Learning a Thing or Two

Appalachian living Local History

It's better late than never.

Perhaps my biggest mistake, or well, lesson I guess, while starting a mushroom farm in coal country was not writing about it sooner.

People think I’m a nut, and undoubtedly I am. In case you didn’t know nuts are a fruit--they have a hard shell and a soft center. Anyway, the farm sits at the entrance of the Pritchard Mine in a town called Hernshaw.

The town is named after two men, Robert Herndon and his partner Joseph Renshaw. They opened a coal mine off Lens Creek sometime before 1900. I am looking at Lens Creek right now. I see it as it is and as it could be. And the holler is home to the history of black gold. The good and the ugly.

Hernshaw is just four miles from Marmet. Marmet is the town where in 1921, after years of labor disputes, thousands of union miners organized, sporting red handkerchiefs around their necks and rifles on their shoulders, and then marched to Blair Mountain to oppose the coal company.

In response President Warren G. Harding sent over 2,000 federal troops to oppose the miner’s insurrection. It is also the only time in US History where our government dropped bombs on its citizens.

The miners insurrection picked up troops along the way. It’s not unlikely that some lived along Lens Creek in Hernshaw. The people here are kind and proud. Black Gold still rolls out the holler. Sure, it has its issues. Although the wages are better and the number of workers required are fewer, and the machines are bigger. National politics dictates the success of the coal companies. And when the politics don’t align--things get tough in Appalachia.

But, now the drug war rages and the drugs are winning. It’s a sad song that has a hard time changing tune, but I’m an optimist so I know things will change--maybe with a few mushroom farms.

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