Virden Massacre -- Union Miners Cemetery, Mount Olive IL
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Benchmark Blasterz
Assisted by: Groundspeak Premium Member veritas vita
N 39° 04.845 W 089° 43.984
16S E 263589 N 4329293
Quick Description: The memorial to the miners who died in the Virden Massacre, a deadly confrontation between coal miners who were striking for the right to unionize, and mine bosses who opposed the growing US labor movement, in Mount Olive IL
Location: Illinois, United States
Date Posted: 11/19/2016 9:40:12 PM
Waymark Code: WMTG5D
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Outspoken1
Views: 8
Created From:
 Virden Massacre - Mount Olive, Illinois, USA. - posted by veritas vita

Long Description:
In 19th century America, striking workers who wanted a decent wage, safer working conditions, and the protections of a labor union often had to wrest these rights from the titans of industry who used strike breakers, private armies, and colluding politicians to wage economic and actual war on strikers who dared to try and unionize.

The Labor movement in the US was both an economic and political revolution. It was not aimed at overthrowing the American government, but in breaking the absolute power of industrial titans who were a law unto themselves: so powerful that the Government could not or would not regulate them. These titans of industry in the 19th century wielded absolute power in their industries, paying abysmally low wages and forcing children as young as 7, men, and women to work obscene hours in unsafe conditions.

See: (visit link)

"The labor movement in the United States grew out of the need to protect the common interest of workers. For those in the industrial sector, organized labor unions fought for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions. The labor movement led efforts to stop child labor, give health benefits and provide aid to workers who were injured or retired."

One of the bloodiest confrontations between industry and workers happened in the small coal-mining town of Virden Illinois in 1898, when striking coal miners prevented the mine owners from breaking the strike by importing non-union "scab" workers from Alabama. The result was the Virden Massacre, which cost the lives of 11 men, 7 of them miners and 4 armed guard hired by the coal mine owner, on 12 October 1898.

After the miners had won the right to unionize, the 7 miners who were killed were buried in Mount Olive Cemetery, in plots purchased by the United Mine Workers of America labor union.

The text on the monument reads as follows:

"Erected by Sub Districts 5 & 6 to the Memory of Miners Killed at the Virden Massacre.

E. W. SMITH, JOE GITTERLE, ERNEST KAEMMERER, E. F. LONG

The latter buried at Edwardsville, Ill."

The Virden Massacre, also known as The Battle of Virden, changed the landscape for labor in the United States and hastened the spread of unions across industries, improving lives and working conditions for thousands of people.

From Wikipedia: (visit link)

"The Virden Massacre, occurred on October 12, 1898, and was a labor union conflict in Virden, Illinois, involving the United Mine Workers of America. The battle left four security guards and seven striking mine workers dead, with more than thirty people wounded. It was one of several fatal conflicts in the area reflecting both labor union tension and racial violence.

Virden:

On September 24, a trainload of potential strikebreaking miners recruited by the Chicago-Virden Coal Company, pulled into Virden on the Chicago & Alton Railroad and were informed by representatives of UMWA Local 693 that they were entering a strike. That train continued north to Springfield, Illinois without incident.

On October 12, 1898, another northbound train pulled into Virden, loaded with about fifty more potential strikebreakers. It had come from Birmingham, Alabama via East St. Louis, where it had taken on detectives from the Thiel Detective Service Company armed with Winchester rifles. It stopped on the C&A RR tracks just outside the minehead stockade. As the strikers attempted to surround the train, the guards opened fire.

The strikers were also armed. As a gun battle broke out in and around the strikebreakers' train, there were dead and wounded on both sides. Seven miners were killed, and 30 wounded; there were four dead Thiel guards, five wounded, and many wounded strikebreakers within the train. Furthermore, had the strikers won the battle, their intentions toward the Alabama strikebreakers would have been hostile. After twenty minutes of firing on both sides, the train's engineer accepted defeat, and the train engine and tender pulled away from the minehead, leaving the strikebreakers in their cars, and continued northward to Springfield, Illinois.

Calling in the National Guard:

Governor Tanner ordered the Illinois National Guard to prevent any more strikebreakers from arriving. He said that if another rail car arrived in the state carrying strikebreakers, that he would "shoot it to pieces with Gatling guns." In compliance to Tanner's orders, the captain in charge of the Illinois Guard at Pana promised:

"If any strikebreakers are brought into Pana while I am in charge, and if they refuse orders to retreat when ordered to do so, I will order my men to fire. If I lose every man under my command no strikebreakers shall land at Pana."

The governor admitted that he had no legal authority for his action in preventing the arrival of strikebreakers, but said that he was doing the will of the people.

The mine owners capitulated in mid-November and accepted the UMWA unionization of the Virden coal mines. The union and the mine owners agreed to segregate the Virden mines. Virden itself remained a sundown town for decades thereafter.

A monument in the Virden town square commemorates the coal strike of 1898 and the battle of October 12 that was its bitter end. The monument contains a large bronze bas-relief that includes the names of those killed in the battle, and a copy of a mendacious recruiting handbill distributed by the Chicago-Virden Company in Birmingham, Alabama, to recruit the miners. The body of the bas-relief is made of symbolic representations of the Chicago & Alton tracks and the assault on the strikers. The guards are shown pointing their Winchesters at the strikers and their families. Atop the bas-relief is a bronze portrait of Mary Harris Jones ("Mother Jones").

Mother Jones herself is buried in the Union Miners Cemetery in nearby Mount Olive, Illinois, alongside miners who died in the conflict."

In the aftermath of the Virden Massacre, American labor unions gained a foothold in multiple industries that had historically exploited workers, such as steel mills, coal mines and railroads. The coal miner's success unionizing at Virden helped boost the growth of labor unions and checked the economic power of magnates of industry. American Labor Unions wielded immense political power until they began to decline in the 1970s, as American manufacturing started to suffer and decline under global economic pressures.

For those who would like to read the actual news articles from the local papers of the time as the Massacre and its aftermath unfolded, see here: (visit link)
Civil Right Type: Class Equality

Visit Instructions:
You must have visited the site in person, not online.
Search for...
Geocaching.com Google Map
Google Maps
MapQuest
Bing Maps
Nearest Waymarks
Nearest Civil Rights Memorials
Nearest Geocaches
Nearest Benchmarks
Create a scavenger hunt using this waymark as the center point
Recent Visits/Logs:
Date Logged Log User Rating  
YoSam. visited Virden Massacre -- Union Miners Cemetery, Mount Olive IL 11/28/2016 YoSam. visited it
veritas vita visited Virden Massacre -- Union Miners Cemetery, Mount Olive IL 11/26/2016 veritas vita visited it
Benchmark Blasterz visited Virden Massacre -- Union Miners Cemetery, Mount Olive IL 8/7/2016 Benchmark Blasterz visited it

View all visits/logs