Too Many Stories Out of Blair Mountain

Sometimes there are just too many stories.  This week has been one of those times.  What started out as a simple story about a simple march to save a simple mountain has turned into stories wrapped in stories stuffed in stories.

As you look at this, it seems like the main story is the only story.  A group of hippies and tree huggers in 2011 re-enact a march to a mountain in West Virginia.  The original march happened in 1921 with about 10,000 miners and ended in the largest armed insurrection in the country since the Civil War.

In June, 2011, approximately 400 marchers followed the original route.  Marching along a narrow, winding road for fifty miles.  Marchers from around the world came together to support union labor, eliminate mountain top removal and preserve an historic site that has become ground zero in the struggle against mine owners.

But there’s still more stories.  Here’s just a very small sampling of some that I rubbed up against during the five day march.

C.B. Bella.  His father was shot in the ankle during the battle and head in the woods for three days and two nights until the fighting ended.  When it was over he traveled 17 miles on foot to return to his home.

Jimmy Weekly.  He lost his health and his wife, but he kept his land from being mined under by the coal companies.  To this date, Jimmy is the only man in America who singlehandedly shut down an active strip mine.  Spruce #1 is quiet now thanks to Jimmy.

Blair, WV.  Ten years ago Blair had a population of 4500.  Today is has a population of 45.  Mine operators have bought – and leveled – over 150 homes.  Fair prices weren’t always paid and intimidation was often used in an effort to get homeowners to sign off on the sale.  Intimidation and threats are still carried on today in the hills and hollers around Blair.

Harvard Ayers.  An anthropologist archaeologist who teaches at Mars Hill College has been at the fore front of the fight to save Blair Mountain for over a decade.  It was his skills as an archeologist that first showed the battle in 1921 to have been fought differently than what the mine owners would have you believe.

The stories continue.  Documentaries are being made.  Books are being written.  The archeologists estimate that they have another 40 years of work in front of them on the mountain…as long as the mine owners don’t get certified to conduct mountain top removal mining.

But that wouldn’t end all the stories.




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