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Hepburn, who was laid off twice last year at a nearby coal mine, is here to learn the trucking trade. Hepburn, 36, is among the thousands of U.

Coal Mining in Jefferson County by Staci Simon Glover | Arcadia Publishing Books

Mining companies are suffering from plunging coal prices, weaker demand and stricter environmental regulations, prompting many firms to halt permanently or temporarily freeze production. With little hope of returning to the mines, some workers are hanging up their hard hats and embarking on new careers. Rugged trucks sprawl across the gravel lot on the fringes of Steubenville, a city of about 17, people skirting the Ohio River. The students spent a week in a nearby classroom before coming to the truck pad. A student at Destiny Truck Driving Academy near Steubenville, Ohio, slowly maneuvers the beastly semi-truck around orange traffic cones.

The U. Stocky and scruffy, Hepburn tucks his fists into a brown-and-green hunting jacket during a break at the truck pad. He recalls his first layoff, which came in May, just months after his third child was born. Murray Energy Corp. But the cash-strapped summer appeared short-lived: In November, his union, United Mine Workers of America, called him back to work as positions reopened. Murray Energy, based in St. Clairsville, eliminated more than positions at the Marshall County mine and hundreds more in Appalachia. Hepburn says he decided then to move on from coal.

Now he hopes to start his own transportation company with his father, who still works in the mines. Dale Connolly was laid off twice last year from Murray Energy Corp. He already has a job lined up in trucking. He and his wife had just splurged on Christmas presents for their young granddaughter, vowing to start saving in earnest after the New Year. During his lunch break at the Destiny Academy, Connolly eats a packed lunch alone in the truck. The miners are here thanks largely to a federal initiative for former coal industry workers. Mines are shuttering or pressing pause for a mix of reasons.

Prices of metallurgical coal, the type used in steelmaking, plunged 18 percent last year from due to softening economic growth in China and an overall global supply glut. Thermal coal for power plants is losing ground to natural gas, which emits fewer pollutants and less carbon dioxide than coal.

Located in the geographic center of the state, Chilton County is the Peach Capital of The mild climate and gently sloping terrain of central Alabama provide an ideal environment for cultivation of the region's principal agricultural export and Alabama's Although it is one of the smallest counties in Virginia, Clarke County has a remarkably Although it is one of the smallest counties in Virginia, Clarke County has a remarkably rich history reflected in its cultural and natural resources.

Elk County, located in the scenic Allegheny Mountains of north-central Pennsylvania, is named and known Elk County, located in the scenic Allegheny Mountains of north-central Pennsylvania, is named and known for the wild, free-roaming elk herd that has become a valuable source of tourism. Sportsmen are attracted to this hunting and fishing paradise, which includes Once the center of the Glenwood culture, the area later became Montevallo, Alabama Images of America Series. Montevallo: a mountain in a valley. This bucolic, natural phrase aptly describes the beauty of This bucolic, natural phrase aptly describes the beauty of this central Alabama town.

Early settlers were drawn to the area by its abundant agricultural and mineral resources, and in , the tiny village of Arcadia Publishing SC. Images of America Series. Chuck Keeney, Historian : Frank's mother, she wanted him to have an education. She didn't want him to go into the mines that young, at the same time she was unable to support the family on her own. When he was 12 years old there was a partial collapse of one of the mine shafts, the mule panicked and smashed him up against a wall.

And he had to bite part of the mule's ear off in order for the mule to let go of him. My grandmother has always said that it was indicative of his character. He was more stubborn than a mule. Narrator : At 18, Keeney was still supporting his mother and two sisters, as well as his new bride, Bessie Meadows. He took the best paying job he could get -- digging coal at 40 cents a ton. The rate was well below the wages paid to union men in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.

And according to rules set by West Virginia coal operators, a miner had to load more than 2, pounds -- the "Long Ton" -- to get his 40 cents. But a man with a strong back and staying power, good with a pick and blasting powder, could fill five or more cars in a shift, and make enough to support his family. Thomas Andrews, Historian : Even though this is an industry where there is a tremendous degree of oppression it's also an industry where workers still had much more control over their own lives than they did in most American industries.

