Strongest Men in History Hoisted Cattle and Crushed Stones to Show Their Might

Strongest Men in History Hoisted Cattle and Crushed Stones to Show Their Might

These days, strongmen can show off their power in weightlifting competitions and WWE wrestling matches, but in earlier times, men hoisted bulls, iron wheels and seemingly immovable carts to prove their might. Here are some of the most legendary strongmen in history.

Milo of Croton made ancient headlines with his outlandish training regimen

Ancient Greece had plenty of legendary heroes, but one of them—Milo of Croton—was no myth. The Olympic wrestler and strongman’s feats of strength and daring inspired art and literature millennia after his death.

During the sixth century B.C., Milo won 10 Olympic wrestling titles and multiple other titles during an athletic career that spanned decades. He quickly gained a reputation not just for his wins, but for his training regimen. He “reportedly ate twenty pounds of meat, as much bread, and drank eighteen pints of wine each day,” writes historian Michael B. Poliakoff, “and once carried a four-year-old bull around the stadium at Olympia before eating it in the course of one day.” He also reportedly saved people in a collapsing building by holding up a pillar until they could escape.

As with many ancient tales, it’s impossible to know how many of Milo’s feats were real and how many were legend. His death certainly sounds like it: According to lore, he was devoured by wolves after he got stuck in a tree.

READ MORE: These Historic Strongmen Could Bend Frying Pans and Lift and Elephant

Maximinus Thrax intimidated ancient Romans with his massive physique

Maximinus Thrax was the first non-Roman Emperor, and is widely considered to be one of Rome’s most ineffective leaders. But he was noteworthy for another reason: What historian Paul N. Pearson calls “his freakish physique.” The muscular leader impressed the public during a series of athletic events in which he crushed rocks with his bare hands and pulled heavy wagons by his own strength.

Part of the reason for his strength was undoubtedly his physical size. Ancient Roman writers claimed that Maximinus stood 8 feet, 6 inches tall. In his History of the Empire, ancient historian Herodian writes that “He was in any case a man of such frightening appearance and size that there is no obvious comparison to be drawn with any of the best-trained Greek athletes or warrior elite of the barbarians.”

That strength didn’t translate to the strongman’s political career, however. His rule of Rome only lasted from 235 to 238, and came to an end when he was assassinated by his own soldiers after a disastrous, war-mongering rule.

Louis Uni popularized free weights

During the 19th century, the world was swept by reports of the feats of a strongman known only as “Apollon the Mighty.” In reality, he was Louis Uni, a French weightlifter who took his show on the road. As a teenager, Uni ran away from home to join the circus, convinced that he should be a strongman. He spent the rest of his life traveling, wrestling and doing competitive weightlifting.

Wrestling was a dominant strength-building sport at the time. However, Uni preferred to train using free weights—or whatever weighted objects he could get his hands on. Eventually, they became part of his act: train wheels, iron bars and other pieces of metal.

Uni’s strength, writes historian Edmond Desbonnet, “can be traced to his massive bone structures and unusually large muscles.” During his heyday, people made casts of his arms. Compared with those of other strongmen, they are massive, with biceps measuring over 20 inches.

READ MORE: Four Strongmen on What It Takes to Become a Modern-Day Hercules

Louis Cyr added showmanship to strength

His name is not well known today, but during the late 19th century Louis Cyr was considered the world’s strongest man. Even now, his feats of strength may just qualify him as the strongest man who ever lived. Born in Quebec, Cyr was reportedly inspired by Milo of Croton as a teenager and took the ancient athlete’s lead, eating massive amounts of food and honing his developing muscles by doing things like pulling heavy carts and picking up objects that weighed as much as Milo’s legendary bulls. His feats of strength included lifting a horse off the ground, lifting a weight of more than 500 pounds with his finger and pushing a train car up a hill.

Historian Josh Buck thinks Cyr was the epitome of a “vaudevillian strongman”—a strongman whose flair for entertainment was just as muscular as his physique. Though his life story has been romanticized, he is still considered the strongest man ever. But if he hadn’t traveled the world doing things like attaching himself to horses and raising a platform on which 20 large men stood, he may never have gained that oversized reputation.

Žydrūnas Savickas smashed modern records

Modern powerlifting has an undisputed hero: Lithuanian Žydrūnas Savickas, whose almost unworldly feats of strength have earned him a dizzying number of trophies and honors. For 25 years, he’s competed in strongman competitions and earned a reputation for his power and unbridled strength.

Savickascan bench press 285 kilograms—the equivalent of 628 pounds, and deadlift the equivalent of nearly 900. He reportedly became interested in the sport after seeing it on TV. Though he was just 17, he immediately began setting records. To date, he has eight Arnold Strongman Classic titles.

Widely considered to be the world’s most challenging strongman competition, the event requires participants to do things like lift timbers weighing over 800 pounds, carry a 1,116-pound yoke on their shoulders for 35 feet, and lift a dumbbell used by classic strongmen—feats that would make Milo, Maximinus, Uni and Cyr proud.

Watch a preview of The Strongest Man in History. Premieres Wednesday, July 10 at 10/9c.

Classical Sources for the Milo Stories

Milo, who was the most renowned of wrestlers, and lived in terms of intimacy with Pythagoras, who abode long in this city[meaning Croton]. They relate that at a banquet of the philosophers, when one of the pillars in the hall gave way, Milo sustained the ceiling while they all escaped, and afterwards saved himself. (Strabo, the Geography, VI, 12 trans. Hamilton)

Statue portending to represent Pythagoras

Critical of Milo for his reliance on brawns over brains:

Nothing can be more truly contemptible than a circumstance which is related concerning the famous Milo of Crotona. This man, when he was become old, observing a set of athletic combatants that were exercising themselves in the public circus: “Alas!” said he, bursting into a flood of tears and stretching forth his arm, “alas! these muscles are now totally relaxed and impotent.” Frivolous old man it was not so much the debility of thy body as the weakness of thy mind thou hadst reason to lament, as it was by the force of mere animal prowess, and not by those superior excellences which truly ennoble man, that thou hadst rendered thy name famous. (Cicero, Sen. 9.27, trans, Melmouth)

Whoever has a reasonable portion of strength, and exerts it to the best advantage will feel no great need of more. Milo is said to have walked the race course at Olympia, carrying a live bull on his shoulders. Which would you rather have, strength like his, or a genius like that of Pythagora? Employ the boon of bodily vigor well while it remains when it is gone, do not bewail it, unless indeed, young men should crave boyhood, and the middle-aged should covet youth. (Cicero, Cato the Elder: Or, a Treatise on Old Age 10.33)

On Milo and the Wolves:

It is likely that, trusting to the same strength, he met his fate as related by some, for whilst making his way through a thick wood, he strayed considerably out of the path, when finding a great log with wedges in it, he thrust both his hands and feet into the fissure, intending to split it completely, but was only able to force it enough to let the wedges fall out, when the gaping log presently closed on him, and he, being taken as in a snare, was devoured by wild beasts. (Strabo, the Geography, VI, 12, trans Hamilton)

The 8 Most Badass Feats of Strength from the Ancient World

Since the dawn of time, cultures from all over the world have equated strength with awesomeness.

Here are some of our favorite heroes from the ancient world, men who weren’t just known for their prowess in battle (there were plenty of those), but for their phenomenal strength.

8) Milo of Croton: Running a mile with an ox on his shoulders

One of ancient Greece’s most famous wrestling champions, some say Milo is the inventor of progressive strength training, owing to his habit of lifting a growing bull every day.

Running a mile with an ox around his shoulders might sound impossible, but they say Milo ate forty pounds of meat and bread every meal, so hey, maybe he could have handled it. He’s also said to have saved the life of the triangle-loving Pythagoras by holding the roof of a collapsing temple as the philosopher ran to safety. He reportedly died after becoming stuck in a tree he was trying to tear apart and getting eaten by wolves.

7) Maximinus Thrax: Punching out a mule

Historians are pretty sure this famously enormous Roman emperor suffered from gigantism, a condition that results from the brain producing too much growth hormone. (Statues of him feature noticeable bulging in the face, which is a symptom.)

Plenty of tall tales surround Maximinus, with reports that he was over eight feet tall, consumed eighteen bottles of wine at each meal, and crushed rocks in his fists, but our favorite feat has to be the fact that he was known for punching out a mule to demonstrate his strength. Poor sucker.

6) Bybon: Single-arm overhead pressing 316 pounds

All we really know about the ancient Greek lifter Bybon is the enormous block of sandstone that was found at Olympia with a handle carved into its side. On top, it bore an inscription: “Bybon, son of Phola, has lifted me over his head with one hand.”

Some historians actually take this one seriously, arguing that Bybon might have lifted it with two hands and held it up with one. Today, you can check out the real stone at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia.

5) Eumastas: Deadlifting 1,060 pounds

When archaeologists uncovered an enormous boulder on the Greek island of Thera, they noticed something unusual. Dating back to the sixth century B.C., the stone bore an inscription that was pretty similar to that of Bybon: “Eumastas, the son of Critobulus, lifted me from the ground.”

Whether that was a lift to the hips or simply moving it off of the ground, it’s a pretty notable feat. Then again, you have to first believe that scratchings on an old boulder constitute an official lifting record.

4) Hercules: Cleaning the poop of 300 horses

After committing some pretty grave sins, Hercules asked the gods for forgiveness and they said sure, just spend twelve years completing twelve impossible tasks.

The labors of Hercules involved slaying hydras and capturing a three-headed demon dog, but the toughest must have been cleaning the Augean stables, which housed a thousand cattle and hadn’t been cleaned in thirty years. To make matters worse, they were “divinely healthy,” which for some reason meant that they pooped way more than your average cow.

He managed by using his strength to dig trenches into two rivers and rerouting them right through the stables. Talk about functional strength.

3) Samson: Pulling down a stone temple

The Bible’s Incredible Hulk, Samson is often remembered for the time he killed a thousand men with a donkey’s jawbone, but after losing his strength to a bad haircut, things were looking pretty grim.

The Philistines captured him and brought him to the temple where they were celebrating his arrest, the goal being for a humiliated Samson to provide entertainment for the troops. Instead, he punched through the central pillars, brought down the roof, and crushed everyone to death.

2) Badang: Shot putting 37 tons

Hailing from ancient Singapore, Badang was the weakest slave on an Indonesian farm until he captured a water spirit who gave him superhuman strength. (He first had to eat piles and piles of the spirit’s fish-ridden vomit, so he probably deserved his reward.) Rumors of his strength spread far and wide, and an Indian king sent over his favorite strongman to challenge Badang.

According to legend, the strongman deadlifted a giant slab of sandstone to his knees in a contest. (No rep!) In response, Badang cleaned it and hurled it into the mouth of the Singapore river.

What is believed to be the Singapore Stone was found in the Singapore River in 1819, covered in a mysterious, indecipherable alphabet. Given its measurements, it weighed about thirty-seven tons. Today, part of it is on display in the National Museum of Singapore, where it has been declared a historic relic.

1) Karna: Holding up the entire universe

Karna was a warrior known for always following the code of honor, but his strength intimidated the gods, who constantly threw curses at him. During a battle described in the Indian epic Mahabharata, Karna fired arrows with enough force that he was able to halt and reverse the progress of an enemy chariot.

Oh, and it was being driven by the god Vishnu, so the chariot weighed as much as the entire universe. Sure, the bow was also made by gods, but that’s still some pretty damn serious horizontal pulling strength.

The Cyr Legend Begins

When Cyr was 18 years old he performed his first notable lift. Josh Buck of the University of Maryland writes that “If legend can be believed, Cyr did not know the potential of his own strength until he lifted a farmer’s cart out of a muddy rut in the dirt road.” (The caveat about believing legends is duly noted and may apply to some other accomplishments of Cyr).

The farmer was greatly impressed, and so he should have been, and he alerted the young Atlas to a competition for strongmen in Boston. There was only one task: could the contestants lift a horse. Apparently, Cyr put on a theatrical warm up and hoisted the animal off its hooves with ease.

The next move was a contest with David Michaud who, at the time, was billed as the strongest man in Canada. A match was arranged to see who could lift the heaviest stone.

Cyr defeated his older rival by picking up a stone variously quoted as weighing 480 to 522 pounds. The Dictionary of Canadian Biography adds that Cyr lifted 𠇊 218-pound barbell with one hand (to Michaud’s 158 pounds) and a weight of 2,371 pounds on his back (to his opponent’s 2,071).”

A new Strongest Man in Canada was crowned.

