Anderson County Museum [SC] Inducts Two to Hall of Fame

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 19, 2014

Joshua Erni-SalmansPlease welcome guest author Joshua Salmans. Salmans has lived in the Upstate of South Carolina for 17 years in a city not too far away from Anderson. He’s a quirky, librarian type who feels comfortable in the foothills of Appalachia, but has found adventure traveling and being a cultural exchange agent in this little blueberry of a planet. Currently, he has returned to Greenville to teach Adult Basic Education courses and contribute to and The Dictionary of Literary Biography.


You’ve felt it before. You’re getting your haircut at the local barbershop or having dinner at the diner that has been in town since before you were born. On the walls, you see newspaper clippings, pictures and other memorabilia from the past. Feelings of vague nostalgia strike you in an almost telepathic way: as if the images momentarily break free of their two-dimensional surfaces to speak to you, “Don’t you remember me?”

A tinge of guilt now permeates your thoughts as you realize you’re not as familiar with these legends of your own town’s history as you would like to be and should have paid more attention to your grandmother’s endless stories she told about growing up in Appalachia while gently swaying on the rocking chair. You comment to those around you, “These old pictures belong in a museum, or even a hall of fame.”

Halls of fame can be found in many iconic cities in and around Appalachia and are profound reminders that we must not forget those who gave their passion to creating something meaningful in our communities. You do not always have to travel far to find one of these halls of fame: you may have one in your own county.

Beverly Childs, executive director of the Anderson County Museum, reads a short biography of Barnard Elliott Bee Jr. during a previous induction ceremony at the museum. Photo courtesy Anderson Independent Mail.

Beverly Childs, executive director of the Anderson County Museum, reads a short biography of Barnard Elliott Bee Jr. during a previous induction ceremony at the museum. Photo courtesy Anderson Independent Mail.

Many localities, such as Anderson County in South Carolina, are discovering just how much they can successfully showcase their members’ contributions to the broader scene in Appalachian history and culture.

On October 14th of this year, Reverend Moses Holland and Manley McClure will join twenty-eight other inductees in the Anderson County Museum’s Hall of Fame. Among the other twenty-eight new companions are a sports announcer and writer, a brigadier general, a South Carolina governor, textile industry leaders, agricultural leaders and many others. With such a diverse gathering of influential individuals, ACM has established Anderson’s relevancy in the dynamic development of Appalachian culture.

Reverend Moses Holland (1758-1829) was not born in Anderson, but in Culpepper County in Virginia. According to some genealogy sites[1], he was a drummer boy in the Revolutionary War “and was present at Lord Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown in 1781[2].”

Around the year 1787, he moved to South Carolina and went on to become the founding pastor of Big Creek Baptist Church in Williamston, SC, and was also one of the founders of the Saluda Baptist Association—which is still in existence today. His tombstone claims that he founded over twenty-five other churches, including Hopewell, Neal’s Creek, Friendship, Barker’s Creek, Washington, and Standing Spring.

Holland had two marriages that produced twelve children, who continued in their father’s strong Baptist persuasion. Arlette Copeland, Special Collections Assistant for Jack Tarver Library at Mercer University, even suggests that “it isn’t too far a stretch to expect the Hollands passed along that spiritual persuasion for the next century-plus[3].” Still serving as the senior pastor at Big Creek Baptist, he died on September 8, 1829, leaving behind a strong Baptist tradition in Anderson as well as being a participant in a pivotal moment our nation’s early history.

Moses Holland tombstone.

Moses Holland tombstone.

Manley “Doc” McClure (1900-1977) improved farming practices in Anderson County and the surrounding areas through innovative and progressive agricultural techniques. At the age of 21, he started his career in the farming business. What made his farming unique was his practice of soil conservation and diversification well before either technique was the norm in farming. He also revolutionized the cattle industry in Anderson County by bringing in purebred Hereford beef cattle and implementing a year-round grazing system, which led to the county becoming the state’s leading producer of quality beef cattle. In recognition of these things, the Progressive Farmer magazine in 1953 awarded him the title of Master Farmer. He married a farmer’s daughter by the name of Sally Williford and had one daughter with her. He died July 18, 1977, having literally changed the face of the earth in Anderson County.

