The murder of Greek labor agent, George Demetrakopolous, and the hunt for his killer in 1908.
In the early 20th century, a contentious relationship existed in Utah’s mining camps between Greek immigrant laborers and the agents of Greek labor padrone Leonidis Skliris, who was known to exploit the men he recruited to work in one of Utah’s most dangerous industries. One late spring morning in 1908, that tension turned to violence.
George Demetrakopolous, or Demeter as he was known, was a Greek immigrant who worked for a Greek newspaper in Chicago before moving to Salt Lake City. Failing to find similar work in Utah, Demeter signed on as an interpreter and agent for Skliris, and went to work in the coal camps of Scofield in Carbon County. There, he clashed with another Greek immigrant, Steve Flementakis , who was known as Flemetis.
Flemetis ran a milk wagon for the Utah Fuel Company in Scofield, where Demeter allegedly had him removed from his job. An angry Flemetis made threats to Demeter, which he carried out on June 16, 1908. Around 9:30 that morning, the landlady at the Scofield boarding house where Demeter resided allowed Flemetis inside. Flemetis entered Demeter’s room and fired a single, fatal shot into the back of Demeter’s head as he sat working at a typewriter.
Flemetis fled Scofield. A posse led by Carbon County Sheriff Thomas Kelter searched for him, believing the fugitive was hiding in the hills near town. Instead, Flemetis escaped to Tucker, a small community between Thistle and Soldier Summit. From there, a herd of sheep covered his tracks. Flemetis reportedly took a shot at a sheepherder after mistaking the man for a police officer. Sherriff Kelter arrested four or five Greek laborers, accusing them of taking part in a conspiracy to kill Demeter, but Flemetis was never captured or brought to justice.
Whatever the fate of Steve Flementakis, his murder of George Demetrakopolous only aggravated the tensions between Greek laborers and the agents of Leonidis Skliris; tensions that eventually led to major labor strikes in 1912.
Image: Greek Laborers in Carbon County, Utah. This photo was used in the book, "The Peoples of Utah". The death of George Demetrakopolous aggravated the already mounting tensions between Greek laborers and the agents of Leonidis Skliris. Courtesy of Utah State Historical Society.
See A. Kent Powell, The Next Time We Strike: Labor in Utah’s Coal Fields, 1900-1933 (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1985), pp. 88-89. Also see Ogden Standard: June 17, 1908, Deseret Evening News: June 17, 1908; June 20, 1908, Eastern Utah Advocate: June 18, 1908; June 25, 1908; September 8, 1910; September 15, 1910, and Intermountain Republican: June 21, 1908. All newspapers accessed via Utah Digital Newspapers at http://digitalnewspapers.org