List of Weapons captured in the Martial Law Zone in the Cabin and Paint Creek Strike

list-of-weapons

Published in: on April 28, 2013 at 10:42 pm  Comments Off on List of Weapons captured in the Martial Law Zone in the Cabin and Paint Creek Strike  
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‎100 years ago today

‎100 years ago today, on the night of February 7, 1913 the infamous “Bull Moose Special” incident took place at Holly Grove near the mouth of Paint Creek. The Bull Moose Special was an armor plated Camp O locomotive, passenger car, and freight car that was armed with two machine guns that was used to intimidate striking miners on Paint and Cabin Creeks and to haul scab labor up the creeks. Early in the day Baldwin Felts guards stationed at Mucklow had gotten into a couple of battles with strikers in the tent colony at Holly Grove who got the better of them. The guards notified authorities in Charleston which led Kanawha County Sheriff Bonner Hill, coal operator Quinn Morton, and a couple dozen deputies, mine guards, Camp O special agents, and Baldwin Felts detectives armed with high powered Winchester rifles to board the Bull Moose and head toward Holly Grove. The train arrived at the mouth of Paint Creek shortly before midnight. All the lights were extinguished and the train quietly and slowly approached the tent colony at Holly Grove. The miners had anticipated this and had evacuated the women and children but their intelligence led them to believe the train would arrive later.

As the Bull Moose passed through a cut in the mountain the engineer gave two short toots on the whistle at which time the men aboard opened up on the tents lining either side of the track at point blank range with a fusillade of machine gun and rifle fire. The miners were caught by surprise but soon regrouped and began returning fire. The engagement grew hotter and when a bullet clipped a finger from the engineer’s hand he steamed up and proceeded up the creek. Morton is said to have demanded that he back up so they could give the miners another round. In its wake the Bull Moose left one miner dead, Cesco Estep who left a widow and infant child and a neighbor woman with machine gun bullets through both legs. Sarah “Ma” Blizzard and other miners’ wives were said to have moved up the creek afterwards where they pried up rails to prevent the Bull Moose from returning. This event became one of the most notorious events of the WV mine wars.

Photo of the Bull Moose Special at Holly Grove

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From:Coal Country Tours

Published in: on February 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm  Comments Off on ‎100 years ago today  
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The Siege of Crooked Creek Gap

The Siege of Crooked Creek Gap

The West Virginia Genealogy site has several interviews with miners that fought in the Siege of Crooked Creek Gap, which was one of the areas nearest to Logan. It is considered the “hide tide” of the miner’s army advance.

Published in: on April 20, 2012 at 10:47 pm  Comments Off on The Siege of Crooked Creek Gap  
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Start of Mine War, 100 Years Ago

Today in Labor History, April 18, 1912: What would become known as the West Virginia Mine War of 1912-1913 begins when coal operators refuse to agree to the union’s demand of wages on par with other union mines in the area. The strike quickly spread as it became clear that the goal of the coal operators was to bust the union and drive the United Mine Workers of America out.
 
From: United Mine Workers of America 
Published in: on April 18, 2012 at 3:24 pm  Comments Off on Start of Mine War, 100 Years Ago  
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On this Day in 1921

On September 5th, 1921, all hostilities had come to an end when the US regulars had entered the region on the 4th. The miners weren’t looking to fight the federal government. In the aftermath of the battle, most miners go home and do not discuss what happened for years to come. 1,200 indictments from the West Virginian government are sent out. The federal government chooses not to get involved with putting these miners on trial. Bill Blizzard is made a scapegoat and declared the “general” of the miners; although, more recent research has revealed most miners worked as independent bands than as an overall organized group. He and 23 other men were tried for treason. However upon revealing the fact that the companies had tried to bomb the miners with airplanes, most men were discharged. Only one man was convicted of treason but he jumped bail and disappeared into the annals of history never to be heard from again. More than 300 miners were arrested for 11 year terms but most are only imprisoned for several months to 3 years. Attempts to unionize in southern West Virginia do not occur again until FDR’s New Deal Policies. Don Chafin, leader of the Logan defenders, becomes drunk with power until in 1924 when he is removed from his position as sheriff for bootlegging. He would remain active in regional Democrat party politics until his death in the 1950s.

Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 11:15 am  Comments Off on On this Day in 1921  
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Blair Community Center and Museum

Blair Community Center and Museum is opening Sept. 4th, 5PM

Join us for an evening of music and BBQ and check out our growing museum of artifacts and pictures from Blair Mountain and the surrounding areas as well as arts and crafts from local artisans.

Blair Community Center and Museum will house the Friends of Blair Mountain office, a small heritage museum, a craft-shop of local made goods, a Blair Mountain historical archive, and a small library centered on Appalachian studies. The majority of the space will be used for community events and socializing space.

