History will come alive in Mt. Olive Oct.
The issue: Local history usually doesn’t come from text books.
Our view: It is through events like the Union Miners Cemetery walk that our legacy survives.
MT. OLIVE (Oct. 12, 2017) – When one considers Macoupin County tourism, Carlinville immediately comes to mind. There’s the courthouse, the old jail, the Historical Society and, of course, Route 66. This weekend, another Macoupin County community plans to tout its own history.
When it comes to the history of Macoupin County, despite having its own section of Route 66, we feel Mt. Olive and its ties to Mother Jones and the labor movement are painfully overlooked.
This Saturday, Oct. 15, in Union Miners Cemetery, two events designed to celebrate Coal Miners Day and the legacy of Mother Jones will be held. The day will begin at noon when the Springfield-based Mother Jones Foundation will present their annual tribute to the Battle of Virden and the role it played in local labor history. The tribute will included labor songs and speakers, including Foundation President Jack Dyer, Secretary Treasurer Levi Allen of the United Mine Workers of America and District 12 President Steve Earl.
The tribute will be followed by a cemetery walk which will be guided by Mother Jones. Labor historian John Alexander will provide details on the Battle of Virden and will explain how Coal Miners Day originated.
Members of local families will be on hand to provide their family stories, including that of an Italian immigrant coal mining family, a contemporary labor organizer and a Mt. Olive World War I soldier who lost his life in that war.
For a few years, the Carlinville Tourism Committee held a similar event in the old City Cemetery. Tombstone Tales involved actors in period dress who told historically accurate stories of the many notable local figures buried there. Events of this nature are both fascinating and informative.
The thing about history, be it world history, national history or local history is it belongs to all of us. Unfortunately, local history isn’t usually taught in schools with much detail, so the only way for it to survive is through word of mouth and events of this nature.
It’s really easy to fall into the mindset that history and the things that occurred 100 years ago or more doesn’t affect us now. Nothing could be further from the truth.
While this column is about the labor movement, the premise applies to all things historic. Even though most of us weren’t around during those historic times, our ancestors were. Our grandparents, great-grandparents or even great-great-grandparents were there. They lived it and experienced the labor movement in real time. Those are the people from which we came. They raised our parents, or they raised our grandparents or our great-grandparents. The faiths and ideals of those people have been handed down from generation to generation and that makes us who we are.
The notion that what happened 119 years ago doesn’t affect those living today simply isn’t true. Those who raised us, our parents and our grandparents were profoundly shaped by the labor movement in Macoupin County and it left an imprint on us whether we believe it our not. If we forget that struggle and if we ignore the progress made since that time, we deny part of who we are.