Tag Archives: coal mining

The mule I drove was called Old Red

You hear young folk singers today sing happy work songs about mule drivers and mule-skinners. I sometimes wonder if any of them know what driving a mule is really like, and if they’d still sing so merrily if they knew. 
My first job was carrying water on the Interstate Railroad grade at Josephine, about a […]


Dey didn’ pay me nothin’ fer gittin’ my legs cut off

“I went to West Virginia to work in de coal mines. I made eight dollars and one penny er day er drivin’ er mule in dem mines. Later on, I made ten er twelve dollars er day loading coal. ‘At wus hard work but de more you worked de more money you made. Awe, I […]


Had to furnish my own horse; bought one from the coal company

John Holt (1870-1918), a coal miner in Murray City, OH, kept a journal of his daily life. John Holt and the coal miners he worked with outside of the mine in Murray City. April 1907- “The miners here geting 57 cts per ton for screened coal and two dollars and fifty six cents per day […]


He said if miners picketed his mine he would slaughter them

By January 1, 1941, Harlan and Bell Counties were 95 per cent organized. The only nasty non-union outpost was the Fork Ridge mine just across the Kentucky line in Tennessee, a short distance from Middlesboro. The mine was operated by C. W. (Dusty) Rhodes, president and general manager. Searchlights were placed on the tipple and […]


Criminal Syndicalism comes to Harlan, KY

In November 1931, as chairman of the National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners, well known author Theodore Dreiser organized a special committee to infiltrate Kentucky’s Harlan coal mines to investigate allegations of crimes and abuses against striking miners. The self-appointed group of left-leaning writers (including Theodore Dreiser, Lewis Mumford, John Dos Passos, and […]

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