The Battles of Blair Mountain

As the story goes, my great grandfather William “Crack” Thompson and his brother Jess carried their Winchester rifles to Blair Mountain in the late summer of 1921. They were on their way to America’s largest armed uprising since the Civil War. Nearly 90 years later, Blair Mountain, in the heart of West Virginia’s Appalachians, is again a battlefield. In 1921, the coal miners of southern West Virginia organized into a force nearly 10,000 strong, determined to bring justice to the coalfields. Coal companies had long treated miners and their families as if they were disposable. In each mining community, the company owned the town, the store, and even the church. Workers were paid per ton of coal—a variable measure at the discretion of the company—and in scrip, a company-minted currency that could only be used in the company-owned store. A miner who got uppity, perhaps by joining the union, was often simply fired, his family evicted and belongings confiscated to pay whatever debts the company decided he owed. Not only were miners dogged by poverty, but injury and death in the mines were daily realities. According to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, it has been suggested that a soldier ...more...

Seceder Cemetery

  In May of 2007, I took a quick flight to Ohio to investigate several cemeteries in which I believed I’dGeorge Woodruff find some Woodruff, Sager, and other assorted family graves. My first order of business was to locate Seceder Cemetery, a site my living family was unaware of, in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Once a bustling small city of its own, Reynoldsburg is now a strip-mall-infested suburb of Columbus. After much circling, turning around, and near-resignation, I spotted what appeared to be headstones between the slats of a tall privacy fence along the back parking lot of one of the aforementioned strip malls. Behind the privacy fence, the cemetery occupies a small hill surrounded by a chain-link fence, apartment buildings to the north and west, golf course to the south. The gate has a large padlock, but, since it was Memorial Day weekend, someone from the city had thought to leave it unlocked for potential visitors. I found what I was looking for in the northwest corner, backed up to the fence. My great-great-great-great grandfather Wiard Woodruff was born in 1764 in Litchfield, Connecticut. He moved with his father and probably other family members ...more...