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The name "Gigantes" is usually taken to imply "earth-born", [6] and Hesiod's Theogony makes this explicit by having the Giants be the offspring of Gaia (Earth). According to Hesiod, Gaia, mating with Uranus, bore many children: the first generation of Titans, the Cyclopes, and the Hundred-Handers. [7] But Uranus hated his children and, as soon as they were born, he imprisoned them inside of Gaia, causing her much distress. And so Gaia made a sickle of adamant which she gave to Cronus, the youngest of her Titan sons, and hid him (presumably still inside Gaia's body) to wait in ambush. [8] And when Uranus came to lie with Gaia, Cronus castrated his father, and "the bloody drops that gushed forth [Gaia] received, and as the seasons moved round she bore . the great Giants." [9] From these same drops of blood also came the Erinyes (Furies) and the Meliai (ash tree nymphs), while the severed genitals of Uranus falling into the sea resulted in a white foam from which Aphrodite grew. The mythographer Apollodorus also has the Giants being the offspring of Gaia and Uranus, though he makes no connection with Uranus' castration, saying simply that Gaia "vexed on account of the Titans, brought forth the Giants". [10]

There are three brief references to the Gigantes in Homer's Odyssey, though it's not entirely clear that Homer and Hesiod understood the term to mean the same thing. [11] Homer has Giants among the ancestors of the Phaiakians, a race of men encountered by Odysseus, their ruler Alcinous being the son of Nausithous, who was the son of Poseidon and Periboea, the daughter of the Giant king Eurymedon. [12] Elsewhere in the Odyssey, Alcinous says that the Phaiakians, like the Cyclopes and the Giants, are "near kin" to the gods. [13] Odysseus describes the Laestrygonians (another race encountered by Odysseus in his travels) as more like Giants than men. [14] Pausanias, the 2nd century AD geographer, read these lines of the Odyssey to mean that, for Homer, the Giants were a race of mortal men. [15]

The 6th–5th century BC lyric poet Bacchylides calls the Giants "sons of the Earth". [16] Later the term "gegeneis" ("earthborn") became a common epithet of the Giants. [17] The first century Latin writer Hyginus has the Giants being the offspring of Gaia and Tartarus, another primordial Greek deity. [18]

Though distinct in early traditions, [19] Hellenistic and later writers often confused or conflated the Giants and their Gigantomachy with an earlier set of offspring of Gaia and Uranus, the Titans and their war with the Olympian gods, the Titanomachy. [20] This confusion extended to other opponents of the Olympians, including the huge monster Typhon, [21] the offspring of Gaia and Tartarus, whom Zeus finally defeated with his thunderbolt, and the Aloadae, the large, strong and aggressive brothers Otus and Ephialtes, who piled Pelion on top of Ossa in order to scale the heavens and attack the Olympians (though in the case of Ephialtes there was probably a Giant with the same name). [22] For example, Hyginus includes the names of three Titans, Coeus, Iapetus, and Astraeus, along with Typhon and the Aloadae, in his list of Giants, [23] and Ovid seems to conflate the Gigantomachy with the later siege of Olympus by the Aloadae. [24]

Ovid also seems to confuse the Hundred-Handers with the Giants, whom he gives a "hundred arms". [25] So perhaps do Callimachus and Philostratus, since they both make Aegaeon the cause of earthquakes, as was often said about the Giants (see below). [26]

Homer describes the Giant king Eurymedon as "great-hearted" (μεγαλήτορος), and his people as "insolent" (ὑπερθύμοισι) and "froward" (ἀτάσθαλος). [27] Hesiod calls the Giants "strong" (κρατερῶν) and "great" (μεγάλους) which may or may not be a reference to their size. [28] Though a possible later addition, the Theogony also has the Giants born "with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands". [29]

Other early sources characterize the Giants by their excesses. Pindar describes the excessive violence of the Giant Porphyrion as having provoked "beyond all measure". [30] Bacchylides calls the Giants arrogant, saying that they were destroyed by "Hybris" (the Greek word hubris personified). [31] The earlier seventh century BC poet Alcman perhaps had already used the Giants as an example of hubris, with the phrases "vengeance of the gods" and "they suffered unforgettable punishments for the evil they did" being possible references to the Gigantomachy. [32]

Homer's comparison of the Giants to the Laestrygonians is suggestive of similarities between the two races. The Laestrygonians, who "hurled . rocks huge as a man could lift", certainly possessed great strength, and possibly great size, as their king's wife is described as being as big as a mountain. [33]

Over time, descriptions of the Giants make them less human, more monstrous and more "gigantic". According to Apollodorus the Giants had great size and strength, a frightening appearance, with long hair and beards and scaly feet. [34] Ovid makes them "serpent-footed" with a "hundred arms", [35] and Nonnus has them "serpent-haired". [36]

The most important divine struggle in Greek mythology was the Gigantomachy, the battle fought between the Giants and the Olympian gods for supremacy of the cosmos. [37] It is primarily for this battle that the Giants are known, and its importance to Greek culture is attested by the frequent depiction of the Gigantomachy in Greek art.

Early sources Edit

The references to the Gigantomachy in archaic sources are sparse. [39] Neither Homer nor Hesiod mention anything about the Giants battling the gods. [40] Homer's remark that Eurymedon "brought destruction on his froward people" might possibly be a reference to the Gigantomachy [41] and Hesiod's remark that Heracles performed a "great work among the immortals" [42] is probably a reference to Heracles' crucial role in the gods' victory over the Giants. [43] The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (or the Ehoia) following mentions of his sacks of Troy and of Kos, refers to Heracles having slain "presumptious Giants". [44] Another probable reference to the Gigantomachy in the Catalogue has Zeus produce Heracles to be "a protector against ruin for gods and men". [45]

There are indications that there might have been a lost epic poem, a Gigantomachia, which gave an account of the war: Hesiod's Theogony says that the Muses sing of the Giants, [46] and the sixth century BC poet Xenophanes mentions the Gigantomachy as a subject to be avoided at table. [47] The Apollonius scholia refers to a "Gigantomachia" in which the Titan Cronus (as a horse) sires the centaur Chiron by mating with Philyra (the daughter of two Titans), but the scholiast may be confusing the Titans and Giants. [48] Other possible archaic sources include the lyric poets Alcman (mentioned above) and the sixth-century Ibycus. [49]

The late sixth early fifth century BC lyric poet Pindar provides some of the earliest details of the battle between the Giants and the Olympians. He locates it "on the plain of Phlegra" and has Teiresias foretell Heracles killing Giants "beneath [his] rushing arrows". [50] He calls Heracles "you who subdued the Giants", [51] and has Porphyrion, who he calls "the king of the Giants", being overcome by the bow of Apollo. [52] Euripides' Heracles has its hero shooting Giants with arrows, [53] and his Ion has the chorus describe seeing a depiction of the Gigantomachy on the late sixth century Temple of Apollo at Delphi, with Athena fighting the Giant Enceladus with her "gorgon shield", Zeus burning the Giant Mimas with his "mighty thunderbolt, blazing at both ends", and Dionysus killing an unnamed Giant with his "ivy staff". [54] The early 3rd century BC author Apollonius of Rhodes briefly describes an incident where the sun god Helios takes up Hephaestus, exhausted from the fight in Phlegra, on his chariot. [55]

Apollodorus Edit

The most detailed account of the Gigantomachy [57] is that of the (first or second-century AD) mythographer Apollodorus. [58] None of the early sources give any reasons for the war. Scholia to the Iliad mention the rape of Hera by the Giant Eurymedon, [59] while according to scholia to Pindar's Isthmian 6, it was the theft of the cattle of Helios by the Giant Alcyoneus that started the war. [60] Apollodorus, who also mentions the theft of Helios' cattle by Alcyoneus, [61] suggests a mother's revenge as the motive for the war, saying that Gaia bore the Giants because of her anger over the Titans (who had been vanquished and imprisoned by the Olympians). [62] Seemingly, as soon as the Giants are born they begin hurling "rocks and burning oaks at the sky". [63]

There was a prophecy that the Giants could not be killed by the gods alone, but they could be killed with the help of a mortal. [64] Hearing this, Gaia sought for a certain plant (pharmakon) that would protect the Giants. Before Gaia or anyone else could find this plant, Zeus forbade Eos (Dawn), Selene (Moon) and Helios (Sun) to shine, harvested all of the plant himself and then he had Athena summon Heracles.

According to Apollodorus, Alcyoneus and Porphyrion were the two strongest Giants. Heracles shot Alcyoneus, who fell to the ground but then revived, for Alcyoneus was immortal within his native land. So Heracles, with Athena's advice, dragged him beyond the borders of that land, where Alcyoneus then died (compare with Antaeus). [65] Porphyrion attacked Heracles and Hera, but Zeus caused Porphyrion to become enamoured of Hera, whom Porphyrion then tried to rape, but Zeus struck Porphyrion with his thunderbolt and Heracles killed him with an arrow. [66]

Other Giants and their fates are mentioned by Apollodorus. Ephialtes was blinded by an arrow from Apollo in his left eye, and another arrow from Heracles in his right. Eurytus was killed by Dionysus with his thyrsus, Clytius by Hecate with her torches and Mimas by Hephaestus with "missiles of red-hot metal" from his forge. [67] Athena crushed Enceladus under the Island of Sicily and flayed Pallas, using his skin as a shield. Poseidon broke off a piece of the island of Kos called Nisyros, and threw it on top of Polybotes (Strabo also relates the story of Polybotes buried under Nisyros but adds that some say Polybotes lies under Kos instead). [68] Hermes, wearing Hades' helmet, killed Hippolytus, Artemis killed Gration, and the Moirai (Fates) killed Agrius and Thoas with bronze clubs. The rest of the giants were "destroyed" by thunderbolts thrown by Zeus, with each Giant being shot with arrows by Heracles (as the prophecy seemingly required).

Ovid Edit

The Latin poet Ovid gives a brief account of the Gigantomachy in his poem Metamorphoses. [69] Ovid, apparently including the Aloadae's attack upon Olympus as part of the Gigantomachy, has the Giants attempt to seize "the throne of Heaven" by piling "mountain on mountain to the lofty stars" but Jove (i.e. Jupiter, the Roman Zeus) overwhelms the Giants with his thunderbolts, overturning "from Ossa huge, enormous Pelion". [70] Ovid tells that (as "fame reports") from the blood of the Giants came a new race of beings in human form. [71] According to Ovid, Earth [Gaia] did not want the Giants to perish without a trace, so "reeking with the copious blood of her gigantic sons", she gave life to the "steaming gore" of the blood soaked battleground. These new offspring, like their fathers the Giants, also hated the gods and possessed a bloodthirsty desire for "savage slaughter".

Later in the Metamorphoses, Ovid refers to the Gigantomachy as: "The time when serpent footed giants strove / to fix their hundred arms on captive Heaven". [72] Here Ovid apparently conflates the Giants with the Hundred-Handers, [73] who, though in Hesiod fought alongside Zeus and the Olympians, in some traditions fought against them. [74]

Location Edit

Various places have been associated with the Giants and the Gigantomachy. As noted above Pindar has the battle occur at Phlegra ("the place of burning"), [75] as do other early sources. [76] Phlegra was said to be an ancient name for Pallene (modern Kassandra) [77] and Phlegra/Pallene was the usual birthplace of the Giants and site of the battle. [78] Apollodorus, who placed the battle at Pallene, says the Giants were born "as some say, in Phlegrae, but according to others in Pallene". The name Phlegra and the Gigantomachy were also often associated, by later writers, with a volcanic plain in Italy, west of Naples and east of Cumae, called the Phlegraean Fields. [79] The third century BC poet Lycophron, apparently locates a battle of gods and Giants in the vicinity of the volcanic island of Ischia, the largest of the Phlegraean Islands off the coast of Naples, where he says the Giants (along with Typhon) were "crushed" under the island. [80] At least one tradition placed Phlegra in Thessaly. [81]

According to the geographer Pausanias, the Arcadians claimed that battle took place "not at Pellene in Thrace" but in the plain of Megalopolis where "rises up fire". [82] Another tradition apparently placed the battle at Tartessus in Spain. [83] Diodorus Siculus presents a war with multiple battles, with one at Pallene, one on the Phlegraean Fields, and one on Crete. [84] Strabo mentions an account of Heracles battling Giants at Phanagoria, a Greek colony on the shores of the Black Sea. [85] Even when, as in Apollodorus, the battle starts at one place. Individual battles between a Giant and a god might range farther afield, with Enceladus buried beneath Sicily, and Polybotes under the island of Nisyros (or Kos). Other locales associated with Giants include Attica, Corinth, Cyzicus, Lipara, Lycia, Lydia, Miletus, and Rhodes. [86]

The presence of volcanic phenomena, and the frequent unearthing of the fossilized bones of large prehistoric animals throughout these locations may explain why such sites became associated with the Giants. [87]

In art Edit

Sixth century BC Edit

From the sixth century BC onwards, the Gigantomachy was a popular and important theme in Greek art, with over six hundred representations cataloged in the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC). [89]

The Gigantomachy was depicted on the new peplos (robe) presented to Athena on the Acropolis of Athens as part of the Panathenaic festival celebrating her victory over the Giants, a practice dating from perhaps as early as the second millennium BC. [90] The earliest extant indisputable representations of Gigantes are found on votive pinakes from Corinth and Eleusis, and Attic black-figure pots, dating from the second quarter of the sixth century BC (this excludes early depictions of Zeus battling single snake-footed creatures, which probably represent his battle with Typhon, as well as Zeus' opponent on the west pediment of the Temple of Artemis on Kerkyra (modern Corfu) which is probably not a Giant). [91]

Though all these early Attic vases [92] are fragmentary, the many common features in their depictions of the Gigantomachy suggest that a common model or template was used as a prototype, possibly Athena's peplos. [93] These vases depict large battles, including most of the Olympians, and contain a central group which appears to consist of Zeus, Heracles, Athena, and sometimes Gaia. [94] Zeus, Heracles and Athena are attacking Giants to the right. [95] Zeus mounts a chariot brandishing his thunderbolt in his right hand, Heracles, in the chariot, bends forward with drawn bow and left foot on the chariot pole, Athena, beside the chariot, strides forward toward one or two Giants, and the four chariot horses trample a fallen Giant. When present, Gaia is shielded behind Herakles, apparently pleading with Zeus to spare her children.

