West Virginia Mine Wars talk on Tuesday

Douglas Estepp will give a presentation on the West Virginia Mine Wars, a topic close to his heart, and his appearance in the PBS American Experience documentary “The Mine Wars.”

The presentation will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Shenandoah County Library. The presentation will include a lecture, powerpoint presentation and a question and answer session afterwards.

Estepp said this will be his first presentation in Shenandoah County.

“On Tuesday, I will be providing an overview of the mine wars and their lingering contemporary effects on southern West Virginia,” he said. “I will also be discussing my participation in the making of the PBS-American Express documentary ‘The Mine War.'”

Estepp said he grew up in Mingo County, West Virginia, in a family of coal miners, but knew little about the West Virginia mine wars. After spending time in the library and searching the archives as a high school freshman, he learned about the wars by chance.

After 40 years, he is still researching and spreading the word about the effects the wars had on the residents of West Virginia, he said. While trying to save the old Jefferson Jail from demolition from 1999 to 2008, he began educating the public on the importance of the jail, the history of the mine wars and the 1922 treason trials. After the $2 million renovation of the jail, he turned his efforts to the preservation of Blair Mountain, which was under threat of destruction by mountaintop removal mining.

To show the importance of Blair Mountain as a historical tourism resource, he created a tour to explore the history of the mine wars, called Coal Country Tours. He said this will be the seventh year of offering the West Virginia Mine Tours, Hatfield & McCoy Feud Tours and others across Central Appalachia.

Estepp has been featured in articles by USA Today Travel, the Baltimore Sun, CNN, the Huffington Post, PBS’s All Things Considered, the National Trust and West Virginia Pubcast. He said he has also taught classes at West Virginia University, Shepherd University and Frederick Community College.

A few years ago, he added, he was contacted by Randy MacLowry, producer of American Experience and was asked to show him around Blair Mountain for a documentary. Mine Wars aired on Jan. 26 with Estepp featured throughout the show. The documentary can be streamed at http://www.pbs.org/video/2365647481/.

In partnership with Shenandoah County Parks & Recreation, a three-day West Virginia Mine War and Coal Heritage Tour will take place May 19-21, departing from Martinsburg, West Virginia,  and Woodstock. For more information, visit http://tiny.cc/xshcky.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com