WMKY

Blair Mountain Returns to National Register of Historic Places

Jun 30, 2018
Originally published on June 29, 2018 7:40 pm

Blair Mountain, the site of the storied labor battle in Logan County, again has a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

The battlefield was named to that record in 2009 before it was removed months later. In 2016, a federal judge said the delisting was wrong in that federal officials didn't verify the list of landowners they claimed took issue with the designation. In her decision released Friday, Joy Beasley, the "keeper" of the National Register, called the removal "erroeous" and said the majority of those landowners hadn't objected to it at all.

A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said the agency is reviewing the decision.

Environmental and historic preservation groups say the spot on the National Register protects the site from surface coal mining activity. In a statement, Regina Hendrix, of the state chapter of the Sierra Club called the victory "the culmination of a 12-year saga that took many legal twists and turns along the way in our efforts to save this part of West Virginia’s history."

Chuck Keeney, vice president of the Friends of Blair Mountain and a history professor at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, said he's been working to get the site on the register every day for seven years. His great-grandfather, Frank Keeney, was a union organizer who was charged with treason and murder after the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain. The event is often called one of the largest labor uprisings in the U.S. history, as thousands of armed coal miners confronted mine company-supported forces trying to block unionization.

He called the effort to get on the National Register "the second Battle of Blair Mountain."

"[It's] about the soul of West Virginia. It encompasses everything that we are, how divisive coal can be, the labor struggles, current environmental struggles, political corruption, economic issues," he said.

Keeney and Hendrix praised the work of Kenny King, an advocate and amateur archaeologist who Keeney said has sought to protect Blair Mountain since the early 1990s.

 

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