The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

June 6th, 2012

Davis Day

The Reason for Davis Day

William Davis was born in Pillowell, England on June 3, 1887 the son of Thomas & Annis (Duffy) Davis.  A year later they immigrated to Canada settling in Nova Scotia.  By the age of 21 he was living in Dominion, Cape Breton where he married Myrtle McPherson who was born in Springhill.

In 1925 the Dominion Coal Company which had amalgamated with the British Empire Steel Corporation were supplying fresh water to the Town of New Waterford for the use of its citizens and fire department.  With the declaration of a 100% strike by the Union for the miners the maintenance workers were withdrawn from the collieries but still supplied water to the town of New Waterford.  However, by June 3, 1925 things escalated and the last of the maintenance workers were ordered to withdraw from the Power Plant leaving the citizens without any fresh water.  The following day the power and water were turned back on for the mines but not for the town, leaving the citizens without electricity or water. 

By June 11th the miners realized it was time for strong action and the union called a meeting which was attended by miners from Glace Bay, Dominion, Sydney Mines and New Waterford.  The Union leaders wanted to send messages to both the Federal and Provincial Governments demanding they force the company to restore power and water to the townspeople.  The company police decided they would teach the people a lesson and rode through the streets on horseback and chased women and children knocking some to the ground and beating them. With news of the outrageous act of the police, men, women and children started marching toward the power plant where the police were now enjoying their victory by getting drunk.  When the people reached the power plant they found it was surrounded by a fence and the mounted police were coming to scatter them.  The men in the front were bloodied as the police fired at them indiscriminately. While the police were using guns, the men only had their fist and stones. The men went into the woods on both sides as if they were taking flight but were maneuvering behind the police surrounding them and blocking them from returning to the power plant.  As the fighting continued the police who were unhorsed began hiding behind railway cars, running through the trees and bushes trying to escape the miners.  With those policemen out of the way the miners advanced to the power plant and managed to take control as the workers jumped from the windows and ran to the lake swimming to the other side.  

When the ruckus started William Davis and his son, were walking by and William walked over to see what all the disturbance was about and when he saw a policeman fall from his horse went over to him and the policeman panicked and  shot him through the heart.  His son witnessed his father being shot but didn’t realize it was him before he and the other children were taken into the woods for safety As it turned out Davis was not even a part of the raid.  He and his son were on their way home after visiting a neighbour who kindly gave him a bottle of milk for his baby and as he lay on the ground the bottle could be seen in his pocket and the contents were dripping on the ground.  Others had been wounded that day but as it turned out William Davis was the only one killed.  He was 38 years old at the time and the father of nine children with another on the way.  His body was laid to rest at the home of his mother-in-law where he awaited a paupers’ funeral.

The company police were rounded up and were walked down the same road they had previously beaten and knocked down the people of the town and were put in jail only later to be sent to Halifax to avoid being lynched.

When news of the shooting and the company police being removed to Halifax got out, the miners went on a three week rampage where they burned and looted company property.

The following year the coal miners took June 11th off as a way to remember William Davis and the tribute has continued to this day.