Rev. Holland’s contribution to a strong family legacy in the Baptist tradition—as well as being an eyewitness to a crucial historical event in the nation’s early beginnings—taken together with McClure’s advancements in progressive farming techniques leading to his commendation by a well-recognized farming magazine, have made ACM’s Hall of Fame a good home for them.

Beverly Childs, the Museum’s Executive Director, said that it has been inducting “deserving individuals into the ACM’s Hall of Fame in recognition of their accomplishments and contributions to Anderson County and South Carolina” since 2003. Donna DeHoll, a volunteer at the Museum and life-long resident of Anderson, exclaimed, “We’re proud of it!” Indeed, their confidence is not misplaced as ACM’s venue boasts “13 permanent exhibits, a temporary exhibit gallery, and multiple changing exhibits.”

Mac McGee, an FFA alumnus and graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in animal science, has the primary responsibility for day-to-day operation of the farm and continues to follow in his grandfather McClure’s footsteps when it comes to diversification. Photo Anderson Independent Mail.

Mac McGee has the primary responsibility for day-to-day operation of the Double M Farm once operated by Manley McClure, and continues to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps when it comes to diversification. Photo Anderson Independent Mail.

Displayed in a 26,000 square-foot facility, these stylishly modern and interactive exhibits feature 20,000 artifacts and the county’s history of transportation, textile industry, religious and educational institutions, and military contributions. Best thing of all is that ACM has free admission for both residents and tourists.

If you want to avoid that tinge of guilt for not recognizing local legends in your community and how they contributed to Appalachian history, ask around and find a museum in your area. Or if you are in Anderson County or traveling through Upstate South Carolina, be sure to visit Anderson County Museum.

If you want one of your relatives inducted into ACM’s 2015 Hall of Fame, your relative must have been born in Anderson County and have gained recognition there or somewhere else. Also, they can have been born elsewhere and gained esteem and notoriety in Anderson County. You can fill out an application at


Sources: August 28, 2014.




[2] August 28, 2014.


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Heritage Farm Museum Adds New Doll Exhibit

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 18, 2014

On September 11, the Heritage Farm Museum and Village in Harveytown, WV, held a grand opening for the Bowes Doll & Carriage Collection.

“This collection reminds us that not everyone lived in log cabins,” says Heritage Farm founder Mike Perry, “and that we had entrepreneurs who risked everything they had to open country stores, grist mills, sawmills, ferries, lumber and coal businesses, and railroads. Their homes and clothes and toys reflected that enterprise.”

Grounds of the Heritage Farm Museum and Village.

Grounds of the Heritage Farm Museum and Village.

The Bowes Doll & Carriage Collection has been three years in the making and is located above the compound’s children’s museum. It houses dozens of dolls, handmade or collected by Connie Bowes of Charleston, presented in a range of period costumes and displays. The exhibits, with themes that range from family life to outdoor activities, also feature many antique baby and doll carriages that have been restored by Connie and her husband Don Bowes.

“We initially started to collect dolls,” says Don Bowes.

“I think of the clothes that mother made, and dresses that maybe I had as a little girl that my grandparents made—grandmother made a crochet dress for me, or mother embroidered a dress—I frequently think of that and try to recreate that,” says Connie.

“I have run into people in this day and age, many ladies, who’ve never owned a doll. The family didn’t have the income to support the luxury of dolls and carriages way back. That’s another reason why people today love the dolls so much. The older women love the dolls. They did not have them and they cherish them for what they were.

“Most of the dolls initially going in the carriages were dolls that I made. Then I got into a few antique dolls and occasionally an artist doll. So what we will now have is a collection of a variety of types of dolls.

“It’s the expression on the little faces! There are so many kinds of dolls: there are little play dolls, and there are beautiful porcelain ladies; whatever appeals to you if you’re interested in collecting.

doll setting final

“It became more fascinating as I went on. When I entered my first doll for international competition and won a ribbon for Best of Category, I thought ‘I want a carriage for that doll!’ So on the way home from New York I said to Don, ‘Could we please stop at antique stores and find a carriage?’

