Patti Capel Swartz

The West Virginia Mine Wars 1900-1921:  Cloris Duke

When I get to the other side, I am going to tell God Almighty about West Virginia.

—Mary Harris Jones (Mother Jones)

I was down to Stanfield Mountain in 1902.
We thought they was bringing in scabs.
We wasn’t supposed to look at the mine.
We decided to look anyways.
We walked just down the highway and back.
We went home peaceable. Didn’t fight nor nothing.

Now I want you to know we was good men.
           We ain’t never been in trouble.
           We ain’t never been in court in our lives.
We was law-abiding men living quietly up there in the mountains.
    
When the United States deputy marshal come the next morning
with a warrant for thirty-three some said
           You can’t arrest us
           We have broken no law
           We have hurt nobody
           You will have to leave the town.

My name weren’t on that warrant
But you never forget them as dies.

The next night one hundred gun thugs
           and them deputies
           and the mine owners
           and their sons
come up the mountain
and while the families slept they shot them
           riddled they houses with bullets
           wounded twenty-three whilst they was sleepin
           alla them gunmen firing all at oncet.

 


Women and chilrun died.

When the shootin stopped we went to see.
           The mattresses was all seepin blood and the bodies laying there.
           Women was screamin. The babies was runnin to and fro, to and fro
           callin and callin for they paps to come back.

We ain’t broke no law. Alls we did was walk that highway.
Wasn’t no call to be killin us.
 

The West Virginia Mine Wars 1900-1921:  Joseph Barlow

We wasn’t able to talk about work.
Not so long as we were on company property.
If they caught us they fired us.
When the mine blew up or they was a cave-in
and miners was killed
           they wives and chilrun 
           was put out on the street
           no place to live
           no credit at the company store.


I was tired of getting only scrip.
I was tired of owin the company store.
I was tired of fearin for my life.
When the mine was down one day
           I went off to look for work.

Somebody talked.
           They is spies everywhere.
 

The West Virginia Mine Wars 1900-1921:  Betty Barlow

Well how it was the gun thugs come in.
           Broke the door right in.
And they started beatin on my little chilrun
           and the chilrun was screamin.

Naturally I tried stoppin them
           and that’s when they hit me
                       and that’s when they knocked me down
                                    and that’s when they kicked me
                                                 and kicked and kicked.

Our new young’un was in my belly.

Oh they seen I was in the family way
           but it didn’t matter none to them
they just kicked and kicked.

When I woke up Mrs. Sloane was holdin 
a cold cloth to my forehead.
    
I wisht I hadn’t woke up.
My new young’un, the one in my belly?
My new young’un couldn’t talk to me no more.

I couldn’t hear my baby speak
not no more. 

 

 

 

The West Virginia Mine Wars 1900-1921: Rafe Johnstone

We was in the camp up to Holly Grove
           when they brought that Bull Moose Special through.

It were like no train I ever seen before or since.
           All of them cars had sheet metal on the outside
                      so it was bulletproof.
They was machine guns mounted behind that metal
           with holes right through for the barrels 
                      so as they could shoot
                                  right into the tents 
                                              where we was sleeping.

Oh it were a quiet train.
           No light.
                      Just the rumbling 
                                  when it was 
                                              right up on you. 
                                                          Then the guns would start. 

It’d go through real slow and they’d shoot and shoot
           ’til the last gun was past.

It’d be real quiet for a minute. Then the train would 
           back down the track with guns blazing.
    
When it was gone men and women and chilrun was dead.
                       They did not care who they killed.
                                  A miner’s brat is as good as a miner any day they’d say.

They took that train to Colorado too.
           It sure did travel the country.

 

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THE COURTSHIP OF WINDS

© 2015 by William Ray