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August 30, 1921: John Wilburn Leads Miners Against Blair Mountain

Miners from Battle of Blair Mountain giving up their guns after Federal troops arrived on Sept 2
Miners from Battle of Blair Mountain giving up their guns after Federal troops arrived on Sept 2

On August 30, 1921, John Wilburn of Blair assembled between 50 and 75 armed men to attack Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin’s troops, which were entrenched at the pinnacle of Blair Mountain.

The 45-year-old coal miner and Baptist preacher told his followers it was time for him to lay down his Bible, take up his rifle, and fight for the union.

After camping that night, the group, which included two of his sons, ran into Logan Deputy John Gore and two nonunion miners—all three belonging to Chafin’s army. Both sides opened fire. Gore and Chafin’s two other men were shot dead. One of Wilburn’s men, a black miner, was also killed.

Both Wilburn and his son, John, were sentenced to 11 years for murder. However, Governor Ephraim Morgan reduced each of their sentences to five years, and Governor Howard Gore later pardoned the Wilburns after they’d served three years in the state penitentiary. John Wilburn and his son were two of the few people ever convicted for their roles in the Battle of Blair Mountain—the largest armed insurrection in the United States since the Civil War.


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