Biggest Armed Confrontation In US Labor History
By Bob Weaver
The site of the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain has been placed back on the National Register of Historic Places after years of legal challenges.
It is among the state's most historical sites in West Virginia's labor movement.
More than 10,000 union coal miners fought with coal company guards along the Blair Mountain Ridge, between Boone and Logan counties in 1921. It was the biggest armed confrontation in U.S. labor history.
The governor requested the US Army to quell the picketers and ordered that bombs could be dropped on the miners.
The site was nominated by the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Officer to the National Register in 2005 and listed on the National Register in 2009. When it was removed months later after a letter writing campaign by the coal industry.
A coalition of environmental and citizen groups took legal action.
In the decision Friday, officials said removing Blair Mountain Battlefield from the National Register was “erroneous” and put the historic site back on the national list.
The decision triggers protection against coal mining on the site and is seen as a victory for the coalition “committed to protecting history, health and environment,” a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club said.
“Today’s decision means that mining won’t occur,” Peter Morgan, senior attorney with the Sierra Club said.
“It’s a relief, it’s a burden lifted,” said Chuck Keeney, vice president of Friends of Blair Mountain, whose great-grandfather, Frank Keeney, was president of the United Mine Workers union’s District 17 during the 1921 battle.
“I’ve always felt a bit of personal responsibility to see that it’s protected,” he said.
The site, advocates said, is symbolic of the fight against injustice.
“Reaffirming the Blair Mountain Battlefield’s status on the National Register honors those brave West Virginia workers who fought for the right to organize for fair and safe working conditions,” said Cindy Rank, chairwoman of West Virginia Highlands Conservancy Mining Committee. “It also serves as an important reminder for all of us that the struggle is never easy.”
Editors Note: Bob Weaver, editor Hur Herald, joined about 1,000 citizens in a 2011 march re-enacting the miner's march to Blair Mountain, encountering numerous protests from current day miners who have lost their jobs, and lots of tossing objects and yelling invective's, in a fascinating twist of historical perspective.
See 90 YEARS LATER: BATTLE AT BLAIR MOUNTAIN CONTINUES - Crimes Against West Virginians And Nature