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Walter Allen


Walter Allen, a coal miner from Dry Branch, Kanawha County, was the only person to be convicted of treason in the trials following the famous Miners’ March in August–September, 1921. The armed miners, who had set out to unionize Logan and Mingo counties in West Virginia, were turned back at the Battle of Blair Mountain.

Allen, 41 at the time of the march, was tried in late summer of 1922 in Charles Town, Jefferson County, in the same courthouse where John Brown had been tried and condemned to hang. Allen was tried in a series of related trials beginning with the trial of union leader Bill Blizzard. Witnesses testified persuasively about Allen’s leadership: that he spoke at a mass meeting of miners on the lawn of the state capitol prior to the march; that he led the miners at Dry Branch when they voted to take part in the march; that he recruited miners from other camps; and that he obtained weapons, served on the marchers’ finance committee, and was seen participating in many phases throughout the march.

A jury found Allen guilty on September 16. He was sentenced to ten years in the state penitentiary but was freed on $10,000 bond pending appeal. On December 16, 1922, county officials reported that Allen had defaulted in his surety and fled. He was never heard from again. An important aspect of the trial is that the detailed, lengthy testimony by leaders of both sides in the mine war has provided an invaluable and colorful historical record of the Miners’ March.

Written by Lon Savage


  1. Savage, Lon. Thunder in the Mountains. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990.