The Corpse On Boomerang Road
Telluride's War on Labor, 1899-1908

by MaryJoy Martin


ISBN: 1-932738-02-9
Hardcover * 6x9, 380 pages,
photos, maps, bibliography, endnotes, index

Corpse cover

On August 8, 1907, newspapers in Telluride, Colorado, declared that the bones of William J. Barney had been recovered from a shallow grave on Boomerang Hill, thus proving the Telluride Miners' Union had butchered him in 1901. Many mine owners, newspaper editors, and Pinkerton detectives claimed the union had inaugurated a reign of terror with Barney's slaying, a nightmare of brutality that would end only when the union men and their families were driven from the region and their leaders were hanging from the gallows.

The belief that the Miners' Union was a pack of assassins and its victims were numerous has endured for more than a hundred years. Yet meticulous research has revealed no reign actually existed, and the supposed victims were, in fact, alive long after their alleged murders.

SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE: A film based on this book is currently in development with Elbow Grease Pictures, Hollywood


  capital versus labor

The Corpse on Boomerang Road not only shatters long-held convictions, it also unravels several murder cases and exonerates those unjustly accused. It presents unmistakable evidence of a conspiracy between the Pinkerton Detective Agency and the Telluride Mine Owners' Association. This book tells the story of a struggle between labor and capital in the first part of the twentieth century—a time when mine owners could purchase the state militia to deport union men, when editors could slander and condemn union leaders without justification, and when Pinkertons could plot the arrest and conviction of innocent men on behalf of big business.

This is also the story of Vincent St. John, one of the most influential labor leaders the West produced in its early years. He was an officer in the Western Federation of Miners, and as president of Local 63 at Telluride, Colorado, led a successful strike against the Smuggler-Union Mining Company in 1901. In 1902, he and Union secretary-treasurer, O.M. Carpenter, inspired the rank and file to build a state-of-the-art brick hospital, union hall, and library. The building still stands as a symbol of solidarity in Telluride.
Miners' Union Hopsital
St. John in 1912

St. John became an organizer for the WFM and later became general secretary of the Industrial Workers of the World, 1908-1914. He contributed significantly to the cause of labor, yet has been nearly forgotten because he was a humble, self-sacrificing leader.

During St. John's lifetime, opponents of labor accused him of murdering Will Barney, and the murder was used to condemn him in the press despite the absence of a corpse and any evidence against him. The Mine Operators' Association in Telluride sent gunman, Bob Meldrum, after St. John, hired Pinkertons to harrass him, had him arrested on various charges without foundation, and hounded him for years. In 1907 mine manager, Bulkeley Wells, found a skull and bones on Boomerang Hill, claiming these were the remains of the murdered Barney. Wells displayed the skull in shop windows with a sign condemning St. John and the union as murderers. He claimed further proof: he had a Pinkerton-produced confession from a union miner named Steve Adams. This tale claiming St. John had murdered Barney and hired Adams to assassinate mine manager, Arthur L. Collins, has endured for a century.

Whose skull was it?

The Corpse on Boomerang Road finally brings to light the chilling hatred and relentless persecution of organized labor in San Miguel County, Colorado in the early twentieth century.






“Martin has done a brilliant research job. This is the definitive history of Telluride’s War on Labor 1899-1908. Exhaustive. A masterpiece of historical detective work… And it’s not just great history. It’s a great read.”
– Art Goodtimes, Columnist, Poet, San Miguel County Commissioner
For the entire review, click here:
Whole Life Net & Telluride Watch

“Martin's splendid chronicle of Telluride's little-known labor wars is surely one of the finest regional histories in recent years. Hers is a compelling, startling and unnerving tale of how powerful dark forces shattered a prosperous mining community a century ago.… Her book deserves high commendation and recognition, and not just in scholarly circles. Most of all, she deserves a legion of readers.”
– Charlie Langdon, Senior Critic
For the entire review, click here:
The Durango Herald

“This is a long and complicated story, extensively researched and richly told.”
– Ed Quillen, Editor
For the entire review, click here:
Colorado Central Magazine

“This is an extremely readable book... and it provides the best available portrait of Vincent St. John… Martin has done a real service in telling his story, and placing it in the company of the Telluride miners with whom he fought so valiantly.”
– Jon Bekken, Editor
The Industrial Worker



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