There are many people and resources to acknowledge for their efforts to preserve the folklore and the history comprising the stories of Devil In The Hills. Following is a list of my own resources, should anyone want to study further.
The Project Start
The idea for this music project was sparked in October 2014 after I heard a rebroadcast of a Halloween week special on WV Public Radio on haunted buildings in the state. The featured haunt that morning was the Whipple Company Store in Fayette County. The broadcast also introduced the discovery of “Esau Scrip” which was publicly unknown at that point in time. The series of three radio stories by Catherine Moore initiated the ongoing controversy among some historians over the very existence and purpose of Esau scrip and piqued my curiosity.
Moore, Catherine. Ghostly Stories from the Whipple Company Store. West Virginia Public Broadcasting, 29 October 2013, https://www.wvpublic.org/post/ghostly-stories-whipple-company-store .
Moore, Catherine. What Was The Esau Scrip? West Virginia Public Broadcasting, 30 October 2013, https://www.wvpublic.org/post/what-was-esau-scrip#stream/0 .
Moore, Catherine. The Soul of a Company Store. West Virginia Public Broadcasting, 31 October 2013, https://www.wvpublic.org/post/soul-company-store#stream/0 .
The Whipple Company Store
I made my first visit to the Whipple Company Store in July 2015. Joy Lynn took me on a private tour and graciously shared more stories about the building and its past. Unfortunately, the Lynns had to sell the building in 2018 due to health reasons. But from 2007 until 2018, Joy was the collector of stories from the elderly former residents of the coal camp. They trusted her with their tales, which she fortunately published.
Joyanfaith. Whipple Company Store Vol. I: Coal Camp Voices, edited by Charles Lynn, Leaky Roof Publishing, 2014.
Joyanfaith. Whipple Company Store Vol. II: Life in the Shadows, Leaky Roof Publishing, 2016.
Joy’s books can be purchased by contacting her directly at 304-266-0788 or by email at Joy@WhippleCompanyStore.com.
Esau Scrip, Rented Girls, Mine Wars
Further inquiry led me to Wess Harris, a sociologist, author and former union organizer. Wess has relentlessly pursued the facts behind the events leading up to the Mine Wars, culminating in two books. He compiled writings from William C. Blizzard, son of Bill Blizzard who led the 1921 march on Blair Mountain. After hearing of Esau Scrip, Wess compiled another anthology of writings based on Esau and other atrocities. Major contributions to both the research and writing came from historian/musicians Michael and Carrie Klein. You can also find Wess on the road with his curated collection called the When Miners March Traveling Museum.
Harris, Wess, editor. Written in Blood: Courage and Corruption in the Appalachian War of Extraction. PM Press, 2017.
Blizzard, William C. When Miners March, edited by Wess Harris, PM Press, 2010.
Wess Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to: Appalachian Community Services, 229 Birtrice Road, Gay, WV 25244.
Further Non-Fiction Reading
Corbin, David. Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880-1922. West Virginia University Press; 2nd edition, 2015.
Eller, Ronald. Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers: Industrialization of the Appalachian South, 1880-1930. The University of Tennessee Press, 1982.
Green, James. The Devil Is Here In These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle For Freedom. Grove Press, 2016.
Savage, Lon. Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War 1920-21. University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990.
Savage, Lon Kelly, and Ginny Savage Ayers. Never Justice, Never Peace: Mother Jones and The Miner Rebellion at Paint and Cabin Creeks. West Virginia University Press, 2018.
I highly encourage everyone to read Denise Giardina’s book “Storming Heaven.” Even though it is fiction, she really did her homework because the characters and events bring to life the non-fiction reality of events leading to the mine wars.
Giardina, Denise. Storming Heaven. The Random House Publishing Group, 1987.
Matewan. Directed by John Sayles, performances by Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell, Will Oldham, and David Strathairn, The Criterion Collection, 1987.
American Experience: The Mine Wars. Produced and Directed by Randall MacLowry, narrated by Michael Murphy, PBS Documentaries, 2019.
A Final Note
Most of the content of these songs is based in the early coal mining years of 1890-1932. These years cover the beginning of West Virginia’s move into coal production, during the height of the Second Industrial Revolution when coal was found to be an ideal source of power for the great mills and electric generation of the northeast. Coal had been discovered in West Virginia more than a century before, but it wasn’t until the late 1890s that the financial and technical means were available to build railroads to transport the coal, and to create company-owned towns to house workers brought in to the remote mountain wilderness where no civilization previously existed. It was a rough, raw, cruel existence.
The year 1932 is significant because at that point a new federal government stepped in and began establishing new laws requiring things like death certificates for every person, and recognition of basic human rights on our own soil. Prior to this the state of West Virginia had considered coal camps private property, outside the jurisdiction of state control, including how workers were treated.
By 1940, thanks to countless brave organizers and miners, unions were established and demanded that the coal industry in West Virginia provide better treatment of its employees.
Help Us Keep The Stories Alive
Your purchase of the Devil In The Hills album and booklet package helps keep this important history alive. Your support helps us continue writing more songs as more stories are discovered.