Recruitment of Immigrants

Immigrants in Industries, 61st Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Document No. 663.
Part 1: Bituminous Coal Mining. GPO, 1911

Extracts from Part V. - The Bituminous Coal Mining Industry in the South, pages 144-163


West Virginia has been of more or less importance as a coal-producing State since it was formed in 1863. The industry's most striking growth, however, has been made since the year 1893. In its first year as a State, the total production was 444,648[a] short tons. From 1863 to 1893 the production was gradually increased, and almost every year showed an increase over the one immediately preceding it. In the year last mentioned the production was 10,708,578 short tons, and since then the increase has been rapid and constant. For the past twenty-seven years, there have been only two instances in which production has shown a decrease in one year as compared with the one preceding. These exceptions were in 1895 and 1908, both years or financial depression. The high- water mark was reached in 1907, when 48,091,583 short tons were mined.

[Footnote] a. Production of Coal in 1908, p. 193. E. W. Parker, United States Geological Survey, Mineral Resources of the United States.

When the mining industry began to be developed, the State as a whole was sparsely settled, and the expansion of the industry was further hampered by the fact that topographically the sections containing the best coal were rugged and transportation facilities were slowly developed. Because of these conditions, and the lack of sufficient capital for many years, the operations were scattered and rather small, and practically all labor to operate the mines was secured from the immediate vicinity. As more coal was mined each year, and new mines were opened up, the available numbers of native people, always small, began to decline and the negroes, principally from Virginia, began to be attracted to the coal fields, while some white native miners from adjoining States also appeared. Within more recent years the mining industry has been consolidated more and more and many very large companies have been formed. The greatest development has been going on in four well-defined fields. In presenting a history of immigration and a discussion of the conditions resulting therefrom, only these four fields will be discussed. They do not contain all the counties within the State which produce coal, but they contribute more than 90 per cent of the total output. They are also clearly defined and have certain distinguishing geographic and physiographic features. Practically all the immigrant laborers employed in coal mines within the State are in mines included in these sections.

Two of these fields are located in the northern part of the State and two in the southern. Those in the northern are the. Fairmont, or Upper Monongahela, and the Elk Garden, or Upper Potomac, districts. Those in the southern are the New and Kanawha rivers district, which includes what are usually popularly divided into the New and Kanawha river fields, and the Pocahontas or Flat Top district, which also includes Tazewell County in Virginia.

Although conditions in many respects are very similar in all these districts, there have been certain elements entering into the development of each which make it different in some respects from the others, and for this reason the divisions above referred to will be treated separately.


The Elk Garden field, as compared with the other coal-producing districts of the State, is small. Owing to this, and to the fact that it adjoins the Fairmont field and that conditions are very similar in both, they will be treated together. The Elk Garden field is made up of Tucker, Grant, and Mineral counties. Tucker County, which produces 51 per cent of the coal of the district and employs 72 per cent of the immigrant labor, is bounded on the north and west by counties included in the Fairmont field. The Fairmont coal field is composed of Barbour, Harrison, Marion, Monongahela [sic], Preston, and Taylor counties, and in 1908 the field had a production 9,581,436 short tons and employed a total of 11,470 men. The most extensive development in this field has been in Harrison and Marion counties. In 1908 these two counties produced 7,185,036 short tons, or 74.9 per cent of the entire output of the field and employed 7,440 men, or 66.3 per cent, of all the labor.

The first mines opened were operated exclusively by native white labor from the immediate vicinity, but when development became extensive operators had to bring in men from other communities to work the mines.

This condition of affairs prevailed from 1889 to 1892. About 1892 or 1893, not being able to secure sufficient numbers of American whites or negroes, some of the larger operators began to bring in immigrants. These were secured from two sources: First, a few came with the Americans from the soft-coal region of southwestern Pennsylvania; and, second, from labor agencies in New York - the greater number from the latter source.

The numbers secured, however, were comparatively small, and until 1897 the immigrant labor employed was not in excess of 10 per cent of the total operating forces. The first immigrants to come to the field were Poles, Slovaks, and Italians (principally North Italians), and within a very short period Magyars began to arrive. As the production of coal began to increase and additional mines were opened the demand for labor increased, and these first immigrants formed a nucleus for the attraction of additional numbers of their races. The following brief discussion will give some idea of the coming of the most prominent races to the field:

Italians. - The Italians have been an important race in this field almost since their introduction, and have outnumbered any other single immigrant race. The first to be employed in numbers of any consequence arrived about the year 1892. They were first induced to come to mines along the Monongahela River in Marion County, and were only employed at two or three mines for the first few years. As the new mines were developed and those already in operation increased their output, they kept pace with this progress, and are now found practically all over the field. This race has centered along the Monongahela River in the mining towns in the vicinity of Fairmont and Clarksburg, and of the 2,100 employed in and about mines in 1908 about 75 per cent were in Marion and Harrison counties.

Slovaks and Poles. - The Slovaks and Poles entered the field at about the same time as the Italians, and, like the Italians, were first brought to mines along the Monongahela River in Marion County. At the time when immigrants were first induced to come to the field, the largest mines and the greatest development were found in this section. Their numbers were comparatively small until 1897. When the industry was extended these races increased in number and became more and more scattered. The town of Monongah has always been a center for Slovaks and Poles, more of these nationalities being found there than in any other locality. At present, these two races are employed in about equal numbers in the field, the number of each race being about 650. Fully 80 per cent of the total number are in Marion and Harrison counties.