These are guys who on the whole decided when they were going to work, when they would start, when they would stop. They do have this real sense of autonomy. Ellis Ray Williams, Coal Miner : You got a certain dignity going in the coal mines, and working and drawing a paycheck, and coming out. That's what men would do to take care of their families.

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Narrator : Coal was the engine of American industrial progress at the beginning of the 20th century. It ran locomotives, factories, steam ships, electric power plants and home furnaces; and it helped to purify the steel that made possible the rising skyscrapers. Coal -- and the men who mined it -- fueled the nation's enormous surge in wealth. Increasing wealth brought increasing appetite. There was always a demand Nearly three quarters of a million men across the country spent 10 or 12 hours a day in coal mines, blasting, hand-picking, shoveling and loading the indispensable rock onto rail-cars bound for destinations across the country.

Most of these miners worked the vast and long-established coalfields stretching from Pennsylvania to Illinois. Just 20, worked the mines in West Virginia, but the coal operators there, propelled by a state government hungry for revenue from its biggest industry, had embarked on a furious game of catch-up.

The coal industry spread across the state. Production in southern West Virginia was increasing about 10 percent a year by , and the potential seemed limitless. Thomas Andrews, Historian : The southern West Virginia coalfields were really the up and coming coalfields. They had tremendous demand for new miners because the industry was expanding so much. The only way to really bring more coal out of the ground was to put more mine workers underground.

And the coal companies in southern West Virginia are bringing African-American miners up from the South and bringing people in from southern and eastern Europe. His name was Fortunato Battaglia. Coal company agents would come up to him, he said, and say, "Lavoro e casa," in other words, "We can give you a job and a home.

My parents were sharecroppers, and the life of sharecroppers wasn't the best life. The South wasn't very free where black people were concerned. But compared to the South and compared to the North, West Virginia was a place in which they got a more equitable footing. There were more black miners in West Virginia than anywhere else in the nation.


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And black workers in this environment gained access to a system that proclaimed equal pay for the same work. Denise Giardina, Writer : There was a lot of conflict among the different groups of coal miners because they didn't know each other, and so you had a great deal of prejudice. And the companies reinforced that by building coal camps so that you had a section for black miners, had a section for Eastern European miners, and there was a section for native, Appalachian miners. And that was done on purpose. The coal operators felt that that diversity would keep unionization at bay.

Bankers and shareholders in cities like New York and Philadelphia were siphoning most of the profits from the mines, while transforming a mostly rural state. The quiet village where Keeney had grown up was rent with the "crush and grind" of the passing coal trains. Keeney counted himself lucky to be living in an independent town; eight in ten miners in West Virginia lived in a town built and owned by a coal operator. The housing workers were forced to rent was constructed to suit the purposes of the owners Denise Giardina, Writer : They were just hovels, maybe one-room shacks.

And it's clear that the operators felt that that was all their miners needed. Rosemary Feurer, Historian : A coal town really is almost an instruction ground for exploitation. Mine workers, they can see it very directly and their families see it very directly. They take all the risks. They bring out that coal and it's producing wealth for people who don't live there.

Narrator : The coal towns were almost always unincorporated; there were no elected officials, no independent police forces. Owners hired private detective agencies to watch over their workforce. Company towns were also untethered from the free market competition owners usually championed.

Operators often paid workers in company currency, called scrip. They forced mining families to shop exclusively at the company store, which they stocked with food, fuel and clothing, even the tools and blasting powder required on the job. They set the prices of all those goods to assure a profit -- a hedge against operating losses in the mines themselves.


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  • Carl Starr, Sr. You bought your food off of 'em unless you wanted to take a dollar scrip and sell it for 75 cents government money and lose a fourth of your wages. They was oppressed all the time. Ellis Ray Williams, Coal Miner : If they give the miners a raise then they're going to raise the rent and raise everything, the cost of food in the company store, and raise the clothing and everything so you actually, you're right back where you started from.

    Jean Battlo, Local Historian : When a miner went to pick up his check they had what was called a check-off list. By the time they finished the check-off there was very little left. Chuck Keeney, Historian : The only options that you have once you're trapped in that system is to keep your head down, and do what you're told or stand up and fight. Narrator : That choice between accepting the status quo or fighting for something better was forced on Frank Keeney and other miners in May of While Mother Jones was still in the middle of her West Virginia campaign, the UMW raised a strike in eastern Pennsylvania, and called for men in other regions to join the work shutdown.

