Unionist Fred Mooney (January 23, 1888-February 24, 1952) was secretary-treasurer of United Mine Workers of America District 17 from 1917 to 1924 and was a radical leader in the West Virginia Mine Wars. He was born in a log cabin on Davis Creek, Kanawha County. He began work in the local mines at the age of 13, as a trapper boy operating the trap doors which controlled underground ventilation but managed to attend school until he was 18.
Mooney was among the miners’ leaders during the most active period of the Mine Wars, a time including the 1921 armed march on Logan and Mingo counties and the Battle of Blair Mountain. His name is often linked with that of Frank Keeney, president of District 17 during Mooney’s term as secretary-treasurer.
Perhaps his most lasting contribution is his book Struggle in the Coal Fields: The Autobiography of Fred Mooney. Here he gives firsthand accounts of key events of the Mine Wars, including the trials following the armed march, when more than 500 miners were indicted for treason and murder. Almost all, including Mooney and Keeney, were acquitted. Mooney struggled alongside such notable figures as Mother Jones and Bill Blizzard, as well as Keeney, and the characters in his book and his life read like a directory of West Virginia labor history. Fred Mooney committed suicide in Fairmont.
Written by Gordon L. Swartz III
Corbin, David A. Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners 1880-1922. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981.
Mooney, Fred. Struggle in the Coal Fields: The Autobiography of Fred Mooney. Morgantown: West Virginia University Library, 1967.