“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Whipple Junction in Fayette County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)

Labor Strikes and Conflicts


— Coal Heritage Trail — National Coal Heritage Area Interpretive Site —

Labor Strikes and Conflicts Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, September 14, 2019
1. Labor Strikes and Conflicts Marker
Inscription.  The United Mine Workers of America sought to protect coal miners and began to agitate for better working conditions throughout the nation. But, it was difficult to organize the West Virginia miners’ union because of the ultimate control the company wielded. Coal operators did all they could to keep the union out. Hiring the ruthless Baldwin Felts Detective Agency, the company encouraged these hired gunmen to rule with force and brutality.

The 1912-13 Cabin Creek-Paint Creek Strike began the first major conflict of the West Virginia Mine Wars. If you look to your right, toward Carlisle, the Paint Creek watershed is just a mile or so down the road. This two-year conflict was fought for wage increases as well as the end of the use of guards, black-listing, and the denial of workers’ rights to free speech and assembly. Over two years, bloodshed mounted until Governor Henry Hatfield forced a settlement, giving the miners a wage increase and the right to unionize, but not eliminating the dreaded mine guard system. Although this strike was settled, dissatisfaction continued until the 1921 Miners March and the Battle of
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Blair Mountain, in Logan County, West Virginia.

Labor strikes and agitation continued through the decades, as unions fought to improve conditions for coal miners and their families.

The Whipple Company Store. The Whipple Company Store was as much a fortress as a store. The rounded entrance, designed to simulate the portal of a mine, secretly provided the Baldwin Felts guards a hiding place on the ther side of the entrance. The central plate glass window was a reflective surface, alerting the hidden guards of who was approaching. The building’s original steps were narrow and had no handrail, requiring those who ascended to come up sideways, slowing them down.

Inside, the guards had other advantages. The acoustics were manipulated in such a way that all sound was directed from the outer walls to the center of the main building—so that anyone standing in that central spot could hear anything said in the building, Stand inside the square at the center of the building and listen to how well you can hear voices in the large room.

Mother Jones. Mother Jones was a passionate and fiery orator. This feisty Irishwoman began her union organizing career at the age of 60. An organizer for the UMWA, Mother Jones paid particular attention to West Virginia, promising that when she died she would tell God about
Whipple National Coal Heritage Area Interpretive Site image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, September 14, 2019
2. Whipple National Coal Heritage Area Interpretive Site
Six interpretive panels are across the street from the Whipple Company Store and Museum, next to a parking area. This interpretive panel is the second from the right, presenting at an angle.
“medieval West Virginia.” During the 1912-13 Cabin Creek-Paint Creek strike, the miners asked for her by name and she played an active role in the strike. She was jailed in 1913 and placed under house arrest in Pratt, a town further up Paint Creek. After the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike was resolved, Mother Jones continued to work for coal miners’ rights throughout West Virginia and the nation.

A History Mystery. The Whipple Company Store is indeed an imposing structure. And it contains some mysterious aspects. There is a secret second floor in the building which has no windows and only five foot-high ceilings. It was used to house coffins until the 1930’s. It cannot be seen from the outside of the building.

Other items in the building will be sure to pique your curiosity. If you look carefully on the wall of the stairway, there is a gray rectangle. Interestingly, when photographed, an image appears in the picture that is unseen just looking at the wall. Upstairs in the adornment room, there are two pieces of wood set in the floor. Every other piece of wood is one long length, but these two pieces were set in with wooden nails. When removed, a tintype of a little girl who died in the room was found. Why was it there?

All of these things and more can be found in a tour of the building. Why were
Whipple Company Store No. 4 image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, September 14, 2019
3. Whipple Company Store No. 4
The store/museum closed. The building was sold to a private owner. The owners of the museum report that “the building known as the ‘Whipple Company Store’ has been sold in Oct. 2018 to a private owner. It is my understanding that continual restoration including the roof and siding is in the future.”
they there? It’s a mystery.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceLabor UnionsNatural Resources. A significant historical year for this entry is 1921.
Location. 37° 57.507′ N, 81° 9.947′ W. Marker is in Whipple Junction, West Virginia, in Fayette County. Marker is at the intersection of Okey L Patterson Road (West Virginia Route 612) and Scarbro Road (Local Route 1/5), on the right when traveling east on Okey L Patterson Road. It is across from the Whipple Company Store and Museum. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 7485 Okey L Patteson Rd, Scarbro WV 25917, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Disaster Underground (here, next to this marker); Community Life in a Coal Camp (here, next to this marker); The Coal Barons (here, next to this marker); The White Oak Valley (here, next to this marker); Hank Williams Memorial (approx. 1.2 miles away); Hank Williams — The Last Ride (approx. 1.4 miles away); Oakwood Mine Complex (approx. 1.4 miles away); Oak Hill Railroad Depot (approx. 1.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Whipple Junction.
More about this marker. This interpretive panel contains three images. Clockwise from top: The Whipple Company Store. A portrait of Mother Jones captioned,
Mother Jones, American labor activist image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bertha Howell, November 4, 1902
4. Mother Jones, American labor activist
“Get it straight: I'm not a humanitarian, I'm a hell-raiser.” • “No matter what your fight, don’t be ladylike! God almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies.” • “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!”
“Mary Harris Jones, known to the miners as Mother Jones.” and a photograph captioned, “Baldwin-Felts mine guards at the Collins Colliery in Glen Jean, W.V., 1902.”
Also see . . .  Atlas Obscura entry for Whipple Company Store. “The building’s strange octagonal shape was designed as a means to control the workers, for the store’s one employee could stand dead-center in the store, surrounded by its cases and shelf-lined walls, and the room itself became an echo chamber, providing the company with all the intelligence it needed to maintain the upper hand over its workers.” (Submitted on September 26, 2019.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 2, 2019. It was originally submitted on September 26, 2019, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 221 times since then and 37 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 26, 2019, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

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May. 18, 2024