“Carriages fascinate me,” says Don, “because they are so unique, there is so much ingenious work in them. And then the artistry that goes into weaving the baskets and things. I guess my engineering background makes me say ‘Gee, this is really kind of a clever thing to have. These things change over time, and there are eras in our history — politically, socially — and the carriages changed with that.

“They didn’t start making doll carriages until about 1890. They did it with leftover materials, and the people who sold wicker rattan started to make a few for their kids. By about 1900 that really took off.

“Mike and Henriella Perry came up to visit us about 4 years ago. He approached us and said, ‘Look: what are you going to do with all those dolls and carriages?’ Anyway, he said, ‘I’d like to expand.’ So we said, ‘Ok, we can do that, we can put in a few dolls and carriages.’ We sat down at a table and drew out in the dust a design of what we might do, and decided to locate in the building that we’re now using. We started in with a basic design, and started building.”

“We hope people in the future will truly look forward to seeing them, viewing them, and enjoying the handwork, the restoration of the carriages and the collection of the dolls at the Heritage Farm Museum,” says Connie.

A Legacy of Dolls and Carriages from Trifecta Productions, LLC on Vimeo.

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What They Wore in Cherokee County, AL

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 17, 2014

Kayleigh LastPlease welcome guest author Kayleigh Last. Last is Reference/Adult Services Clerk at the Huntsville-Madison County [AL] Public Library. She curated the “What They Wore” show currently on view at the Cherokee County Museum in Centre, AL.


Every morning you get up and pick out an outfit for the day. Are you working? Then you might wear business casual or a uniform of some sort. Are you at home? You might just lounge around in your pajamas. Each outfit you choose depicts a different role that you’re performing in society, something that has been done by people for years. This is the main concept behind a new exhibit at the Cherokee County Museum in Centre, AL. The exhibit focuses on interpreting outfits from the 20th century and the various roles that the Cherokee County people who wore them performed.

“What They Wore” states the title in bold text, which can be seen from the foot of the museum’s stairs. Up on the railing of the loft sit 10 outfits worn by different people in the county. Mother, student, entertainer, life-saver, and hero are some of the roles performed by the people in the community.

Perhaps the most common role in Cherokee County held by women was the role of mother. In this rural county, women mostly worked at home during the 20th century helping their husbands, keeping things clean, sewing, taking care of their children, and saving money. All women had a sizeable range of skills that they could use to take care of the family.

A museum volunteer preps the Willam Brooks baby dress for display.

A museum volunteer preps the Willam Brooks baby dress for display.

Willie Gertrude Kinsey Brooks applied her sewing skill in 1919 when she handcrafted a dress for her newborn son. Stained brown with age, the white linen dress and matching cap once kept William Brooks, her son, warm. Looking at the garment, you can almost feel the love put into every stitch. As well as piecing the dress together and sewing it, Willie also made lace to line the collar and sleeves. As an added touch, she formed the word ‘baby’ out of the lace on the collar. At the bottom of the dress is a large tear that has been carefully stitched together.

When Pearl Daniel Watson graduated from high school in the early 1920s, she graduated in a dress made by her mother. Pearl may have picked out the color of the dress, mauve, or her mother may have had the fabric on hand. Short enough to show off her legs and including a drop waist, the dress is oddly fashionable for the area and the time. As an added flair, the dress includes a sash with a bow, which speaks for either Pearl’s tastes or her mother’s.

The perfect example of saving money but still being a good mother is the guano (fertilizer) sack dress made by Beatrice Kerr for her daughter Rebecca. Guano dresses are something that several older local people, like Mary Bishop, remember their mothers making when they were younger. The dress exhibits a form of cutwork known in the area as swatchwork. Beatrice Kerr entered the dress, made in the 1930s, in a Summerville, GA fair and won $1 for it. Although now spotted with age, the dress was well taken care of by Rebecca and her descendants until it came to the museum in the 1980s.

