West Virginia Mine Wars Heritage Trail
The Mine Wars were a decades-long labor struggle in West Virginia between 1902 and 1922.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Dan Cunningham leads a posse to apprehend 33 miners who were striking against the unfair wages met with all coal miners in West Virginia. A bloody shootout was had one night in the small town of Stanaford, and was one of the many battles that led the Mine Wars to the 1920's.
This is the location of the former Pratt Boarding House, which became famous during the coal wars of 1912-1913 when West Virginia Governor William Glasscock ordered the arrest of labor activist Mary "Mother" Jones. Jones and other labor leaders were imprisoned inside the Pratt Boarding House until public opinion and possible federal intervention convinced the new governor to release Jones. The Boarding House was listed on the National Register of HIstoric Places in 1992 until it was demolished four years later and replaced with a four-unit apartment building. During the years 1912 to 1913, several of the most intense labor conflicts in American history occurred as miners throughout the Kanawha and New River coalfields of West Virginia attempted to organize. Labor activist Mary Harris "Mother" Jones helped organize the miners, traveling by foot throughout the area and helping local leaders organize a series of strikes throughout these turbulent years. Owing to her skill and compassion for their plight, the miners rallied around Mother Jones, whose presence in the coalfields both comforted the miners and troubled the coal operators. The miners' strike officially started on April 18, 1912 when coal operators refused to abide by the miners demands. The strike soon spread to include several thousand miners from Paint Creek to Cabin Creek. Mother Jones supported the miners and their attempts to gain leverage by working together. The mine operators shared a different perspective and hired the Baldwin-Felts detectives to disrupt the strike. By this time, the Baldwin_felts agency was notorious for their use of violence to curb strikes--a situation that often inspired equal violence on the part of striking miners. When some of the Baldwin-Felts mine guards threatened the families of miners, violence ensued on both sides. As Baldwin-Felts men brought weapons into the area, the coal miners attacked their positions leading to the deaths of several of the mine guards. After Mother Jones organized a march to the Capitol building to protest the actions of the coal companies and their operatives, the governor declared martial law and ordered the arrest of Mother Jones and other labor leaders. After federal officials indicated that they might intervene and as public attention turned against the state government, the new governor, Henry Hatfield, traveled to the area. Seeing how sick Jones had become in captivity, he ordered her release under the condition that she leave the state.
The Paint Creek labor strike was one of the largest and bloodiest confrontations between miners and coal operators the state of West Virginia had ever seen. It led to the arrest of over 200 unionized miners and Mother Jones herself. To this day it is one of the largest armed conflicts between labors union rights for miners the United States has ever witnessed.
Dedicated in 2002, this marker shares the history of the Battle of Blair Mountain, the culminating event of the West Virginia Mine Wars. The mine wars were a series of strikes, battles, and marches that took place in the southern West Virginia coalfields from 1912 to 1922. It remains the largest labor uprising in American history. In August 1921, thousands of armed pro-union miners assembled in the town of Marmet, West Virginia. As these union miners marched south to the border of Boone and Logan counties, the Logan County Sheriff, state police, the state militia, and coal company employees had assembled to stop the miners from entering Logan County. A four-day firefight followed, killing over 100 miners and at least twenty anti-union men. The federal government responded by deploying 2,500 soldiers and a small squadron of bombers to the area.
Logan County is well-known for its rich history related to the Mine Wars. One of the more notorious figures against the labor movement, Don Chafin, made his home in Logan. As sheriff of Logan County, the so-called “Czar of Logan” was a well-known figure in the struggle for unionization in the Southern West Virginia coalfields.
Stone Mountain Coal Camp was built in the early 1900s by and for the coal company. It was an unincorporated town in Mingo County, West Virginia, with scattered land-holdings that stretched from North Matewan to Warm Hollow, which is strikingly close to the city limits of Matewan. Many miners and their families who lived here were violently evicted out of their company-owned housing on the morning of May 19, 1920 as an attempt to break the strike. These evictions left dozens of families homeless and led to the Battle of Matewan later that day, an event that left 10 people dead or dying.
Dedicated in 2012, this West Virginia historical marker shares the history of an 1920 attack on coal miners. On May 19, 1920, 13 armed men working for the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency came to the town of Matewan with the intention of evicting pro-union miners from coal company-owned houses. The Matewan Chief of Police, Sid Hatfield, the Mayor, Cabell Cornell Testerman, and several other locals gathered at the Matewan train station to arrest the coal company's hired guns on the grounds that the evictions were unlawful. However, the Baldwin Felts Detectives refused to recognize the authority of law enforcement. A shootout occurred, and while the details of that episode of violence are debated, all agree that when the smoke cleared seven detectives, two miners, and mayor Testerman had all been fatally wounded. The Matewan Massacre was one of many violent conflicts to take place in southern West Virginia in the early 20th century (known as the "Mine Wars") between pro-union miners and men hired by the coal companies to use force and intimidation to prevent the formation of unions.
This Matewan United Methodist Church was founded in 1892 and was first a one-room wooden structure. The building that stands today was completed in 1933 by Italian Immigrant stone cutters and has been renovated numerous times over the decades. The two-story stone building includes a large basement in addition to classrooms, a sanctuary, and a bell tower with a steeple.
The Norfolk and Western Railroad played a pivotal role in the development of Matewan’s history. Matewan was a rural and remote area when initially founded by F.A.J. Ferrell in 1890. The town’s growth intensified over the next decade as Norfolk and Western Railroad began it's Ohio extension and started moving into the Williamson Coal Field in 1892. The use of the railway has been crucial to the rise of King Coal in Southern West Virginia. And for a long time, it was the primary means of transportation for people in and out of the remote mountains. Rail line also provided a means of transportation for companies that extracted "black gold," or coal, from the Appalachian mountains. Visitors can still see trains frequenting the tracks, transporting coal to outside markets.
William Sidney “Sid” Hatfield was the chief of police and town hero of Matewan during the Mine Wars of West Virginia from 1919 to 1921. Sid Hatfield grew up in Blackberry, Kentucky, and is best known for standing up for miners and community members and against the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency when they were hired by coal companies to evict unionized miners from their homes. The conflict escalated into a bloody gunfight. On August 1, 1921, Hatfield was assassinated by men representing coal operators on the Welch city courthouse steps.
Located close to the town of Williamson, the Lick Creek tent colony was the largest, and one of many evicted miners settlements in Mingo County of southern West Virginia. During the summer of 1921, armed state militia, state troopers, and constabulary led by captain of state police, James R. Brockus and Major Thomas B. Davis to evict the unionizing miners of the temporary settlement and arrest them of their terrorist crimes.
Designed by popular southern architect Frank Pierce Milburn, the Welch courthouse was built in 1893-34 in the Romanesque Revival style. In 1909, an addition was built on to the original edifice. The Welch courthouse is the site of the assassination of Police Chief Sid Hatfield, whom was shot by detectives from the Baldwin-Felts agency on August 1, 1921 on the steps to the building.