On either side of the central group are the rest of the gods engaged in combat with particular Giants. While the gods can be identified by characteristic features, for example Hermes with his hat (petasos) and Dionysus his ivy crown, the Giants are not individually characterized and can only be identified by inscriptions which sometimes name the Giant. [96] The fragments of one vase from this same period (Getty 81.AE.211) [97] name five Giants: Pankrates against Heracles, [98] Polybotes against Zeus, [99] Oranion against Dionysus, [100] Euboios and Euphorbos fallen [101] and Ephialtes. [102] Also named, on two other of these early vases, are Aristaeus battling Hephaestus (Akropolis 607), Eurymedon and (again) Ephialtes (Akropolis 2134). An amphora from Caere from later in the sixth century, gives the names of more Giants: Hyperbios and Agasthenes (along with Ephialtes) fighting Zeus, Harpolykos against Hera, Enceladus against Athena and (again) Polybotes, who in this case battles Poseidon with his trident holding the island of Nisyros on his shoulder (Louvre E732). [103] This motif of Poseidon holding the island of Nisyros, ready to hurl it at his opponent, is another frequent feature of these early Gigantomachies. [104]

The Gigantomachy was also a popular theme in late sixth century sculpture. The most comprehensive treatment is found on the north frieze of the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi (c. 525 BC), with more than thirty figures, named by inscription. [105] From left to right, these include Hephaestus (with bellows), two females fighting two Giants Dionysus striding toward an advancing Giant Themis [106] in a chariot drawn by a team of lions which are attacking a fleeing Giant the archers Apollo and Artemis another fleeing Giant (Tharos or possibly Kantharos) [107] the Giant Ephialtes lying on the ground [108] and a group of three Giants, which include Hyperphas [109] and Alektos, [110] opposing Apollo and Artemis. Next comes a missing central section presumably containing Zeus, and possibly Heracles, with chariot (only parts of a team of horses remain). To the right of this comes a female stabbing her spear [111] at a fallen Giant (probably Porphyrion) [112] Athena fighting Eriktypos [113] and a second Giant a male stepping over the fallen Astarias [114] to attack Biatas [115] and another Giant and Hermes against two Giants. Then follows a gap which probably contained Poseidon and finally, on the far right, a male fighting two Giants, one fallen, the other the Giant Mimon (possibly the same as the Giant Mimas mentioned by Apollodorus). [116]

The Gigantomachy also appeared on several other late sixth century buildings, including the west pediment of the Alkmeonid Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the pediment of the Megarian Treasury at Olympia, the east pediment of the Old Temple of Athena on the Acropolis of Athens, and the metopes of Temple F at Selinous. [117]

Fifth century BC Edit

The theme continued to be popular in the fifth century BC. A particularly fine example is found on a red-figure cup (c. 490–485 BC) by the Brygos Painter (Berlin F2293). On one side of the cup is the same central group of gods (minus Gaia) as described above: Zeus wielding his thunderbolt, stepping into a quadriga, Heracles with lion skin (behind the chariot rather than on it) drawing his (unseen) bow and, ahead, Athena thrusting her spear into a fallen Giant. On the other side are Hephaestus flinging flaming missiles of red-hot metal from two pairs of tongs, Poseidon, with Nisyros on his shoulder, stabbing a fallen Giant with his trident and Hermes with his petasos hanging in back of his head, attacking another fallen Giant. None of the Giants are named. [118]

Phidias used the theme for the metopes of the east façade of the Parthenon (c. 445 BC) and for the interior of the shield of Athena Parthenos. [119] Phidias' work perhaps marks the beginning of a change in the way the Giants are presented. While previously the Giants had been portrayed as typical hoplite warriors armed with the usual helmets, shields, spears and swords, in the fifth century the Giants begin to be depicted as less handsome in appearance, primitive and wild, clothed in animal skins or naked, often without armor and using boulders as weapons. [120] A series of red-figure pots from c. 400 BC, which may have used Phidas' shield of Athena Parthenos as their model, show the Olympians fighting from above and the Giants fighting with large stones from below. [121]

Fourth century BC and later Edit

With the beginning of the fourth century BC probably comes the first portrayal of the Giants in Greek art as anything other than fully human in form, with legs that become coiled serpents having snake heads at the ends in place of feet. [122] Such depictions were perhaps borrowed from Typhon, the monstrous son of Gaia and Tartarus, described by Hesiod as having a hundred snake heads growing from his shoulders. [123] This snake-legged motif becomes the standard for the rest of antiquity, culminating in the monumental Gigantomachy frieze of the second century BC Pergamon Altar. Measuring nearly 400 feet long and over seven feet high, here the Gigantomachy receives its most extensive treatment, with over one hundred figures. [124]

Although fragmentary, much of the Gigantomachy frieze has been restored. The general sequence of the figures and the identifications of most of the approximately sixty gods and goddesses have been more or less established. [125] The names and positions of most Giants remain uncertain. Some of the names of the Giants have been determined by inscription, [126] while their positions are often conjectured on the basis of which gods fought which Giants in Apollodorus' account. [127]

The same central group of Zeus, Athena, Heracles and Gaia, found on many early Attic vases, also featured prominently on the Pergamon Altar. On the right side of the East frieze, the first encountered by a visitor, a winged Giant, usually identified as Alcyoneus, fights Athena. [128] Below and to the right of Athena, Gaia rises from the ground, touching Athena's robe in supplication. Flying above Gaia, a winged Nike crowns the victorious Athena. To the left of this grouping a snake-legged Porphyrion battles Zeus [129] and to the left of Zeus is Heracles. [130]

On the far left side of the East frieze, a triple Hecate with torch battles a snake-legged Giant usually identified (following Apollodorus) as Clytius. [131] To the right lays the fallen Udaeus, shot in his left eye by an arrow from Apollo, [132] along with Demeter who wields a pair of torches against Erysichthon. [133]

The Giants are depicted in a variety of ways. Some Giants are fully human in form, while others are a combination of human and animal forms. Some are snake-legged, some have wings, one has bird claws, one is lion-headed, and another is bull-headed. Some Giants wear helmets, carry shields and fight with swords. Others are naked or clothed in animal skins and fight with clubs or rocks. [134]

The large size of the frieze probably necessitated the addition of many more Giants than had been previously known. Some, like Typhon and Tityus, who were not strictly speaking Giants, were perhaps included. Others were probably invented. [135] The partial inscription "Mim" may mean that the Giant Mimas was also depicted. Other less familiar or otherwise unknown Giant names include Allektos, Chthonophylos, Eurybias, Molodros, Obrimos, Ochthaios and Olyktor. [136]

In post-classical art Edit

The subject was revived in the Renaissance, most famously in the frescos of the Sala dei Giganti in the Palazzo del Te, Mantua. These were painted around 1530 by Giulio Romano and his workshop, and aimed to give the viewer the unsettling idea that the large hall was in the process of collapsing. The subject was also popular in Northern Mannerism around 1600, especially among the Haarlem Mannerists, and continued to be painted into the 18th century. [137]

Historically, the myth of the Gigantomachy (as well as the Titanomachy) may reflect the "triumph" of the new imported gods of the invading Greek speaking peoples from the north (c. 2000 BC) over the old gods of the existing peoples of the Greek peninsula. [138] For the Greeks, the Gigantomachy represented a victory for order over chaos—the victory of the divine order and rationalism of the Olympian gods over the discord and excessive violence of the earth-born chthonic Giants. More specifically, for sixth and fifth century BC Greeks, it represented a victory for civilization over barbarism, and as such was used by Phidias on the metopes of the Parthenon and the shield of Athena Parthenos to symbolize the victory of the Athenians over the Persians. Later the Attalids similarly used the Gigantomachy on the Pergamon Altar to symbolize their victory over the Galatians of Asia Minor. [139]

The attempt of the Giants to overthrow the Olympians also represented the ultimate example of hubris, with the gods themselves punishing the Giants for their arrogant challenge to the gods' divine authority. [140] The Gigantomachy can also be seen as a continuation of the struggle between Gaia (Mother Earth) and Uranus (Father Sky), and thus as part of the primal opposition between female and male. [141] Plato compares the Gigantomachy to a philosophical dispute about existence, wherein the materialist philosophers, who believe that only physical things exist, like the Giants, wish to "drag down everything from heaven and the invisible to earth". [142]

In Latin literature, in which the Giants, the Titans, Typhon and the Aloadae are all often conflated, Gigantomachy imagery is a frequent occurrence. [144] Cicero, while urging the acceptance of aging and death as natural and inevitable, allegorizes the Gigantomachy as "fighting against Nature". [145] The rationalist Epicurean poet Lucretius, for whom such things as lightning, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions had natural rather than divine causes, used the Gigantomachy to celebrate the victory of philosophy over mythology and superstition. In the triumph of science and reason over traditional religious belief, the Gigantomachy symbolized for him Epicurus storming heaven. In a reversal of their usual meaning, he represents the Giants as heroic rebels against the tyranny of Olympus. [146] Virgil—reversing Lucretius' reversal—restores the conventional meaning, making the Giants once again enemies of order and civilization. [147] Horace makes use of this same meaning to symbolize the victory of Augustus at the Battle of Actium as a victory for the civilized West over the barbaric East. [148]

Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, describes mankind's moral decline through the ages of gold, silver, bronze and iron, and presents the Gigantomachy as a part of that same descent from natural order into chaos. [149] Lucan, in his Pharsalia, which contains many Gigantomachy references, [150] makes the Gorgon's gaze turn the Giants into mountains. [151] Valerius Flaccus, in his Argonautica, makes frequent use of Gigantomachy imagery, with the Argo (the world's first ship) constituting a Gigantomachy-like offense against natural law, and example of hubristic excess. [152]

Claudian, the fourth-century AD court poet of emperor Honorius, composed a Gigantomachia that viewed the battle as a metaphor for vast geomorphic change: "The puissant company of the giants confounds all differences between things islands abandon the deep mountains lie hidden in the sea. Many a river is left dry or has altered its ancient course. robbed of her mountains Earth sank into level plains, parted among her own sons." [153]

Various locations associated with the Giants and the Gigantomachy were areas of volcanic and seismic activity (e.g. the Phlegraean Fields west of Naples), and the vanquished Gigantes (along with other "giants") were said to be buried under volcanos. Their subterranean movements were said to be the cause of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. [154]

The Giant Enceladus was thought to lay buried under Mount Etna, the volcano's eruptions being the breath of Enceladus, and its tremors caused by the Giant rolling over from side to side beneath the mountain [155] (the monster Typhon [156] and the Hundred-Hander Briareus [157] were also said to be buried under Etna). The Giant Alcyoneus along with "many giants" were said to lie under Mount Vesuvius, [158] Prochyte (modern Procida), one of the volcanic Phlegraean Islands was supposed to sit atop the Giant Mimas, [159] and Polybotes was said to lie pinned beneath the volcanic island of Nisyros, supposedly a piece of the island of Kos broken off and thrown by Poseidon. [160]

Describing the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, which buried the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, Cassius Dio relates accounts of the appearance of many Giant-like creatures on the mountain and in the surrounding area followed by violent earthquakes and the final cataclysmic eruption, saying "some thought that the Giants were rising again in revolt (for at this time also many of their forms could be discerned in the smoke and, moreover, a sound as of trumpets was heard)". [161]

Names for the Giants can be found in ancient literary sources and inscriptions. Vian and Moore provide a list with over seventy entries, some of which are based upon inscriptions which are only partially preserved. [162] Some of the Giants identified by name are:

“Giant Shovel on I-70” Ohio Strip Mine Fight: 1973

Colossal earth-moving machines became symbols in the 1960s-1970s environmental battles over surface coal mining, also known as “strip mining.” These machines – some capable of scooping two-to-three Greyhound bus-size equivalents of earth with each bite – laid waste to tens of thousands of acres as they uncovered near-surface coal to feed electric power plants. In 1972-73, a trio of these machines, then chewing through southeastern Ohio, became involved in a controversial proposal: to cross, and temporarily shut down, a major interstate highway to get to the coal on the other side. The event became a symbolic and actual “line-in-the-sand” confrontation between those opposed to strip mining and those who saw it as vital for energy, jobs, and local economies.

The February 1973 issue of Smithsonian magazine ran a dramatic shot of “The GEM of Egypt” in operation in the Egypt Valley of Ohio, just north of I-70, as the magazine featured a story on “the need for energy vs. strip mining.” Note size of the shovel’s bucket relative to the vehicles on the road below. Photo, Arthur Sirdofsky.

There were three of the giant machines at issue: The Tiger, The Mountaineer, and The GEM of Egypt. All three were then in the service of the Hanna Coal Company, which by 1970, had been strip mining in Ohio for decades and was then a division of the much larger Pittsburgh Consolidation Coal Company, later known as “Consol,” itself then owned by Continental Oil. More on Hanna/Consol and the big machines in a moment, first some background on Ohio’s coal.

Various coalfields in the tri-state OH-PA-WV area are shown in color, overlaying county boundaries – a region where coal has been mined for decades in the Appalachian Coal Basin.

Coal has been mined in Ohio since the early 1800s, initially with crude mining techniques working surface outcroppings, to more sophisticated mechanized technologies that evolved following WWI and WWII. Most of the mining in Ohio through the 1930s was in deep mines or shaft mines that bore into mountainsides. Surface mining existed as well, but it wasn’t until the big shovels came on in the 1940s and 1950s that strip mining began to take a larger portion of the state’s annual coal production.

Generally it is economic to strip mine when there is a 20:1 ratio of overburden-to-coal seam, meaning, for example that a three-foot coal seam can be surface mined economically when the overburden is up to 60 feet. However, at some surface mines in Ohio, highwalls of up to 200 feet high remain where five-foot-coal seams have been extracted. And in these cases, the size and power of the giant shovels and draglines used in those areas made that level of extraction possible.

The Big Shovels

The smallest of Hanna Coal Company’s earth movers involved in the I-70 controversy, The Tiger, was among the company’s first big shovels, built in the early 1940s. But even for that “small” shovel, mining historians noted that it took about 63 trainloads to ship its parts from Marion, Ohio to Hanna’s Georgetown coal complex south of Cadiz, Ohio in Harrison County, where it was assembled. The shipping and assembly of the shovel began in 1943, and by the following year, The Tiger was ready to begin digging. At the time, it was considered to be the world’s largest shovel, used to help mine coal for the steel mills during WWII. The photo below shows a portion of The Tiger in 1957 near Cadiz, Ohio.

The Tiger shown during a 1950s field tour. This shovel first began its work in Harrison County, Ohio in 1944, moving on to other coal fields in Ohio through the 1970s.

The Hanna Coal Company, meanwhile, was quite an Ohio industrial power, evolved initially from Rhodes & Co., a firm in the 1840s that mined coal in Ohio’s Mahoning Valley area. Hanna expanded into iron ore mining in the Lake Superior region in the mid-1860s, establishing roots in the steel industry. Some years later, after considerable growth over the decades, and various business transactions, stock trades, mergers, and restructurings, including the sale of its iron and steel interests, Hanna, by 1945-46, became part of what was then called the Pittsburgh Consolidation Coal Company (Pitt-Consol). In this deal, Hanna brought to Consol its eastern Ohio coal properties, which then accounted for about 20 percent of Ohio’s production. A few years later, Pitt-Consol acquired more Hanna coal lands in Ohio’s Harrison, Belmont and Jefferson counties. But Hanna, as a Consolidation company, continued to operate in these areas under its name.

Undated photo (probably circa 1950s) of a smaller Bucyrus-Erie electric shovel loading a 55-ton Euclid truck at one of Hanna's coal mines. The loaded coal would then go to Hanna’s Georgetown prep plant for cleaning and shipping.

Hanna became one of the major players in the Eastern and Southeastern Ohio coalfields for many years. By the 1950s at Duncanwood, Ohio, near Cadiz in Harrison County, Hanna had a complex of offices and shop buildings, and also a major coal processing center at its giant Georgetown complex of coal mines, tipples, and railroads. The company’s coal cleaning operations there, which opened in 1951, was then one of the largest preparation plants in the world, and could process 1,275 tons/hour – which was quite formidable in the 1950’s. Hanna was also one of the first to use a coal slurry pipeline to transport coal over a long distance. In 1956 the company built a 10-inch, 108-mile-long pipeline that linked the Hanna’s Georgetown prep plant near Cadiz with the Cleveland Electric Company’s Eastlake Generating Station in Cleveland. Crushed coal was mixed with water at a Hanna plant and the slurry mixture then pumped through the line to Cleveland. Between 1957 and 1963, this pipeline supplied about six million tons of coal to Cleveland Electric.

