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The Blair Mountain War: Battle of the Rednecks
At the time this original manuscript was penned in 1927, Swain was a reporter for the county newspaper, The Logan County Banner, in Logan, WV. Here Swain paints a vivid picture, in his most unique style, of West Virginia in bygone days. Granted, Swain was a staunch supporter of the controversial Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin, so his particular take on the mine war is from a Chafin perspective. When he describes Logan County miners in this manuscript, he portrays them as being largely content and well-treated by mine operators. Yet, the truth was that there was a great deal of discontent in the Logan County coalfields in 1921. As the late state historian Robert Y. Spence once wrote: “There was the resentment of difficult work for little pay. There was resentment caused by the mine owners’ refusal to negotiate with the miners’ union. Most of all, there was resentment of the attitude the mine owners had for the men who worked underground supporting the owners’ way of living.”
Sheriff Chafin and mine operators within the county were defiant over and opposed to the unionization of the Logan field. For this, and for other related events that took place in the state, tensions escalated and, eventually, war ensued. It’s been written that the result of this battle at Blair Mountain marked a turning point in the national movement to better the conditions of working people by demanding the legalization of unions. It was the largest armed labor confrontation in U.S. history. To this day, the Blair Mountain War stands as a powerful symbol for workers, even though Swain wearily concludes that the battle was a “foolhardy undertaking”. The WestVirginia State Archives has stated that the mine wars have demonstrated the inability of the state and federal governments to defuse the situations short of initiating armed intervention. This is certainly true. Regardless, the details behind The Blair Mountain War remain fascinating and controversial.
This literary work should appeal to all lovers of history. This is the second volume in The Swain History Series (The first installment is the book, Princess Aracoma and the Settling of West Virginia).
This book, The Blair Mountain War, should be in every home library.
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