SAVING BLAIR MOUNTAIN - WVs Famous Historical Site

(04/20/2005)

SAVING BLAIR MOUNTAIN - WVs Famous Historical Site Tomorrow there will be a rally to save and preserve Blair Mountain, one of the state's most historical sites, more often than not ignored.

The rally will commence at 11 a.m. at the Logan County Culture and History Museum, Chief Logan State Park.

The Battle of Blair Mountain took place in 1921 after thousands of well armed miners marched to Logan County to unionize the southern West Virginia coalfields. Their union men and sympathizers fought a battle with sheriff's deputies, armed guards and state officials.

The battle ended with the arrival of the 10th U.S. Infantry from Fort Thomas, Ky., and a squadron of bombers prepared to drop bombs of the miners from Langley Field, Va. On Sept. 4.

Federal troops marched up Hewitt Creek in Logan County, and the defeat ended the United Mine Workers efforts to unionize.

Tomorrow, former Congressman Ken Hechler, Wess Harris, publisher of When Miners March, former Sierra Club Board President Robbie Cox, Mari-Lynn Evans, executive producer of The Appalachians documentary and community residents will gather to call for Blair Mountain's addition to the National Register of Historic Places.

They will urge the State Historic Preservation Office to honor our communities and our heritage by recommending the site for listing at their May 6 meeting.

The Battle of Blair Mountain continues today on a different front. Coal companies are planning to decimate this historic landmark using mountaintop removal methods.

Local citizens, historians, the Sierra Club, and the Friends of the Mountains Coalition believe that Blair Mountain is an integral a part of West Virginia history, much too important to be destroyed.

Ironically, mining corporations have turned many coal miners against efforts to preserve the history that eventually let to better working conditions, wages, benefits and safety rules for miners.

In July 1921, Matewan Police Chief Sid Hatfield was murdered on the steps of the McDowell County Courthouse by hired guns. Hatfield was a fervent supporter of coal miners and their efforts to unionize. His murder galvanized miners' simmering frustration into an armed protest to unionize West Virginia's coal mines.

Today, despite widespread efforts to preserve this valuable place as a historic site, the mountain is under seige by coal companies with mountaintop removal mining.

Mountaintop removal blasts the earth and rock of mountaintops apart and pushes the debris into valleys.

Many communities in Appalachia have completely disappeared due to blasting, flooding and decreasing property values caused by this devastating mining method.

For more information on conservation in Appalachia and The Appalachians, please visit http://www.sierraclub.org/appalachia/