January 25, 2017 –
Vail Public Library will host a living history presentation featuring “Michael Mooney” portrayed by James Walsh. Michael Mooney emigrated to the U.S. from Ireland around 1870. He made his way to Leadville during the silver rush, where he worked as a miner, and married an Irish American woman named Julia Gilgallon in Leadville. In May of 1880, when a massive miners' strike broke out in Leadville, Mooney was thrust into the role as union leader, a role that he did not seek. The strike all but shut down Leadville and hurt the Colorado economy and when local business leaders pleaded for the governor to declare martial law, Leadville was turned into an armed camp. Mooney led the men with care and dignity throughout the three week strike, constantly encouraging them to remain nonviolent and to avoid the saloons. He left Leadville with his family a few years after the strike. His story speaks to the challenges that Irish immigrants faced in the American West in the years following the Civil War.