From the late 1920s to the early 1950s Bonnie Brasfield worked as a supper club performer in Nashville. On display is one of her dresses given to the museum when it opened.

From the late 1920s to the early 1950s Bonnie Brasfield worked as a supper club performer in Nashville. On display is one of her dresses given to the museum when it opened.

Outside of being sons and daughters, the most prominent role children perform is that of student. Cherokee County residents have long had an interest in making sure that their children got an education. Included in that education were extracurricular activities like band class. Mary Jordan Walden’s band uniform exemplifies the type of effort that went into these activities. Although we don’t know for sure, the uniform was most likely used in a Fourth of July celebration. It is made up of a satin blue jacket and jumper with white stars embroidered across the front of both pieces.

Bonnie Brasfield and her more famous father, Boob Brasfield, were both entertainers who hailed from Cherokee County. From the late 1920s to the early 1950s Bonnie Brasfield worked as a supper club performer in Nashville. On display is one of her dresses given to the museum when it opened. The dress is a late 1920s flapper dress made of layers of black fringe. As museum-goers walk up the stairs the fringe on the dress sways, giving visitors an idea of what it might have looked like when Bonnie shimmied her way across the stage.

The men in Cherokee County have a long history of serving as heroes and life-savers. In the right corner of the landing stands Jimmy Winkle’s rescue squad jacket which he wore on the squad in the 1960s and 1970s. The jacket is white, with all of Jimmy’s rappelling rescue, first aid, and other certification patches sewn on. Slightly faded spots of blood stand out on the bottom of the jacket. It is unknown whose blood it is, but there is no doubt that Jimmy got it on his jacket when he was working.

Cherokee County also has a long history of military service, as is shown by several of the outfits in the exhibit. Perhaps the most interesting, and exciting, is the World War I uniform.

The uniform, of which only the top portion is displayed, is complete from the pants to the wool lined leather jerkin. Leather jerkins were originally employed by the British at the beginning of the war in 1914-1915 because they allowed for freer movement and were still warm. When the United States entered the war, it adopted the jerkin for its own use. The owner of the uniform is unknown and could have been white or black — a troop of black soldiers from Cherokee County signed up in 1917.

Jimmy Winkle’s rescue squad jacket which he wore on the squad in the 1960s and 1970s.

Jimmy Winkle’s rescue squad jacket which he wore on the squad in the 1960s and 1970s.

Surprisingly, more men signed up in World War I than did in World War II, but several people in the county indeed enlisted in the latter. Joe Kingston served in the Army Air Corp during the war and stayed on for a while after. Several of his items have been donated to the museum, including his service jacket. The tan, double breasted jacket is lined with green wool and has Kingston’s name stamped on the back.

Not all heroes are those who do the fighting. On display is a Vietnam era Women’s Army Corp uniform. Although women were not able to serve in combat, they worked to ensure that necessary communications and supplies reached soldiers and their commanders. Class A’s, like the uniform displayed, were typically only worn on formal occasions like meeting with a high ranking general.

Rural counties like Cherokee were and are made up of small communities where people worked together to make life liveable, whether they were a mother sewing up tears in clothing she’d made or out representing the county in war. Each outfit tells us a little about the person who wore it, giving us glimpses into their personality with a well-pressed line or a playful sash. Here at the Cherokee County museum, we do our best to make the people in the past alive to those in the present, which is the true purpose behind “What They Wore.”

The Cherokee County Historical Museum is located in Centre, AL. “What They Wore” is currently open to members of the museum. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday 9-4 and charges a $3.00 fee to enter. All exhibits at the museum are done completely by volunteers and donations are appreciated. You can visit the museum’s Facebook page to learn more.


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Germain Media films highlight Appalachian Characters and Communities

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 16, 2014

Kelley St. Germain (left), Jill Reeves  (owner of Appalachian Antiques in Boone, NC) and Scott Ballard.

Kelley St. Germain (left), Jill Reeves (owner of Appalachian Antiques in Boone, NC) and Scott Ballard.