Magyars. - The Magyars first secured employment about 1893, at first only in small numbers, but as in the case of other races, they have been constantly increasing in numbers and spreading out to new mines. The first members of this race came from the neighboring coal fields of Pennsylvania, and have been added to by emigration from that section, by recruits drawn from labor agencies in New York, and by the coming of friends and relatives from Europe to join the men already located in the Fairmont district. Some also came into this field in search of work from the Connellsville coke region of Pennsylvania during the strike of 1894.

Croatians. - The Croatians are of recent arrival, the advent of the race dating back not more than five years. They came in largest number to the town of Monongah where, in 1907, an explosion killed between three and four hundred men. Since then, the Croatians employed there have increased from about 25 to 225. They are not present in such great numbers in other mines of the region, as there have been no such disasters to create vacancies. It is also worthy of note that the majority of all immigrants coming into the field after the financial depression of 1907 were Croatians. They very often came in bands in search of work, and in some instances have been known to walk from the bituminous regions of Pennsylvania to this field.

Other races of recent immigrants have been employed in the field in varying numbers for the past seven or eight years, but have been as a rule an unsettled class rarely accompanied by families. The most prominent races among these recent immigrants are Russians, Lithuanians, Slovenians, and Ruthenians. They represent about 3 per cent of all labor in the field.

The general strikes of 1894 and 1895, which affected the bituminous coal fields more or less throughout the country, were felt in this field. In all these strikes the operators were, as a whole, victorious, and since then the field has been nonunion. The strikes affected the production of the field to a considerable extent. There was no general bringing of immigrants or natives as strike-breakers, but some immigrants came in from other fields where the strikes were more severe. Immediately after the labor difficulties were over, the field entered upon an era of unprecedented growth, which called for more men. Moreover, many of the better class of American miners left the field and moved to the organized regions of the Middle West and Southwest. This made two immediate causes for the employment of immigrants, and great efforts were put forth on the part of employers to secure their services.

At many of the mines no immigrants are employed, and as a rule the companies employing immigrants follow a policy of mixing the different races. From the best information obtainable the racial classification of the total number employed in the district is about as follows:

Per cent of total operating forces.

American, White........................................................... 52.5
American, Negro ........................................................... 3.4
Italian, North and South............................................... 18.6
English-speaking and German........................................2.0
Southeastern European races not specified.....................3.0

In Harrison and Marion counties, where the greatest development has taken place and where most of the immigrants are found, the proportion of different races to the total number employed is about as follows:

Per cent of total operating forces.

American, White ...........................................................46.7
American, Negro............................................................. 3.8
Italian .............................................................................21.6
Magyar............................................................................. 6.3
Polish............................................................................... 6.2
Slovak.............................................................................. 6.4
Croatian........................................................................... 4.3
English-speaking and German......................................... 2.0
Southeastern European races not specified...................... 2.7

For the purpose of gaining a clearer conception of the history of immigration to this district and the resultant changes in the races of immigrants employed, a detailed account of immigration to a representative locality will be valuable. With this object in view atypical community has been selected which will be designated as Community Number 1. This locality, which is little more than a mining camp, is situated in Marion County, in the heart of the soft coal region of northern West Virginia.[a] It is on the line of a traction company, about 6 miles from the county seat of the county in which it is located. A trunk line railroad also has a spur running out to the town. The 4 mines and coke ovens constitute its sole industries. The output of the 4 mines is between 3,000 and 4,000 tons per day.

[Footnote] a. In 1907 Marion County stood fourth in point of coal production among the counties of West Virginia.

The racial composition of the town's population is constantly changing, as the population itself constantly fluctuates. There is a large class of what may be termed floating labor, which greatly outnumbers the men with families who are more likely to remain in the community. This fact renders it almost impossible to give an accurate or clear account of the coming of each race to the community by periods. Moreover, the increases or decreases in the population all depend upon the amount of work available at different times in the mines.

The history of immigration to the community, however, is largely identical with the. history of the development of the coal business in the locality. For this reason, and from the fact, as stated above, that it would be impracticable to take up the history of each race separately, it has been thought best to give a general account of the coal-mining industry in the community. A conception of the immigration question, as locally applicable, can be made clearer in this way than by taking up the history of each race independently.

Coal mines were first opened in the community in the year 1890. At that time the production of coal in West Virginia was small as compared with that of the present time. The total output from the State in 1889 was only 4,663,859 tons. Competition was very keen, and for the first two years of their operation the local mines were able to secure sufficient native labor to handle their limited output of about 400 tons a day. The production of coal in West Virginia rapidly assumed noteworthy proportions, however, and West Virginia coal soon established itself in the commercial world. By 1892 the output for the State had reached 7,777,570 tons, and in 1897 had increased to 11,705,829. A very active demand had been created, and the operator in Community No. 1 as early as 1892 found themselves facing an insufficiency of labor supply.

To increase their producing ability, the operators first attempted the introduction of negro labor. In 1892 two carloads of negroes were brought in from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. These proved unsatisfactory. Recourse was next had to Italian labor, and during 1893 and 1894 many of that race were secured from New York. The Italians were found quite satisfactory as workmen, but it soon became necessary to employ more men. About 200 Slavs and Poles were consequently brought in from New York through labor agencies.

