#59 Save the Battle of Blair Mountain Site

West Virginians Rally for Blair Mountain Preservation, Development” - The State Journal, Charleston, West Virginia

This site is what the 99% and the Occupy movements are fighting for.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Blair_Mountain_Fighting.jpgIn 1921 10,000 to 15,000 coal miners walked off the job at Blair Mountain.  They were fighting for the right to unionize and demanded safer working conditions in the mines.  It was the nation’s largest labor uprising and the largest armed insurrection since the Civil War.  Now, Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal want to make it a massive surface mine.

A group calling themselves “Friends of Blair Mountain” collected 26,000 signatures and presented them to the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office on November 1st.

The movement is being led by University of California, Berkeley, PhD. candidate in archaeology, Brandon Nida.  Nida is not trying to prevent any sort of mining on the site, rather, he recommends deep-mining under the site.  

"Keep on talking about Blair Mountain," Nida directed those interested in helping the cause. "Keep on sharing this history with each other. It's amazing history."

Nida feels that the property could be donated or the companies could be given tax credits for the land.

There is an effort to make sure that the mining companies are not financially damaged by the preservation efforts and to try to make everyone happy.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/05/100520-science-environment-blair-mountain-coal-massey-energy-nation/Previous archaeological surveys on the site found 14 sites and more than 1,100 artifacts.  

“This is one of the best-sealed contexts, the best archaeological integrity, as we call it, of any site I’ve ever been to,” said Harvard Ayers, a professor emeritus in archaeology at Appalachian State University.

Ayers was able to get Blair Mountain listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.  By December of that year the site was back off the list.  The article doesn’t say why.  The site is currently eligible for listing which doesn’t provide it the same protection that a true listing would.

A retired union coal miner, Joe Stanley, said that he is a product of Blair Mountain.  “Without Blair Mountain, there would be no middle class in the United States as we understand it,” said Stanley.

"Once the vision of Friends of Blair Mountain is completely realized, Blair Mountain Historic Park will be a fully functioning educational and tourist destination, complete with a Friends of Blair Mountain multipurpose building, battlefield tours, monuments, historic markers, a living history coal, an outdoor amphitheater, lodging, camping, restaurants and retail shops," the proposal for Blair Mountain Historic Park states.

National Geographic covered this story with a great article as well.

With the 99% and all of the Occupy movements going on right now we need to remember where the middle class came from.  We need to remember our roots and honor the people that sacrificed their jobs and sometimes their lives in support for what they believe in.  I hope the Friends of Blair Mountain can reach an agreement with the mining companies.  It would be even better if mountain-top removal mining and coal mining were to go away as newer technology replaces the need for it.  That’s another argument, however.


2008  The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology (iPad App), Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.   Developed by Handmark, Inc.

Mine Any kind of excavation into the ground for the purpose of extracting some kind of raw material such as stone, metal ore, coal, or flint. The simplest mines are basically pits sunk into the ground to find or follow outcrops of the desired material; these can be described as open‐cast mines. Lines of shallow extraction pits following surface outcrops of metal ore are known as rakes. Deeper, rather cylindrical holes may be described as simple shaft mines. Examples where the shaft is expanded at the bottom to maximize the area available for extracting a particular layer of material are known as bell pits. Shafts that provide access to a series of galleries that follow seams of material underground are known as galleried shaft mines. Pits that run horizontally into a hill slope or cliff following material into the slope are known as adits or drift mines.

The techniques of mining developed steadily from Neolithic times onwards in most parts of the world, the use of fire‐setting and stone mauls being the commonest way of extracting hard rocks until hardened iron or steel tools became available in later medieval times. The use of drills and explosives appears from the 18th century ad. In prehistoric times, soft rock such as gravel or chalk was excavated using bone and antler tools and stone and flint axes. The archaeology of mines and mining is often rather complicated because as well as the underground elements (which are often well preserved) there will be surface structures including spoil heaps, processing areas, working floors, a range of shelters and facilities, drainage works, and perhaps aqueducts, leats, reservoirs, and other water management works where water power was used or where material removed from the mine itself needed to be washed.