CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A century ago this month, coal strikes in Eastern Kanawha County turned so bloody that then-Gov. William E. Glasscock declared a state of war on Cabin Creek and placed the district under martial law, the first of three such proclamations he issued.
The strike began on Paint Creek on April 18, 1912, then spread to Cabin Creek after company officials rejected demands from members of the United Mine Workers for higher wages. Many miners also challenged having to work 10 hours a day, six days a week.
To commemorate the 100-year anniversary of these events, the West Virginia Division of Culture's Archives and History Library will hold a forum at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22 at the Culture Center at the Capitol. The event is free to the public.
I have been asked to moderate a panel, so for two hours on Saturday, we will have the opportunity to discuss the West Virginia Mine Wars with:
Ayers is currently completing her father's book on Mother Jones, an iconic figure in the coalfield wars in the early 20th Century. Back in 1986, Savage published the first edition of his earlier book, "Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine Wars, 1920-21." The book has been re-published several times.
At this time 100 years ago, union organizing efforts had stepped up in West Virginia. Coal operators began bringing in mine guards, many from the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency based in Bluefield. Guards and miners were both well-armed with shotguns, rifles and machine guns.
As the conflict escalated, Gov. Glasscock imposed martial law on Paint and Cabin Creeks, first on Sept. 2, 1912; then Nov.15, 1912; and Feb. 10, 1913.
The last proclamation followed the infamous Bull Moose Special attack. To counter striking miners, coal companies sent the Bull Moose Special into mining camps. It was a train filled with armed guards that escorted trains carrying non-union miners and was used to shoot into towns and tent camps occupied by striking miners and their families. The Bull Moose Special's best-known confrontation came on Feb. 7, 1913, when guards on the train attacked a tent colony in Holly Grove on Paint Creek.
During this time, more than 200 miners and their supporters were arrested, including "Mother" Mary Harris Jones, the nationally-known labor leader who was 76 when arrested on Feb. 12, 1913.