On a forested hillside south of New Straitsville. the spacious
1000 square foot Robinson's Cave offered a secluded location with
great acoustics where large groups of Hocking Valley coal miners
could meet in secret. Beginning in about 1870, labor-organizing
meetings were held at the cave by various emerging unions including the Knights of Labor. New Straitsville resident Christopher
Evans, a well-known union organizer, used Robinson's Cave to lead
miners throughout the long Hocking Valley Coal Strike of 1884-1885. These meetings gave the miners a voice in the formation
of a national organization called the National Federation of Miners
and Mine Laborers, later renamed the National Progressive Union.
The cave was also where non-union miners met to plan to set
the Columbus & Hocking Coal & Iron Company mines on fire in a
desperate attempt to end the Hocking Valley Strike.
In 1886, the Knights of Labor founded the National District Assembly
No. 135, a rival for the National Federation of Miners and Mine Laborers.
Oddly, both headquarters were located in New Straitsville.
Dissension between the two groups hurt labor negotiations, but
Christopher Evans continued to hold meetings to settle differences. In
response to a miner's death in 1889, the feuding miners used Robinson's
Cave to reconcile once and for all.
Evans called miners together
again in 1890 for the first erganizationai meeting of the United Mine
workers of America, the name formally adopted at their next meeting
in Columbus. This series of historic meetings is why Robinson's Cave
is referred to as the secret birthplace of the United Mine Workers.