— Coal Heritage Trail — National Coal Heritage Area Interpretive Site —
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
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 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
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 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 "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
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
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 they there? It's a mystery.