In 1894 occurred the great soft coal strike. The West Virginia fields were affected in common with the rest. The controversy was quickly settled at the mines in Community Number 1. The strikers were unsuccessful, and within a few days the district was definitely made nonunion, and is so maintained at present. Practically all of the employees soon went back to work and it was unnecessary to import strike-breakers. Shortly afterwards, however, large numbers of American miners began to go out to the union districts of Pennsylvania and Ohio, where the strike had been successful. To meet this second great deficit in the labor supply, the local mines were forced to seek foreign labor in earnest. Large numbers of immigrants, seemingly without distinction or preference of race, were brought in through labor agencies in 1894. From that time forward the employment of immigrant labor became a fixed policy.

In December, 1907, there occurred an explosion in which a large number of men were killed. The whole energies of the company affected were concentrated upon the damaged mines with the object of reopening them as soon as possible. Within two months the mines had been cleared and were ready for operation. Full time was guaranteed for their operation, and forces were largely drawn away from the other shafts and concentrated .in them. There was no lack of men. Attracted by the guarantee of full time, more than 150 Croatians, Magyars, and Austrians came in from the Ohio and Pennsylvania fields. A great many Poles who had been in the town previously also returned. At that time work was difficult to obtain elsewhere and these miners gladly availed themselves of this opportunity.

This, in brief, is the history of immigration to the locality. The races which have secured work may be seen at a glance from the tables following showing the racial classification of employees in the local mines in the years 1907, 1908, and 1909.[a] The series of three tables will also exhibit the changes in racial composition of the forces from year to year.

[Footnote] a. From the Annual Reports of the Chief Mine Inspector of West Virginia. Racial designations are confused, but are sufficient to indicate the racial composition of the operating forces.

TABLE 472. - Number of inside and outside employees in Community No. 1, by race, 1907.

Race. Inside     Outside     On coke     Total.
men.     men.     ovens.
American, White 196 136 3 335
Negro 13- 2 15
Italian 205 34 56 295
Polish 166- - 166
Lithuanian 5- - 5
Austrian -- 2 2
Hungarian - - 1 1
Scotch 1 - - 1
Total 586 170 64 820

TABLE 473. - Number of employees in Community No. 1, by race July 1, 1908, and May 1, 1909.
[Two table sections were combined into one]

July 1, 1908    May 1, 1909
Race Number     Number
American, White 324 300
Negro 24 30
Italian 194 250
Polish 45 100
Lithuanian 14 30
Austrian 14 10
Hungarian 11
Slovak 60 60
Syrian 3
German 3
Croatian 85
Magyar 70
Total 692 950

As regards the total population of the community by race, the following table based upon careful estimates is submitted. In addition to an estimate of the total population, the effort was made to secure the number of boarders and families of the immigrant races in order to show the transitory character of a large element of the population. In this connection it will be noted that the floating element designated as boarders constitutes about one-fourth of the whole. It also should be borne in mind that the town has only been in existence since the year 1889.

TABLE 474. - Estimated population of Community No. 1, by race, 1909.

Race Number of     Number of     Total number of
families.     boarders.     persons.
Italian 84 174 556
Polish 20 115 215
Slovak 10 50 100
Croatian 15 100 175
Magyar 20 75 175
Austrian - - 20
Lithuanian - - 80
Other races [a] - - 75
Total 159 514 1,396
American, White - - 1,204
Negro - - 100
Grand Total - - 2,700

[Footnote] a. Include Irish, German, Scotch, Syrian, and Hungarian.


The New and Kanawha rivers coal field is situated in the south central part of West Virginia, reached by the Cincinnati and Ohio Railroad and its many branches. The Virginian Railway also taps this field and connects it with the eastern coast, and the Kanawha and Michigan Railroad affords an outlet to the Lakes.

This field ranks second in point of production of the four fields under discussion. Until the year 1906, with the exception of 1902, when its output was greatly reduced by a severe strike, it was first in point of production. After the settlement of the strike it again took the lead, and did not relinquish it until 1906, since which year the Pocahontas field has had first place. For several years prior to 1888 the production of the New and Kanawha rivers field was more than the combined production of the other three. This field includes Clay, Fayette, Kanawha, Nicholas, Putnam, and Raleigh counties.

For the purposes of this report only the three counties, Fayette, Kanawha, ana Raleigh will be considered, as they produce 96 per cent of the coal of the area and employ 95 per cent of all men working at mines, together with all immigrant mine workers. The conditions in three counties under discussion vary considerably in some features, Fayette and Raleigh counties constituting what is popularly known as the New River Field.

Small numbers of immigrants have been employed in both Fayette and Kanawha counties since 1897, but they were very few and confined only to certain mines and one locality until 1902. In 1893 one company, operating at Glen Jean, brought in a small force of Magyars and Slovaks from the mines of Pennsylvania, and since that time these races have been employed at that mine. Many of those originally introduced are still in the employment of the company, and others have come in from time to time. About 100 men were brought in during 1893, almost equally divided between the two races above mentioned, and including from 15 to 20 families. At this time the field was thoroughly unionized, and through the efforts of the miners' union immigration was checked, and no immigrants entered the other mines in the vicinity. About this same time a few were employed in several mines in Kanawha County, but they were men who had drifted in, were scattered about, and were not in sufficient numbers to have an influence on any mine, or to cause more to come.

In the year 1902 there was a very severe strike which greatly reduced the output of the field, as a majority of the mines were closed for a considerable period. This strike occurred at the time of the anthracite strike in Pennsylvania and owing to the unsettled conditions of labor generally prevailing in the coal-mining regions coal was commanding a very high price. The operators, after being convinced that the union would not agree to their terms, began to bring in men to break the strike. Any man who was willing to work in or about the mines was employed, and great numbers of immigrants, as well as Americans from the North and negroes from Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, were induced to come. These men were secured principally by agents of the companies, who visited the industrial and mining districts of the North and the towns in agricultural sections of the southern States above mentioned. By means of regularly organized labor agents a large number of immigrants were also secured. In parts of the Kanawha field the strike was settled without resorting to strike-breakers, and this section is still unionized.

