Taylorville

Located 27 miles southeast of Springfield, Taylorville [1] is an important town on the landscape of coal mining in southern Illinois, particularly in the “coal mine wars” of the 1930s that pitted the United Mine Workers union against the Progressives union as explained in the Labor History page of this website. As well, Taylorville miners sought remediation of their poor labor conditions before that split when in 1912, for instance, four hundred of them went out on strike demanding better and more safety equipment.

In 2003 two retired Lithanian-American miners, William A. Stone and Ron Verbiski, created The Christian County Coal Mine Museum in their home town of Taylorville (Charles E. Martin, current Director). This museum is well worth a visit.

Kevin Corley is the author of two fascinating books of historical fiction about the coal mine wars as they played out in Taylorville and its area: Sixteen Tons covers 1898-1933 and Throw Out the Water [2] deals with 1933-1937. The novels are especially worthwhile because most of the dialogue in them is taken from the oral history interviews Mr. Corley conducted with surviving miners from those times. You can watch a very informative interview with Mr. Corley (conducted by Mark McDonald for “Illinois Stories”). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLNElpq5r7U

In the interview we learn that the Courthouse was an active locus of the mine war between the UWM and Progressives. So violent was the situation that the machine gun-toting National Guard was stationed in buildings around the Courthouse square and also were in the square with bayonets. They arrested hundreds of Progressives and held them in the Courthouse – but the miners jumped out the windows and escaped. Thus, the Courthouse, too, is a point of labor interest in Taylorville.
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Notes
[1] Several newspaper stories about Christian County’s coal mining history are:
“Delving into history: Christian County museum documents coal mining and its dangers” buy Tony Reid. Herald & Review, January 9, 2006.
“A miner and his museum”, blog, June 3, 2015, see: https://lithspringfield.com/2015/01/03/a-miner-and-his-museum/
[2] The phrase “throw out the water” means going out on strike. Miners would empty their drinking water pail as a signal to all men below to go to the surface in a work stoppage.