March 30, 2009

UMWA's Mitchell Day In Clarksville 1959

The observance of Mitchell Day every April 1st celebrates the occasion back in 1898 when the United Mine Workers Of America gained the 40 hour week and the 8 hour day which was eventually made the standard for all working people. In most mining towns this meant a large gathering, sometimes with a parade but always with speeches from politicians and labor leaders, food, drinks and a local talent show. This is the program from one such event in Clarksville 50 years ago.

collection of the author

John Mitchell, February 4, 1870–September 9, 1919, was a United States labor leader and president of the United Mine Workers of America from 1898 to 1908. He was born in 1870 in Braidwood, Illinois, a second generation Irish immigrant. He became an orphan when he was only six years old, and began working at that age to support his family. He worked in the coal mines his whole life. When he was nineteen years old, he joined the Knights of Labor in 1885 and was a founding member of the United Mine Workers of America in 1890. He was made an international union organizer in 1897 and worked alongside Mother Jones before being elected an international vice president the same year.
In September 1898, at age 28, Mitchell became acting president of UMWA after president Michael Ratchford resigned to become a member of the United States Industrial Commission.
He served as fourth vice president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) from 1898 to 1900, and as second vice president from 1900 to 1914 (although he had lost the UMWA presidency in 1908).
Along with AFL Samuel Gompers and AFL secretary-treasurer Frank Morrison, he was sentenced to prison for violating a court injunction during a strike at the Buck Stove and Range Co. in St. Louis, Missouri.
One of Mitchell's earliest challenges in the UMWA was to help incorporate new workers from various ethnicity into the union. There were numerous language barriers, as well as cultural biases and outright prejudice to be overcome. His success in this area helped him become vice-president in 1897, and president one year later.
Labor activity was notoriously dangerous at the time. Just before Mitchell became president, the Lattimer Massacre had seen 19 miners killed by police. This was also a period of growth for the union, the number of members grew almost tenfold, from 34,000 to 300,000, during Mitchell's term. Mitchell engaged in contentious negotiations with mining companies, including one in which President Theodore Roosevelt had to intervene, resulting in an eight-hour workday and a minimum wage. A tributary statue of Mitchell stands on the grounds of the Lackawanna County Courthouse in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the site of the negotiations which President Roosevelt got involved in. Because of the significance of these negotiations, the statue and the Courthouse are considered National Historic Landmarks.
When his successor, Thomas Lewis, won approval of a resolution forcing UMWA members to resign from the National Civic Federation, Mitchell left the union. He continued his association with the federation for many years, as well as serving on a number of state and federal
Mitchell died in New York City in 1919. Since then the 1st of April has been a miner's paid holiday.

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:
On January 25, 1890, 119 years ago yesterday, hundreds of incredibly brave coal miners from around the country gathered in Columbus, Oh., and voted to establish the United Mine Workers of America. They were of different racial and ethnic backgrounds and spoke different languages, yet all were united by one common purpose: To throw off the yoke of servitude and oppression that defined life for a coal miner–no matter his race or national origin. The battles that followed over the next 119 years echo through our nation’s history books – the Lattimer Massacre and great anthracite strike in northeastern Pennsylvania, the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado, the battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia and more. Through it all, the UMWA didn’t just survive, it grew. And every American who is in the workforce today benefits from the fights and struggles of our UMWA forefathers. The eight-hour day, overtime after working 40 hours in a week, the end of child labor, employer-provided health care, pensions, safety and health on the job–all of these things American workers take for granted today were first fought for and won by UMWA members. There are those who believe that things will never go back to the way they used to be; that because of advances in labor laws and 'enlightened' employers, workers no longer have to collectively stand up for themselves and their rights on the job. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Harsh and oppressive employers still exist today in abundance, and not just in the coalfields. One only has to open the newspaper or turn on the news to see stories about employers forcing workers to work off the clock, denying overtime pay, engaging in racial and gender discrimination and ignoring safety and health laws and regulations. The fight for justice on the job is far from over.
One hundred nineteen years after our founding, we are still here and still standing up for working families. After all the battles, strikes and lockouts, we are still here. After losing 100,000 killed in mine disasters and another 100,000 killed by black lung, we are still here. We’ve been shot, maimed, burned, beaten, thrown out of our houses, blacklisted, buried alive–but we’re still here.

March 26, 2009

Clarksville Celebrates 100 Years June 5-7 2009 - Be A Part Of It !

Clarksville around 1962, images from Clarksville Pa.

This blog, while about the Ten Mile Creek area in general, has had a lot on the town of Clarksville, partly to present some new information and photos to go along with the coming 100 year observance this summer. The town officially dates from 1909, that being the year of it's charter. It was 100 years earlier, however , when Samuel Clark founded and laid out the town. So in one sense it's 100 years old and in another sense it's 200.

The residents of Clarksville, Pa. will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Greene County community on June 5-7, 2009. Many events are being organized, please join them and help celebrate this special time.

A dedicated and energetic young lady, Randi Ross Marodi, is coordinating most of the efforts including a book and sends out this request to present and former residents:
"When this book is done I don't want it to be a run-of-the-mill history book. I want it to come alive with great stories - memories from people who might have been born in Clarksville, people who played, attended school, hit baseballs, fought fires, fell in love, got married, made friends, rode bikes, jumped trains or went swimming in the creek. You get the picture.I would really like to have each generation of Clarksvillians represented. For example, I would love to have a story from a kid under 10 who currently lives in the borough; someone in their 20s who lived there; 30s; 40s; etc. Do you know someone who would like to participate? If they would, but they don't like to write, just let me know. I can make arrangements to call them and interview them.In addition to a story, I would love to have a photo of the writer, preferably doing something in Clarksville during the time period of their story. This might be asking a lot, but I think a book filled with personal accounts and pictures will be great. Now, if you decide to write a story, here is some information I would like for you to include: Where was the writer born? When did they move to Clarksville? What activities did they participate in? Where did they go to school? Their favorite memory. Their parents names. Who are their siblings? Where are they today and what are they doing? Some of this information might interfere with the flow of the story, so you might just want to include it and we can put it under the photo. Now, please get off the internet, grab a pencil and start writing. And, when you take a break don't forget to go look through your box of old photos. When you are done you can email the story and photos to Randi Ross Marodi at Thanks, and remember, the celebration is this June, so don't waste any time."

Vendors are needed for Clarksville's 100th Birthday Celebration. Non-profit organizations can reserve a spot for free. All others will be charged a small rate. The deadline for vendors is June 1st.
Be Part of History, Buy an Ad in Clarksville's 200th Anniversary Book
Get all information at her website Clarksville Pa.
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