At dawn on Wednesday, February 25, 1903, Deputy U.S. Marshal Dan Cunningham, Raleigh County Sheriff Harvey Cook, and Howard Smith of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency led a posse of armed men into the village of Stanaford near Beckley. They were after striking miners who, on the previous Saturday, had stopped Cunningham, John Laing, and Baldwin-Felts agents from serving court papers. On Tuesday, strikers had marched from Fayette County and, after an incident involving Baldwin-Felts guards at mines near Beckley, held a rally at Stanaford. The same day, Cunningham with a 30-man posse returned to Raleigh County, where he joined forces with Sheriff Cook’s armed volunteers and the Baldwin-Felts men.
Both the striking miners and the posse spent the night in Stanaford. The miners were ambushed the next morning when they arose. Shots were fired into G. W. Jackson’s home, where he, his wife, four small children, and eight miners were sleeping. When the firing ceased, there were three dead men in Jackson’s house; one from a bullet in the back of his head. The Jacksons were an African-American family, and the men killed there were black. Elsewhere, three white miners were fatally wounded.
When a Raleigh County jury questioned the actions of the posse and its leaders, Federal Judge B. F. Keller exonerated the posse, ruling that they were acting to arrest men who had violated his August 1902 injunction and who had been indicted by a federal grand jury in January 1903.
The Battle of Stanaford was a concluding episode in the 1902 New River Coal strike, and a precursor of bloodier events to follow during the West Virginia Mine Wars.
This Article was written by Lois C. McLean
Last Revised on October 29, 2010
Wood, Jim. Raleigh County. Beckley: J. Wood, 1994.
Jones, Mary. The Autobiography of Mother Jones. Chicago: Charles Kerr, 1925.
Goldenseal Book of the West Virginia Mine Wars. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1991.
Cite This Article
McLean, Lois C. "Battle of Stanaford." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 29 October 2010. Web. 11 March 2014.