Please welcome the creative team of Kelley St. Germain and Scott Ballard from Germain Media. Kelley St. Germain is the driving force behind the award-winning “Visions of…” which is an ongoing series of 25 historical documentaries produced in and around the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia in the last two years. Each 30 minute film tells the stories of real people and places in the North Carolina High Country.


“We began the series with the people of the High Country in mind as our target audience,” says St. Germain. “We wanted to produce something of true quality for THEM. We not only wanted to tell their stories and let them know that they were important, but also to reveal the details that are deeper and more meaningful than the narrative of Appalachia that currently exists in popular culture and mainstream media.”

The most revealing example of this search for respect and truth is in the recently debuted Germain Media film: Junaluska. The short film chronicles the history of the second-oldest African American community in Western North Carolina, and reveals an incredibly deep sense of community among the African Americans who grew up “on the hill” above Boone, NC.

David “Strawberry” Horton (l)  and Scott Ballard.

David “Strawberry” Horton (l) and Scott Ballard.

“The shared experiences, the strength to persevere, and the importance of faith and family take center stage in this film as something to which any of us can relate,” says St. Germain. “Those attributes have the potential to bring us all closer together as a culture and as a society.

“While we acknowledge that the take-away from this film is going to be different for everyone, we believe the stories of small African American communities in Appalachia still need to be told as we learn more and more about them.”

As an exclusive for the followers of Appalachian History, Germain Media is offering this link to the Junaluska episode with the password germain99 for one week beginning with the posting of this article.

Says St. Germain: “We wanted to share the one moment when we knew the interview was bigger than the scope of the project: sitting down with Charity Gambill Gwyn in Alleghany County, NC. When we were doing research about who to talk to regarding Alleghany County history, the name Charity kept popping up. ‘When are you going to…’ and ‘Have you talked to Charity yet?’

“We usually have a set list of questions or topics because we want there to be at least some (!) continuity to the interviews we conduct, but room is left in each conversation to wander down paths heretofore unknown. It became quickly apparent in our talk with Charity that her personal history…her life story… was the true reason for everyone’s insistence about talking with her.”

“Growing up in a county where less than 5% of the population is black, Charity faced barriers and hurdles that very few of us can imagine. But guess what we found? We didn’t find bitterness or a caustic kind of cynicism. We found the bearer of goodwill and peace. Charity’s message of ‘bloom where you are planted’ struck us as profound.

Charity Gambill Gwyn

Charity Gambill Gwyn

“Given the proper mindset, a seed can germinate and grow, even on rocky soil. But that isn’t descriptive enough. That seed can grow and THRIVE! Charity did far more than go along to get along…she excelled! She was told that she couldn’t get elected to the school board or to the board of county commissioners, but, you guessed it, she trail blazed her way onto both.

“Her message of reaching beyond your grasp, not only to the African American community, but to all of us, is vitally important. Charity Gambill Gwyn is a beautiful human being and we want to get her message out to as many people as we can.”

The Twilight Zone moment: walking out of an interview with Uncle Bud Phillips outside of Spruce Pine. “I had spoken with ‘Uncle Bud’ a couple of times on the phone before Kelley, Tristan and I walked into his old lumber company office,” says Ballard, “but we were wholly unprepared for what was to follow. Bud, who died only months after our interview, had us literally transfixed over the next 90 minutes. He spoke in superlatives on any topic at hand (from mining to logging to various events in his life) and as we stumbled out of his office we weren’t sure what we had just witnessed.” Here is a clip of one of the many powerful moments Bud delivered.

“I come from Eastern Kentucky,” Ballard continues, “and so doing a ‘Visions of…’ episode on mines and mining in Avery County, NC hit home with me…reminded me of this Miner’s Prayer we recorded outside of the abandoned Cranberry Iron Mine in Avery County.

“The good book teaches us to be humble, to live in humility, and it was easy for us on so many occasions when people pulled back the curtain to their lives and spun their life stories.

Ballard speaking with famous guitar-maker and musician Wayne Henderson in his shop.

