Debate Magazine

The Destruction of Blair Mountain

Posted on the 25 August 2011 by Mikeb302000
Since Democomie mentioned Matewan:
For some reason, US Citizens are more than willing to see their history being plowed over. In the case of Blair Mountain, not only will a historic site be destroyed, so will an entire mountain. Obviously, Blair Mountain is a mountain and its located in West Virginia. More importantly, Blair Mountain was the site of the largest Civil rebellion since the Civil War when Miners and the Mine owners clashed in actual armed battle. Between 10,000 and 15,000 coal miners confronted an army of police and strikebreakers backed by coal operators for five days in late August and early September 1921 The Battle ended only after approximately one million rounds were fired and the US Army intervened by presidential order.

The current "battle" is between Coal interests and those who would preserve this area.

The Battle of Blair Mountain site was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 30, 2009. Coal interests contested the historic designation of the Blair Mountain site and the site was delisted. Once again, the Big Coal interests demonstrate that they don't care about the public.

In the comment letter submitted by battlefield archeologist Dr. Harvard Ayers dealt with the records of ownership of battlefield properties and included a legal opinion on title holders by John Kennedy Bailey, real estate attorney of Charleston. After extensive review of the tax, deed, and death records at the Logan County, West Virginia, courthouse, Ayers and Bailey concluded that five of the objectors of record submitted by Mr. Reid-Smith were not legitimate owners. Two were dead, two were Life Estates, and one had sold their property. Of the 10 of 57 properties that he researched in depth, he also discovered 13 additional owners not found by the cursory search of the West Virginia Attorney General’s office. The upshot of this research was that the count shifted to 25 objectors and 37 non-objectors, which would overturn any attempt to de-list the battlesite.

A petition from a long list of some of the nation's most prominent scholars, historians and archaeologists--including the president of the Society for Historical Archaeology, the former president of the American Historical Society, officers of the Appalachian Studies Association--made a direct appeal to WV Gov. Joe Manchin:
"The Blair Mountain Battlefield is a unique historic and cultural treasure that deserves recognition and protection... No doubt much remains to be discovered, and scholars must be able to continue to study this important chapter in American history..We are concerned that the recent attempt to delist Blair Mountain from the National Register may be a first step toward strip-mining the mountain for coal production, which will destroy the historic site. The National Park Service found that the battlefield is both significant and intact, and we believe it must be preserved for future generations."

In 2005, United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts declared:
"The UMWA has always believed the Blair Mountain battle site should be preserved, and I began publicly calling for it back in the 1980's. We believe a monument should be erected at the site explaining what happened there, and that the road running through the site should be renamed Blizzard Highway, in honor of Bill Blizzard, the miners' leader at Blair Mountain. We support preserving the land immediately around the battle site, because we believe it's important for future generations to stand on that ground, and understand the importance of what happened there. This is also a personal issue for me and thousands of others from coal mining families who have relatives and ancestors who fought at Blair Mountain. What they did is a source of pride and inspiration to our families, and helps give us the strength to carry on their fight for justice. We will never forget it, nor should America."

Before the ink was dry on the National Registry, lawyers representing three out-of-state coal companies, including Massey Energy, somehow managed to round up new "objectors" to the Registry status, and asked the WV Division of Culture and History to issue a recount of the objectors vs. non-objectors. According to their own company report, "Jackson Kelly's lawyers aren't afraid to get their hands dirty..." For those not in the know, Massey Energy Co.'s sprawling Upper Big Branch mine was the location where an underground explosion blamed on methane gas killed 25 coal miners in the worst U.S. mining disaster in more than two decades.

Anyway, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Class War is alive and kicking in the US, but the American public can be easily distracted with wedge issues. The Working class can be deluded into believing they are "middle class" and made to believe that their interests lie with the rich and powerful. It's a shame that the struggles of the workers for their rights have not only been forgotten, but the worker's rights have been successfully rolled back.

Blair Mountain should be preserved for both its historic significance and its being the last vestige of scenic beauty. The De-listing of the Blair Mountain Battlefield must be reversed!

Please write a letter asking that the Blair Mountain Battlefield site be relisted on the Historic Register using the model from the Friends of Blair Mountain Site and spread the word to your friends that they should ask that this site is relisted.

And sign the petition here

See also:
Reporter's Notebook: On Blair Mountain, answers are hard as rock

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