“They hit me and threw me down.” (Mine Wars, Part 2)

Mother Jones rallying workers in Montgomery, WV in August 1912 (image credit: WVU Libraries)

“Mother Jones was then about 80 years of age.  Her hair was snow white, but she was yet full of fight.  With that brand of oratorical fire that is only found in those who originate from Erin, she could permeate a group of strikers with more fight than any living human being.  She fired them with enthusiasm, she burned them with criticism, then cried with them because of their abuses.  The miners loved, worshipped, and adored her.” — Autobiography of Fred Mooney

The problems that had been brewing in West Virginia coal fields came to a violent boil during the Mine Wars. For years, WV mine operators had employed guards from the Baldwin-Felts detective agency. The guards were often “clothed with some semblance of the authority of the law, either by being sworn in as railroad detectives, as constables or deputy sheriffs.”* They were accused of harassing, beating, and even killing miners with impunity.

Like workers all over the country during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, WV miners railed against long hours, low pay, and what some called un-American living conditions. And like many laborers during this tumultuous period, they found comfort and courage in the fiery words of Mary Harris Jones, aka Mother Jones.

This second episode in a three-part series focuses on the Paint Creek and Cabin Creek Strikes, during which martial law was declared three separate times. At least 20 people were killed.

Arms confiscated by National Guard on Paint Creek and Cabin Creek

I referred to several sources, including the following–

Autobiography of Mother Jones

Conditions in the Paint Creek District, West Virginia Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. Senate

The Devil Is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom, by James Green

*Gun Thugs, Rednecks, and Radicals: A Documentary History of the West Virginia Mine Wars, by David Alan Corbin

Struggle in the Coal Fields: The Autobiography of Fred Mooney

West Virginia Archives and History

West Virginia Coal Fields: Hearings Before the Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. Senate

Written in Blood: Courage and Corruption in the Appalachian War of Extraction, edited by Wess Harris