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The Battle of Blair Mountain Continues
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2011

We in West Virginia have a rich history but it does not seem to mean much to Politicians or the Coal Industry!

In July 1921, Matewan mayor Sid Hatfield was shot and killed on the steps of the McDowell County Courthouse. Hatfield was a fervent supporter of coal miners and their efforts to unionize. His murder galvanized miners’ simmering frustration into an armed protest to unionize West Virginia’s coal mines. The shooting war that followed in Logan County during August and September of 1921 became known as the Battle of Blair Mountain where 10,000 coal miners rose up against state officials and armed federal troops in an undeclared civil war that lasted ten days.

The coal industry plans to once again bomb Blair Mountain, this time using Mountain Top Removal coal mining. Over the past several years, local citizens, historians and environmental groups, including the Sierra Club have banded together to fight this planned destruction by having Blair Mountain added to the National Register of Historic Places.

That effort was successful when, in March 2009, Blair Mountain was officially added to the National Register, recognizing its significant role in the labor history of the United States. However, within a week the administration of then Governor Joe Manchin moved to de-list it. The state Division of Culture and History said that property-owner objections were improperly counted, and there was enough opposition to remove the mountain from the National Register.

Archeologist Harvard Ayers researched and found that some of the opposition was bogus. He’s a professor emeritus at Appalachian State University who has found more than 1000 artifacts on Blair Mountain. He hired an attorney to research what was going on and the attorney reported that there were holes in the list presented by Culture and History Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith. In any case, the National Park Service went forward with the delisting.

The Sierra Club, Friends of Blair Mountain, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have filed a suit against the National Park Service to have the de-listing reversed. However, people are not waiting around for a court decision. Plans are currently being made for a march to Blair Mountain to acknowledge the importance of the Battle and to preserve the mountain for future generations.  You can be involved in that march. The idea is to reenact the route taken by the miners 90 years ago. 

The march is slated for June 4-11. You can come for the entire march or come for any period of time, but this is an important event to safeguard not only Blair Mountain, but the history and culture of West Virginia.

For more information contact:

Bill Price, 304-389-8822,  bill.price@sierrclub.org

Regina Hendrix, 304-725-0223, rh1936@frontier.com

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