gave himself a more American name, Louis Tikas. He began the application process in 1910. Tikas did not approve of the way his fellow miners were being treated so he joined the labor union in protest of the poor treatment of the mining community. So like any Union they elected officials and drafted a list of rights. And this requests where really nothing out of the ordinary, basic union stuff. (Bargaining rights, 8 hour work day, crud health insurance, you know stuff the right wing conservative people hate) So along with this Tikas was elected to be the spokesman for his camp, Ludlow.

                                                                                                      National Archives

Now what happened next? Well talks didn't go so well. According to the family of Tikas, the Rockefeller's called in the Colorado Militia in order to put down the start up of the Unions. Now this is were the family gets off the path of truth. The way the Rockefeller's are related to the whole Ludlow and Colorado mining scene is, well they owned the mines and made a crazy amount of money off the production of the mines. The Colorado Militia was called in by Governor Elias M. Ammons. He made the call because the Union protests were beginning to get ugly. Protestors attacked "scabs" and anyone else opposed to the strike so the use of militia was a necessary step. Now the question is, did the Ammon's make the call for the general safety of the citizens of Colorado or was there another motive? Could the Rockefeller family have that much pull? Could they influence Ammon to the point to call in the militia to put down the strike? I am going to just say it, yes.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. was the head of the Rockefeller juggernaut in the 1910s. The Rockefeller company, Colorado Fuel and Iron was company being protested. Now you may recall I said I believe the the Rockefeller had something to do with the massacre and here is why. The Rockefeller family owned 40% of CFI. I can see Rockefeller Jr. having some influence of Ammons. I do not believe that John Rockefeller Jr. personally called up militia leaders and paid them directly to shut down the strikes. However, I can see Rockefeller Jr. calling Ammons and putting the screws to him. I can see him, like any major industrial giant, making threats, which he could back up and causing a fear to rise in Ammons to go along with the wishes of Rockefeller Jr. Now, Tikas's family is not the first to think this and neither am I to agree with them. After the massacre there was an inquire, but before we get into that let me paint the picture of what happened at Ludlow. 

                                                                                   National Archives

The day of April 20th was just like any other day in 1914. The strikers were waking up after their Easter celebration (Greek Eastern Orthodox) but were met by militia requesting the release of a man being held after the strikers protested. Tikas was the head of the camp were the man was being held so it was his duty to negotiate. During the talks the militia set up and prepare for an attack on the camp. Tikas becoming aware of the oncoming attack fled the militia camp in an attempt to warn his people (according to his family). As Tikas rode off he was shot in the back and then later finished off by being smashed in the head with the butt of a militiaman's rifle (again, according to Tikas' family). Now evidence of this is clear, however, Tikas was seen inside the Ludlow camp in helping defend the women and children there. At the end of the day 20 people lay dead men, women and children all at the hands of the Colorado Militia under the orders of Governor Ammons and perhaps by the influence of John D. Rockefeller Jr.

                                                                              National Archives

 After the massacre, Colorado's working class was outraged. Labor Unions called for all workers to be armed and encouraged strikes and attacks on anyone opposed to the unionizing cause. As things began to get even worse President Woodrow Wilson had enough and sent in the United States Army. At their arrival both sides were disarmed, Governor Ammons lost power over the state and Colorado and the Army received direct orders from Washington D.C. The next step was an inquire by the Commission on Industry Relations. The Commission focused on four strikes including Ludlow. A journalist by the name of Walter Lippman. Lippman believed that there was a constant battle between liberty and democracy in the modern world and that through critical thinking and progressive programs the two ideas could be bridged and coexist. However, Lippman's importance in the Ludlow Commission comes from his report on Chairman Frank Walsh's chasing after Rockefeller. Walsh knocked Rockefeller Jr. for several days and had dragged the Rockefeller name through the mud, because like Tikas's family and myself, they to felt that John Rockefeller was responsible for not only Tikas death but all the others killed at the Ludlow camp. At the end of the Commission two theories were created. First, one that stated a labor board should be created because conflict between labor and management was going to happen again. Second, which is Walsh's states, was a call for what he called "industrial democracy." Walsh felt the state of labor in the United States resembled feudalistic societies. It warned of a growing millionaire class that would soon take advantage of the masses (wait someone was worried about this in the 1910s? And now today...wait this rant is for another time). In the end it can be seen that there was no real conclusion on what to do about labor and rights. These 20 people who died at Ludlow died in vain for the cause of equality. It is evident that the Commission, although had good intentions, was pretty much pointless and a show piece to curb the angry of the working class, Unions and non Union workers. But more important to my argument, the Commission even believed Rockefeller Jr. did have a hand in the massacre and more important than that Rockefeller Jr. refused to answer any questions about 

So what was the point? Well oddly enough, and perhaps can be viewed with some suspicion, the first person to make any changes in labor relations was John D. Rockefeller Jr. The Rockefeller's then took great steps in rebuilding labor relations. They made improvements in their company towns. Also made strides in maintaining better working conditions for employees. It was the beginning of the Rockefeller name that is so well respected today. The Rockefellers we all know and love today, the family that has that place in New York City that everyone loves to visit around Christmas, the family that donated millions to social causes and betterment of American society. Well, sad to say all that good came out of the horror of the Ludlow massacre. I think we can agree that this twist in the Rockefeller family comes from that day in Colorado, a family so wealthy and so willing to make a profit they would kill immigrants, people just looking to start a new life in America and try to attain that illusive "American Dream." After the Commission and attacks by Walsh you can see how this family would aim to become a hero of the people and leave it's dark choices in the past.


By now I hope you have taken away something about the Ludlow Massacre and the events surrounding it. But now by the picture of Ellis Island you may be asking, Mike where are you going with this? When I sat down with Louis Tikas's family they explained to me that John D. Rockefeller Jr. called for the murder at Ludlow. Now I've pretty much established my belief in that in the previous part of the essay but now for even more conspiracy. The family believes that Rockefeller Jr. had Tikas's immigration record destroyed. Now everyday I have the privilege of search records from 1892 to 1924. Now these records have been scanned and digitized but where are the originals? Well thanks to the Nazis and WWII the immigration records prior to 1940 no longer exist except on microfilm. Now way am I blaming the Nazis? Because thanks to them the U.S. had to scrape, save and reuse everything, including immigration records which were bleached and the recycled. Like I said in the beginning I spent a good part of my day searching the records for the name Elias Spantidakis and got nowhere, Louis Tikas also nowhere and every possible combination all dead ends. So the question could Rockefeller Jr. be so powerful as to have the immigration record destroyed to make Tikas look like an illegal immigrant? Or could it be that the record was never put on microfilm and lost forever to time? I feel that the Rockefeller family did have the power to expunge the record but I do also believe in clerical errors. In short the record is gone forever and only left to each of our own conclusions on what really happened.


In the end the Ludlow Massacre is another piece of forgotten American History. It was a time of struggle by the working class in order to better not only their lives but the future of the working class. It was men and women who came to the United States trying to start a new life and help in the building of America. John D. Rockefeller Jr. may be the forgotten bad guy in this scenario due to his contributions after the event. But when  talking about horrific events in our nations history Ludlow is often if not always overlooked. It is up to the surviving family members of those there, like the family of Elias Spantidakis, to pass on the story to the next generation and to the historians who search for the truth of what happened. I wrote this piece because the story captivated me. It touched a part of me that fears not knowing the truth about my family history. It is unfortunate that something like this happened in our history and could have been perpetrated by one of America's most beloved families. It is truly an event that may never have a solid answer and case in American History that is never examined and left in the past. 

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