Herrin Massacre Mr. Weaver Local History Southern Illinois Coal Miners n By the 1920s half of the 60,000 miners in Illinois lived in Franklin and Williamson County. n These miners belonged to The United Miner Workers of America. n Over a period of 20+ years the average day pay of a miner went from $1.25 a day to as high as $15.00 a day. n The jump in pay was due to the workers uniting and demanding both higher wages and better working conditions. n When miners and mine owners couldn’t come to an agreement the miners would go on strike crippling the mine owners ability to mine and sell their coal. n Most Southern Illinois citizens were loyal to the union and sympathetic to the miners demands. Franklin County Coal Miners Circa 1920 West Mine Circa 1920 Hand Loading Coal Cars Circa 1920 Coal Shovel Southern Illinois Strip Mine Abandon Southern Illinois Strip Mine Southern Illinois Coal Company n The Southern Illinois Coal Company was owned by William Lester of Cleveland, OH n In September of 1921 the company opened a strip mine half way between Herrin and Marion. n Due to start up cost and the cost of equipment the company had a large debt and was desprite to mine coal . n It is probably fair to say that Lester didn’t understand the culture of a Southern Illinois Coal Miner. Prelude to Massacre n April 1, 1922 UMWA Coal Miners go on strike. n June 13, 1922 The Southern Illinois Coal Company fires its union miners. n June 15, 1922 the Company brings in workers from the Chicago area to work and protect the mine. n June 16, 1922 the Burlington Railroad is notified that 16 coal cars are ready for transport from the mine. n Despite warnings the company had decided to mine coal and break the strike and the Union. Prelude to Massacre n June 17, 1922 The Chicago Tribune reports that the Southern Illinois Coal Company had started shipping coal. n Illinois officials begin to express concern that violence would erupt due to the company’s decision to mine and ship coal. n June 18 & 19, 1922 meetings are held in Marion by local and state officials to try and resolve the situation peacefully. n Williamson County Sherriff Melvin Thaxton was uncommitted or mysteriously absent from meeting. Prelude to Massacre n June 20, 1922 hundreds of union miners hold a mass meeting at the Sunnyside Mine near Herrin with State Senator William Sneed. n Sneed was also the president of the UMWA sub district that included Williamson County n June 21, 1922 several hundred miners gather in the Herrin Cemetery n Mobs were looting hardware stores in Herrin taking guns and ammunition n By 3:30 that afternoon the mine was surrounded by union miners and over 500 shots had already been fired by the two sides. The Southern Illinois Coal Company was under siege. Sunny Side Mine The Massacre n The Massacre occurred over a two day period June 21 and 22, 1922 n On June 21st striking miners surround the mine and a shoot out between the striking miners and “scabs” breaks out. n During the night a series of explosions occurred blowing up the water plant and coal shovel. n At dawn on the 22nd the men trapped at the mine try to call for help but the phone line was dead. Lester Mine Coal Shovel destroyed during the siege The Massacre n After a discussion with the trapped men C.K. McDowell the mine superintendent agreed to surrender. n The strikebreakers agreed to surrender in the striking miners would give them safe passage out of the county. The striking miners agreed to the terms. n The strikebreakers were lined up and marched along the railroad toward Herrin 5 miles to the Northwest. n At the Crenshaw crossing a half mile from the mine several miners waited for the procession. The Massacre n A discussion took place about what should happen to the strikebreakers. During this time strikebreakers were being beaten with the butts of guns. After some time the procession moved forward. n At Moake crossing a half mile further down the track the first murder occurred when McDowell couldn’t go any further. He was led off of the track and a few minutes later shot. n A mile further down the track at the powerhouse the procession came to a stop. The Massacre n At the power plant striking miners planned to take four strike breakers at a time down the road and kill them. n At this point a man named Hugh Willis drove up and instructed the miners to stop. He said there were to many women and children around and to take the “scabs into the woods and kill as many as you can”. n The strikebreakers were marched into Harrison Woods until they reached a barbed wire fence. At this point they were told to run. The Massacre n At this point the striking miners opened fire. By the time it was over 26 of the strikebreakers were dead or dying. n At Herrin Cemetery the Massacre came to an end with word that the sheriff was on his way. Wounded men still breathing had their throats slit, while one by standard urinated in the faces of the victims. When a reporter tried to give water to a dying man he was threatened and told to back away. n The sheriff arrived about mid-morning when it was determined that is was safe Herrin Massacre Painted in 1941 The Aftermath n News of the massacre not only spread quickly throughout Southern Illinois but made headlines around the nation. Newspapers from New York City to San Francisco reported what had occurred in Williamson County. n On both the floor of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives members condemned the violence that had occurred in Williamson County. n The nation was demanding justice for the dead strike breakers. National Newspapers report the Herrin Massacre Funeral Procession The Aftermath n A coroner’s jury of six men of which three were union miners found that all the strikebreakers killed on June 21 and 22 were killed by unknown parties. The also found that the deaths were due to the “direct and indirect acts by the officials of the Southern Illinois Coal Company” and recommended that an investigation be undertaken to fix blame on those officials. n Once again the outrage of the nation was voiced in newspapers and in Congress. The Aftermath n On August 18, 1922 Judge D. T. Hartwell summoned a special grand jury to convene at Marion on August 28 to investigate the Herrin Killings. n The first to be indictment for the killings was Otis Clark farmer and miner. Hearing of the charges Clark turned himself in to the sheriff. By September 23 the Grand Jury had indicted 44 men for murder associated with the Herrin Massacre.
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