Ballard speaking with famous guitar-maker and musician Wayne Henderson in his shop.

“We were and continue to be honored when we are welcomed into home after home. One of the most poignant moments was when we were the beneficiaries of an impromptu music session.

“We had heard many stories of old time and bluegrass music being played house to house on the weekends, moving the furniture, rolling up the carpets and having a party in the parlor. During an interview one thing led to another and next thing you know, all of those things happened…here’s what it looked and sounded like.

“One of our most popular shows was on the 30+ miles of Blue Ridge Parkway that run through neighboring Alleghany (NC) county. Here’s a preview of that ‘Visions of…’ episode.

“As our crew has been filming interviews in the Appalachian Mountains over the past two years,” says St. Germain, “we have discovered that the people…the faces and places of Appalachia… are FAR different than what the mainstream media portrays. We are not interested in RUNNING AWAY from our heritage, instead, we want to EMBRACE it…the REAL people of Appalachia! We plan on showcasing folks who are tough-minded, fiercely independent, generous, family-oriented and devoted patriots…the BEST of Appalachia…oh, and did I mention these folks are great story tellers too?

St. Germain (l) and sound engineer Tristan Ham set up for a location shoot.

St. Germain (l) and sound engineer Tristan Ham set up for a location shoot.

“We’re also very excited about a Kickstarter project we’re starting in October,” says St. Germain. “We’re asking for any and all assistance and to share in our labor of love…we see this as a first step toward something greater and more long-lasting… continuing to tell the important stories of a part of the country that for too long has been ignored or just made fun of. If you’d like to join our Kickstarter campaign, please like our Facebook page because we will be sharing all campaign details there in real time.

St. Germain, originally from Owensboro, KY, grew up listening to fascinating stories told to him by his father and great-grandfather, often while fishing on and around the Ohio River. Throughout his journey, from the bluegrass of Kentucky, to gaining a master’s degree in American History at Wake Forest, to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge, he has always remained interested in a “good story.” Germain Media has become the vehicle through which he shares these stories with a nationwide audience that isn’t afraid to wonder how things were “Back When.”

Scott Ballard, who joined the company as a narrator and researcher early in 2013, hails from Middlesboro, KY and the Cumberland Gap, TN area. “I literally grew up in and around stacks of history books as I built forts using my great grandfather Kincaid’s library of books on Lincolnalia and Appalachia. Working the weekend shifts at the family-owned radio station WMIK, I saw and heard first-hand the people’s love of music and the pageant of giving glory to God in Appalachia,” added Ballard.

Germain Media Awards include: The 2014 NTCA TeleChoice Award for Local Video Content, plus The 2013 Paul Green Multimedia Award and being counted as a 2013 NC Family Film Festival Selection.

“Here is a production shot I took during the Character of the People episode of the Watauga ‘Visions of…’ series,” says Ballard. “It’s of Brian Fannon, and the back story is that while the photo is pretty neat, it was a misfire…or what you might literally call a ‘flash in the pan.’ The trigger ignited the pan but the fire did not reach the barrel and thus the rifle actually did not go off. Our goal at Germain Media is to keep telling the stories for the long haul…for the long term…we have no interest or desire to be a flash in the pan!”

Trigger Finger

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The Wisdom of Old Blair Mountain

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 15, 2014

Wilma Lee SteelePlease welcome guest author Wilma Steele. Steele is the former Mingo County Conservation Supervisor for the Guyan District at the West Virginia Conservation Agency and a retired art teacher from Mingo County schools. She is a board member of the Mine Wars Museum in Matewan, WV, which is scheduled to open later this year. “I love the history of Blair,” she says. “A group of people that spoke different languages, had different cultures, and sometimes race, yet they bridged the differences. They became a brotherhood for change.”


Guns are now silent! The blood stained earth, spent shell castings, and unmanned cannon stand as the silent evidence of what happened on old Blair Mountain. Ninety years now she’s kept the past a secret. Her story is only whispered now and then among poets and scholars, or retold by a few of the miners’ sons & daughters.

The edge of Blair Mountain battlefield.

