Miners with Bombs

In an attempt to drive the miners away from the battlefield, Don Chafin hired biplanes to bombard the area with gas bombs left over from the First World War. Most did little damage but during the trial of Bill Blizzard they were used to gain sympathy from the jury. This proved to be effective.

Published in: on June 28, 2011 at 10:20 pm  Comments Off on Miners with Bombs  
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J.P. Morgan Battles Coal Miners in 1902

http://www.history.com/flash/VideoPlayer.swf?vid=971173601

Published in: on June 24, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Comments Off on J.P. Morgan Battles Coal Miners in 1902  
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Background Events 1

The origins of the events that would led up to the largest class war in American history, began as early as 1902 when miners tried to organize a union for coal miners in West Virginia. It is estimated that from 1900 to 1922, that miners produced more than 86 million tons of coal a year that helped fuel the industries of America. Often times, the miners would work for more than 12 hours a day, six to seven days out of the week. Like the Anaconda Company, the coal business made it seemed like their region was the best place to work, “the treatment accorded the laboring man in this field by the operators has been uniformly courteous and employers have been very generous.”

U.S. entry into World War I in 1917 sparked a boom in the coal industry, increasing wages. However, the end of the war resulted in a national recession. Coal operators laid off miners and attempted to reduce wages to pre-war levels. Southern West Virginia was one of the last places in the United States that lacked unions for the coal workers and member of the United Mine Workers of America demanded that these men have a right to unionize. Unlike the IWW, the UMWA was a well organized and had a very credible philosophy that was not revolutionary.

The miners were looking to establish collective bargining rights in order to secure better pay (on average they were paid around 47 cents per ton of coal), safety conditions, and to end the abusive slave labor system that most coal companies maintained in this region.

In response against the UMWA, the coal mine owners sent in members of the Baldwin-Felts private police force to harass miners that were considering joining and also enforced the will of the operators. The Baldwin-Felts forces were a detective agency that was first formed in the 1890s to deal with banditry issues on the railroads that ran through both Virginia and West Virginia. However, with that decline, they willingly switched to becoming strike breakers for more income.

In Logan County, the coal operators hired Sherriff Don Chafin to do their dirty work and keep unions out of the region. Chafin was a popular figure to anti-union companies since he embodied both the legal and violent aspects of the operators’ will; he misused his deputies to assault and evict union organizers as soon as they set foot in the county.

By 1921, in both Logan and Mingo Counties, over 100 people were arrested without the due process of law for attempting to organize the region.

Published in: on June 24, 2011 at 2:24 pm  Comments Off on Background Events 1  
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Miner’s Monuement, Madison WV

Sorry for the lack of updates in a while! Been busy with other projects.

Published in: on June 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm  Comments Off on Miner’s Monuement, Madison WV  
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Ludlow Massacre

While the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado was almost ten years before Blair Mountain, the miners were fighting for the same right to organize a union in the coal mines.The Ludlow Massacre resulted in the violent deaths of 19 people during an attack by the Colorado National Guard on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado on April 20, 1914. The deaths occurred after a day-long fight between strikers and the Guard. Two women and eleven children were asphyxiated and burned to death. Three union leaders and two strikers were killed by gunfire, along with one child, one passer-by, and one National Guardsman. In response, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of mines, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard.

In response to the Ludlow massacre, the leaders of organized labor in Colorado issued a call to arms, urging union members to acquire “all the arms and ammunition legally available,” and a large-scale guerrilla war ensued, lasting ten days. In Trinidad, Colorado, UMWA officials openly distributed arms and ammunition to strikers at union headquarters. 700 to 1,000 strikers “attacked mine after mine, driving off or killing the guards and setting fire to the buildings.” At least fifty people, including those at Ludlow, were killed in ten days of fighting against mine guards and hundreds of militia reinforcements rushed back into the strike zone. The fighting ended only when US President Woodrow Wilson sent in Federal troops.The troops, who reported directly to Washington, DC, disarmed both sides, displacing and often arresting the militia in the process.

This conflict, called the Colorado Coalfield War, was the most violent labor conflict in US history; the reported death toll ranged from 69-199.

Published in: on June 8, 2011 at 8:23 pm  Comments Off on Ludlow Massacre  
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Ludlow Miners

This is a picture of striking miners from the American West from 1914. While this is not a part of the history of Blair Mountain, this does provide a good look at how some of the men at Blair might have looked during the battle.

Published in: on June 2, 2011 at 9:42 pm  Comments Off on Ludlow Miners  
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