Headlines from July 1966 when Hanna made a big investment in a nearby West Virginia deep mine.

At its deep mine locations, especially in earlier years, Hanna built company housing for its miners, such as those built for workers at the Dunglen mine at Newtown, Ohio. It also operated company stores – those invoked generally by the Tennessee Ernie Ford song, “Sixteen Tons.” Two of Hanna’s stores were those named Dillonvale and Lafferty, and another one was located at Willow Grove, Ohio. First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, had visited Hanna’s Willow Grove deep mine in April 1935. Below is an enlarged map of several Ohio counties where Hanna Coal Company mines and machines exploited the Pittsburgh No. 8 Coalfield for many years.

Map showing the Pittsburgh No. 8 Coalfield, running beneath Southeastern Ohio counties where Hanna Coal Co and others operated strip and deep mines and other facilities for decades. Source:

Hanna’s Ohio strip mining, meanwhile, was aided through the 1950s by another of the big machines, The Mountaineer, built by the Marion Co. The Mountaineer was among the first of the big “super strippers.” This colossus was also assembled in pieces, near Cadiz, Ohio, a build that began in June 1955. The big shovel didn’t start digging until January 30, 1956. The Mountaineer had a 65-cubic-yard dipper, stood 16 stories tall, with a 150 foot tall boom. Its shovel could hold a 100-ton payload. The Mountaineer was the first shovel to have a built-in elevator for the crew to reach the operating controls, in this case, located in dual cabs at the front of the machine, one on each side.

The Mountaineer shovel, from a Life magazine photo in the 1950s, shows the colossal size of this earth mover relative to nearby vehicles, locomotive, and group of workmen.

The GEM of Egypt (“GEM,” an acronym for “Giant Earth Mover” or “Giant Excavating Machine”), the largest of the three shovels in Hanna’s employ, went into service in January 1967 (There was also a fourth giant shovel that Hanna used, The Silver Spade, sometimes called the “sister” to The Gem of Egypt, also used in Ohio, but not involved in the I-70 crossing. The Spade in 1965 had worked at Hanna’s Georgetown Mine near Cadiz, among other places, active through 2008). The Gem of Egypt was 20 stories tall and weighed 7,000 tons. It had a 170-foot boom and a 130 cubic yard bucket. It first went to work at the opening of the Egypt Valley mine in January 1967.

Photo of The Gem of Egypt shovel, believed to be around the time it began operating in the Egypt Valley of Ohio in the late 1960s. Note the size of the machine relative to the people standing near its shovel and around its base.

Hanna invited the public to attend the grand opening of the Egypt Valley Mine in late January 1967. An estimated 25,000 people traveled to the site, many from Ohio cities such as Cleveland, Akron, and Canton, as well as those from neighboring states. The centerpiece of the tour was the colossal GEM of Egypt, which towered over the visitor’s cars parked near it that day. The GEM, in fact, was capable of holding the equivalent of at least two Greyhound buses in its bucket. The giant earth mover was slated to operate in Hanna’s 96,000-acre Egypt Valley surface mine in Belmont County. Production there was expected to average 20,000 tons a day until the vein ran out, which the company then forecast to last for the next 30 to 40 years.

January 1967 “open house” at Hanna Coal Co’s Egypt Valley surface mine, unveiling the GEM of Egypt shovel.

Hanna also used the 1967 mine-opening event to public relations advantage, offering hand-out literature for the public that touted the virtues of reclamation and post-mining uses, some of which bordered on the far-fetched, such as suggesting spoil piles could be used for ski slopes. The reality was that this mine, and others that had preceded it, were ripping through farmland, and despite laws on the books, leaving in their wake, highwalls, spoil piles, acid mine drainage, damaged homes, silted streams and polluted water supplies.

Weak Ohio Laws

The state of Ohio has not had a happy environmental history with strip mining and to this day, its ravages are still taking a toll. Although Ohio was one of the earliest states to adopt a strip mining law in 1947-48, that law had very little impact in terms of environmental protection or land reclamation. As documented in Chad Montrie’s book, To Save The Land and People, Ohio farmers were among the first to rail against the ravages of strip mining. “We believe that strip mining is a menace to agriculture and the very life of our county, unless some control measure is taken.”
-Morgan County Grange, 1947 Farm groups such as the Grange and Farm Bureau, concerned about losing good farmland to the strippers, helped pass the Ohio law in 1947. Wrote one member of the Morgan County Grange in 1947 in support of Ohio’s first strip mine law: “We believe that strip mining is a menace to agriculture and the very life of our county, unless some control measure is taken.” A member of the Western Tuscarawas Game Association, also supporting the legislation that became law, noted: “Strip mines must level their spoil banks and the land put in a tillable condition.” But despite the 1947 law, that wasn’t happening, and didn’t happen. Essentially, there was no reclamation.

1940 post card from the Cadiz News Agency, with four photos by E.C. Kropp Co., showing coal mining scenes near Cadiz, Ohio, Harrison County with caption: “Scenes From Cadiz, Ohio. Where They Destroy Good Farms to Get The Coal.” Some stripping shovels at that time were mounted on rails and/or temporary rail lines & hopper cars serviced the mining area.

By 1949, the Grange and Farm Bureau were back in the legislature seeking strengthening amendments to the law. Still, little changed. In 1953, the Conservation Committee of the Ohio Grange noted that “land in the strip mining areas of Ohio [is] left in such condition that it is practically worthless.” By 1965, the Grange and Farm Bureau again lobbied the Ohio General Assembly for tougher strip mine regulations, but only minor changes resulted. “Land in the strip mining areas of Ohio [is] left in such condition that it is practically worthless.”
-Ohio Grange, 1953 Some of the adopted language now called on coal operators to grade spoil banks “so as to reduce the peaks thereof …to a gently rolling, sloping or terraced topography, as may be appropriate, which grading shall be done in such as way as will minimize erosion due to rainfall, [and] break up long uninterrupted slopes.” Large boulders were also to be removed and acid mine drainage and stream siltation on adjacent lands prevented, “if possible.” Needless to say, such language wasn’t exactly iron clad. Farm organizations by then were filing reports of strip mine siltation and clay washing onto adjacent lands in depths of up to two feet. They called on legislators to deny strippers their license when they damaged neighboring lands. But that didn’t happen either. Further reform wouldn’t come until 1972, covered later below.

During the late 1960s, meanwhile, The GEM of Egypt was chewing through Ohio farm country at a rate of 200 tons per bite, continuing to work through the Egypt Valley of Harrison and Belmont counties where Hanna held thousands of acres of land with strippable coal. The GEM gradually worked its way to within sight of the interstate highway, I-70, as it dug through the hills just north of the highway. Motorists traveling on I-70 would sometimes stop to marvel at the giant shovel while it did its handwork.

The Gem of Egypt working its way through the Egypt Valley strip mine of Ohio in the late 1960s early 1970s. The giant machine is removing the earth over the coal seam on the right, and then, swinging its boom and loaded shovel left, depositing the “overburden” on the spoil banks. A tiny vehicle mid-photo appears to be riding on a road that is the unearthed coal seam. At right, atop the hillside being mined, is a line of powdered-white blasting holes where dynamite will be used to loosen the “overburden” the giant shovel will continue to remove.

Hanna, at this point, had new plans for The Gem of Egypt. Hanna wanted to use the machine ten miles south, to begin stripping coal lands near Barnesville, in Belmont County. Barnesville then had a population of 4,300. But in order to move the big machine to that location, it would have to cross, and temporarily shut down, a major interstate highway, I-70. While Hanna and other coal companies had worked their will with local and state roads – sometimes taking them over completely for hauling coal, or taking them out of service – a federal interstate highway was in something of a different league. And this particular east-west segment – running between Wheeling, West Virginia and Columbus, Ohio – would become heavily traveled.

The I-70 Deal

In the 1950s and 1960s, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway system was taking form across the U.S., one of the segments to be built in Ohio was the East-West running Interstate I-70. This highway would cut across Southeastern Ohio’s coalfields, including counties in the vicinity where Hanna and others were operating. Hanna, in fact, had acquired some 12,000 to 13,000 acres of coal lands (more??) in the area prior to the laying of the I-70 route. So when the Federal and state governments started planning for I-70, Hanna was one of the parties at the table– and by that time Hanna was part of Consolidated Coal Co., or Consol.

Map showing I-70 running through a portion of S. E. Ohio near the town of Barnesville, where strip mining was headed in 1973.

Consol claimed $8-to-$10 million in damages for the dividing of its coal field by the highway. However Ohio agreed to construct two underpasses at I-70 to permit Consol’s coal trucks to travel under the highway. The state also agreed to permit Consol to cross over the surface of the I-70 highway with mining equipment 10 times during a period of 40 years. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation also approved this agreement in early September 1964.

By 1968, Interstate highway I-70 was built, with about 27 miles traversing Belmont County, bisecting the coal lands held by Hanna/Consol. During this time, Hanna’s Gem of Egypt and the strip mining of the Egypt Valley site had proceeded, moving closer and closer to the Interstate.

New Activists

Through 1967, the Ohio farm groups continued to seek stricter strip mine enforcement in the state legislature, though with little success. By this time, however, new public environmental awareness was rising across the nation and in Ohio, where the Cuyahoga River had caught on fire from pollution in June 1969, raising the state’s environmental profile. New activists were entering the strip mine fight there as well, and throughout the region. A 1970 strip mining symposium held in Cadiz, Ohio drew 400 attendees, including many students, but with sponsors such as the Ohio Conservation Foundation, state chapter of the Sierra Club, the Ohio Audubon Council, and others. By late December 1970, some local members of the United Steelworkers Union and the Belmont County AFL-CIO, along with others from Ohio State University’s Marion extension campus, formed an organization called Citizens Concerned About Strip Mining. This group planned to lobby the Ohio legislature for strip mine reforms, and in the summer of 1971, sponsored a meeting that drew prominent strip mining opponents from nearby states, including a regional representative of the Sierra Club.

“The Ravaged Earth”
NBC-TV: Cleveland

In Cleveland, a small group of TV producers and writers at NBC’s WKYC-TV station, produced a 1969 documentary that focused in part on strip mining in Ohio’s Perry County and the environmental ruin it was causing there. The film was part of WKYC’s Montage series of documentary programs on local and regional subjects that aired in Cleveland from 1965 to 1978. The title of the strip mine program was “The Ravaged Earth.” Linda Sugarman, one of the associate producers at the time, wrote a July 31, 1969 memo, statement of need, and description of the planned program, to be broadcast in late September 1969:

For twenty five years giant steamshovels have been clawing their way across the beautiful hills of Southern Ohio, unearthing shallow veins of coal and leaving a scene of utter devastation. The strip mines, which are dug instead of deep mines when the coal is close to the surface, bring about in their wake a stark, and almost worthless wasteland of steep spoil banks whose overturned earth is so acidic weeds can barely grow on it. Rivers and streams become red with sulfuric acid pollution. Public heath hazards are created by uncontrolled clouds of coal dust and carbon monoxide fumes. Property damage, caused by blasting goes uncompensated. Many of the mining interests seem to be in almost total disregard of the local laws, property rights, safety, and health of the nearby residents.

Although a few of the coal companies attempt to renew and reclaim the land they have strip mined, the ones who have made so much damage seem to be able to continue their activities without much opposition. Since the coal companies bring in most of the income in many of these counties, most public officials seem hesitant to prosecute or even confront them. Residents of the area who depend directly or indirectly upon the mines also seem hesitant to complain about the coal companies’ actions…

Montage will talk to these conservationists, as well as local citizens, elected officials, and mine representatives. The film will also show the damaged as well as the reclaimed areas of Southern Ohio.

Screen shot from “The Ravaged Earth” of light green automobile (center) moving through unreclaimed strip-mined area with remaining highwall, spoil debris, and rugged terrain.

In fact, Udall, who served as Interior Secretary from 1961-1969, made extensive comment during the program. Below are excerpts from his remarks and voice-overs during that program:

Stewart Udall, as he appeared in the 1969 TV report, “The Ravaged Earth.”

“Coal as an extractive industry, like all extractive industries, once the mineral or product is mined, the values are gone, and the industry usually walks away and you’re confronted then with the long haul with what people will do with what is left…”

“…We calculated once in a strip mine study we made about two years ago what the cost would be of restoring all the stripped areas in the United States. As I recall it was a very big cost, something like $2 billion…And it’s also an uneconomic cost because this should have been done at the time the coal was mined and should have been charged as part of the cost of the mining… So I fear this [reclamation] will have a very low priority, that it will not be done in the near future, and the result is that we’re going to be denied the use and benefit of these lands for recreation, “…[T]here’s no damage to the land that is more permanent, and really more devastating, than what you see in the worst strip mining areas of the United States…”
– Stewart Udall, 1969 as watershed lands, and for the contribution that they can make to the country…

“…I’ve probably seen as much of this nation from a helicopter in the last 6 or 8 years as anybody – and that’s the best way to see it.. Because you see the beauty, you see the scars, you see the damage. And of course, there’s no damage to the land that is more permanent, and really more devastating, than what you see in the worst strip mining areas of the United States… The reason this is damaging is that if action is not taken to restore these stripped areas, they’re left there they can’t revegetate themselves — at least it will take many, many tens or hundreds of years for anything to occur… And that these become sort of permanent, man-made wastelands. …We have too many people we have too many things we need to do with our land too much need for outdoor recreation and playgrounds…We can’t afford to have wastelands created by man in this country. And this is the reason all of us have to regret the mistakes of the past and we have to determine that we’re not going to repeat those mistakes now.”

