Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Battle Still Rages - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

This past week was the anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain.  In honor of that battle, and my young father's place in it, I am reposting this entry from three years ago...

Another post for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks...

I have watched with interest the ongoing battles concerning Blair Mountain in West Virginia.  This mountain and its people just won't give up.

Bless their hearts.

I began to study the history of this mountain, beginning with an article on Wikipedia:
I saw the images of the battle that raged back in August and September of 1921.  What I did not know was that my own father played a part.

He was a boy, not even 10 years old.  Let me quote from his own writings:

As well as I remember we did not stay in Olive Hill very long after Betty died because we moved back to Lawton where we lived till we moved to West Virginia and that was quite an experience because moved to W. Va. In a boxcar along with a man by the name of Milton Cline, each family had one end of the boxcar and since we were moving to the same place everything worked out all right, there was no trucks to move one in those days and very few automobiles, one might see a half dozen autos a week and there was no paved roads, we moved to an area called Rex Camp which was owned by the coal company, I think it was the year of 1920 when we made that move and that would have made me about eight years old at that time, it could have been 1919 when we moved, I do remember that I was very young and I had never heard anyone talk in a foreign language and it sounded so silly to me, it took me a long time to get used to it because we had foreigners living all around us but they had their own schools and the black people had their own so we managed to get along allright with everyone but it still was a lot different than Kentucky, my oldest brother Russel and my father both worked in the coal mines and although we were poor people I cannot remember a time when we went to bed hungry.

Let’s go back for a moment when we were moving to W. Va., I remember that we were in a passenger coach on the train and the boxcar with our household furniture in it was the last car on the train so we did not get there before our belongings did and one thing I remember so well is that my uncle Logan Brown was sharing the same seat on the train and I got awfully sick and I begged him to let me sit next to the window so that I could vomit out the window and he would not do it and when the train stopped I could not hold it any longer so I vomited all over him and he was very mad about it and I told my father what happened and he told Logan that if had let me to the window it would not have happened.

As well as I remember we lived there about one year or more before trouble started, the union was trying to organize the coal fields and the coal companies didn’t want that to happen and there was fighting all around, the union men were coming over Blair Mountain into Logan County and all who would not join the union were called red necks and my uncle Arthur Fitzpatrick, a big Irishman who had just gotten out of the army in 1918 and he was tough but they arrested him because marshal law had been declared and him and me started to walk to Logan about four miles away and a deputy sheriff inquired where we was going and he told him it was none of his business and he arrested him, and he handed me his big 45 army colt and he told me not to let anyone take it from me and I took it back to my aunt Etta Bee and gave it to her and they blackballed him out of Logan County and never would let him come back, it was not easy living under marshal law but we did it for about two years or more.

During the war between the union and non union there were many people killed on Blair mountain, the sheriff of Logan county and some of his deputies was killed and many coal miners went to work and never returned.

The army moved heavy artillery right by our house by mule team and we could hear the heavy artillery being fired from our home, nothing looked good at all for a long time but we finally come out all together.

Wow.  My own father was part of the history of Blair Mountain, and he was only a boy.  He acted in the face of danger - danger than an adult placed him in.

A different type of battle rages there now, and I am unsure what the outcome will be.  I wonder what my dad would be thinking now...


  1. Peggy~I love seeing this! It is so cool to see the history that our family has lived. Am I correct in assuming that Russell was my grandfather?

  2. Cindie, he was indeed your grandfather. Russell was my dad's oldest brother. There were eleven children in the family:

    1. George Russell (married to June Belcher and Burnzia Viars)
    2. Cecil (died at 3 mos of whooping cough)
    3. Mary Ann (married to Sam Stone)
    4. Dewey Orvill (married to Edna Gilliam)
    5. Chester Lee (my dad, married to Ida Stevens)
    6. Betty Kenedelino (died when a pot of beans spilled onto her)
    7. Nellie Mae (Taylor Viars and Ernest Clayton Tabor)
    8. Irene ("Ine" - married to Leo Cline)
    9. Charles Norman (married to Glessie Brown)
    10. Edna Olive (married to Levangele Dean and Jack Jacobs)
    11. Juanita June (married to Carl "Bud" Porter)