Parks Bills: H.R. 3821



STATEMENT OF KAREN TAYLOR-GOODRICH,

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, VISITOR AND RESOURCE PROTECTION, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS

OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES,

CONCERNING H.R. 3821,

TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR

TO CONDUCT A SPECIAL RESOURCE STUDY OF SITES AND RESOURCES

AT MATEWAN, WEST VIRGINIA,

ASSOCIATED WITH THE BATTLE OF MATEWAN

TO DETERMINE THE SUITABILITY AND FEASIBILITY

OF DESIGNATING CERTAIN HISTORIC AREAS

AS A UNIT OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM.

October 30, 2007

 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 3821, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study of sites associated with the "Battle of Matewan" in Matewan, West Virginia.

 

The Department supports H.R. 3821. While the Department supports the authorization of this study, we also believe that any funding requested should be directed first toward completing previously authorized studies.

 H.R. 3821 directs the Secretary to conduct a special resource study in accordance with the National Park System General Authorities Act to determine the suitability and feasibility of designating these resources in West Virginia as a unit of the National Park System and to determine the methods and means for protection and interpretation by the Federal Government or other governmental or non-governmental entities. The bill also requires the Secretary to submit a report to Congress no later than 3 years after the date on which funds are made available to carry out this study.

 The Matewan Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark in February 1997. The District and its surrounding coal mines were the sites of a seminal event in the history of organized labor fostered by attempts of coal miners in the southern Appalachians to join the United Mine Workers of America in 1920.

 Nowhere was the effort at unionization more intense than in Matewan, where the local sheriff, Sid Hatfield, and the town's mayor Cabel Testerman, openly protected the miners attempts to hold organizational meetings in the town. On May 19, 1920, thirteen detectives including Thomas Felts, President of Baldwin-Felts Coal Company, and two of his brothers, entered Matewan to evict unionized miners and their families from homes in the Stone Mountain Mine camp. Sheriff Hatfield and a group of miners went to the Stone Mountain camp and tried to stop the evictions, but the detectives and mine owner continued forcing miners and their families from the homes. Later that afternoon in Matewan, Hatfield and a number of armed miners attempted to arrest the mine owner. A shot was fired and a battle ensued. Lasting only a minute, the mine owner, the mayor, seven detectives and two miners were dead or dying at the end of the confrontation. Hatfield, unhurt, became a hero to miners throughout the nation. West Virginia's governor sent in 50 members of the State Police to take control of the town. In July 1921, while unarmed, Sheriff Hatfield was shot and killed at a county courthouse by Baldwin-Felts' detectives. His death sparked an armed rebellion by coal miners all over West Virginia resulting in the "Battle of Blair Mountain" in Logan County.

The Battle of Blair Mountain in August 1921 is considered the largest organized armed uprising in the history of the American labor movement and ultimately resulted in many of the laws that protect labor's right to organize today. Up to 15,000 coal miners gathered in Logan County, West Virginia and stood against state and federal troops. Up to 30 persons on both sides died on August 25th. On September 2nd, the United States Army Air Service dropped pipe and tear gas bombs to dissuade labor organizers from further action. In the history of this nation it was the first and only time that the United States Government ordered military aircraft used against its citizens.

 Resources related to this period are still extant in the Town of Matewan and its surrounding areas. The National Park Service assisted the Matewan Revitalization Task Force to develop a strategic plan for the area's resources in 1990. Matewan's nationally significant resources are now included in the congressionally designated National Coal Heritage Area.

 Mr. Chairman this concludes my testimony and I would be pleased to answer any questions you or the other members of the subcommittee may have.