The Paint Creek Mine War started on April 18, 1912 and lasted until July 1913. This conflict was between striking coal miners and coal operators living and working in Kanawha County, West Virginia. Unfortunately, the conflict turned very violent and there were 50 deaths sdirectly related to the riot and numerous indirect deaths from malnutrition and starvation.
The violence erupted with the United Mine Workers of America strike in 1912. At the time, there were 96 coal mines in operation in Paint Creek and Cabin Creek and they employed around 7500 miners.
The Paint Creek miners received 2.5 cents left per ton compared to the workers in the surrounding mines. During the strike negotiations, they demanded that their compensation be raised. The first month of the strike was not violent but turned so when officials tried to break the strike with brute force. A Senate resolution in May 1913 led to an investigation of West Virginia mining conditions.
When the Paint Creek union negotiated a new contract with the operators in 1912, they demanded that operators raise the compensation rate to the same level as the surrounding area. This increase would have cost operators approximately fifteen cents per miner per day, but the operators refused. The union called a strike for April 18, 1912. Their demands were:
1. "That the operators accept and recognize the union"
2. "That the miners right to free speech and peaceable assembly be restored"
3. "That black-listing discharged workers be stopped"
4. "That compulsory trading at company stores be ended"
5. "That cribbing be discontinued and that 2,000 pounds of mined coal constitute a ton"
6. "That scales be installed at mines to weigh the tonnage of the miners"
7. "That miners be allowed to employ their own check-weighmen to check against the weights found by company check-weighmen, as provided by law"
8. "That the two check-weighmen determine all docking penalties"
After little debate, the Paint Creek miners decided to join the Cabin Creek miners and declared their own strike.
Caption Fred Mooney and Frank Keeney (right).
Courtesy Of WV State Archives (WVSA), Coal Life Collection