The operators, by using the methods above mentioned, were successful throughout the New River field and in one part of the Kanawha. Consequently the mines resumed operations and have never recognized labor organizations. During all this strike period the mining company which had introduced the immigrant labor some years before operated steadily with two shifts, and was the only mine in the section which was not closed during the strike.

In addition to the fact that the strike marked the entrance of the southern and eastern Europeans into the field, it also seriously affected the production of coal. The production in 1902 in this field was 1,337,769 tons less than the year preceding, and if the future growth of the field and the increase shown by other fields not affected may be used as an indication, these figures are not more than one- half the actual loss in production.

After the strike was broken a great many American miners of the better class began to leave the field and go to the organized coal districts of the Middle West. This action on the part of old employees continued for several months after the mines had resumed operations, and left a vacancy which had to be filled. Those of the strike-breakers, therefore, who could be induced to stay, were prevailed upon to do so, and to these many more have since been added. The demand for men was made much greater by the growth of the field both in output of mines already in operation and in new ones opened, and since the period of the strike the influx of immigrants from continental Europe, and of negroes from Virginia and North and South Carolina has been constant.

Owing to the fact that a large number of the immigrants coming to this field were secured from labor agencies and "brought in on transportation" and to the further fact that the supply of laborers has always been inadequate, very little preference has been shown for certain races, and a great number of races are represented in the field. There are a few races, however, which have been employed throughout the period, are more numerous and stable than the rest, and seem to be the races from which will come the greater part of the future immigration for the development of the field. These races are discussed below in some detail.

Magyars and Slovaks. - Although not kindred races and rarely found socially commingling, the Magyars and Slovaks are treated together, because the history of one is, with the possible exception of some minor details, the history of both. Both races entered the field at the same time and have been important factors in its recent development. As stated before, the first members of these races to come to this field came in 1892 and 1893 from Pennsylvania. Owing to the fact that all the other mines in the locality were organized they were confined to this one plant. Although occasionally members of these races left either to go to other fields or to return to their native land, the force was constantly replenished by the advent of friends from Europe and from other sections of the United States, and was kept intact throughout the period 1892 to 1902. Since the strike of 1902 considerable numbers of these races have come into the region, and in most cases both races are represented in almost every locality where immigrant labor is employed. Glen Jean has, however, always been a headquarters for these two races and they are more permanently established there than in any other locality. The great majority of those coining have been either single men or married men not accompanied by their families, and owing to the prosperous condition of the mining industry they are constantly moving from mine to mine. There are at present about 780 Magyars ana 350 Slovaks employed in this field.

Italians. - The exact date of the entrance of members of the Italian race into this field is somewhat doubtful. A few have been employed at two mines in the Kanawha district, however, since the year 1899. That year is believed to be the real beginning of immigration of the Italian race into the field. The number employed up to the strike of 1902 was small, and it was in this year that they began to come in earnest. Some were brought into the field along with other races as strike-breakers. Since the strike they have entered in greater numbers than any other race, and greater numbers of them have been secured through labor agencies than of any other two races. The majority of those employed are South Italians. A great number have come into the field from railroad construction work in this and neighboring States at different times for the past few years, and the influx was especially great after the financial depression in October, 1907, when practically all construction work was stopped.

At present there are about 1,500 Italians employed in and about the mines of the district. .The greater number of them are single men or men who are married but not accompanied by their families, and the proportion of adult males to families is much larger among members of this race than of any other found in the community. The Italian population of the various mining villages where they are found is constantly shifting.

Poles. - Polish immigration began with the introduction of men of that race as strike-breakers in 1902. Many came to the field from both the hard and soft coal districts of Pennsylvania. The majority of those found in the field were originally from Austria, while some were from Russia, and a very small number from Germany. As before stated, all those who came to the field first were from the coal fields of Pennsylvania, both in the bituminous and anthracite regions, and were secured by agents of the companies operating in the field and brought in on transportation. They were first employed in the Loup and White Oak creeks district of the New River field and are found in greater numbers here than in any other section. Since they have been employed a great number have gone, but others have come in and the Polish population has been constantly increasing. A great number have come directly from the coal-mining fields of Austria-Hungary.

The percentage of single men and men married but not accompanied by their families, while large, is smaller among the Poles in this field than among any other southern or eastern European races, with the possible exception of Russians. There are at present about 750 men of this race employed in and about the mines in the region.

English, Scotch, and Welsh. - Some members of the English, Scotch, and Welsh races have been in this field since its development, and many of the fire bosses, foremen, superintendents, and managers are English and Scotch. None of the races taken singly have ever been employed in sufficient numbers to constitute any large proportion of the labor supply of the field. A majority of the members of these races came in from the mining districts of Pennsylvania and other mining regions of the United States. Some have come direct from the coal fields of England and Wales. Those coming direct from Great Britain are generally accompanied by families, and the proportion of single men contrasts with that which exists among the races of continental Europe. They usually associate freely witn Americans and are thoroughly Americanized. After the strike of 1902, as in the case of the native miners, a considerable number of men of these races went to fields that had been organized. There are now about 375 English, 100 Scotch, and 50 Welsh employed.