The edge of Blair Mountain battlefield.

Blair Mountain stood strong as the world changed. Don Chafin and President Harding thought their victory would bring them lasting fame, but few remember them, and those who do only remember their shame. Roosevelt, instead, took center stage. He brought in a New Deal and made way for a new powerful union.

King Coal no longer owned his workers! With the UMW, the miners stood united. At the company store script had no value and miners’ pockets jingled with copper and silver. The miners even bought their own houses. They carried in the few precious things that hadn’t been destroyed when Baldwin Felts pitched them out on the streets. Upon their walls they hung pictures of FDR and John L. Lewis in the place of honor – beside of Jesus and their old banjo.

Sounds of music and the whistle of the train drifted in the wind. Blair Mountain stood quietly above the new road and cars. It seemed as if she was watching as big new machines were brought up the mountain. King Coal no longer needed so many workers! Blair watched as many miners packed up their families, their red bandannas, their ginseng hoes, and their banjos: they left their mountains.

It seemed like they took some of the mountaineers’ heart and soul with them. Money was rolling in the hills now but only a few were getting rich. Coal operators were still doing well. Miners’ wages were much higher. The UMW owned 75% of their own D.C. Bank, as well as their own journal. This new UMW president had his wonderful accomplishments printed in their paper.

Under the leadership of Kerr, the miners would soon have new hospitals, and they would really need them. The new machines roll out the tonnage, as well as the black clouds. The miners’ faces looked as if they had been sand blasted with coal dust. Wise doctors saw miners that were old men at age forty and identified the cause as black lung. Our union, which fought so hard for rights of workers, was now as silent as Old Blair on the subject.

The death rattle of the coal miners’ lungs brought Dr. Buff and Dr. Rasmussen to champion their cause. They were joined by Ken Hechler, Nader and his Raiders, and other honest men. The powerful were silent: where were our senators and where was our strong union? The miners marched to Charleston with only a few champions, but they had the truth that would not be ignored. Their wisdom reached across party lines to Cleo Jones. It was a good thing, too, because his sharp eyes caught the sly change of one word that would have made the bill powerless. The bill became the law.

Farmington Mine Disaster. Smoke and flames pouring from the Llewellyn shaft of the Consol No. 9 mine on November 20, 1968.

Farmington Mine Disaster. Smoke and flames pouring from the Llewellyn shaft of the Consol No. 9 mine on November 20, 1968.

A powerful explosion ripped through the mountain; it was almost as loud as the gun powder at the Battle of Blair Mountain. At Farmington Mine, 78 miners perished and 19 bodies were never recovered. Surely Tony Boyle and others would be awakened by such a sound – the miners’ cries were blocked out by the sounds of money. The old champions once again heard their call. Nader and two of his raiders, along with Finnegan, joined Ken Hechler. Their goal was now safety for our men. The ghosts of Blair must have rejoiced when Heckler’s Mine Safety Bill became a law – it even put a limit on the miners’ old foe: dust from the black coal.

The UMW that the Red Bandanna Army had given their life for had now betrayed them under the leadership of one evil man with the blood of many miners, as well as the Yablonski family, on his hands. This dark red stain would be blight upon the union until this day. Fools would sing, “Union against the worker working against his will…” and men that didn’t remember would join right in!

Dark clouds enveloped old Blair. Now the earth trembled with mountain eating machines and sounds of blasts that roared like thunder across our land. Mountains and the union were brought to her knees. A new Don was on the scene! His goal was to make even more money than the old coal barons. The only things in his way were the union and the memories of Old Blair, so both had to be destroyed. This time the weapons were sly propaganda, political might, bought Judges, and dynamite.

Not since Normandy had the world seen such an all out assault. With Reagan and the Bushes in the White House and coal lobbyists controlling all protective agencies, our mountains didn’t stand a chance. The coal miner’s best friends–the union, the McGraws, and even the old Lion Ken Hechler–were thrown out or powerless. Acts of violence against the union miners were common and every act of retaliation was caught on film. The union men once again were brought before the judge. Don cried out, “Remember Boyle, see the tape, the UMWA is nothing but thugs! Good men don’t need any union!” The people bought his lies.

