How does this fit into my Rhea family history? One of the reasons my grandmother refused to live in the tiny area surrounding Sneedville, Tennessee was the mine. The only way to make extra money was to work in the mine and she didn't want that for her husband. So, in 1914, William Ogden Rhea and Mellie Farris Rhea, packed their bags and headed north until their money ran out in Billings, Montana.
|William Ogden Rhea and Mellie (Farris) Rhea in Los Angeles, California, visiting my newly married parents in August 1947.|
In a letter to my grandparents on January 1, 1919, Martha Jane Rhea wrote:
"The mining people is going slow. Wages for common work is $1.50, carpenter $3.00 or $3.50. A man by the name of Coberly from Joplin, M.O. is here to setup their machinery. His family is here. They claim to have one million and quarter dollars worth of mineral in sight." Big money for the investors, nothing for the miners.
It all came to a head in 1921 at the Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia when more than 10,000 coal miners confronted state and federal troops. Their goal was to unionize the Southwestern West Virginia mine counties. The labor laws in effect today were largely due to this battle for better working conditions. It was the biggest armed uprising in American labor history.
The protesting miners at Blair Mountain wore red bandannas around their necks, hence the term "Redneck". In this short video of the struggle, the bandannas can be seen in some of the pictures.
Do you have Rednecks in your family?