Appalachian History On 2 Wheels - Coal Miners Bombed !

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by dlrides, Nov 23, 2008.

  1. dlrides

    dlrides 1:1.618

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    The only time in U.S. history that bombs were ordered dropped on citizens, occurred in West Virginia !

    Many events shaped the history of mining and organized labor, but none compare to the "Matewan Massacre" and "The Battle Of Blair Mountain". Follow along, explore the roads, sights, and stories of this history !


    West Virginia Bound

    Crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains on a cold winter morning always invites the chance for snow flurries. Luckily, the flurries fell the day before the trip, and since I was using gravel roads, dust was not an issue !

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    The pavement sections were covered in "black ice", so I didn't stop for many pics !

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    The scenery was excellent with the absence of leaves

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    West Virginia is full of gravel roads, and coal haul roads, that can be explored for days.

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    To fully understand the Matewan story, the roots of the central figure, Sid Hatfield, must be explored.

    Sid Hatfield was the police chief of Matewan. Sid was known as "two gun Sid", a tough descendent of "Devil Anse Hatfield", legendary leader of the "Hatfield clan". The Hatfield McCoy feud had shaped Sid Hatfield into a tough man, and a reputation that could back it up.

    The Hatfield cemetery is located on the Kentucky side of the Tug River, and historic in it's own right.

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    No gate, cable, or fence ? Must mean public access, right ? :wink:

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    With the right bike ! Very steep up to the cemetery !

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    The famous Devil Anse Hatfield, then

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    and now

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    Roots of the "Matewan Massacre" ran deep in the union labor battle between miners and the mining companies. I will provide complete story links at the end of the Matewan section.

    The Baldwin Felts detectives travelled to Matewan on a train from Bluefield, to remove miners from their homes, in retaliation for signing union membership cards. They had forgotten one little detail though, Matewan was incorporated, and they had no jurisdiction within the city limits, enter Sid Hatfield ! Seven agents were killed, and three residents, including the mayor.

    The 1987 movie "Matewan" was actually filmed in Thurmond West Virginia, and of course, I've been there too !

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    View the video before explore the "Matewan Massacre" on 2 wheels, and look for the Thurmond buildings !


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    For the younger crowd


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    Sid Hatfield

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    Matewan in 1920

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    The street where the shootings occurred is still gravel today !

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    Soon after the "Matewan Massacre", Sid Hatfield and others were indighted on false gun charges. When they walked up the steps to the federal courthouse in Welch, hired "regulators" stepped from behind the courthouse and shot him, even though he was unarmed !

    Welch courthouse, and the actual steps of the shooting.

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    The anger of this shooting, combined with union labor issues, pushed the miners into a rage. This rage led to "The Battle of Blair Mountain", which will be explored next !


    Complete Matewan story:

    http://www.matewan.com/History/battle2.htm
    #1
  2. Cloud9

    Cloud9 I was HERE?

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    Good stuff! I always like ride reports exploring little known history. Thanks for the ride :thumb

    Waiting for "the rest of the story"
    #2
  3. mark1305

    mark1305 Old Enough To Know Better

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    Another great one, Don! Thanks!
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  4. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Thanks for another magical history tour! :thumb
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  5. mel brooks

    mel brooks Dirt Chick

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    Don and DeBandi are THE history ride report kings of ADV!!! :clap


    Battle of Blair Mtn., one of my favorite Appalachian events.

    You guys bring history to life! Many thanks. Keep it up :D
    #5
  6. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

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    Great job and a good history lesson. Thanks.
    #6
  7. HappyRiding

    HappyRiding Silly

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    :thumb:lurk
    #7
  8. DeBandi

    DeBandi Exploring Alabama

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    GREAT background & write up Don. :clap

    I learn something every time I read one of your reports.

    Looking forward to the upcoming Battle Of Blair Mountain.

    Thanks mel for the kind words. :thumb





    #8
  9. Tom48

    Tom48 Been here awhile

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    Hurry up, This trip is great,I'm in Canada awaiting the snow ro melt,
    #9
  10. JustAdam

    JustAdam Bloody No's

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    Agreed - the best Ride Reports have history - and I personally am sucker for some really good American History - Keep going!
    #10
  11. Fredfredburger

    Fredfredburger CTRL ALT DEL

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    Cool! Waiting on the rest of this report...
    :lurk
    #11
  12. nec

    nec Adventurer

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    I think Philadelphia was bombed about 20 years ago: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOVE
    #12
  13. DirtyOldMan

    DirtyOldMan Long timer

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    Cool report , thanks. I've heard that machine gun shell casings from the battle can still be found on Blair Mt.
    Just something to think about when considering the "turbulent" times we live in now.
    #13
  14. onaXR

    onaXR Druid

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    The difference was Philly state police dropped a bomb from a helicopter on a single house.

