CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Labor historian Fred Barkey will talk about his book, "Working Class Radicals: The Socialist Party in West Virginia, 1898-1920" at the Culture Center at the state Capitol Tuesday evening.
Barkey writes about the rise and fall of the party in the Mountain State, based in large part upon his interviews in the 1960s with surviving members of the movement.
Socialist candidates were never elected to any state legislative offices, Barkey said during an interview Friday.
"But in a lot of smaller coal communities, local folks elected Socialists to be mayors, city council members, sheriffs, constables and justices of the peace."
The West Virginia Socialist Party created its first branch in Wheeling in 1901. In 1912, more than 15,000 West Virginians voted for Eugene V. Debs, the party's national presidential candidate that year.
The Socialist Party began collapsing in the wake of the 1912-1913 Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strikes, Barkey said.
Socialists were prominent in coal mining and in some craft occupations, such as glassmaking and cigar making.
"Some major cities in the state -- Huntington, Charleston, Morgantown, Fairmont and Wheeling -- elected a socialist councilman or two," Barkey said.
"Several cities were really socialist towns, such as Cameron, below Wheeling. Star City, near Morgantown, was the socialist city with the most longevity in the whole country. People elected there in 1911 were still in office in the early 1920s."
Barkey said he tries "to give the movement the justice it is due, in the sense that people made certain sacrifices for it. They were part of a pretty viable tradition and made real progress in the electoral process as well.
"They didn't carry the state, but you don't find too many places where an entire mining district goes socialist and elects people to office in places like the Cabin Creek district in Kanawha County or the area in Fayette County around Mount Carbon, Deep Water and Gauley Bridge."
Active branches of the socialist movement also grew around Wheeling and across the Ohio River in St. Clairsville.