W.Va. tour to focus on labor battle sites

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Coal Country Tours, the company that last year took Pittsburghers to see sites of the Hatfields & McCoys feud in West Virginia, is offering another tour of that state, this one to sites used during a struggle by labor leaders to unionize mine workers between 1897 and 1922.

The bus for the West Virginia Mine War Tour departs the Walmart parking lot on Route 50 in Carnegie at 8 a.m. Sept. 13, and heads to southern West Virginia. It will bring the tourists back to Carnegie about 7 p.m. Sept. 15, after tours of such places as a former coal mine and two sites where people died in battles between miners and coal companies' representatives.

The cost is $429 per person for double occupancy, $395 if the traveler is in an Osher Lifelong Learning Program or Elderhostel. The fee covers two nights' stay at the Twin Falls State Park lodge, transportation, all admissions and entrance fees and three lunches, said Doug Estepp of Shenandoah County, Va., the owner-operator of Coal Country Tours and the tour guide.

"I feel obligated to tell this story," he said. "It's just a fascinating and colorful history."

After three hours of travel from Carnegie, the tour starts in Beckley, W.Va. First there's lunch, then comes a dramatic visit at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.

"We go 1,800 feet underground with retired miners," Mr. Estepp said.

On Saturday, the tour goes to Matewan, "a little town with a famous gunfight in 1920. Ten men were killed," he said. There's a re-enactment of the gunfight. Later, the tourists go to the Blair Mountain field "where a big battle took place."

Stops on Sunday include the town of Bramwell.

"That town is like walking on a movie set with mansions from 1895 to 1920," Mr. Estepp said. "It's known as the 'Home of Millionaires.' " That's because coal barons, mine operators and bankers and financiers lived there, he said.

To sign up for the trip, call 1-540-233-0543, email coalcountrytours@gmail.com or visit the website coalcountrytours.com.


Pohla Smith: psmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1228.


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