Mother Jones Visits Nitro in 1920
Mary Harris Jones  1836 - 1930
This information is taken directly from long time Nitro historian, Bill Wintz’ book:

NITRO THE WORLD WAR I BOOM TOWN
an illustrated History of Nitro, W.Va. and the land on which it stands (pages 88-89)
by William D.  Wintz
Copyright 1985
Jalamap Publications, Inc., 601 D Street, South Charleston, WV 25303


During the first year of their operation, the Charleston Industrial Corporation
encountered several unforeseen problems that could have proven serious for most
companies not so well established. First came the short post-war recession of 1920
which lowered prices and slowed business in general. The second difficulty that arose
was a threatened outbreak of labor unrest. It all started soon after Mother Mary Jones,
the notorious labor organizer, showed up at Nitro. Although she was believed to have
been ninety years old at the time, the crusty old firebrand still had a tremendous
following, not only as a labor leader but as a living folk legend.

She came in support of the miners in Putnam County who were on strike at the time.
Her boys had arranged for her safety by stopping at Nitro instead of going any closer
to the troubled area since it was known that the operators had the Putnam County law
on their side. The rank and file miners at Raymond City and Plymouth were notified that
Old Mother Jones was coming to talk to them, but they would have to come to Nitro to
hear her.

Since Mother Jones was not permitted to speak inside the town limits, an upper
window of an old store building on Third Avenue just outside the fence on 17th Street
Hill was appropriated for her podium. The store was built during the war by an
enterprising Charleston merchant named John Wade. Since only government
commissaries could operate inside the town, he established a store just a few feet
outside the boundary in order to attract some of the nearby business (The building
was still standing in 1984).

At the designated time, Mother Jones appeared at an open window, 30 feet above a
very crowd that had assembled in the streets below. The tough old labor leader lost
little time in unleashing a fiery verbal barrage on the mining operators and all
management in general. Evidently she must have also fanned the fires of discontent
among some of the Nitro workers in the crowd from an article that appeared a few days
later in a Charleston newspaper. "Eviction notices have been served on approximately
100 Nitro residents who refused to work on account of alleged labor trouble.”  Old-
timers remembered that after the notices were served, everyone promptly went back to
work and the problems were eventually settled by the Civic Benefits Association.

Wanda (Morton) Cooley remembered that her father insisted that his entire family
should hear Mother Jones. He realized she had already become part of the nation's
history and they would probably never have another opportunity to see or hear her
again.

A long-time Nitro resident, James A. Whittington recalled that when he was seven years
old he went with his father Jess Whittington to hear Mother Jones. "We got there early
while there was still room inside the empty store building so we went in to wait. There
were empty shelves around the walls and after awhile I got tired so I crawled up on a
shelf and went to sleep.  When they woke me to go home, Mother Jones had been
there and left, and I had slept through the whole thing.”
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