She and several of her co-defendants declined to offer a defense during their military trials.
"The court had sent two lawyers to my bullpen to defend me," Jones wrote in her autobiography, "but I refused to let them defend me in that military court. I refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the court, to recognize the suspension of the civil courts. My arrest and trial were unconstitutional."
After a weeklong trial in early March, Jones was sentenced to 20 years in the state penitentiary, and came down with a severe case of pneumonia.
On March 4, 1913, Henry Hatfield was sworn in as West Virginia's new governor. Within weeks of taking office, he traveled to the strife-torn coalfields where he visited Mother Jones in her Pratt rooming house, and according to at least one account, arranged to have her taken to Charleston for treatment. After recuperating, the 80-something labor champion was sent back to her quarters in Pratt, where she remained in confinement, awaiting appeal.
From her boardinghouse "Bastille," Jones conducted several interviews with reporters and smuggled out more letters, including one to U.S. Sen. John Kern of Indiana calling for a Senate investigation into the treatment of miners attempting to organize in West Virginia.
"From out of the military prison wall of Pratt, West Virginia, where I have walked over my 84th milestone in history, I send you the groans and tears and heartaches of men, women and children as I have heard them in this state," she wrote. "From out of these prison walls, I plead with you for the honor of the nation, to push that investigation. ..."
Jones may have used a bit of dramatic license in describing the conditions of her incarceration.
"She was able to receive visitors, including Cora Older (the novelist wife of San Francisco Bulletin editor Fremont Older), and had made friends with a couple of the guards, who were able to slip things in and out of her room," said retired Marshall College of Graduate Studies history professor Fred Barkey. "Among the things that came in and out fairly regularly were beer and correspondence."
Back in Charleston, Hatfield reviewed the cases against Jones and her compatriots and began to formulate a plan to settle the strike. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Kern introduced a resolution authorizing the Senate Committee on Education and Labor to investigate conditions in the West Virginia coalfields.
In early May, as the Kern resolution was debated in the Senate, Hatfield pardoned Jones and most of her co-defendants and ordered their release. After 85 days in custody, Mother Jones was free to go.
"Governor Hatfield commuted the sentences of all but the really hard-core radicals and socialists," said Barkey. "The Kern hearing left much of the trouble of that time at the door of the mine guards. But there was some equivocation and political consideration, and the committee also concluded that there was more than enough blame to go around. It was the first real Congressional investigation, and it opened Congress up to the whole idea of investigating hot topics of the day."
The boarding house where Mother Jones was held for 85 days was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992, but was demolished by its owner four years later. Malden attorney Larry Rowe bought several doors from the historic building, and incorporated them in his home.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.