Although the Mine Wars of southern West Virginia are better known, a Brooke County gun battle was among the state’s deadliest labor-management encounters. The battle took place at the Richland Coal Company’s Clifton mine, east of Wellsburg near the Pennsylvania line, on the morning of July 17, 1922. Official reports put the dead at nine although there were rumors of more. Sheriff Harding H. Duval was among those killed. Duval had been disarmed and appeared to have been beaten as well as shot.
The events began Sunday night, July 16, as a crowd of striking miners gathered at the union hall in nearby Avella, Pennsylvania. With the goal of getting the non-union miners out of the mine, the union men marched four miles in the darkness to take up positions surrounding the mine. The heavily armed crowd was estimated at between 300 and 500 men.
Having received word of the planned assault, Sheriff Duval and about 20 deputies joined the company guards at the mine. As the Wabash Railroad 5:15 a.m. train sounded its whistle, the non-union miners appeared for work. At that point, the strikers attacked the mine, which was defended by the sheriff’s forces. The strikers captured and set fire to the tipple, which later was dynamited by company men.
Except for the sheriff, all those killed at Cliftonville were union men. In the aftermath, 216 men were indicted, 78 of them for murder. Many charges were reduced or dropped as the trials went forward, with 30 men sentenced to three or more years in prison and others to lesser sentences.
This Article was written by J. W. George Wallace
Last Revised on June 20, 2012
Zwierzchowski, Mary. The Cliftonville Riot. Goldenseal, (Summer 1994).
Cite This Article
Wallace, J. W. George "Cliftonville Mine Battle." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 20 June 2012. Web. 28 March 2017.