    West Virginia alone bears the distinction of having been the focus – and potential target –of military aircraft.

    http://www.pawv.org/news/blairhist.htm
    #14
  15. dlrides

    dlrides 1:1.618

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    :thumb

    Thanks for the comments !

    Machine guns, warplanes, abandoned railways, creek crossings, and battle trenches are yet to come !
    #15
  16. Boojum

    Boojum I Miss the PartyBoss

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    Damn Good Report, Don!:thumb I look forward to Memorial Day weekend, so we can hit another History Ride!!! :nod :thumb :ricky :kumbaya


    Boojum
    #16
  17. dlrides

    dlrides 1:1.618

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    Minister John Wilburn, said to his fellow miners,

    "It's time to lay down the bible and pick up the rifle !"

    A little more than a year after the murder of Sid Hatfield, miners reached the pinnacle of rage. The miners organized a march on Mingo county, the last hold of tyranical companies. Don Chaffin assembled a force to fight off the miners, which included private airplanes hired to drop home built bombs. The rough and tough Bill Blizzard and the miners meet in Marmet, near Charleston, then head towards Logan. With red bandannas around their necks as uniforms, guns in hand, they are ready to fight for their futures !

    Some miners walked, rode horses, mules, and a hi-jacked trains to reach Blair. A short march through the gap at Blair Mountain, and they would be in Logan, or so they thought !


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    The last leg of the march to Blair, traversed down Spruce Creek. Remnants of the old railway can be seen at times, but is almost gone.

    While travelling down Spruce Creek, bullets started flying !

    Spruce Creek today

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    The old RR bed

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    Blair is not much more than a few buildings now, but it was a booming town in it's day !

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    The only remnants of the railway in Blair. A depot sat beside the tracks here, and machine guns fired on them from the surrounding ridge !

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    From this marker, you can see the rock outcroppings where two large caliber machine guns were placed to fire on the miners. A phone discussion I had earlier with local historian Kenny King, provided some of the detailed information.

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    Machine gune placements

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    Kenny King, local historian

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    Next we will travel down the ridge, into the trenches, and to a meeting hall supposedly targeted for bombs by US warplanes !
    #17
  18. Kodanja

    Kodanja Been here awhile

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    An excellent report! Thanks for taking the time to prepare it.
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  19. flux_capacitor

    flux_capacitor I know a shortcut!

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    Good read as always, Don. Wish my school teachers had made history as interesting...
    #19
  20. dlrides

    dlrides 1:1.618

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    A natural gap exist at Blair Mountain, which was the miner's goal, then to Logan. The ridgeline was posted heavily by Chaffin's men and company paid guns. Due to the geographical disadvantage, and heavy firepower, the miners never broke through. After several days of attempts, federal troops in route, and warplanes dropping bombs, the miners retreated.

    This was the largest labor battle ever waged on american soil, and the second largest uprising in american history, second only to the Civil War. This event eventually created the change the miners were due.


    One of the union meeting halls that one of the bombs dropped near. I could not find the bomb impression, but Mr. King said it was difficult to find.

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    This old trail travels down the ridge, and is passable with the right bike. Chaffin's men were posted along this very trail !

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    Highest point on the ridge. A trench used to fire on the miners is a few yards away.

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    This is the best photo I could get of a trench. Several are down the ridge, but due to brush and debris, they can't be distinguished via photo.

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    The old trail continues down the ridge and ends at an area currently being mined. Like a fool, I followed until it ended, then had to ride back out ! I didn't stop to take a photo of returning up the hill, I was more concerned about making it out !

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    Appalachian State University has been performing archeological studies in the area, and artifacts are being collected. I hope the relatives of the miners are succesful in having this area granted a National Historical Site status.

    Long live the "Original Rednecks", ......................... and now you know !



    Please read the details of the complete story :

    http://www.roanoke.com/news/nrv/mountaintop/blair.pdf


    Previous reports in the series, Appalachian History On 2 Wheels

    #1
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=388282

    #2
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=401209

    #3
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=409503


    Parting shots of the ride home through KY, VA, and TN.

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    NEVER miss a historic marker !


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    #20