CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The National Geographic Channel is airing a new episode of its "Diggers" television series at 10 p.m. Tuesday, titled "Of Mines and Men."
The episode explores Blair Mountain, site of the August through September 1921 battle that pitted men of the United Mine Workers against Logan County deputies and company guards. The miners were marching toward Mingo County to help organize non-union coal mines.
It was the largest armed confrontation in United States labor history. The March on Blair Mountain began after miners gathered at Marmet in Kanawha County.
Producers of the National Geographic show visited this historic site with archaeologist Harvard Ayers. They were attempting to locate and identify the exact sites of the 1921 battle that ended only when federal troops intervened.
Dr. Chuck Keeney, chairman of Friends of Blair Mountain and a history professor at Southern West Virginia Community College in Logan, said, "It is a very positive thing any time people are talking about Blair Mountain.
"It highlights the significance of the story and why the mountain should be preserved. When more people hear about Blair Mountain, more people are going to understand its importance."
Ayers, a professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., said Monday, "KG and Ringy, the stars of all the 'Diggers' shows, and I were on the Blair Mountain Battlefield for three days. Those two guys, from a little town in Montana, are experts at metal detecting. There was also a crew of eight people from the National Geographic Channel.
"At Blair, the archaeology is almost completely done with metal detectors," Ayers said. "The artifacts are almost all shell casings located between 1 and 3 inches down from the surface.
"Over the past 85 years, leaves falling from the trees every fall covered up and protected the artifacts. We found lots of shell casings, tons and tons of shell casings that were segregated by caliber, according to the different guns used by people who sat there in different locations," Ayers said.
"If coal companies get permission to remove the mountain, you can imagine what will happen to the artifacts. It was the biggest armed insurrection since our Civil War. We have to convince them to move on to some other place."
For more information about Tuesday's show and the "Diggers" series, visit: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/diggers/episodes/of-mines-and-men.Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.