    Beverly Gage, Historian : There was the threat that you were going to lose your job. And there was the threat that you would be blackballed. And it wouldn't just be the job that you had in that very moment but every job in that region at any company that you went to, they would know your name and they would refuse to hire you. The stakes were very, very high. Narrator : With Mother Jones leading the charge, thousands of West Virginia miners decided to stand with the strikers in Pennsylvania, and to fight for their own rights.

    Eighty-five percent of the miners in the largest coalfield in southern West Virginia walked off the job; new union men shut down four of every five mines in another field. A few owners were willing to recognize the miners' union and negotiate better wages and working conditions. But nearly all followed the lead of the most powerful operator in the area, Justus Collins. Collins had earned the respect of his fellow owners.

    He had come up from Alabama 15 years earlier and had been expanding his operation ever since. Doug Estepp, Local Historian : The southern West Virginia coalfields were mostly opened by entrepreneurs, wildcatters really. They were very ambitious. Many of them came from the South and a lot of them came from the coalfields of eastern Pennsylvania. There were guys who came down there with absolutely nothing, came in with a rented mule, and a couple of harnesses, and some picks, and made fortunes. Narrator : Collins, like all the West Virginia coal operators, saw himself as a man under siege He believed he was in a death struggle with his counterparts in the more established coalfields to the north, whose mines were much closer to the big city markets on the East Coast and the industrial belt near the Great Lakes.

    Doug Estepp, Local Historian : The southern operators were always in a difficult position. They were almost paranoid of their position because of the disadvantages. They had to pay higher rates to get their coal out. They had invested all their capital, developing these operations and now they were being squeezed for every penny they could get. Narrator : Collins complained constantly about the difficulties of turning a profit. And he was always worried about the single biggest line item in his budget: labor costs. Collins meant to keep the wage-inflating union out of his mines, whatever it took.

    Thomas Andrews, Historian : The mine operators thought that there was something fundamentally un-capitalistic about unions. They believed in a sort of vision of rugged individualism. Many of these were men who had lifted themselves up by their own bootstraps, or at least that was what they believed. These operators wanted to have as much power as they could over their mines, which they viewed as their private property. And the union was going to stand in their way.

    Ernest: Life in a Mining Town

    Narrator : To protect his mine operations, Justus Collins sent forty hired men into his coal camps. Collins's private soldiers were armed with the latest firepower, including Winchester rifles and machine guns. The employer of record for these enforcers was a local private detective agency. Beverly Gage, Historian : While sometimes you had professionals often you're just hiring in a moment of crisis people who are being described as thugs and convicts, anyone who's willing to pick up a gun, go down and try to engage in these already quite fraught labor conflicts.

    Narrator : The mine guards mounted their new machine guns atop the tipples at the edge of town, and bolted in searchlights. They have these powerful lights pointed at the camps. Children describe these lamps as monsters. Narrator : Many miners were intimidated enough to go quietly back into the mines. Those who stayed out paid a heavy price. The Baldwin-Felts agents forcibly evicted miners and their families from company-owned houses. Thousands of men, women and children ended up in makeshift "tent colonies" set up by the UMW on strips of land not owned by the mine companies.

    Ronald Lewis, Historian : The court ruled you have master-servant rights, which is to say the only reason you're living there is because you're an employee of this company and therefore the operator can come in and evict you any time he wants to, or search the premises, which they often did if they thought there was some union activity going on there. John Alexander Williams, Historian : The state was at that time generally sympathetic to the rights of property owners and that included the coal operators.

    And they were not sympathetic to the rights of mine workers to organize and to protest. Narrator : When the coal operators demanded help in ending the strike, local, county and state law officers obliged. They arrested Mother Jones and charged her with provoking an illegal work shutdown. At her trial, the prosecutor called Jones "the most dangerous woman in America. By then, the national president of the UMW had decided the union could only afford to support the strike in Pennsylvania, and cut back on much-needed financial assistance for West Virginia.

    Thousands of strikers there were left to fend for themselves. Nine months into the strike, a posse, including a U. Mother Jones rushed to the scene: "On a mattress, wet with blood, lay a miner," she wrote. In five other shacks men lay dead. In one of them a baby boy and his mother sobbed over the father's corpse. By the spring of , the strike was broken.