In the Ohio academic community, meanwhile, Arnold Reitze, from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, wrote a 1971 law review article entitled, “Old King Coal and the Merry Rapists of Appalachia,” in which he focused on some of strip mining’s effects in the Egypt Valley where Hanna was mining. Reitze found that in Belmont County, some 200,000 of the county’s 346,000 total acres had been sold, leased, or optioned to coal interests. “That beautiful county,” he wrote, “like scores of others, seems destined to become a wasteland of silted, acid waters, barren land, and patches of crown vetch, all legally reclaimed.” New activists and a new governor were changing Ohio’s strip mine politics. Another professor who became involved was Dr. Theodore “Ted” Voneida, a professor of neurobiology also at Case Western. Voneida and his wife had built a cottage on Piedmont Lake in the Egypt Valley in the 1960s and soon began to see first hand the results of strip mining in that area. Voneida didn’t like what he saw, and was amazed at what the strippers were doing to the land and communities. He began gathering documentation of strip mining’s impacts in the area – measuring water pollution, taking photographs, and generally chronicling what was going on there. He also succeeded in getting The Plain Dealer newspaper of Cleveland, the Akron Beacon Journal, and others news outlets interested in the strip mining story. By the early 1970s, Voneida would be quoted in newspaper stories on strip mining’s harmful effects, sometimes opposite Hanna Coal’s CEO, Ralph Hatch.

New political developments in Ohio also brought more attention to the lack of effective strip mine reclamation. John J. Gilligan, a democrat from Cincinnati who had served in the U.S. Congress for one term in 1965-1967 and had run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, was elected Ohio’s Governor in November 1970 (Gilligan was also the father of Kathleen Sebelius, who would later serve as Governor of Kansas and U,S. Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama Adminstration). Governor Gilligan took on strip mining as one of his top priorities, and he specifically backed a bill in the legislature that would bring tougher reclamation standards to Ohio’s coalfields.

Hanna Coal, meanwhile, made plans for mining south of I-70 and sought to exercise its highway crossing agreement with Ohio and the federal government. However, by late 1970, Hanna, and strip mining in Ohio, were getting some unwanted national attention, now cast in an Appalachian regional and national context over how best to deal with surface coal mining. And Hanna’s hulking machines were part of the theater – and the damage being done.

Ohio in Spotlight

On December 15, 1970, Ben Franklin, a reporter with The New York Times, did a story on strip mining that his editors ran on the front page with a photo of a ravaged Ohio strip mine scene. “Strip-Mining Boom Leaves Wasteland in Its Wake,” was the headline. Franklin filed his story from St. Clairsville, Ohio. And while the story covered strip mining nationally, it featured particular problems in Belmont County, where Hanna was then operating day and night.

Dec 15, 1970: Front-page story in the New York Times with photo of strip mine damage in Belmont County, Ohio and story that prominently featured Ohio strip mining, environmental issues there, and the Hanna Coal Company.

In his story, Franklin described the strip mining problem in Ohio as follows:

…This rolling, unfarmed farm land, just west of the Ohio River, is being chewed into billions of tons of rocky rubble by strip mining for coal. More than five billion tons of it, long considered low-grade fuel too marginal for mass mining, lies less than 100 feet from the sur face in eastern Ohio, and a boom is on to recover it.

It is bringing an upheaval of terrain unmatched since the glaciers of the last Ice Age scoured these hills and valleys as far south as Cincinnati, compacting thick bituminous coal beds that have aged 300 million years…

“They’re turning this beau-tiful place into a desert…”
– U.S. Rep., Wayne L. Hays (D-OH)

Strip mining—a cheaper, quicker and more efficient method than digging under ground—now produces more than 35 per cent of the nation’s annual coal output…

…To lay bare the coal, farms, barns, silos, houses, churches and roads are being dynamited, scooped up by mammoth power shovels that tower 12 stories high, and piled in giant windrows of strip mine spoil banks.

Scores of aggrieved persons here have lost well water, have suffered sleepless nights from blasting, or have seen timbered acreage at their property lines turned into the 100-foot-deep pits of strip mines.

In his story, Franklin also quoted U.S. Congressman Wayne L. Hays, an Ohio Democrat who then lived in Flushing, Ohio, a Belmont County town which Franklin described as “isolated on three sides by abandoned strip mine highwalls, the sheer, quarry-like cliffs where the strip mine excavation stopped.” Congressman Hayes, cited in Franklin’s story, had this to say: “They’re turning this beautiful place into a desert … They’ll take anything that’s black and will burn… It costs them more to really reclaim this land than the land is worth when they’re finished. No one has figured out what will happen to us here when they’re through, but I can tell you it isn’t going to be pretty.”

The GEM of Egypt at work in Ohio, circa 1960s-1970s, also illustrates the problem of “highwalls” – the sheer-face cliffs, seen here on the right – often left as unreclaimed “final cuts” when the mining was finished.

During 1970, environmental concerns continued to rise across the nation. On December 20th that year, President Richard Nixon established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the strip mine fight, just after Christmas 1970, West Virginia’s Secretary of State, Democrat John D. “Jay” Rockefeller announced that he would seek a ban on the surface mining of coal in West Virginia, with bills to that end introduced in the legislature in late January 1971. At the federal level too, by July 1971, West Virginia’s Congressman, Democrat Ken Heckler, had introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to ban surface coal mining. The prohibition efforts, however, at state and federal levels, would prove to be uphill fights.

A New York Times Op-Ed by Belmont County, Ohio resident brought further attention to the impact of strip mining on Ohio’s land and small towns.

As the article contended, Hendrysburg would be ruined as a viable small town given what the strippers were doing to depopulate the area, having bought out many landowners. A pull quote used in the piece noted: “All the farms started going in 1967 when the big shovels were moved in.”

Barely a town by that point, Hendrysburg had been badgered day and night for several years by the hulking operations of The GEM of Egypt. Blasting and digging to get at the coal — as well as 100-foot-deep excavations made around and near the town — had unnerved residents. Wells were disrupted in some places. And since the shovel worked around the clock with lights, the town’s homes were sometimes “bathed in an eerie electric glow,” as one reporter described it.

Florence Bethel, a Hendrysburg resident who worked as a telephone operator, had first-hand experience with The GEM of Egypt. She later recounted her tale to reporter George Vescy of the New York Times:

“It started around Christmas of 1969. You could feel the blasting three and a half miles away. I had a brand new sealed well, 53 feet deep. The water got so muddy, it clogged the valves. Then my basement walls cracked. …I was working nights and trying to stay in college. I couldn’t sleep during the day. I called them up and asked them to take is easy, but it just got worse. Then my health started to go. I had a 3.2 average but it dropped to D’s and F’s. I had to drop out….” Bethel sued Hanna for $107,500 and damages and moved to a mobile home south of Barnesville.

In February 1972, a two-day strip mining conference at Zanesville, Ohio attracted about 100 activists. Also that month, on February 26th, the Buffalo Creek disaster in West Virginia occurred. In the upper reaches of the Buffalo Creek watershed in Logan County, West Virginia, a series of large coal slurry waste gop impoundments burst after heavy rains, releasing a tidal wave of coal waste water on more than a dozen downstream communities. More than 125 people were killed, with at least 1,000 more injured and 4,000 left homeless. Upstream strip mining and mine wastes were implicated as contributing factors.

In March 1972, Ohio Governor John Gilligan, addressing the state legislature in opening his administration, listed strip mining legislation as among his priorities. As the new Ohio state strip mine bill was being considered in early 1972, among those coming to testify was Mrs. Alice J. Grossniklaus, of Holmes County, Ohio. Mrs. Grossniklaus had a cheese store near Wilmot, Ohio that she had run since 1932. “…They’d call me at 2 or 3 a. m. and tell me that their cupboard doors were opening and closing from the blasting, flower pots were falling off the walls, and that the walls were cracking…” In the early 1960s, she had her first experienced strip mining on about 1.000 acres of land in nearby Tuscarawas County. She would explain that the mining was driving some of the neighbors crazy. “They’d call me at 2 or 3 a. m. and tell me that their cupboard doors were opening and closing from the blasting, flower pots were falling off the walls, and that the walls were cracking. ‘What can we do, they would ask.’ I told them to call up the mine owners and get them out of bed so they could be bothered too.” Grossniklaus had crusaded for tougher strip mine laws since 1963. “Until then, I didn’t even know what a strip mine was,” she would say. But in March 1972, she drove to Columbus to testify before a Senate committee on the pending strip mine legislation, calling for the strongest possible bill. Ted Vonieda testified on the pending bill as well. He recommended a three-year ban on strip mining until a detailed study could be made of strip mining’s environmental impact on the state.

The new Ohio strip mine bill, backed by Governor Gilligan, was passed and took effect on April 10, 1972. But it wasn’t clear how much the new law would help those in Belmont County facing the expansion of strip mining south of I-70, as the giant shovel prepared to cross the interstate. Local newspapers were reporting that the crossing by The Gem of Egypt could occur before June 15, 1972, ahead of the summer vacation season when traffic on I-70 would be at a peak levels. Local activists, however, were vowing to fight the crossing.

The Crossing Fight

Among local residents who were opposed to the I-70 crossing was Barnesville City Council member Richard Garrett. After a couple of residents had come to him when strip mine blasting had damaged their homes, Garrett formed Citizens Organized to Defend the Environment (CODE) in June 1971, a grassroots effort aimed at the environmental impacts of strip mining.

The local opponents, however, were outnumbered by those who saw coal mining as key to their local economy and those who worked directly at the mines. During a summer 1972 public meeting sponsored by CODE in Barnesville, part of which was captured by an ABC-TV documentary, Echo of Anger, some of those working at the strip mines came out to offer their opinions. “…If that GEM is not able to cross the road, I’m out of a job…[I]f they keep the publicity up on this thing [i.e., the crossing], we are going to boycott the busi-nesses in town…”
– Bernard Delloma, mine worker A bulldozer operator working at the Egypt Valley Mine, Bernard Delloma, voiced his objection to the lawsuit filed to stop the crossing. “If that [mine] shuts down, there are 322 of us [out of a job]. If that GEM is not able to cross the road, I’m out of a job. I’m out of a ten or twelve thousand dollar a year job.” And he added that he and the other strip miners “have organized… and we say that if they keep the publicity up on this thing [i.e., the crossing], we are going to boycott the businesses in town. If we do, there won’t be no town left.”

“I don’t like stripping or any part of it,” explained Barnesville furniture store owner John Kirk, quoted in a Wall Street Journal story. Kirk, in fact, had gone to Columbus to protest new mining regulations. Still, “it isn’t that simple,” he said. “Better than 10 percent of the work force in this county works for the mines.” Newspaper editor Bill Davies of the Barnesville Enterprise agreed, “Our future is definitely tied to the strip mining industry – it’s more important to us that you think.”

Map shows approximate location in Ohio of a planned I-70 crossing by a giant strip-mine shovel owned by the Hanna Coal Co. N.Y. Times map.

Meanwhile, a permit for the crossing of I-70 by The GEM of Egypt strip mining shovel was issued to Hanna/Consol on August 7, 1972. That’s when the CODE group joined the Ohio Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) in a lawsuit to challenge the I-70 crossing. Garrett in comments to the Times-Leader newspaper of Martins Ferry, Ohio, had stated earlier his group’s intent “to fight every one of those machines when they try to bring them across.” The lawsuit was filed in federal district court. CODE was joined by Friends of the Earth and two local residents as listed plaintiffs

The legal battle would delay any further action on the crossing. Still, on September 29, 1972, Hanna/Consol moved to amend the crossing permit to substitute The Mountaineer and The Tiger (also known as 46-A) shovels, instead of The GEM of Egypt. Some speculated this was partly a public relations move on Hanna’s part, since the bigger GEM of Egypt had drawn national notice at the time. But Hanna’s CEO, Hatch noted that The GEM had plenty to do north of the interstate and would make the crossing later in 1973 or early in 1974.

In their legal challenge to the crossing, CODE and fellow plaintiffs made federal and state arguments. They raised questions of federal procedure and decision making under the Administrative Procedures Act whether the U.S. Secretary of Transportation could approve such a crossing under the Federal Highway Act and whether the action to cross might be construed to be “a major federal action” under the National Environmental Policy Act requiring an environmental assessment.

From Associated Press story, December 29, 1972, Observer-Reporter (Washington, PA).

On each of these counts, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Kinneary in Columbus offered his findings and analysis, and on December 15th, 1972 he dismissed the plaintiffs’case and allowed the crossing to proceed.

In his ruling, the judge cited as valid the 1964 shovel-crossing agreement the company had made with Ohio and the Federal highway agencies. He did note that the crossing of 1–70 would be an “inconvenience,” but one that would only slow traffic and not stop it, with suitable detours. Hanna would, however, be liable for any damage to the highway. So with Judge Kinneary’s ruling, the crossing was allowed to proceed.

One protest group, The Commission on Religion in Appalachia, from Knoxville, Tennessee, made an 11th-hour appeal to Ohio Gov. Gilligan to step in and halt the crossings. But the giant shovels would not be stopped. Still, a coalition of protesters from Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia planned a peaceful march to the crossing site.

The Crossing

On January 4, 1973, in the early hours of a bitterly cold winter morning, the two mammoth machines – first, the 5.5 million pound Mountaineer (65 cu yd bucket) followed by the smaller, 4.5 million pound Tiger (46 cu yd bucket) – crossed I-70. The machines moved very slowly in making the transit, at a rate of about three miles an hour.

Grainy black & white photo of The Mountaineer shovel at left moving toward its crossing point of Interstate highway I-70 near Hendrysburg, Ohio, dumping sand ahead of itself as part of the land bridge being built to protect the highway surface from damage.

The crossing required a rerouting of traffic off I-70 for approximately 1¼ miles. Temporary entrance and exit ramps in both directions were constructed, connecting with State Route 800 onto which traffic was routed for a mile or so, until it could return to I-70. Uniformed flagmen were stationed to direct traffic through the re-routing. To protect the highway pavement, a special gravel and earthen land bridge was built across I-70 over which the Hanna shovels crossed. At least six feet of crushed stone and earth was used for the land bridge and heavy wooden mats were also placed over the crushed stone and earth. Sensors were also placed beneath the highway surface to test for any stress on the roadway.

The Mountaineer shovel shown continuing to aid in the construction of the land bridge upon which it and another shovel, The Tiger, would cross interstate highway I-70 in Ohio in order to strip mine coal fields on the other side.

A fleet of some eight bulldozers worked around the base of the big shovels, helping to shape and stabilize the land bridge ahead of the crossing. The transit of the big shovels began at noon on January 4th, 1973. Under the permit, Hanna was allotted a period of 24 hours to move its equipment, and officials at the company had estimated it would take from two to three hours to make the actual crossing. However, the crossing was made ahead of schedule and was actually completed by 6:30 pm that day.