Museum- This small heritage museum will display artifacts from the Battle of Blair Mountain as well as old photographs and maps from the area around Blair. We will be offering tours through the museum and on up Blair Mountain in addition to being a pit stop for Coal Country Tours LLC that will be stopping at our Museum on their way to the top of Blair Mountain. There will also be paintings and photographs for sale by community members, as well as a gift shop.

Office- In the office we will be tracking permits on Blair Mountain and organizing resistance to them, keeping blasting surveys, water surveys, and have computers to be used for research

Library and Archives- In the months to come we will be building a library of all books, audio, and newspaper clippings that have to do with Blair Mountain. The library will also include Appalachian field guides, Coal and labor union history, Craft guides and Childrens books.

Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912

Mother Jones stayed in Paint Creek.

To understand the origins of Blair Mountain, one needs to look back about a decade earlier in 1912. The Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912 was a confrontation between striking coal miners and coal operators in Kanawha County, West Virginia, centered around the area enclosed by two streams, Paint Creek and Cabin Creek.

The strike lasted from April 18, 1912 through July 1913. The confrontation directly caused perhaps fifty violent deaths, as well as many more deaths indirectly caused by starvation and malnutrition among the striking miners. In the number of casualties it counts among the worst conflicts in American labor history.

Prior to the strike there were 96 coal mines in operation on Paint Creek and Cabin Creek, employing 7500 miners. Of these mines, the forty-one on Paint Creek were all unionized, as was all of the rest of Kanawha River coal field except for the 55 mines on Cabin Creek. However, miners on Paint Creek received compensation of 2½¢ less per ton than other union miners in the area. When the Paint Creek union negotiated a new contract with the operators in 1912, they demanded that operators raise the compensation rate to the same level as the surrounding area. This increase would have cost operators approximately fifteen cents per miner per day, but the operators refused. The union called a strike for April 18, 1912.

Their demands where: A.) Recognition of the Union, B.) Improved Pay and the removal cribbing of coal, C.) No blacklisting of fired men, D.) The right to freedom of speech, E.) Removal of requirements to shop at the company store or be fired.

The national United Mine Workers pledged full support, hoping to spread the union into Southern West Virginia, a longtime goal of the union. The UMW promised full financing and any aid it could provide to support strikers. Partly because of the influence of the UMW, the strike was conducted without violence for its first month.

However, on May 10, 1912, the operators on Paint Creek and Cabin Creek hired the notorious Baldwin–Felts Detective Agency to break the strike. Baldwin–Felts responded by sending more than 300 mine guards.

Activist Mother Jones arrived in June, as mine owners began evicting workers from their rented houses, and brought in replacement workers. Beatings, sniper attacks, and sabotage were daily occurrences. Through July, Jones rallied the workers, made her way through armed guards to persuade another group of miners in Eskdale, West Virginia to join the strike, and organized a secret march of three thousand armed miners to the steps of the state capitol in Charleston to read a declaration of war to Governor William E. Glasscock.

On July 26, miners attacked Mucklow, present-day Gallagher, leaving at least twelve strikers and four guards dead. On September 1st, a force of over 5,000 miners from the north side of the Kanawha River joined the strikers’ tent city, leading Governor Glasscock to establish martial law in the region the following day. The 1,200 state troops confiscating arms and ammunition from both sides lessened tensions to some degree, but the strikers were forbidden to congregate, and were subject to fast, unfair trials in military court. Meanwhile strikers’ families began to suffer from hunger, cold, and the unsanitary conditions in their temporary tent colony at Holly Grove.

On October 15th, martial law was lifted, only to be re-imposed on November 15th and lifted on January 10th by Governor Glasscock, with less than two months left in office.

On February 7th Mucklow was again attacked by miners with at least one casualty. In retaliation that evening, the Kanawha County Sheriff Bonner Hill and a group of detectives attacked the Holly Grove miners’ settlement with an armored train, called the “Bull Moose Special.”

Attacking with machine guns and high-powered rifles, the attackers sent 100 machine-gun bullets through the frame house of striker Cesco Estep and killed him. Another miners’ raid on Mucklow killed at least two people a few days later, and on February 10th martial law was imposed for the third and final time.

Mother Jones was arrested on February 13th in Pratt and charged in military court for inciting riot (reportedly for attempting to read the Declaration of Independence), and, later, conspiracy to commit murder. She refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the military court, and refused to enter a plea. Jones was sentenced to twenty years in the state penitentiary and acquired a case of pneumonia.

New governor Dr. Henry D. Hatfield was sworn in on March 4th and immediately traveled to the area as his first priority. He released some thirty individuals held under martial law, transferred Mother Jones to Charleston for medical treatment, and in April moved to impose conditions for the strike settlement. Strikers had the choice to accept Hatfield’s somewhat favorable terms, or be deported from the state. The Paint Creek miners accepted and signed the “Hatfield Contract” on May 1st. The Cabin Creek miners continued to resist, with some violence, until the end of July.

