‘Miners’ Halls Bear Witness to Class War: West Virginia Diggers Defended Homes’ by Art Shields from the Daily Worker. Vol 2 No. 143. September 5, 1924.

West Virginia UMWA miners being evicted in 1924.
‘Miners’ Halls Bear Witness to Class War: West Virginia Diggers Defended Homes’ by Art Shields from the Daily Worker. Vol 2 No. 143. September 5, 1924.

BRADY, W. Va. Sept. 4.—The roofless, concrete block foundation of the miners’ union hall, burned down June 19, stands on the slope of union hilltop as a livid testimonial of the methods of warfare Sam Brady uses against the United Mine Workers of America. It stands just under the bigger brick building dedicated at the great mass meeting August 31, a year after the ceremonies that opened the first hall.

Bullet holes perforate the outer casing of the concrete blocks on the side looking towards the company town. I counted 19 such holes drilled thru the sides of the hollow blocks, in addition to the marks of numerous other bullets that merely pitted the artificial stone.

War Scars.

These war scars testify to the furious bombardment that raged from the automatic rifle nests in the water tank on the company side of the hill and in a tall yellow building several hundred yards away. They are the marks of the shots that went wild. Hundreds more passed thru the frame aides of the main hall floor.

This hall the “yellow dogs” were assaulting with the ferocity that characterized the airplane bomb raids of Bon Chafln’s forces in the south three years ago, was not an empty nesting place. It was the temporary home of two evicted families,- who had not yet found permanent Quarters— Henry Howell’s wife with six children; Mrs. Annie Gillespie, with two children—and a squad of male defenders. The men were stationed there because of threats passed on from E.E. Wilson, who rents company houses, evicts strikers and takes personal charge of the Brady-Warner guards when Sam Brady isn’t on the job himself.

Miners Defended Homes.

The miners kept sentinel over their hall since thug violence began with the evictions May 19th. Then 30 days later the attack came, shortly before midnight. A flash of light streaked from the water tank 200 yards away and a bullet whistled thru the building. The men hurried the women and children to the basement, later getting them out thru a back way, and took their stations.

UMWA Local 4010 hall in Owings, West Virginia, not far from Brady.

More single shots followed and then the bombardment began in earnest, fusillades screaming from the water tank and the yellow building. The air was lighted by the flashes from automatic riflemen core to reinforce the regular Brady guards in the assault. Shots broke out more closely as the gunmen advanced. Able to catch glimpses of their foes the miners returned the fire and the gunmen retreated. For hours the firing continued. Suddenly Andrew Huber, a heavy-set, middle-aged miner went down with two buckshot in his back. Someone had sneaked up to the side of the building. A sortie of miners drove the assailant away. Huber returned to the defense only slightly injured. He was winged again slightly in the leg.

Sheriff with Gunmen.

The miners were making good their defense against the private thug army when the State of West Virginia came to the gunmen’s aid. A hello was heard announcing that Sheriff Yost wanted to talk to the defenders. He entered the building. The men told of the attack and demanded that Yost arrest the gunmen. Instead the sheriff arrested Huber, Bryan Costell, Ray Cotterell and John Hutcheson, four miners. He took them under deputy guard to the town of Brady and locked them up in the Company Clubhouse in charge of Brady-Warner guards. Then he ordered the rest of the defenders to leave the hall for the night, pledging them that the building would be protected.

William McKinley Yost is a republican politician. His promise meant exactly the same as the promise of safe conduct made by other republican politicians to Sid Hatfield when he fatally surrendered to a warrant at Welch courthouse. Two hours after Yost made his promise of protection the miners’ union hall, built at the cost of thousands of dollars contributed by the coal diggers, was lighting up Monongahela Valley.

New Union Hall.

The new union hall is of brick and cement thruout. It will not burn down so easily as the last one. And it has behind it the determination of union men who are determined to beat Sam Brady and the corporations behind him at all cost and to win thru again to union wages and union liberty.

UMWA picket Line at Monongah, W. Va.

Cases of the four men arrested were shortly dismissed. Their arrest appears to have been timed solely for the purpose of stripping the hall of its defenders while the gunmen applied the torch. None of the attacking gun men have been arrested for assault with intent to kill, arson or any other crime, tho Murray and Conway, two of the thugs, admitted under cross examination in the circuit court in Morgantown last July during a hearing, of an injunction against the union, that they knew they were firing into a building containing women and children.

The Daily Worker began in 1924 and was published in New York City by the Communist Party US and its predecessor organizations. Among the most long-lasting and important left publications in US history, it had a circulation of 35,000 at its peak. The Daily Worker came from The Ohio Socialist, published by the Left Wing-dominated Socialist Party of Ohio in Cleveland from 1917 to November 1919, when it became became The Toiler, paper of the Communist Labor Party. In December 1921 the above-ground Workers Party of America merged the Toiler with the paper Workers Council to found The Worker, which became The Daily Worker beginning January 13, 1924.

Access to PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/dailyworker/1924/v2n143-sep-05-1924-TDW.pdf

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