Germans. - Germans have been employed in the mines of this field for several years. Small numbers were employed in the field before the strike of 1902, but they were members of the race who had been in the United States for many years and had drifted into West Virginia from other coalfields, principally those of Pennsylvania and Ohio. For the past six or seven years, however, the German immigration to this field has been quite active. Not so many have come as compared with the more prominent races of southern and eastern Europe, but a sufficient number to be considered of importance in the labor supply of the field. These immigrants have come very largely from abroad directly to this field and probably one-third or more are from Russia. A majority of them are accompanied by families or are joined by their families soon after arriving. The Germans who have been in the country many years are thoroughly Americanized and associate freely with Americans. The more recent arrivals learn English much more quickly than the southern and eastern Europeans and maintain a better standard of living. About 350 men of this race are employed in and about the mines of the field.

Lithuanians and Russians. - Along with the other immigrant races brought into the field by operators to take the place of striking miners, and later to help in further development of the field, were Lithuanians and Russians. Some members of these races were secured from the anthracite region of Pennsylvania and others from labor agencies. Within more recent years a considerable portion of the Russians in the field have been secured from employment agencies.

The Lithuanians and Russians have never been employed in as great numbers as the races of eastern Europe already discussed. Many representatives of these races who have come to the field have left after a short period of time, but new ones are constantly arriving, and there is a slight increase from year to year in the total number employed. Practically all of the Russians are either single men or men who are married and not accompanied by families. As a consequence they live very largely on the boarding group plan.

The Lithuanians employed are principally young single men who have come to this country within recent years to avoid military duty. There are, however, several families of this race in the field, and the proportion of families is much higher among them than among the Russians. The young men move frequently and the number of this race is constantly changing. There are employed in the field at present about 175 Russians and about 150 Lithuanians.

Other races. - Many races of recent immigration in addition to those discussed in detail have also been employed since the strike of 1902. When taken separately none of these races are in sufficient numbers to be of importance, but taken collectively they constitute a rather important element of the field's labor force. They include Roumanians, Macedonians, Spaniards, Greeks, Syrians, Croatians, and a few other Slav races from Austria-Hungary. They are usually without exception bands of single men and are very migratory. They have been introduced into the field by employment agencies and are always considered temporary employees. Practically none ever enter the mines as miners, but engage in the rough unskilled work.

In 1908 there was a total of about 350 men of these various races employed in this field. The development in the field for the past ten years has kept pace with that of other sections of the State. The rapid expansion of operations has called for the addition of many men, and the recent immigrants were the most available source of supply. Throughout the period 1892 to 1907, as a general rule, there has been a great demand for labor at all times, and not much selection has been practiced in getting employees, which accounts in large measure for the large variety of races found. It is estimated that one large company operating in this field has spent more than $50,000 since 1902 in transporting labor to its mines.

The greatest numbers of immigrants have come to Fayette and Raleigh counties. This is attributable to two causes: First, in a considerable portion of Kanawha County and of the district known as the Kanawha field, the labor is organized, and, second, the greatest proportionate increases in production have been made in Fayette and Raleigh counties. Of these three counties, Raleigh has been most recently developed, and it is the only one which showed increase in number of men employed and in production of coal in 1908.

Owing to the fact that immigrants have been employed in the field for so short a time, they have been more or less unsettled and have always shown a disposition to move from mine to mine. This disposition was especially manifest during 1908, because of the financial and industrial depression. They were constantly moving throughout that year in search of the places offering the most regular employment. A great many of them went back to Europe to await better times and others were constantly coming in from other fields. In the case of Italians especially there was a movement from abandoned railway construction work to the mines.

The following table is an estimate of the number and percentage of the various races employed in the three counties collectively and in each county separately:

TABLE 475. - Number of employees in each specified county, by race, 1908.

Race Fayette County Raleigh County Kanawha County Total Per cent
      Number Per cent      Number Per cent      Number Per cent distribution
distribution distribution distribution
American, White 5,852 47.2 1,425 55.0 5,985 73.5 13,262 57.4
American, Negro 3,493 28.2 465 18.0 900 11.0 4,858 21.0
Italian 1,000 8.0 148 5.7 425 5.2 1,573 6.8
Magyar 450 3.6 122 4.7 227 2.7 799 3.4
Polish 500 4.4 100 3.8 180 2.2 780 3.4
English 300 2.4 56 2.1 20 .2 376 1.6
Slovak 150 1.2 60 2.3 135 1.6 345 1.5
German 225 1.8 35 1.3 85 1.0 345 1.5
Russian 105 .8 30 1.1 55 .6 190 .8
Lithuanian 85 .6 45 1.7 20 .2 150 .6
Scotch 40 .3 40 1.5 20 .2 100 .4
Other races 175 1.3 75 2.2 90 1.1 340 1.4
Total 12,375 100.0 2,571 100.0 8,141 100.0 23,087 100.0


This important coal field includes the counties of McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, and Logan, located in the extreme southern part of West Virginia, along the Virginia and Kentucky line, together with the adjoining county of Tazewell, in Virginia. The field is penetrated by the main line of the Norfolk and Western Railway and its many branches.

The Pocahontas field was not developed until the construction of the Norfolk and Western Railway in 1882. The first mines were operated at Pocahontas, in Virginia, and just over the line on the West Virginia side in the same vicinity. The field opened suddenly and, owing to the fine quality of coal produced, ready markets were found and development was rapid from the beginning. After starting at Pocahontas the development continued toward the west and was maintained somewhat ahead of the railway construction.