The crossing of the big shovels made The NBC Evening News with John Chancellor on Friday, January 5th, 1973. The event was also front-page news in many Ohio newspapers, and was also covered in the New York Times and Washington Post. One local newsman rode along in The Tiger as that shovel made the crossing.

Jan 4, 1973: The Mountaineer earth-moving shovel makes the transit across I-70 near Hendrysburg, Ohio, on its journey south through Belmont County to help strip mine coal lands owned by Hanna Coal Co. near Barnesville.

Ted Voneida of Case Western Reserve University was one of the activists at the crossing. He was quoted in an Associated Press story on the day of the crossing: “I’m protesting the idea that we must trade off the environment for [electric] power in this country. I hope to let people know, especially in the western states, what is happening.” Strip mining was then about to move west in a big way, to states such as Montana and Wyoming, where the land was flat to gently rolling, the coal seams thick, and the odds against reclamation even greater. Voneida was sounding a warning: the giant shovels were headed their way and the results would not be pleasant. Other protesters at the crossing – all peaceful there were no confrontations – sought to highlight the fact that costs were being created — costs to roads, water, and land — that would be borne by the public, not the companies making the profits.

On January 5th, 1972, after the two shovels were moved across the highway, Arthur Wallace, who then headed Hanna’s reclamation efforts, conducted a bus tour of “reclaimed” areas for newsmen, as a contingent of press from out of state had gathered for the crossing. Wallace noted that Belmont County’s’ farming land, after strip mining, would be used for cattle grazing due to the lower quality of the restored land. Wallace noted that the cattle would graze on a variety of vegetation including alfalfa and crown vetch.

Once on the south side of I-70, The Mountaineer and The Tiger resumed their digging as Hanna/Consol continued strip mining in Belmont County for many years. And despite the new 1972 Ohio strip mine law (the implementation of which was blocked for several years by coal company litigation), Hanna’s Egypt Valley Mine continued its southward expansion, as the big shovels worked to turn the landscape upside down. True, some reclamation occurred in that area and throughout the state, and the land in some cases was returned to passable condition. But environmental problems from strip-mined land, and disruption for nearby communities, persisted for many years throughout the coal mining areas of the state, continuing for some areas as this is written.

The Tiger at work uncovering coal seams near Barnesville, Ohio in 1973 after it had crossed interstate I-70.

But during the 1970s, in the Belmont County area and other Ohio counties, there appears to have been continued struggle between local residents and coal mining companies. Among those residents, for example, was Mary Workman of Steubenville, Ohio (shown below) who would not sell her land to Hanna Coal Company even though the company owned much of the land around her and many of the local roads were closed. In the early 1970s, she filed a damage suit against the Hanna Coal Company for ruining her water (still searching for the outcome of that case).

Photo date, October 1973. Mary Workman of Steubenville, Ohio holds a jar of undrinkable water that comes from her well. At the time, she had filed a damage suit against the Hanna Coal Co. she had to transport water from a well many miles away. She also resisted selling her land to the coal company, even though much of the land around her was sold and many of the roads closed. Photo, Erik Calonius, U.S. EPA Documerica Project.

By August 1977, the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter, providing hope in the nation’s coalfields for improved regulation and better reclamation outcomes. Among those invited to the Rose Garden signing ceremony was Barnesville’s Richard Garrett and Case Western Reserve University’s Ted Voneida. Yet even with the 1977 federal law, which did help raise mining safety and reclamation standards across the country, the record now 40 years later remains mixed, with the law’s Abandoned Lands Reclamation Fund a frequent target of the industry, and in 2017, slammed by an Inspector General’s report for diversions of reclamation monies in some states for non-reclamation purposes.

The Sand Hill strip mine in Vinton County, Ohio, May 2008, as photographed by Ohio’s Matt Eich for his book “Carry Me Ohio,” and also published in The Atlantic magazine, December 2016.

In southeastern Ohio, meanwhile, strip mining, and the region’s reliance on a single industry, has not made for a viable economy. As Allen J. Dieterich-Ward noted of the region, writing in his 2006 dissertation, Mines, Mills and Malls: Regional Development in the Steel Valley:

…By the late 1970s, the rise in mining employment coupled with the failure significantly to diversify employment or to develop the region’s infrastructure meant that the area’s economic fortunes increasingly rested on a single industry. The continued use of surface mining had also depopulated large swaths of the area, leaving behind thousands of acres unsuitable for either industrial or recreational development. The collapse in the market for the area’s high sulfur coal during the 1980s prompted a steep drop in mine employment. Combined with losses in the heavy industrial employers along the Ohio River, the mine closures created a mass exodus from the region and the collapse of the local economy.

Columbus Dispatch newspaper map of the Egypt Valley Wildlife Area in S.E. Ohio.

Elsewhere in the region, some of the land where Hanna’s monster shovels roamed, ironically, has been converted into parks and wildlife areas. In Harrison County, the surrounding hillsides of what is now the Sally Buffalo Park were strip mined for coal in the 1950s. Hanna had also built a dam there in 1953 to “reclaim” some of the mined land, and the area was first used as a recreation area for company employees. The restored area became a public park in 1965.

The 18,000-acre Egypt Valley Wildlife Area was created by the state of Ohio in 1994-95. It includes land in the northwest corner of Belmont County where The GEM of Egypt worked for a number of years. Approximately 80 percent of the acreage in the Egypt Valley Wildlife Area has been strip mined. The last active mine there was completed in 1998. The converted wildlife area, however, as of 2015, has been targeted for coal re-mining. Oxford Mining Co. a subsidiary of Westmoreland Coal Co, won a 2015 case before the Ohio Supreme Court allowing it to strip mine there. Given this decision (which involved a privately-held in-holding), other Ohio parks, forests, and wildlife areas may also be vulnerable to strip mining.

2009 map of abandoned coal mines and unfunded cleanup sites in SE Ohio. Source: Columbus Dispatch.

Abandoned Mines

Part of coal’s legacy in Southeast Ohio continues to be the abandoned mines that have been left behind. As of 2009, the state estimated that more than 600,000 acres of coal had been mined underground in Ohio and more than 720,000 acres had been strip mined. The Columbus Dispatch map at left shows those areas of known mine sites – underground and stripped – that have been abandoned, as well as unfunded cleanup sites.

In 2012, a Columbus Dispatch story on coal and polluted streams in the state, noted: “Coal’s legacy on Ohio’s waters, particularly in the southeastern part of the state, is visible in creek after yellow creek. In some instances, coal companies intentionally pumped water out of coal mines into nearby streams. In others, abandoned coal mines that fill with rainwater continuously leach water into nearby watersheds.” Some 1,300 miles of streams or creeks in Ohio have been polluted by water from coal mines.

Scientists and citizen organizations in Ohio have initiated some remediation efforts in a few watersheds that have been heavily mined. One of these has been a partnership working to restore the Raccoon Creek watershed in southeastern Ohio. This watershed with multiple streams drains 683 square miles of land in six counties: Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Meigs, and Vinton. Coal extraction over nearly 100 years in the area has badly damaged the watershed. On a map of the watershed below, strip-mined areas are indicated in dark blue, while deep-mined areas are shown in red.

In the early 1950s, Ohio’s Division of Wildlife performed the first study of the Raccoon Creek basin and found little aquatic life due to abandoned coal mines and acid-producing wastes. Some 350 million tons of coal were mined in this watershed between 1820 and 1993, affecting nearly 40,000 acres.

Blue (stripped), red (deep-mined), 6-county Raccoon Ck. watershed.

As of 2005, however, Ohio scientists believed that it would still take a decade for recent remediation efforts in the watershed to have any pronounced changes on the water quality and biology of its streams. A number are still in poor or fair condition. But in a few streams, there have been improvements in water chemistry and aquatic habitat. Findings of aquatic insects and fish in Little Raccoon Creek, for example, while not in great numbers, show a diversity that some scientists find promising for the future.

Big Shovel Epitaphs

As for the monster machines that caused all the damage and commotion back in the 1960s and 1970s, all three of them had long mining careers. The Tiger, from 1944, worked up through the 1970s The Mountaineer, began working in 1956, stopped digging in 1979 and was scrapped in 1988 and The GEM of Egypt of 1967, dug its last shovelful in 1988. The Silver Spade, a sister shovel to The GEM, and also used by Hanna, continued mining though January 2006, in part because The GEM was used for parts to keep The Spade running. More history and background on the big machines, and Ohio’s surface mining history, is available at the Harrison Coal & Reclamation Historical Park in Cadiz, Ohio.

For additional stories at this website on the history of coal and coal mining, see for example, the following: “Paradise: 1971″ (about a John Prine song, strip mining in Muhlenberg County, KY, and the demise of a small town) “Mountain Warrior” (profile of Kentucky author and coal-field activist, Harry Caudill, noted for his famous book, Night Comes to The Cumberlands and his life-long critique of Appalachian strip mining) “Sixteen Tons, 1950s” (the famous Tennessee Ernie Ford song and some coal mining history) and, “G.E.’s Hot Coal Ad, 2005” (a General Electric TV ad that casts a new breed of coal miners).

Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you find here please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 31 May 2017
Last Update: 19 March 2021
Comments to: [email protected]

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Giant Shovel on I-70: Ohio Strip Mine Fight, 1973,”, May 31, 2017.

Sources, Links & Additional Information

Top of “The GEM of Egypt” shovel stripping hillsides above Hendrysburg, Ohio, early 1970s. Matt Castello/Facebook.

"GEM of Egypt" shovel stripping hillsides near Morristown, Ohio, north of I-70, 1973-74. EPA Documerica.

"GEM of Egypt" at work uncovering coal seams in Ohio farm country, circa 1960s-1970s.

1960s: Aerial view of shovel at work in Ohio and rows of tree/shrub plantings on unleveled spoil piles, lower left.

Helicopter view: Flying along miles of highwalls in Perry County, OH. From 1969 film, “The Ravaged Earth.”

Screen shot from “Ravaged Earth” film showing Peabody Coal Co. billboard in Ohio at “reclaimed” site (next photo).

Eroded spoil piles & mined hillsides on Peabody Coal Co. strip-mined land adjacent to “Green Earth” sign.

“The Silver Spade” strip mining shovel crossing a local road in Ohio, circa 1960s-1970s.

"The Silver Spade" -- sister to "The GEM of Egypt," -- was employed by Hanna Coal Co. in Ohio for many years.

1969's “Ravaged Earth” film showing strip mined lands & environmental dmage in Perry County, Ohio.

EPA Documerica photo showing some reclamation near New Athens, Ohio, 1973-74, but with remaining highwalls.

December 1973: Stop sign in southeastern Ohio adorned with a protest message. Erik Calonius, EPA Documerica.

“Special Issue on the 20th Anniversary of the Federal Coal Law,” Citizens Coal Council, Aug 3, 1997. Click for PDF.

Jane Stein, “Coal is Cheap, Hated, Abundant, Filthy, Needed,” Smithsonian, February 1973, pp. 19-27.

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Chad Montrie, To Save the Land and People: A History of Opposition to Surface Coal Mining in Appalachia, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

For an excellent retrospective on the 1970s-1990s history of the strip mining fight, citizen activists involved in that fight, and history on the strip mine law, The Surface Mining Control & Reclamation Act of 1977, see, “Special Issue on the 20th Anniversary of the Federal Coal Law,” Citizens Coal Council Reporter, August 3. 1997.

WKYC-TV, NBC, Cleveland, Ohio, “The Ravaged Earth” (1969 documentary film on strip mining, featuring in part, strip mined lands in Perry County, Ohio and officials from Perry County, commenting on strip mine damage in that county 21:24 minutes), Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University,

James Hyslop, Vice President, Consolidation Coal Company, “Some Present Day Reclama-tion Problems: An Industrialist’s Viewpoint,” The Ohio Journal of Science, Vol. 64, No. 2 (March, 1964), pp. 157-165.

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Ben A. Franklin, “Strip-Mining Boom Leaves Wasteland in Its Wake,” New York Times, December 15, 1970, p. 1.

Arnold W. Reitze Jr., “Old King Coal and the Merry Rapists of Appalachia,” Case Western Reserve Law Review, Volume 22, Issue 4, 1971.

Ken Hechler, “Strip Mining: a Clear and Present Danger,” Not Man Apart (Friends of the Earth), V. 1, July 1971 (discusses strip mining and urges support for his bill, HR 4556, which would ban all strip mining six months after its passage).

Interior Committee, House, U. S. Congress. “Regulation of Strip Mining,” Hearings, 92nd Cong., 1st Session, H.R. 60 and Related Bills. Washington, D.C., U.S. Gov’t Printing Office, 1972. 890 pp. Hearings held Sept. 20 – Nov. 30, 1971.

“Hanna Coal to Install Limers on Polluted Skull Fork,” The Daily Reporter (Dover, Ohio), December 27, 1971, p. 17.

Doral Chenoweth, “Say Good-by to Hendrys-burg,” New York Times, Op-Ed page, January 3, 1972.

“Complaints Started Her Strip Mine Fight,” Akron Beacon Journal, (Akron, Ohio) March 1, 1972, p. E-15.

Tom Walton, “Gilligan Lists New Goals Without Asking Extra Tax New Agency, Strip Mine Bill Get Top Priority,” Toledo Blade, March 1, 1972, p.1.

“Hatch Pledges to Aid Barnesville Leaders,” Columbus Dispatch, March 15, 1972.

“GEM of Egypt Proposed Move: Why Does ‘Earth-Eater’ Cross The Road?,” Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio), April 2, 1972, p. 32.

“GEM Power Shovel Casts a Shadow Over Barnesville,” Akron Beacon-Journal, April 2, 1972.

GEM of Egypt Photo Gallery, MidwestLost .com.

Editorial, “Ohio Cracks Down on Strip Mining” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 22, 1972, p. 6.

“It Could Be A Hungry Vacation For Big ‘GEM’,” Akron Beacon Journal, Sunday, May 14, 1972, p. 6.

“Environment: Why Does the Gem Cross the Road?,” Time, Monday, May 15, 1972.

“Suit Eyed to Stop GEM Move,” The Times Leader (Martins Ferry, OH), August 7, 1972, 1.

John S. Brecher, “A Stripper Threatens to Invade Ohio Town Citizenry is Divided,” Wall Street Journal, August 16, 1972, p. 12.

George Vecsey, “Strip Mining and an Ohio Town: Economy vs. the Environment,” New York Times, September 4, 1972.