    Justus Collins and his fellow mine owners had decimated the union movement in southern West Virginia. Mother Jones left the state with little to show for her efforts, but she did not forget the mountain hollows, or the people in them. And she suspected she had unfinished business there. One young coal miner was already preparing for the battles to come.

    Frank Keeney had gone back to his job in the mines, but he was also reading Shakespeare, and poetry, and Mother Jones's favorite novel -- Les Miserables -- about a working-class revolt in 19th century France. James Green, Author : Keeney was a proud mountaineer.

    There's a real sense of being independent. He saw his neighbors and people he'd grown up with being evicted from their houses during the winter and it was something that really set him off. And as a journalist said who interviewed him later, "He became angry.

    He became indignant.

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    He became a Socialist. Ellis Ray Williams, Coal Miner : You're going underground and you know that millions and millions of tons of rock, and dirt, and everything over you -- when the weight of that mountain starts pressing down, you could hear the top working, grunting. Denise Giardina, Writer : When you walked in a mine you never knew whether or not you would walk out again, whether you would be crushed by a roof fall, or whether you'd be blown apart by an explosion. So you were living in a perpetual state of being threatened with violent death.

    A Hidden America: Coal Mining

    Narrator : Danger was literally in the air in the mines -- in the form of noxious gasses called damps. A build-up of "afterdamp" could asphyxiate miners. Methane-heavy "firedamp," when sparked by something as simple as a miner's lamp, could cause explosions big enough to kill men scattered through miles of interconnected tunnels. Denise Giardina, Writer : Coal operators were very cavalier about accidents and what caused them. The assumption was that, "Mining is just inherently dangerous, and that's just part of it, you're lucky you have a job anyway, and, and so we're just going to go about business as usual.

    Narrator : Coal operators were able to block most mine safety legislation by arguing that regulations would be too costly. The few safety laws on the books were rarely enforced. West Virginia's coal mines had a higher death rate than any other state in the union in the first decade of the 20th century James Green, Author : There was no one ever prosecuted for any of these hundreds and hundreds of deaths. There was a sense of fatalism I think among the miners in West Virginia, about what government could do to protect them, which helps explain their passion for the union, the sense of, "We have to take care of ourselves.

    We have to create an organization that's so powerful that it will protect our lives as well as our standard of living. Narrator : In the ten years after the failed strike of , little had changed in the working conditions of southern West Virginia miners. The United Mine Workers had made few inroads. More than ninety percent of the miners had no union in the Spring of Frank Keeney was out in front this time.

    The year-old had convinced a few thousand miners on Cabin Creek to stand up and make specific demands of their employers: they wanted out from under the financial burdens of the company store and the long ton, an end to the mine guard system, and formal recognition of their union. The owners responded by firing Keeney and his comrades, and putting them and their families out of their homes. More than two months later, the families were still living in tents, with little hope for success.

    His kids were sick. They don't have enough food to feed their children. Three hundred Baldwin-Felts detectives had set up machine gun emplacements all around Cabin Creek. So this was when they were at their most desperate hour. Narrator : Keeney saw little choice but to make the difficult twenty-mile trip to Charleston to beseech the leaders in the UMW district office to come to the aid of his sagging miners.

    The local officers said they had their hands full. The union treasury was already depleted by a strike at Paint Creek, just across the ridge from Cabin Creek. The Paint Creek strike had turned deadly. UMW officials told Keeney he was on his own. Chuck Keeney, Historian : He cusses them out and says that he'll take control of the strike himself and then says that, "If you're afraid to go to Cabin Creek I'll find a woman who will go. Narrator : Mother Jones heard the knock on her hotel room door in Charleston that muggy July night, and found Frank Keeney standing outside, "with tears in his eyes," she recalled.

    On August sixth, , Mother Jones arrived in Keeney's hometown, the only town in Cabin Creek not controlled by a coal operator. Keeney had gathered a big crowd. They all wanted to see the woman known as "the miner's angel. Rosemary Feurer, Historian : She was kind of a rock star of the labor movement by then. People would reach out to her. Their arms would reach out, you know, as though they were in a religious revival.

