The murders sent shock waves through the coalfields. Violence and wildcat strikes spread.
Governor Ephraim Morgan declared martial law, ordered the arrest of union organizers and dispatched all one hundred members of the state police to Mingo County.
Three weeks later, 5,000 miners, including veterans of Paint Creek, assembled near the northern border of Logan County. Many carried hunting rifles and hand grenades left over from World War I. The miners planned to march to Mingo County where they would free those in jail and establish union headquarters.
Standing between the miners and Mingo was Don Chafin, a tough, belligerent lawman, known as the King of Logan. To stop the miners march, Chafin recruited three thousand volunteers, including lawyers, bankers and doctors.
Chafin positioned his amateur army in trenches atop Blair Mountain on the road to Mingo. Meanwhile, the miners had begun to move. They commandeered automobiles at gunpoint, took over trains and raided farms for food. The march grew to 15,000, forming a line twenty miles long.
The time has come, said John Wilburn, a miner and Baptist minister, for me to lay down my Bible, pick up my rifle.
To the tune of John Brown’s Body, miners sang We’ll Hang Don Chafin From a Sour Apple Tree. Many wore red bandanas and were soon known as rednecks.