On first opening the mines such of the natives of the district as could be induced to work at mining were employed, but the supply of labor was inadequate almost from the beginning, while the laborers were irregular in their attention to work and generally inefficient as mine employees. On the opening of the mines negroes from the agricultural sections of Virginia and North Carolina also began to enter the field, and within a very short time the operators were sending out agents and inducing men to come. The negroes proved to be good employees, but, like the native white people, were inclined to be irregular workers. It was also hard to get enough men of these two races to keep up with the expansion of the industry, and in 1884 or 1885 a few Magyars were induced to come to the section from Pennsylvania, with the idea of starting immigration to the coal mines of the section. The Magyars were followed in a short time by Slovaks, but the numbers of both were small.

Before 1890 the increase in production was rapid, but was restricted to the eastern portion of the field. In that year the Norfolk and Western Railroad crossed the Elkhorn Mountains and pushed on to the West, giving transportation facilities to the largest and at present most important part of the field. The period or greatest development in this section has been within the past ten years or since 1898. In that year the production was 5,521,160 tons, and in 1907, when the greatest production was reached, it was 16,777,893 tons, or slightly more than three times that of 1898. This period has also been the one in which the greatest number of immigrants have arrived. Prior to 1898, the immigrants were few and confined to comparatively few mines and localities, but since that time they have been generally employed over the district and almost all mines have some immigrant labor. Within the above mentioned period, a considerable area of McDowell, and the greater part of Mercer and Mingo, and all of Logan counties, have been developed. Some conception of the remarkable expansion of the industry may be gathered from the fact that in 1904 Logan County produced 326 short tons, while in 1909 the output of this county was 1,683,456 short tons of coal.

The development prior to 1898 had required practically all the native labor that was available, and to carry on subsequent development labor from the outside sources has been used. This has been drawn from two sources - first, immigrants secured through advertising and employment agencies, together with the great number who have come directly from abroad and from other sections of the United States, upon the representations of friends and relatives in this field; second, negroes from the rural regions of Virginia and North and South Carolina, attracted by the wages paid at the mines. A great number of the immigrants in the newer fields, especially Italians, were brought in by railroad contractors, who were engaged in building the roads into the mining districts, and on completion of the construction work, they entered the service of the mining companies. Fully 25 per cent of the Italians employed in the district at present were brought in in this way.

Magyars. - The Magyar is the most important immigrant race employed in the field from a numerical standpoint, and has contributed more toward its development than has any other. Magyars first came to Pocahontas about 1884 and for several years were employed in mines in this vicinity only. Those first employed were from the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania and formed a nucleus for the future immigration of the race to that field. From time to time, as the industry grew, the number of Magyars employed increased. Many have come direct from their native country to friends and relatives here, others have come from sections of the United States in response to advertisements, through the efforts of employment agencies and because of the influence of friends and relatives already in the field. A great many of the Magyars leave the field, but the influx is sufficient to maintain a. constant increase. Pocahontas has always been the center for the Magyar race, and a large proportion of the total number of men employed in that community are Magyars. The proportion of families to adult males is much greater there and is much more stable than in other localities. There were about 2,000 Magyars employed in and about mines in this field in 1908.

Italians. - Next in numerical importance to the Magyars are the Italians. Members of this race have been employed in the mines and about the coke works of the field since 1890. A few were then employed in railroad construction, and some of these began working in the mines. The numbers employed were very small, however, and the race was not of importance until about 1900. The period of greatest Italian immigration has been from 1902 to 1908. In that period the development of the industry was so rapid that there was constant recourse to employment agencies in New York and other cities, and a larger number of Italians than of any other race was available. The percentage of families among the Italians is very small, and the men are constantly moving from mine to mine. They live for the most part in groups, which in many cases consist solely of males. Many each year leave the community for Europe, but there are always new arrivals sufficient to keep the number of the race on the increase. About 1,900 men of the Italian race were employed in the field in 1908, and fully 90 per cent of them were South Italians.

Slovaks and Poles. - Slovaks were employed in mines in the vicinity of Pocahontas as early as 1886, but in very small numbers. The first representatives came in from the coal fields of Pennsylvania. As with other foreign races employed in the field, the increase was very slight prior to 1898. The Poles arrived in this field about 1895, and, like the Slovaks, the first were from the bituminous coal fields of Pennsylvania. Very little increase occurred until about 1900. During the early period new arrivals were constantly being employed, but many of the older representatives of the race were moving to other localities. For the past eight years immigration both of Slovaks and Poles has been very active. Men were secured from labor agencies in New York and from other coal fields, and a great many came from abroad direct to the field. The proportion of families among the Slovaks and Poles is much smaller than among the Magyars, but greater than among the Italians. About 850 Slovaks and 610 Poles were employed in the field in 1908.

Russians and Lithuanians. - There were about 250 Russians and 100 Lithuanians employed in the field in 1908. The exact date of their arrival is unknown, for there is no record of any members of these races, except that probably a few arrived, prior to 1898. They were first introduced by employers, who secured them from New York labor agencies. Some men have been bringing in their families within the past two or three years, but the majority are single men or married men whose families are in Europe. They constantly move about from mine to mine, and it is not uncommon for a company to carry 25 or 30 men of either race on one pay roll and on the succeeding pay day to have none.

Other races. - Probably 225 men of various races of recent immigrants were also employed during 1908. These men were principally Roumanians, Croatians, Greeks, and Syrians. They are usually found living with other immigrant races, though in some instances, especially in the case of the Greeks, they form groups and live entirely by themselves. They are constantly moving from place to place and are never accompanied by families. Some members of these races have been employed since 1900, but there has been no permanent increase in the numbers of any one race.