    They want to believe in themselves and she assures them that she's ready to fight with them, and that they are capable of fighting. Narrator : The morning after Mother Jones' speech, miners up and down Cabin Creek began to walk off the job. A week later, more than three thousand marchers pushed through armed militiamen and followed Mother Jones and Frank Keeney to a rally on the steps of the Capitol.

    They were there to persuade Governor William Glasscock to abolish the mine guard system. Mother Jones issued an ominous warning: "Unless the Governor rids Paint Creek and Cabin Creek of these god-damned Baldwin-Felts mine guard thugs, there is going to be one hell of a lot of bloodletting in these hills. Governor Glasscock believed that the fight between coal companies and their employees was a private matter, and that he lacked authority to step in.

    Frank Keeney decided it was time to change tactics. If the state would not protect miners and their families, they would protect themselves. James Green, Author : Keeney had a certain kind of charisma and a certain kind of certainty about what to do, and a sense of either recklessness or courage depending on how you look at it of leading his people to the brink of a cliff and facing the consequences that come from fighting.

    Narrator : Strikers began buying guns, while sympathetic miners from nearby coal camps smuggled weapons and ammunition into Paint Creek and Cabin Creek. They stashed rifles, pistols, bullets, gunpowder and dynamite in the woods. Chuck Keeney, Historian : Miners organized themselves into groups that would be ready to go on a moment's notice in case of an attack on the tent colony by mine guards.

    You also had another group called the "dirty eleven. The miners were dynamiting tipples, dynamiting railroad tracks, firing on trains. Anything that they could do to stop production, and anything they could do to kill a mine guard. For two decades the coal companies used mine guards to keep the miners in submission through use of terror. Now the miners learned to employ violence themselves to fight back to show the coal companies the terror was a two-edged sword. Chuck Keeney, Historian : After some of the mine guards were killed miners pasted notes on the coffins saying, "Gone to hell.

    More to go. Narrator : By early September, it looked like civil war was breaking out within 30 miles of the state capitol. Glasscock, bowing to pressure, finally stepped in. He declared martial law in the coal fields of Paint Creek and Cabin Creek, and sent in 1, West Virginia National Guardsmen to disarm the combatants on both sides.

    The troops confiscated more than 2, rifles and revolvers, , rounds of ammunition, and six machine guns. Once the worst of the fighting had been checked, the governor encouraged the antagonists to sit down and work out a truce. John Hennen, Historian : The production of coal was always a low margin of profit business.

    And every penny for every ton, from the perspective of the coal operators, they needed to maximize that margin as much as they possibly could. And this of course meant to the operators, "We cannot afford to give an inch. Louis and the Deep South. Strikers and their wives were often waiting to confront the transportation men when they disembarked at depots near Paint Creek and Cabin Creek.

    Paul Rakes, Historian : The women involved in labor strikes, they have everything at stake. The survival of their family is at stake. They're going to be the ones who provide much of the support network to keep the strike going. Oftentimes standing up to company guards. My grandmother and my mother they would say, "There's nothing more vicious than a, than a woman on a strike line. Denise Giardina, Writer : Usually the women would gather outside the mine en masse, and try to keep the scabs from going in. Armed not with guns, but with household utensils.

    Ronald Lewis, Historian : African Americans are fully engaged in the strike. They meet the trains carrying strikebreakers. Dan Chain, alias "Few Clothes Johnson" was a very effective organizer and fearless. He was very good with a gun and his fist. It didn't matter if they were black or white, the strikebreakers. They were strikebreakers. This is not a race matter. This is a class matter. I don't mean that this is some kind of Utopian place, an egalitarian paradise or something. It's not.


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    • But it's just that there are more pressing matters right now. Denise Giardina, Writer : The coal operators, they felt that there was no chance those groups would cooperate. But, no matter how segregated it is, you can't live in a coal camp without getting to know people. You know, everybody shops at the company store.

      The men all socialize underground.

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      Nobody can see anybody's ethnicity 'cause everybody's covered in coal dust, and so after a period of time you get to know each other. You see a huge ethnic diversity coming together in those conflicts. Narrator : At Christmastime , as the strike headed into its eighth month, Mother Jones made a visit to the camps in southern West Virginia, delivering shoes, clothes and presents for children.

      Frank and Bessie Keeney, and their four children, rang in the New Year in a tent. John Alexander Williams, Historian : The situation in the tent colonies would have been dispiriting.