Mother Jones remained under house arrest, in Mrs. Carney’s Boarding House, until she smuggled out a message through a secret trapdoor in her room, a message sent to pro-labor Indiana Senator John Worth Kern. Governor Hatfield released Jones, without comment, after a total of 85 days imprisonment.

The Senate’s Kern Resolution of May 26th 1913 led to the United States Senate’s Committee on Education and Labor opening an investigation into conditions in West Virginia coal mines. Congress almost immediately authorized two similar investigations the cooper mining industry in Michigan, and mining conditions in Colorado.

Published in: on August 7, 2011 at 11:15 pm  Comments Off on Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912  
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‘Redneck’ Miners

Origin of the term “redneck”. [Audio]

Back during the early 20th century, the term redneck had a much different meaning than in modern times.

The United Mine Workers of America (UMW) and other unions appropriated both the term redneck and its literal manifestation. While on march, all of the miners wore the famous red bandanna in conjunction with this term; in order to build multiracial unions of white, black, and immigrant miners in the strike-ridden coalfields of northern and central Appalachia between 1912 and 1936.

The earliest printed uses of the word red-neck in a coal-mining context date from the 1912-1913 Paint and Cabin Creeks strike in southern West Virginia and from the 1913-1914 Trinidad District strike in southern Colorado.

UMW national organizers quite possibly transported “redneck” from one section of the country to the other. Then again, its popularizers may have been agents of the Baldwin–Felts Detective Agency, which supplied company guards and spies in both the West Virginia and the Colorado strikes.

Perhaps, the best explanation of redneck to mean “union man” is that the word refers to the red handkerchiefs that striking union coal miners in both southern West Virginia and southern Colorado often wore around their necks or arms as a part of their informal uniform

Published in: on August 7, 2011 at 10:42 pm  Comments Off on ‘Redneck’ Miners  
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African American Miners

The Battle of Blair Mountain can also be viewed in the greater context of the Great Migration that occurred from 1910 to 1940. Many African Americans left the rural South, i.e. Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, in order to look for better paying jobs and livelihoods. While most would move further north in the Midwest and East, a number did become coal miners in West Virginia. For example, the McDowell County black population alone increased from 0.1 percent in 1880 to 30.7 percent in 1910. It also important to keep in mind that there was also an already in the state of West Virginia, they up made up an estimated 20% of the total population in the 1920s.

The black man who migrated to the coal towns of Central Appalachia fared far better than his counterpart who stayed down on the farm. He had the advantage of relative independence in his work, known as “miner’s freedom.” (1) His paydays were closer together and with a difference in pay that could average as much as $6.00 per day, he could be free from debt in a relatively short period of time. He also had the freedom of movement; if he didn’t like the working conditions or the pay at one mining camp, he could simply pack up and move to another. (2)

Many black men were enticed to the Coal Towns after the Civil War being told they would be provided with a house, dry goods, and that they could bring their whole families. However, the reality was much different, like his European-American counter parts he would have to work from before daylight to past sundown and if he died in the mine his widow could send in a son to replace him.

Black miners appeared to value the lack of (white) supervision that was such an integral part of coal mining in the era before mechanization gained such a foothold. Additionally, migrant blacks found similarities between their former system of tenant farming and the company owned coal towns to which they moved. As in their sharecropping days, black miners started out their career in debt for the cost of tools, housing, food and often transportation from their former homes. One important difference however was that the black coal miner had far more earning power in the mines than he had on the farm. Thus, he was able to clear up his initial debts far quicker. An added bonus to blacks moving into the West Virginia coalfields was the franchise. West Virginia was the only state to give its black residents the vote.(Source: http://www.wvculture.org/history/wvhs1503.html)

At first attempts to try and unionize the African American workers in the 1910s was very difficult to do since many did not want to risk their livelihoods.

While segregation existed in the communities, inside the mines it was equal pay for equal work. However, not all work was divided equally among black miners and their white peers. Black miners were routinely given the harder, more dangerous or less skilled jobs. Rarely were black miners given positions of authority over white miners. While the white miners did not seem to mind working beside the black miners underground, they severely resisted any attempts to upgrade the African Americans to higher skilled positions. (Source: http://www.wvculture.org/history/wvhs1503.html)

By the time Blair Mountain occurred many did join the attempt to organize. During the battle, many blacks fought alongside their white counterparts. There are many stories in which both black men and white men ate side by side in a company mess halls that normally excluded both ethnic groups from intermingling with each other.

Between 1930 and 1950, the number of blacks in the coal mining industry in the central Appalachian states declined 38 percent and many moved to northern cities in the second wave of the Great Migration to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Chicago.

1. Lewis, 80, 2. Lewis, 93.

Published in: on July 11, 2011 at 7:46 pm  Comments Off on African American Miners  
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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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