“GEM Devastates Ohio Hillsides in Search for Coal,” Denver Post, September 17, 1972.

1972 ABC-TV documentary Echo of Anger (aired mid-August 1972), TV listing: “ABC News inquiry examines the controversial issue of strip mining in the Appalachian region.”

Citizens Organized to Defend Environment, Inc. v. Volpe, 353 F. Supp. 520 (S.D. Ohio 1972), U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio – 353 F. Supp. 520 (S.D. Ohio 1972), December 15, 1972.

Associated Press, “Giant Shovels Due to Cross I-70 in Ohio,” Observer-Reporter (Washing-ton, PA) December 29, 1972., p. 16.

“Bills Regulating Strip Mining Die in Senate,” CQ Almanac, 1972, Washington, DC: Congres-sional Quarterly, 1973.

“Ohio to Shut Interstate a Day for Shovel Crossing,” New York Times, January 1, 1973.

“Environmentalists Plan Protest to ‘Mourn Land’ as Shovels Move,” The Times Leader (Martin’s Ferry, OH), January 3, 1973.

William Richards, “Strip Miners’ Move Alarms Ohio Town,” Washington Post, January 4, 1973, p. A-4.

AP, (Barnesville, Ohio), “Hanna’s Big Shovels to Move Despite Opposition,” The Xenia Daily Gazette (Xenia, OH), January 4, 1973, p. 18.

“Hanna Coal Co. Will Cross I-70 I-70 Is Closed So Crews Can Lay a 12-Foot Blanket of Earth for the Huge Machines to Roll Across,” Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, OH), Thurs-day, January 4, 1973, p. 1-A.

“Mountaineer Goes for A Cruise,” [Thursday, January 4, 1973, The Mountaineer and The Tiger crossed I-70 near Hendrysburg, Ohio. The following pictures are from the January 5 Times-Leader (Martins Ferry and Bellaire, Ohio) and were taken by Boyd Nelson.]

Ben A. Franklin, “Giant Mine Shovels Finally Cross Road A Vast Operation,” New York Times, January 5, 1973, p. 61.

“Giant Shovels Chug Across I-70,” The Blade (Toledo, Ohio), January 5, 1973, p. 2.

AP, “Shovels Moved Over I-70 As Protestors Watch,” The Evening Review (East Liverpool, Ohio), January 5, 1973, p. 1.

Chan Cochran, “Hanna Coal Company’s Two Huge Strip Mining Shovels Make it Across I-70 Early and Without Incident,” Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, OH), Friday, January 5, 1973, p. 1-A.

“Giant Shovels Cross Highway As Protestors Merely Look On,” The Journal News (Hamilton, Ohio) January 5, 1973, p. 5.

“Hanna Coal Company Moves Across I-70 Ohio Residents Fight Strip Miners,” The Daily Iowan (Iowa City, Iowa), Thursday, January 18, 1973 (Ken Light and Mountain Life & Work contributors).

“Tim Twichell’s Mountaineer Pics,” StripMine .org.

Erik Calonius, Photo Albums (freelance photographer hired for EPA’s “Documerica” Project, 1971-1977 ) Included at this URL are some extensive photos, now in the National Archives, of strip mining and strip mine damage in Southeastern Ohio, circa 1973-74.

“Strip Mining,” CQ Researcher (Congressional Quarterly), November 14, 1973

“Hanna Coal’s Past Recalled in Calendars,” The Times Leader (Martins Ferry, OH), December 17, 2012.

“Coal Mining and Landscape Change: The Case of Harrison County,”

“Council Pledges Support to Greenbelt Advocates,” Barnesville Enterprise, October 21, 1997.

“Council Approves Greenbelt Resolution,” Barnesville Enterprise, October 22, 1997.

“Warren Trustees Pass Greenbelt Resolution,” Barnesville Enterprise, October 29, 1997.

Ohio Chapter, Sierra Club, “Ohio Tour Shows Effects of Coal Mining,” Sierra Club Scrapbook, December 3, 2008.

Laura Arenschield, “Old Coal Mines Still Taint Ohio Waterways,” The Columbus Dispatch, (Columbus, OH), August 14, 2015.

Allen Dieterich-Ward, Beyond Rust: Metropolitan Pittsburgh and the Fate of Industrial America, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, November 2015, 347pp.


Early Middle Ages: 500–1000 Edit

While the Roman Empire and Christian religion survived in an increasingly Hellenised form in the Byzantine Empire centered at Constantinople in the East, Western civilization suffered a collapse of literacy and organization following the fall of Rome in AD 476. Gradually however, the Christian religion re-asserted its influence over Western Europe.

After the Fall of Rome, the papacy served as a source of authority and continuity. In the absence of a magister militum living in Rome, even the control of military matters fell to the pope. Gregory the Great (c 540–604) administered the church with strict reform. A trained Roman lawyer and administrator, and a monk, he represents the shift from the classical to the medieval outlook and was a father of many of the structures of the later Roman Catholic Church. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, he looked upon Church and State as co-operating to form a united whole, which acted in two distinct spheres, ecclesiastical and secular, but by the time of his death, the papacy was the great power in Italy: [10]

Pope Gregory the Great made himself in Italy a power stronger than emperor or exarch, and established a political influence which dominated the peninsula for centuries. From this time forth the varied populations of Italy looked to the pope for guidance, and Rome as the papal capital continued to be the center of the Christian world.

According to tradition, it was a Romanized Briton, Saint Patrick who introduced Christianity to Ireland around the 5th century. Roman legions had never conquered Ireland, and as the Western Roman Empire collapsed, Christianity managed to survive there. Monks sought out refuge at the far fringes of the known world: like Cornwall, Ireland, or the Hebrides. Disciplined scholarship carried on in isolated outposts like Skellig Michael in Ireland, where literate monks became some of the last preservers in Western Europe of the poetic and philosophical works of Western antiquity. [11]

By around 800 they were producing illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells. The missions of Gaelic monasteries led by monks like St Columba spread Christianity back into Western Europe during the Middle Ages, establishing monasteries initially in northern Britain, then through Anglo-Saxon England and the Frankish Empire during the Middle Ages. Thomas Cahill, in his 1995 book How the Irish Saved Civilization, credited Irish Monks with having "saved" Western Civilization during this period. [12] According to art historian Kenneth Clark, for some five centuries after the fall of Rome, virtually all men of intellect joined the Church and practically nobody in western Europe outside of monastic settlements had the ability to read or write. [11]

Around AD 500, Clovis I, the King of the Franks, became a Christian and united Gaul under his rule. Later in the 6th century, the Byzantine Empire restored its rule in much of Italy and Spain. Missionaries sent from Ireland by the Pope helped to convert England to Christianity in the 6th century as well, restoring that faith as the dominant in Western Europe.

Muhammed, the founder and Prophet of Islam was born in Mecca in AD 570. Working as a trader he encountered the ideas of Christianity and Judaism on the fringes of the Byzantine Empire, and around 610 began preaching of a new monotheistic religion, Islam, and in 622 became the civil and spiritual leader of Medina, soon after conquering Mecca in 630. Dying in 632, Muhammed's new creed conquered first the Arabian tribes, then the great Byzantine cities of Damascus in 635 and Jerusalem in 636. A multiethnic Islamic empire was established across the formerly Roman Middle East and North Africa. By the early 8th century, Iberia and Sicily had fallen to the Muslims. By the 9th century, Malta, Cyprus, and Crete had fallen – and for a time the region of Septimania. [13]

Only in 732 was the Muslim advance into Europe stopped by the Frankish leader Charles Martel, saving Gaul and the rest of the West from conquest by Islam. From this time, the "West" became synonymous with Christendom, the territory ruled by Christian powers, as Oriental Christianity fell to dhimmi status under the Muslim Caliphates. The cause to liberate the "Holy Land" remained a major focus throughout medieval history, fueling many consecutive crusades, only the first of which was successful (although it resulted in many atrocities, in Europe as well as elsewhere).

Charlemagne ("Charles the Great" in English) became king of the Franks. He conquered Gaul (modern day France), northern Spain, Saxony, and northern and central Italy. In 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Holy Roman Emperor. Under his rule, his subjects in non-Christian lands like Germany converted to Christianity.

After his reign, the empire he created broke apart into the kingdom of France (from Francia meaning "land of the Franks"), Holy Roman Empire and the kingdom in between (containing modern day Switzerland, northern-Italy, Eastern France and the low-countries).

Starting in the late 8th century, the Vikings began seaborne attacks on the towns and villages of Europe. Eventually, they turned from raiding to conquest, and conquered Ireland, most of England, and northern France (Normandy). These conquests were not long-lasting, however. In 954 Alfred the Great drove the Vikings out of England, which he united under his rule, and Viking rule in Ireland ended as well. In Normandy the Vikings adopted French culture and language, became Christians and were absorbed into the native population.

By the beginning of the 11th century Scandinavia was divided into three kingdoms, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, all of which were Christian and part of Western civilization. Norse explorers reached Iceland, Greenland, and even North America, however only Iceland was permanently settled by the Norse. A period of warm temperatures from around 1000–1200 enabled the establishment of a Norse outpost in Greenland in 985, which survived for some 400 years as the most westerly outpost of Christendom. From here, Norseman attempted their short-lived European colony in North America, five centuries before Columbus. [13]

In the 10th century another marauding group of warriors swept through Europe, the Magyars. They eventually settled in what is today Hungary, converted to Christianity and became the ancestors of the Hungarian people.

A West Slavic people, the Poles, formed a unified state by the 10th century and having adopted Christianity also in the 10th century [14] [15] but with pagan rising in the 11th century.

By the start of the second millennium AD, the West had become divided linguistically into three major groups. The Romance languages, based on Latin, the language of the Romans, the Germanic languages, and the Celtic languages. The most widely spoken Romance languages were French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. Four widely spoken Germanic languages were English, German, Dutch, and Danish. Irish and Scots Gaelic were two widely spoken Celtic languages in the British Isles.

High Middle Ages: 1000–1300 Edit

Art historian Kenneth Clark wrote that Western Europe's first "great age of civilisation" was ready to begin around the year 1000. From 1100, he wrote: "every branch of life – action, philosophy, organisation, technology [experienced an] extraordinary outpouring of energy, an intensification of existence". Upon this period rests the foundations of many of Europe's subsequent achievements. By Clark's account, the Catholic Church was very powerful, essentially internationalist and democratic in its structures and run by monastic organisations generally following the Rule of Saint Benedict. Men of intelligence usually joined religious orders and those of intellectual, administrative or diplomatic skill could advance beyond the usual restraints of society – leading churchmen from faraway lands were accepted in local bishoprics, linking European thought across wide distances. Complexes like the Abbey of Cluny became vibrant centres with dependencies spread throughout Europe. Ordinary people also treked vast distances on pilgrimages to express their piety and pray at the site of holy relics. Monumental abbeys and cathedrals were constructed and decorated with sculptures, hangings, mosaics and works belonging to one of the greatest epochs of art and providing stark contrast to the monotonous and cramped conditions of ordinary living. Abbot Suger of the Abbey of St. Denis is considered an influential early patron of Gothic architecture and believed that love of beauty brought people closer to God: "The dull mind rises to truth through that which is material". Clark calls this "the intellectual background of all the sublime works of art of the next century and in fact has remained the basis of our belief of the value of art until today". [11]

By the year 1000 feudalism had become the dominant social, economic and political system. At the top of society was the monarch, who gave land to nobles in exchange for loyalty. The nobles gave land to vassals, who served as knights to defend their monarch or noble. Under the vassals were the peasants or serfs. The feudal system thrived as long as peasants needed protection by the nobility from invasions originating inside and outside of Europe. So as the 11th century progressed, the feudal system declined along with the threat of invasion. [ citation needed ]

In 1054, after centuries of strained relations, the Great Schism occurred over differences in doctrine, splitting the Christian world between the Catholic Church, centered in Rome and dominant in the West, and the Orthodox Church, centered in Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. The last pagan land in Europe was converted to Christianity with the conversion of the Baltic peoples in the High Middle Ages, bringing them into Western civilization as well. [ citation needed ]

As the Medieval period progressed, the aristocratic military ideal of Chivalry and institution of knighthood based around courtesy and service to others became culturally important. Large Gothic cathedrals of extraordinary artistic and architectural intricacy were constructed throughout Europe, including Canterbury Cathedral in England, Cologne Cathedral in Germany and Chartres Cathedral in France (called the "epitome of the first great awakening in European civilisation" by Kenneth Clark [11] ). The period produced ever more extravagant art and architecture, but also the virtuous simplicity of such as St Francis of Assisi (expressed in the Prayer of St Francis) and the epic poetry of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. As the Church grew more powerful and wealthy, many sought reform. The Dominican and Franciscan Orders were founded, which emphasized poverty and spirituality. [ citation needed ]

Women were in many respects excluded from political and mercantile life, however, leading churchwomen were an exception. Medieval abbesses and female superiors of monastic houses were powerful figures whose influence could rival that of male bishops and abbots: "They treated with kings, bishops, and the greatest lords on terms of perfect equality. . . they were present at all great religious and national solemnities, at the dedication of churches, and even, like the queens, took part in the deliberation of the national assemblies. ". [16] The increasing popularity of devotion to the Virgin Mary (the mother of Jesus) secured maternal virtue as a central cultural theme of Catholic Europe. Kenneth Clark wrote that the 'Cult of the Virgin' in the early 12th century "had taught a race of tough and ruthless barbarians the virtues of tenderness and compassion". [11]

In 1095, Pope Urban II called for a Crusade to re-conquer the Holy Land from Muslim rule, when the Seljuk Turks prevented Christians from visiting the holy sites there. For centuries prior to the emergence of Islam, Asia Minor and much of the Mid East had been a part of the Roman and later Byzantine Empires. The Crusades were originally launched in response to a call from the Byzantine Emperor for help to fight the expansion of the Turks into Anatolia. The First Crusade succeeded in its task, but at a serious cost on the home front, and the crusaders established rule over the Holy Land. However, Muslim forces reconquered the land by the 13th century, and subsequent crusades were not very successful. The specific crusades to restore Christian control of the Holy Land were fought over a period of nearly 200 years, between 1095 and 1291. Other campaigns in Spain and Portugal (the Reconquista), and Northern Crusades continued into the 15th century. The Crusades had major far-reaching political, economic, and social impacts on Europe. They further served to alienate Eastern and Western Christendom from each other and ultimately failed to prevent the march of the Turks into Europe through the Balkans and the Caucasus. [ citation needed ]

