The Bull Moose Special: Machine guns, Trains and Murder Coal War 3
The Bull Moose Special
The Bull Moose Special was an armored train deployed by the coal operators during thePaint Creek-Cabin Creek Strikeof 1912–14. The train’s name derived from the fact that the men who commissioned it were tied to the Progressive Party of West Virginia, nicknamed the Bull Moose Party after the national party’s presidential candidate, Theodore Roosevelt. Outfitted at theC&O Railroadshops in Huntington, the train originally consisted of a locomotive, a passenger car, and an iron-plated baggage car equipped with two machine guns. The Special operated during the fall and winter of 1912, escorting other trains hauling nonunion workers into the strike district. Its most notorious trip came in February 1913, when the train was used to attack a tent colony of strikers at the Paint Creek community of Holly Grove.
The attack was triggered on February 7 when strikers from Holly Grove fired on a company ambulance and attacked the store at nearby Mucklow. Later that night, Kanawha County Sheriff Bonner Hill, Paint Creek coal operator Quinn Morton, a number of deputies, mine guards, and C&O Railway police boarded the Bull Moose Special armed with arrest warrants for unnamed persons. As the darkened train approached Holly Grove, two blasts from the engine’s whistle apparently signaled the beginning of machine gun and rifle fire from the Bull Moose Special into the tents of sleeping miners and their families. Several people were wounded, but only one striker, Cesco Estep, was killed. Estep was trying to get his son and pregnant wife to safety. In revenge, the enraged strikers attacked the mine guards’ camp at Mucklow two days later.