Paint and Cabin Creek Murders

Francis F. Estep

Francis F. Estep and Cleve Woodrum were both shot and killed by Baldwin-Felts mine guards during the 1912-13 strike on Paint and Cabin Creeks. Both were given a bronze tablet with the seal of the United Mine Workers of America for their graves. The inscription reads,"Dedicated to the memory of ___________ for distinguished service and self-sacrifice in the cause of labor and advancement of the United Mine Workers of America. Each inscription is the same except for the name.
Francis F. Estep was born at Hudnall(Kanawha Co, WV) on October 15, 1882, and used the nickname of Cesco. He married Maud Gallian, born in KY in 1890. Cesco could barely support his family, even though he worked ten hours a day and six days a week. He decided to go with the union while he was working at Acme on Cabin Creek. He then had to move out of the company house, his home and and settled in a small frame house in Holly Grove.
On May 7, 1912 the first group of Baldwin-Felts mine guards arrived at Paint Creek, and the first of June, the coal operators declared that the strikers would be evicted in five days. The Baldwin-Felts mine guards began carrying out those orders. Hundreds of miners and their families ended up living in tents in the Paint Creek area. This caused a lot of hatred and hard feelings on the part of the miners since the mine guards were ruthless in ensuring that everyone was evicted.
Martial Law was in effect twice in this area, but did not settle anything as the problems continued to escalate. On the morning of Febuary 7, 1913 there was another shootout between guards and miners at Holly Grove. Rumors began circulating that guards were going to wipe out the miners in the tents and the attack would come from the "Bull Moose Special". The "Bull Moose Special" was an armored built by the coal operators to transport scabs and mine guards.
That same night, about 10:30 P.M. Cesco Estep, his family, and other men that were visiting in his home heard the train and machine gun fire. The men ran out the door and before Cesco could get back inside, he was cut down by the hail of bullets. Over a hundred bullets pierced the side of the house, but only Cesco was killed. He was shot in the face. Maud Estep, in shock grabbed her husband's gun and emptied it at the disappearing train.
Maud Estep had to be taken to the hospital the next day and was unable to attend her husband's funeral. Guards fired into the people gathered for Cesco's funeral. He is buried at the Holly Grove Cemetery on Paint Creek.
Maud Estep never returned to their home, and eventually remarried. There was no Social Security, union benefits and no welfare to help in those times.
Click HERE for Cleve Woodrum's story.

Written by Gracie Stover
"Blood Flows on the Creeks", by Lois MCLean. Goldenseal Magazine The Goldenseal Book of the West Virginia Mine Wars; page 25.
WV Coal Mining
Page designed January, 1999