The Widen Coal Strike of 1952-53

Charleston Gazette
October 2, 1952

Strikers Block Mine at Widen

First Violence Reported In Labor Dispute

(Special to The Gazette)

WIDEN, Oct. 1. - Violence erupted on the 10th day of a strike at the Elk River Coal and Lumber Co. in this Clay County town as grimly-determined strikers formed a human blockade around the mine entrance and drove away cars bearing company guards.

One of the cars, containing men and guns sent, according to strikers, to guard non-striking workers was turned over.

Five guns - three pistols and two shotguns - were found in the car, as were two clubs.

A second car, also bearing mine company sympathizers, turned back but not before its windows were broken out with hurled rocks.

Guard Reported Hospitalized

It was reported that one of the guards had been hospitalized with a broken collarbone but the exact cause of his injury was not disclosed.

A formidable human road block was set up near the mine entrance by the almost 500 striking miners. It was estimated that only 150 are now working the mine's two shifts. A spokesman for the strikers said operations would completely be halted tomorrow.

State police kept a wary eye on the situation and asked the strikers to let traffic move past the mine. The strikers complied, but only after careful scrutiny of cars and occupants. They did not allow supplies or personnel for the mine to go thorugh [sic].

Clay County Sheriff Howard Wilson, who appealed to state police for assistance, and one of his deputies both were "escorted" from the strike scene by wives, daughters and mothers of the strikers.

Taking Names

The two law-enforcement officers "were taking names," said one miner.

The Elk River company, which normally employs about 700 men, is one of the few non-union mines in West Virginia.

Before the strike, its workers belonged to a company-sponsored union but "we have had no new contract since 1946."

Now the strikers wish to join the UMW's District 17, mainly to get welfare, hospitalization and retirement benefits offered by the district organization.

It was reported that union men from the surrounding area were aiding the strikers in picketing.

"Smuggling" Charged

The strikers said that strike-breaking workmen had been "smuggled" into back-hollow entrances to the mine but promised that every entrance would be blocked.

As the non-striking workers left the mine today they were taunted by the picket line, and attempts were made to persuade them to join the strikers.

There was no doubt that the miners meant business. The most-heard comment was:

"We are out and we intend to stay out until we get a new contract."


West Virginia Archives and History