CHAPTER AND FRIENDS OF THE MOUNTAINS COOPERATE TO SAVE BLAIR MOUNTAIN
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by Regina Hendrix |
Blair Mountain is a location of particular importance to the labor history of our nation. The Battle of Blair Mountain, fought in August and September of 1921, has assumed legendary status among academic labor historians and the general public.
Blair Mountain is a location of particular importance to the labor history of our nation. Fought in August and September of 1921, the Battle of Blair Mountain has assumed legendary status among academic labor historians and the general public alike. Characterized as the greatest domestic armed conflict in American labor history by historian David Alan Corbin, the shooting war between union and anti-union forces in the mountains of WV joined the railroad strike of 1877 and the Homestead strike of 1892 as a critical, defining moment in shaping the Nations conscience. The Blair Mountain clash is the only time the feds ever bombed citizens of the U.S.
Although failing in their immediate goal to unionize the Logan coal fields, the United Mine Workers of America won a moral victory, as the public at large learned of the everyday injustices endured by working men and women in a socio-political environment dominated by private, coal company interests. Union efforts in the area were eventually vindicated upon the passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act, which in 1933 legalized the right of coal miners to join a union without the fear of reprisals from mine owners or operators.
Since 1980 there have been several efforts to have the site of the Battle of Blair Mountain designated as an Historic Place. For various reasons, none of these efforts have been carried to a successful conclusion. WV Chapter and Friends of the Mountains (FOM) have recently procured the services of Frank Unger, an historian from Walton, WV. Frank is in the process of preparing an application which will be submitted to the WV State Historic Preservation Office for preliminary review. The application will then be presented to the Archives and History Commission. This Commission will make a proposal for placement of this site on the National Register of Historic Places.
Early this year, I met Kenny King, a resident of Logan County whose ancestors took part in this battle. Kenny has been exploring the Blair Mountain area and documenting artifacts from this site for over 10 years. In order to present an application for the National Register, he needed assistance with the mapping, aerial photography and the
historical narrative. That assistance is now being provided by Friends of the Mountains, a consortium of environmental groups of which WV Sierra Club is a member. (The group meets monthly to coordinate environmental efforts and activism in West Virginia) We are indebted to Susan Lapis of South Wings who volunteered to fly our photographer, Chuck Wyrostock, over the area while he did the photography required for this application.
Several recent events have heightened local and national interest in the site of the battle: Robert Shogans visit to Charleston, Charles Town and Logan to promote his new book, The Battle of Blair Mountain, the designation of Route 17 in Logan County as a National Scenic Byway, and the efforts of the Jefferson County Preservation Alliance to Save Our Heritage (JCPASH) to prevent the demolition of the historic jailhouse where a number of the coalminers, including Bill Blizzard, were imprisoned prior to their treason trial in 1922.
You can help us preserve this important labor history by writing a letter of support to your Senators and your Congressman. When you write please also forward a copy to:
1637 Quarrier Street, Apt 3
Charleston, WV 25311
Phone: (304) 343-5211
Your input and support letters for this project will also be presented as evidence to the DEP at future hearings on proposed mining permits for the Blair Mountain site.