By CARL GREEN
Mt. Olive, IL – The first annual Union Miners Cemetery Walk will be held on Saturday, Oct. 15, featuring appearances by actors portraying Mother Jones, General Alexander Bradley and other figures from the history of Labor.
The Cemetery Walk will immediately follow the Mother Jones Foundation’s annual tribute to the Battle of Virden and its part in Labor history, also at the cemetery, starting at noon, and featuring speakers from the United Mine Workers to recognize the struggles of miners to form unions.
Foundation President Jack Dyer will speak, along with UMW Secretary-Treasurer Levi Allen and District 12 President Steve Earl. Traditional Labor songs are on the program along with personal stories from anyone who wishes to speak.
The first Cemetery Walk will immediately follow the Foundation program at about 1 p.m. John Alexander, labor historian and expert on the Battle of Virden, will explain how Miners’ Day originated.
Mother Jones and “General” Alexander Bradley will “return” from the past to speak, along with members of local families who will tell the stories of an Italian immigrant coal mining family, a contemporary labor organizer, and a soldier from Mt. Olive who died in World War I. Labor songs will accompany the program.
The cemetery was founded after the nearby Battle of Virden in 1898, in which miners were in a gun battle with soldiers guarding scab workers being brought in on a train during a strike. It is believed that seven miners and four guards were killed. The cemetery was established to provide a place to bury four of the miners, and the great Labor organizer Mary Harris “Mother Jones” later asked that she be buried there with “her boys.”
The public is invited to the free events. More information may be found on the Foundation and Cemetery Walk Facebook pages, or call Terry Reid of the Foundation at 217-491-1298 or Cemetery Walk organizer Joann Condellone at 618-659-8759. Mt. Olive is about 40 northeast of St. Louis on Interstate 55.