Bob Powell Published

February 7, 1913: The Bull Moose Express Used to Attack Striking Miners

This Week in West Virginia History is a co-production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia Humanities Council.

On February 7, 1913, striking miners from the Holly Grove tent encampment in Kanawha County fired on a coal company-owned ambulance and attacked a store at nearby Mucklow.

Their actions triggered one of the most notorious incidents of the bloody Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike.

That night, Kanawha County Sheriff Bonner Hill, Paint Creek coal operator Quinn Morton, and a number of deputies, mine guards, and Chesapeake & Ohio Railway police boarded an armored train to exact their revenge on the miners’ tent colony at Holly Grove. Coal operators had equipped the train, known as the Bull Moose Special, with iron plate and machine guns.

As the train approached Holly Grove in the darkness, machine guns and rifles were fired into the tents of the sleeping miners and their families. Several people were wounded, and one striker, Cesco Estep, was killed while trying to escort his son and pregnant wife to safety. The enraged strikers retaliated by attacking the mine guards’ camp at Mucklow two days later.

The Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike, which ended several months later, is the deadliest strike in West Virginia history.