By May 18, 2015 Read More →

Matewan museum tells story of mine wars

Register-Herald photo courtesy of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum Visitors stroll through the museum learning about the stories and struggle through exhibits and first-person accounts. While the atmosphere was one of celebration, several people were emotional as they looked at old mining equipment, company scrip and ammunition used during the famous Battle of Blair Mountain.

Register-Herald photo courtesy of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum
Visitors stroll through the museum learning about the stories and struggle through exhibits and first-person accounts. While the atmosphere was one of celebration, several people were emotional as they looked at old mining equipment, company scrip and ammunition used during the famous Battle of Blair Mountain.

MATEWAN, W.Va. — It started here on May 19, 1920, when seven men carrying Winchester rifles and pistols got off the Norfolk and Western’s No. 29 out of Bluefield under gray clouds and light rain.

Within a few hours the climax of West Virginia’s mine wars would occur, a shootout between Baldwin-Felts detectives and coal miners, led by the town’s sheriff, Sid Hatfield. Like many events in history, what actually happened is lost. It is unknown who mouthed off first or who fired the first shot. But it makes a good story.

 And that’s history — the stories of people, place and time. The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum opened Saturday with the mission of telling the stories of the people, place and time of those wars and the paradox of coal.

The little museum, located at 336 Mate St., tells the big story of labor unrest in the early 20th century when southern West Virginia miners and their families fought coal operators and mine guards for their constitutional rights, fair labor practice and right to unionize.

“I think it’s important for the museum to tell their history, their way,” said Lou Martin, a board member.

The opening drew about 500 people…

 

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