During the last three months of 1907 and throughout 1908, there was a great deal of moving from place to place within the field by the immigrant population. A considerable number also went either to other coal fields or to Europe, but, on the other hand, some came in from other fields. The greater part of the moving occurred within the field, however, in the effort to secure regular employment.

The following tables show the approximate number of men of the various races-and the percentage of each employed in the district for each county separately and for the district as a whole:

TABLE 476. - Approximate number of employees in the Pocahontas coal fields, by race.
(Compiled from original and secondary material.)

Race. Employees. Per cent distribution.
American, White 6,690 34.4
American, Negro 6,738 34.7
Magyar 1,948 10.0
Italian 1,912 9.8
Slovak 861 4.4
Polish 613 3.2
Russian 242 1.2
Lithuanian 97 .5
German 82 .4
Other races 255 1.3
Total 19,438 100.0

TABLE 477. - Approximate number of employees in each specified county in the Pocahontas coal fields, by race.
(Compiled from original and secondary material.)

Race McDowell County Mercer County County Mingo County Tazewell County
Number Per cent Number Per cent Number Per cent Number Percent Number Percent
distribution distribution distribution distribution distribution
American, White 3,165 27.5 750 32.6 885 50.3 1,310 59.2 580 34.6
American, Negro 4,950 43.1 850 37.0 185 10.5 241 10.9 512 30.5
Magyar 1,144 10.0 150 6.5 209 11.9 220 9.9 225 13.4
Italian 1.080 9.4 312 13.1 185 10.5 195 8.8 140 8.3
Slovak 470 4.1 75 3.3 86 4.9 125 5.6 105 6.3
Polish 350 3.0 51 2.2 112 6.4 40 1.8 60 3.6
Russian 168 1.5 21 .9 33 1.9 10 .5 10 .6
Lithuanian 40 .3 22 1.0 15 .9 20 .9 0 .0
German 43 .4 24 1.5 5 .3 0 .0 10 .6
Other races 77 .7 45 2.0 46 2.6 52 2.4 35 2.1
Total 11,487 100.0 2,300 100.0 1,761 100.0 2,213 100.0 1,677 100.0

The racial composition of the field may be rendered more apparent by showing the elements in the population of several mining communities. Communities No. 1 and No. 2, submitted below, afford representative types of localities arising from the opening of new mines and the influx of an immigrant labor supply.

Community No. 1 is a purely mining community and one of a series of small towns along the Tug River. Very little municipal life is manifest. The town itself is the headquarters of a group of 12 mines, all operated under the same management. The general superintendent and chief officers of the mines are located there, and the settlement is larger than any other connected with these 12 mines.

The mines began operation in 1902. Previous to that year there were no settlers of any kind except some scattered mountaineers. The first employees were negroes and native whites, the former being in the large majority. The whites native-born of native father were for the most part mountain people who were unreliable as regular workers and few in number. Negroes could not be secured in sufficient force, and were unsatisfactory as steady miners. From the very first it was realized by the operators that the local labor supply was insufficient, and immigrants were obtained from New York in as large numbers as possible through the company's agents. At present the employees number about 3,000, and are racially classified as follows:

Per cent distribution

Native white.......................................................25.0
Roumanian............................................................. .1
Greek...................................................................... .4
Swedish.................................................................. .1
Other races............................................................. .6

There has been very little change in the racial composition of the force during the past five years, except that the negroes have been displaced by immigrants. It is stated that since this displacement has taken place it has been easier to retain immigrants. The reason for this detention, it is alleged, is that the companies pursued a policy of eliminating negroes who were overbearing to the immigrant and all who showed any decided tendency toward lawlessness.

The coal mines in and near Community No. 2 have been in operation since the year 1883. The earliest immigrants were Magyars and Russian Hebrews. The former were employed in the mines and the latter engaged in business. Magyars arrived as early as twenty years ago in very small numbers. The largest immigration, however, has occurred within the past ten years, Italians, Poles, Slovaks, Russians, and Magyars arriving during that period.

The present population of the community is, racially, as follows:

Families         Individuals
Italian 150
Polish 6 50
Magyar 150 700
Slovak 50 300
Russian 30
Hebrew, Russian 3 10


The following table shows the nationalities employed in the West Virginia mines and their relative proportions on June 30, 1908.

TABLE 478 - Nationalities employed in the West Virginia mines June 30, 1908.
(From Annual Report of the Department of Mines of West Virginia, 1908, p. 92)

Nationality Total number         Per cent distribution         Per cent distribution
employed         of employees         of all employees
        reporting nationality         reporting
American (white) 23,979 46.312 39.645
Negro 11,270 21.766 18.633
Italian 6,046 11.677 9.996
Hungarian 3,668 7.084 6.064
Polish 1,901 3.672 3.143
Austrian 1,013 1.956 1.675
Russian 851 1.644 1.407
Slavish 620 1.197 1.025
Lithuanian 506 .977 .837
English 488 .943 .807
German 430 .831 .711
Irish 264 .510 .437
Litvitch 180 .348 .298
Greek 147 .284 .243
Welsh 118 .228 .195
Scotch 115 .222 .190
Swedish 69 .133 .113
Belgian 25 .048 .041
Danish 23 .044 .038
Syrian 20 .039 .033
Macedonian 13 .025 .022
French 11 .021 .018
Roumanian 8 .015 .013
Spanish 7 .014 .012
Bohemian 5 .010 .008
Total 51,777 100.000
Unknown 8,707 14.396
Grand Total 60,484 100.000

As a result of an individual investigation among mine workers in all the coal districts of West Virginia original data as to race and country of birth were received from 5,963 employees. The detailed showing is submitted in the table below:

TABLE 479. - Number of male employees in West Virginia for whom information was secured by general nativity and race.


