The Herrin City Council in Southern Illinois approved additional cemetery excavation work to find the remains of victims of a massacre during a 1922 labor strike at a nearby coal mine owned by the Southern Illinois Coal Co. The research team hopes to locate and exhume the forgotten graves of the victims of the 1922 Herrin Massacre.
When the United Mine Workers of America started a nationwide strike on April 1, 1922, W. J. Lester, the owner of the Southern Illinois Coal Company, complied with the strike. But in June Lester went back on his agreement with the union and hired nonunion workers and armed security from Chicago to keep production going at his mine.
Supporters of the unionized workers went to Herrin when they heard out about the situation, and the union workers and their supporters exchanged gunfire with the guards. After two union workers were killed in skirmishes on June 21st, hundreds more union supporters showed up at the mine on the 22nd and the nonunion workers surrendered.
The nonunion workers and guards were told to leave the area but were walked about two miles from the mine and executed. 19 people were killed that day, and one other worker died a few months later. In all 22 people were killed during the 1922 Herrin Massacre. Though there was a trial no one was convicted for the massacre.
On Monday, Herrin city officials agreed to let anthropologists, historians, and geologists continue their work at the Herrin City Cemetery. Workers on the project reported that they had so far uncovered five sets of remains in unmarked burial plots that had been sold to other families. Herrin’s administrators have allowed the excavators to present their results every couple of months rather than weekly.
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