I come to you as your Perry County Probate and Juvenile Judge where it is my privilege to serve the good folks of Perry County. I have chosen to write about Labor Day and how Perry County has a connection to Labor Day.
Labor Day is a holiday that sometimes signifies the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. Do you know what Labor Day really stands for? Labor Day, always the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the achievements of American workers. It is a day set aside to honor the contributions workers have made to strengthen our country.
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated Sept. 5, 1882 in New York City. States began adopting the holiday and on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a law making the first Monday of September the official Labor Day holiday.
Are you now wondering what the Perry County connection is? Last week my son Cooper was home from Syracuse, New York, and we visited Robinson’s Cave in New Straitsville. Robinson’s Cave sits on a beautiful hillside in New Straitsville where large groups of Hocking Valley coal miners would meet in secret to discuss their concerns over their working conditions.
Approximately in 1870, labor organizing meetings were held in the 1,000 square foot cave. Christopher Evans, a well known union organizer used Robinson’s Cave to hold meetings to lead miners through the long Hocking Valley coal strike that lasted two years. These meetings gave miners a voice. Robinson’s Cave also was used for non-union matters such as when the miners set the mines on fire in a desperate attempt to end the strike.
These historic meetings is why Robinson’s Cave is referred to as the secret birthplace of the United Mine Workers. Cooper and I also visited the Tecumseh Theatre in Shawnee. We had a wonderful tour by Grant Joy and learned that the coal company owners would often go to Wales, Ireland, and Scotland recruiting workers for the mines. They often would go to Ellis Island and also recruit workers offering the folks coming to this great country jobs and a chance at a new life in the beautiful hills of southeastern Ohio.
We learned that some of our roads and landmarks were named by some of the early folks who settled in Perry County having immigrated from other countries looking for a new life. A few of the roads and landmarks we learned were Irish Ridge Road and Welsh Hill. As I think of roads I am curious about others!
Labor Unions are often criticized in modern day discussions. However, if we think about the history of the workers in our country we must always remember what they went through and the conditions they worked under. We must never forget that the unions brought us the weekend!
As Labor Unions fought for us to have weekends, let us not forget all the workers who are currently out of work as we remember the history of Labor Day. Cooper and I enjoyed our time learning the history of beautiful Perry County and encourage you to take a trip in Perry County!
As always it is my pleasure to be your Judge.