General nativity and race Number
Native-born of native father:
White 2,410
Negro 380

Native-born of foreign father,
by country of birth of father:
Austria-Hungary 17
Belgium 1
Canada 1
England 37
France 4
Germany 38
Ireland 64
Italy 12
Russia 8
Scotland 33
Sweden 1
Switzerland 2
Wales 6
Africa (country not specified) 1
Total 225
Total Native-born 3,015

Foreign-born, by race:
Bohemian and Moravian 3
Bulgarian 5
Canadian (other than French) 1
Croatian 256
Dutch 13
English 52
French 2
German 73
Greek 16
Hebrew (other than Russian) 1
Herzegovinian 3
Irish 17
Italian, North 342
Italian, South 1,026
Lithuanian 40
Magyar 319
Montenegrin 13
Polish 245
Roumanian 33
Russian 51
Ruthenian 4
Scotch 27
Servian 20
Slovak 333
Slovenian 15
Swedish 3
Syrian 5
Welsh 6
Austrian (race not specified) 24
Total foreign-born 2,948
Grand total 5,963

In the table above only 2,790 persons, or 46.8 per cent, are native- born of native father, while the remaining 53.3 per cent, or 3,173, are native-born of foreign father or foreign-born. The showing as to persons native-born of native father is striking, because the number of native whites is so large when compared with the negroes. Of the total 46.8 per cent the whites form 40.5 per cent, the blacks only 6.3 per cent. Of the foreign-born, the South Italians represent 17.3 per cent of the total number of working people scheduled; North Italians, 5.7 per cent; Slovaks, 5.6 per cent; Magyars, 5.4 per cent; Croatians, 4.5 per cent; Poles, 4.1 per cent; Germans, 1.2 per cent; English, 0.9 per cent; Irish, 0.3 per cent; Scotch, 0.4, and Russians, 1 per cent.

The workers considered above are employed, for the most part, either as miners and coke drawers or as unskilled laborers. The preponderance of the South Italians is worthy of notice, that race being exceeded only by the American whites.

Of the persons native-born of foreign father, the southeastern Europeans form the largest percentage.


The percentage of foreign-born persons in the United States each specified number of years is presented in the table following by race of individual.

TABLE 480. - Number of foreign-born male employees in West Virginia who have been in the United States each specified number of years, by race.


(By years in the United States is meant years since first arrival in the United States. No deduction is made for time spent abroad.)

Race Number Number in
United States
each specified
number of years.
Reporting Under 1 1. 2. 3. 4. 5 to 9 10 to 14 15 to 19 20 or
complete over
Bohemian 3 1 2
Bulgarian 5 1 4
Canadian (other than French) 1 1
Croatian 256 13 12 51 53 33 86 7 1
Dutch 10 1 1 2 1 2 3
English 50 1 2 1 14 3 4 25
French 2 2
German 73 3 3 12 15 4 17 4 8 7
Greek 15 2 8 4 1
Hebrew (other than Russian) 1 1
Herzegovinian 3 3
Irish 16 2 1 2 11
Italian, North 339 22 9 41 45 33 123 42 18 6
Italian, South 1,015 56 20 123 122 118 439 82 40 15
Lithuanian 40 2 4 3 10 9 8 4
Magyar 316 27 18 57 44 21 109 20 12 8
Montenegrin 13 3 9 1
Polish 244 16 9 39 34 13 89 18 16 10
Roumanian 33 2 5 9 7 3 7
Russian 41 1 4 5 10 4 11 3 1 2
Ruthenian 4 1 2 1
Scotch 26 1 1 1 3 20
Servian 20 1 5 5 1 8
Slovak 331 18 12 42 44 33 121 34 15 12
Slovenian 15 2 5 2 4 1 1
Swedish 3 2 1
Syrian 5 2 2 1
Welsh 6 1 5
Austrian (race not specified) 24 1 1 7 2 2 9 1 1
Total 2,910 167 104 419 399 271 1,059 226 134 131

The number of employees furnishing complete data is 2,910. Of this number, 1,059, or 36.4 per cent, have been in the United States from five to nine years; 419, or 14.4 per cent, have been in the United States two years; 399, or 13.7 per cent, have been in the United States three years; 271, or 9.3 per cent, have been in the United States four years; 226, or 7.4 per cent, have been in the United States from ten to fourteen years; 167, or 5.7 per cent, have been in the United States under one year; 134, or 4.6 per cent, have been in the United States from fifteen to nineteen years; 131, or 4.5 per cent, have been in the United States twenty years or over; 104, or 3.6 per cent, have been in the United States one year.

More South Italians entered in any one given period than did any other race represented. Of the South Italians, 439 have been in the United States from five to nine years. Those that have been in the United States one year and under one year, however, are fewer in numbers than are those in any other period of residence. It is noticeable that very few of the Croatians have been in the United States over nine years, and that more have been in the United States from five to nine years than appear in any other period. The North Italians, like the South Italians, predominate. in the period of from five to nine years' residence. Those that have been here ten years and over are few. The Magyars, Poles, and Slovaks appear mostly in the five to nine year period.

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