What was the Esau scrip?

Oct 30, 2013

Now we return to the second of a three-part story about the haunted history of the Whipple Company Store in Fayette County. The store was built at the turn of the 20th century as West Virginia coal miners began agitating to bring the union to the southern coal fields, and is now operated as a museum of coal camp life.

Producer Catherine Moore visited the store with several locals for a story on the paranormal activity reported there, but got a lot more than she bargained for. In addition to the usual ghost tales, we heard yesterday the story of Esau scrip - issued to women specifically, with their very bodies as collateral on the loan. But as we’ll hear, not everyone is so sure that these stories add up to HISTORY. Here’s part two of “The Soul of a Company Store.”

Credit wikimedia / Wikimedia Commons

    

"We’ve had multitudes of women and tell us as little girls they remember their mothers coming to the company store and one of the things that a lot of more the lovely ladies had to do was come upstairs.  Some of the young girls had the stories shared by their mothers stating that they would be escorted in the shoe room. There would be a selected guard that would be waiting for them and they would receive a brand new pair of shoes with no accountability other than to perform whatever the service the guard wished to have in lieu of pay.  We had one woman in particular share with us that her mother was a young girl about 25 years old and bought her first pair of shoes here and the women’s entire life those shoes remained in the shoe box on her closet shelf never to be worn and she refused to wear another pair of shoes her entire life.  She made her shoes out of cardboard, newspapers and twine.” Joy Lynn, owner and tour guide, Whipple Company Store

“It is disturbing to myself and those who came before me from that area to think that the females of our family could have been forced into that situation without us reacting. Those men I know from years of research, family unit and unit of friends, would have done one of two things.  They would have either left the camp as soon as they knew this kind of behavior was required or a potential danger or they would react to it violently.”  Dr. Paul Rakes, former coal miner now history professor at West Virginia University Tech

“Don’t look now but it did come out in a violent way. Blair Mountain was about the union card but it was also about settling the scores and solving the Esau problem and the way the scrip was administered, the entire social system and the cultural system that was imposed on the miners." Wes Harris, sociologist,  labor organizer, editor "When Miners March" and "Dead Ringers: Why Miners March."