“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Virden in Macoupin County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Route 66 Coal Towns

The Battle of Virden

Route 66 Coal Towns Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Jason Voigt, May 12, 2020
1. Route 66 Coal Towns Marker
Inscription.  Miserable wages and working conditions in coal mines made conflict between miners and coal companies inevitable in the 1890s. The battle that erupted here immortalized Virden in the history of labor rights. On October 12, 1898, eight miners, four Company guards, and one bystander were killed and over 35 wounded.

Before the Battle
After months of struggle, mine owners from Pennsylvania to Illinois agreed to a contract with the United Mine Workers Union. But the Chicago-Virden Coal Company, the largest in Illinois, refused to honor it. Local miners were locked out. Management recruited African-Americans from Alabama who were hoping to escape poverty.

Armed with pistols, hunting rifles, shotguns, and some, nothing at all, hundreds of miners poured into the village from surrounding towns, determined to stop the trains loaded with Alabamans from entering the mine.

The Battle
The Coal Company hired 50 guards, armed them with Winchesters, and stationed them behind a stockade and on the train carrying Alabama miner replacements. When the union miners swarmed the approaching train, guards
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opened fire igniting twenty minutes of carnage.

After the Battle
Illinois Governor John Riley Tanner was the first executive in any state to side with the workers union instead of the coal companies. Upon hearing of the battle, he sent troops to disarm Company guards and prevent further violence. The troops camped in this park.

Within weeks after the battle, the Company gave in to demands and paid workers at the higher union scale.

Along Route 66…
Visit the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive where four of the Virden martyrs are buried along with leaders of the labor movement.
Erected 2010 by Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansIndustry & CommerceLabor Unions. In addition, it is included in the U.S. Route 66 series list. A significant historical date for this entry is October 12, 1898.
Location. 39° 30.087′ N, 89° 46.049′ W. Marker is in Virden, Illinois, in Macoupin County. Marker is at the intersection of East Jackson Street and North Springfield Street (Illinois Route 4), on the right when traveling east on East Jackson Street. The marker is at the northwest corner of Virden Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 125 E Jackson Street, Virden IL 62690, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other
Route 66 Coal Towns Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Jason Voigt, May 12, 2020
2. Route 66 Coal Towns Marker
At the corner of downtown Virden Park
markers are within 12 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Operation Iraqi Freedom (within shouting distance of this marker); Veterans Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); World War (within shouting distance of this marker); Battle of Virden Monument (within shouting distance of this marker); Zeffiro Galli (approx. 0.2 miles away); Lest We Forget (approx. 2˝ miles away); World War I Memorial (approx. 3.9 miles away); Pioneer Park (approx. 11.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Virden.
More about this marker. The nonprofit group "Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway" has established 31 wayside exhibits along Old Route 66 in Illinois. Each wayside was placed at a site with historic significance and tells the story of the site’s relationship to Route 66. The interpretive stations use illustrations, pictures, and audio to explore each site. This marker features an audio recording from local historian John Alexander.
Also see . . .
1. Wayside Exhibit installed in Virden. From, this is an article about the community getting the marker and the historic battle. (Submitted on May 12, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.) 

2. Battle of Virden on Wikipedia. (Submitted on May 12, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.)
Credits. This page was last revised on May 14, 2020. It was originally submitted on May 12, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. This page has been viewed 250 times since then and 42 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on May 12, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. • J. Makali Bruton was the editor who published this page.

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Dec. 10, 2023