BECKLEY — The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine marked the Blair Mountain Centennial celebration with a day dedicated to exploring the impact of the mine wars Sept. 3.
The museum offered its normal underground and exhibit tours with added commentary on the Battle of Blair Mountain and the impact the mine wars had on the way coal mines are operated today.
Volunteer Curt Richards offered information about Blair Mountain before each underground tour Friday.
“It is the centennial celebration of the Battle of Blair Mountain,” Richards said. “The Battle of Blair is an important landmark in United States history, in that it was the largest labor uprising in U.S. history, and it was the largest armed uprising by U.S. citizens since the Civil War.”
Volunteer and former coal miner Dorsel Turner also weaved discussion of the mine wars into his usual tour inside the mine.
“The incident at Paint Creek, now this happened in the early 1900s,” Turner said. “They tried to organize the unions. Southern West Virginia was against all unions, so the coal companies hired the Baldwin-Felts guards. Every law enforcement in this state, in the country, was with the companies. They threw all the miners out and brought in replacement workers.”
The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine features an underground tram that takes visitors for a ride through the dark passages of a vintage coal mine. Guides are veteran miners who provide firsthand accounts of the daily responsibilities and travail of past and present day miners.
Above ground, visitors can also find a period coal camp with restored buildings situated throughout the grounds. In addition to miners’ homes, buildings include the Coal Company House, Superintendent’s Home, Pemberton Coal Camp Church and the Helen Coal Camp School.