Friends of Coal Ladies

Friends of Coal brought a new education to our schools. Children were given tee shirts and pizza to celebrate Earth Day on top of a blasted away mountain. Children looked out at the glorious vista of sun, clouds, and still untouched mountains and the vision was so grand they didn’t look down on the nearly barren ground. Mighty machines also kept their attention. Gone were the mighty oaks, hickory, and maple; in their place were pine, locust, and scrub grasses. Like the propaganda, it was everywhere.

Coal was even in our classrooms, with coal fairs becoming more popular than science and social studies fairs. If you won at science or history, you got a ribbon but King Coal gave out checks. Only a few, and it’s mostly the younger ones, still thought mere ribbons were worth their time.

The miners were now Friends of Coal! They noticed neither the clouds of dust nor the moment that the old union miners lost their jobs, health cards and pensions. Good miners that worked for 20-30 years were no longer needed. The UMWA had a real struggle now to save union miners from being forsaken in their last years. Old Blair looked down and wept for their despair.

The UMWA had new leaders, ones that really cared, but the Friends of Coal signs were everywhere. New hope rose in the mountains when Bill Blizzard’s own became UMWA President. He spoke about our lost mountains. Before anything could be done, Don was now calling his new miners lazy. King Coal wanted to replace them with new immigrants. The new President spoke out and brought up the past, including old Blair. A few of the Friends of Coal began to listen. Big Coal stopped their talk and repaired the damage with lies.

They had to reign in Roberts and blast away union history at Old Blair Mountain. They gave Roberts an offer for new union members. New members were to be MTR workers who weren’t really miners, but destruction workers. They made their living blasting away our mountains. With declining union membership and many retired miners pensions on the line, Cecil took the bait. Our UMWA now resided over the destruction of our homes and mountains.

Larry Gibson. Art by Robert Shetterley/Americans Who Tell the Truth

Larry Gibson. Art by Robert Shetterley/Americans Who Tell the Truth

Wise mountaineers never forgot. They mourned the loss of their mountains and streams. They held out against King Coal and his propaganda machine. They prayed; they wrote letters; they spoke the truth in the face of their enemy. Old Blair had her own King—Kenny King—a descendant of Blair’s earlier battle. With his metal detector, he uncovered history. Other mountains had their wise defenders: up at Kayford, Larry Gibson was bringing new comers right up to “Hell’s Gate.” Old Mountaineers held onto their minds and wisdom and would never be silenced! They joined with other wise ones, many old union miners, ones that knew the truth and would stand and fight for their mountain homes!

New sounds echoed in the mountains. Old Blair watched as out-of-state cars drove by. The passengers seemed familiar. They wore red bandannas, and on their backs were banjos and fiddles. When they met the old mountaineers, strangers became family. The youngsters hiked through the mountains finding ginseng and herbs to heal the sick: they felt the energy and call of the mountain and they yearned to learn more. Old tired warriors were renewed with the energy of youth. They laughed and danced when called outsiders, tree huggers, and lazy tramps.

Old Blair’s history touched their hearts! Together with the old mountaineers and with the old Lion Hechler, they planned to march. On the anniversary of D-Day, June the 6th, 2011 their march began, and on June the 11th, it ended. Those who forgot their history will not remember the significance of these dates. Wise ones know that June the 11th was never the end, but just the beginning. Back on June the 11th, 1776, our Continental Congress nominated a committee—Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston—to draft a declaration of independence from Britain.

So listen up! The history of the present King Coal of WV is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over this state. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.[1] King Coal owns our land and our politicians! Instead of wise stewards, their greed leads them to ignore mining safety. Our miners are dying once more. They care nothing for our history, our safety, or our homes. They blast away our mountains, pollute water and air. Our politicians protect coal’s power, even trying to force our nation to allow such crimes. Don’t you remember that all men are created equal? Listen, my friends — Big Coal can no longer destroy our land and endanger our people.

[1] Paraphrase of the Declaration of Independence

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