After the fall of the Roman Empire, many of the classical Greek texts were translated into Arabic and preserved in the medieval Islamic world, from where the Greek classics along with Arabic science and philosophy were transmitted to Western Europe and translated into Latin during the Renaissance of the 12th century and 13th century. [17] [18] [19]

Cathedral schools began in the Early Middle Ages as centers of advanced education, some of them ultimately evolving into medieval universities. During the High Middle Ages, Chartres Cathedral operated the famous and influential Chartres Cathedral School. The medieval universities of Western Christendom were well-integrated across all of Western Europe, encouraged freedom of enquiry and produced a great variety of fine scholars and natural philosophers, including Robert Grosseteste of the University of Oxford, an early expositor of a systematic method of scientific experimentation [20] and Saint Albert the Great, a pioneer of biological field research [21] The Italian University of Bologna is considered the oldest continually operating university. [ citation needed ]

Philosophy in the High Middle Ages focused on religious topics. Christian Platonism, which modified Plato's idea of the separation between the ideal world of the forms and the imperfect world of their physical manifestations to the Christian division between the imperfect body and the higher soul was at first the dominant school of thought. However, in the 12th century the works of Aristotle were reintroduced to the West, which resulted in a new school of inquiry known as scholasticism, which emphasized scientific observation. Two important philosophers of this period were Saint Anselm and Saint Thomas Aquinas, both of whom were concerned with proving God's existence through philosophical means. The Summa Theologica by Aquinas was one of the most influential documents in medieval philosophy and Thomism continues to be studied today in philosophy classes. Theologian Peter Abelard wrote in 1122 "I must understand in order that I may believe. by doubting we come to questioning, and by questioning we perceive the truth". [11]

In Normandy, the Vikings adopted French culture and language, mixed with the native population of mostly Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock and became known as the Normans. They played a major political, military, and cultural role in medieval Europe and even the Near East. They were famed for their martial spirit and Christian piety. They quickly adopted the Romance language of the land they settled in, their dialect becoming known as Norman, an important literary language. The Duchy of Normandy, which they formed by treaty with the French crown, was one of the great large fiefs of medieval France. The Normans are famed both for their culture, such as their unique Romanesque architecture, and their musical traditions, as well as for their military accomplishments and innovations. Norman adventurers established a kingdom in Sicily and southern Italy by conquest, and a Norman expedition on behalf of their duke led to the Norman Conquest of England. Norman influence spread from these new centres to the Crusader States in the Near East, to Scotland and Wales in Great Britain, and to Ireland. [ citation needed ]

Relations between the major powers in Western society: the nobility, monarchy and clergy, sometimes produced conflict. If a monarch attempted to challenge church power, condemnation from the church could mean a total loss of support among the nobles, peasants, and other monarchs. Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, one of the most powerful men of the 11th century, stood three days bare-headed in the snow at Canossa in 1077, in order to reverse his excommunication by Pope Gregory VII. As monarchies centralized their power as the Middle Ages progressed, nobles tried to maintain their own authority. The sophisticated Court of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II was based in Sicily, where Norman, Byzantine, and Islamic civilization had intermingled. His realm stretched through Southern Italy, through Germany and in 1229, he crowned himself King of Jerusalem. His reign saw tension and rivalry with the Papacy over control of Northern Italy. [22] A patron of education, Frederick founded the University of Naples. [ citation needed ]

Plantagenet kings first ruled the Kingdom of England in the 12th century. Henry V left his mark with a famous victory against larger numbers at the Battle of Agincourt, while Richard the Lionheart, who had earlier distinguished himself in the Third Crusade, was later romanticised as an iconic figure in English folklore. A distinctive English culture emerged under the Plantagenets, encouraged by some of the monarchs who were patrons of the "father of English poetry", Geoffrey Chaucer. The Gothic architecture style was popular during the time, with buildings such as Westminster Abbey remodelled in that style. King John's sealing of the Magna Carta was influential in the development of common law and constitutional law. The 1215 Charter required the King to proclaim certain liberties, and accept that his will was not arbitrary — for example by explicitly accepting that no "freeman" (non-serf) could be punished except through the law of the land, a right which is still in existence today. Political institutions such as the Parliament of England and the Model Parliament originate from the Plantagenet period, as do educational institutions including the universities of Cambridge and Oxford. [ citation needed ]

From the 12th century onward inventiveness had re-asserted itself outside of the Viking north and the Islamic south of Europe. Universities flourished, mining of coal commenced, and crucial technological advances such as the lock, which enabled sail ships to reach the thriving Belgian city of Bruges via canals, and the deep sea ship guided by magnetic compass and rudder were invented. [13]


Ted Eberle, 68, a solid, rough-hewn man in a canvas vest and camouflage cap, drives the gravel back roads of southeast Oklahoma in a pickup truck that smells of deer meat. Speaking in a twanging drawl, he tells story after story about the area—killings are a recurring theme—as we rattle and jounce through low wooded hills, isolated farms and thickets full of wild hogs.

“Seminole County was a refuge for outlaws when it was Indian Territory, and there are still places you don’t go unless you’re invited,” says Eberle, a former county commissioner.

Seminole County was also the center of the last armed and organized insurrection against the U.S. government. This dramatic, quixotic uprising of impoverished tenant farmers—mostly white, but including African-Americans and Native Americans—made front-page news across the nation in the summer of 1917, but is now almost forgotten, even where it took place.

“Most people around here have never heard of the Green Corn Rebellion,” Eberle says. “Or it might ring a bell somewhere, but they can’t tell you what happened. Hell, I had two uncles that went to prison for it, and I don’t even know how they got mixed up in it.”

Eberle knows the geography of the rebellion, though, and he’s taking me to key locations, starting with a rocky, brush-covered hill on the Little River. “That’s what they call Spears Mountain,” he says.

Ted Eberle believes that his two rebel uncles were duped. "They thought they could overthrow the government and avoid the draft—but it wasn't going to happen." (Trevor Paulhus)

In early August 1917, several hundred rebels gathered here by the farm of John Spears, who had hoisted the red flag of socialist revolution. Socialists are about as common as Satanists in rural Oklahoma today, and regarded in much the same light, but in the early 20th century, poor farmers flocked to the anti-capitalist creed. Most of the men on Spears Mountain, and at other rebel gathering places, were members of the Working Class Union (WCU), a secret socialist organization that vowed to destroy capitalism as well as resist the military draft for World War I. The rebels planned to rout the forces of law and order in Oklahoma, and then march to Washington, D.C., where they would stop the war, overthrow the government and implement a socialist commonwealth. The rebel leaders had assured their followers that two million working men would rise up with them, forming an unstoppable army. On the long march east, they would feed themselves with green (yet to ripen) corn taken from the fields. Hence the rebellion’s name.

Eberle now drives to a rise overlooking the shallow, sandy South Canadian River. “Uncle Dunny dynamited a railroad bridge right there, or burned it down, I’ve heard it both ways,” he says. “His name was Antony Eberle. The other uncle was Albert Eberle. We called him Chuzzy. He went to prison because they hung someone using a rope that had his initials on it. At least that’s the story I’ve always heard.”

On Spears Mountain, the final, suspenseful confrontation between the sheriff's posse and hundreds of tough-talking socialists ended in anticlimax, with the rebels fleeing or surrendering. (Trevor Paulhus)

Dunny and Chuzzy wouldn’t talk to Ted about the rebellion after they came out of prison, and neither would Ted’s father. But others said Dunny and Chuzzy were “backed into it” by violent threats from a few outside agitators. Ted wants to believe this, but he doubts it’s true.

“They had razor-sharp knives, and they were quick and mean,” he says. “Uncle Dunny killed a man in Arkansas, and did ten years in prison, and came here when it was still outlaw territory. It’s hard to imagine anyone forcing Dunny—or Chuzzy—into doing something he didn’t want to do.”

Rebels dynamited the bridge over the South Canadian River near Sasakwa—to little effect. "The fire was extinguished and traffic resumed late this afternoon," one report said. (Trevor Paulhus)

It’s extraordinary that this violent socialist rebellion against the U.S. government—the only one of its kind—has been largely erased from collective memory. Despite its failure, it wrecks long-standing arguments for “American exceptionalism,” as Alexis de Tocqueville called it—the notion that the United States is uniquely immune to radical class-based uprisings. But what’s most striking about the Green Corn Rebellion is the ambition of these half-starved backcountry farmers, the combination of boldness and delusion that propelled them to take on the government and the capitalist economic system. Armed with Winchesters, shotguns and squirrel-guns, riding on horses and mules, or walking on foot, they were confident of victory.

It might surprise many who call themselves socialists today, including members of Congress, that the heartland of American socialism was once rural Oklahoma. In 1915, there were more registered Socialist Party members in Oklahoma than in New York, which had seven times the population and a much stronger tradition of left-wing politics. Oklahoma socialists built a statewide movement, but won the most converts in the southeastern counties, where a small elite of predominantly white landowners had established a cotton fiefdom in the old Indian Territory. They rented out most of their land to tenant farmers, black and white, who had migrated to Oklahoma from Texas, Arkansas and the Deep South, dreaming of opportunity on a new frontier.

A view of a farm through trees, taken from train tracks outside of Sasakwa, Oklahoma. (Trevor Paulhus)

One reason that socialism thrived there was the appalling exploitation of these tenant farmers. In addition to being rack-rented, with the lease payable in cotton and corn, they were charged outrageous rates of interest by banks and merchants for the credit they needed to put another crop in the ground. Twenty percent interest was the baseline, 200 percent was not uncommon, and the highest compounded rates reached 2,000 percent. Buyers offered rock-bottom prices for cotton, and tenant farmers had no choice but to sell, and mortgage the next year’s crop, to keep going. Adding to these burdens were the poor soil and periodic ravages of the pestilential boll weevil. No matter how hard they worked, or how thrifty they were, tenant farmers were trapped in perpetual debt and abject poverty.

From left, a fenceline covered in thorns outside Sasakwa, Oklahoma, and the morning sun shining on a field in Seminole County, Oklahoma. (Trevor Paulhus)

In 1907, the German-born socialist organizer and editor Oscar Ameringer met these ragged, emaciated men and women. He had been organizing dockworkers in New Orleans when he agreed to come to Oklahoma and spread the budding socialist movement. What he found in the southeastern cotton counties was “humanity at its lowest possible level of degradation.” Tenant farmers were living in crude shacks infested with bedbugs and other parasites. They were suffering the diseases of malnutrition, and toiling in the fields for up to 18 hours a day. Though the American Socialist Party, following Marxist orthodoxy, disdained farmers as petty capitalists and argued that agriculture should be collectivized, Ameringer and other socialist leaders in Oklahoma viewed “agricultural laborers” as members of the working class, and argued that anyone who works the soil has the right to own land. That was Marxist heresy—but it won over tens of thousands of debt-ridden small farmers.

Socialist Party organizers, who typically shun religion, exploited the evangelical Christianity of the Oklahoma countryside. They portrayed Jesus Christ as a socialist hero—a carpenter who threw the money-changers out of the temple and said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven. The gospel of socialism spread through Oklahoma at weeklong summer camp meetings that attracted thousands and had the atmosphere of holiness revivals. Religious songs were given socialist lyrics. “Onward Christian Soldiers,” for example, became “Onward, Friends of Freedom,” and began “Toilers of the nation, thinkers of the time. ” Speakers told of the evils of capitalism, the great beast whose lair was Wall Street, and the imminent arrival of a paradise on earth called the Cooperative Commonwealth, in which everyone would have enough to be comfortable and happy. Here at last the tenant farmers’ degradation was explained to them—the cause was the system, not their own shortcomings.

Tenant farmers in Seminole County often failed, a 1922 account said, because rates on debt "ran 18 to 60 percent." (Trevor Paulhus)

This unorthodox brand of socialism won support in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Kansas, but it was strongest in Oklahoma. In 1914, the Sooner State elected 175 Socialist candidates to county and township positions, including six to the state legislature, alarming the political establishment. Between 1915 and 1917, the recently founded Working Class Union recruited thousands of angry, frustrated men in southeast Oklahoma, perhaps as many as 20,000. Their activities ranged from legal strikes, boycotts and lawsuits, to night-riding, bank robberies, barn-burning and dynamiting farm equipment.

Nothing helped the WCU more than President Woodrow Wilson’s decision in April 1917 to engage the United States in World War I. It meant that young men would be fighting and dying in Europe, not helping their families raise a crop. Under the charismatic leadership of H.H. “Rube” Munson, the wayward son of a prosperous Kansas pharmacist, and his mesmerizing lieutenant, Homer Spence, the WCU grew stronger by promising to shelter draft dodgers. Oklahoma farmers and socialists called Woodrow Wilson “Big Slick” and denounced the Allied cause as a “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.”

No one knows more about the Green Corn Rebellion than Nigel Sellars, a historian at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, who discovered an archival goldmine in the “Old German Files” of the Bureau of Investigation, the predecessor of the FBI. The files, preserved on microfilm at the National Archives, contain the bureau’s records of antiwar activities from 1915 to 1920. “I found affidavits, federal agents’ reports and interviews with the participants,” Sellars told me via email. He suggested that I take a look for myself.

Little River passes through Seminole County, Oklahoma. (Trevor Paulhus)

It was at the National Archives branch in College Park, Maryland, that I learned the truth about Ted Eberle’s mysterious uncles, Antony and Albert Eberle. Far from being “backed into it,” they were among the leaders of the local WCU and the draft resistance. That’s why Uncle Chuzzy went to prison there are no records of anyone being hanged during the rebellion. The Eberle brothers had dynamite for blowing up railroad bridges, and strychnine to poison the food and water that rebel wives would offer to investigating lawmen. They also threatened people into joining the rebellion. Uncle Dunny, in a moment that captured the rebellion’s atavistic frontier style, pointed two Winchester rifles at a young, wavering recruit and said, “God Damn you, get on that horse and come along.”

The rolls of microfilm reveal that the WCU, despite its vows of secrecy, its murder policy for snitches and a system of secret passwords, was thoroughly penetrated by undercover federal agents and informants. One agent drank and played cards for ten hours with WCU leaders at a saloon called Mother McKeevers in Dewar, Oklahoma, as they plotted to dynamite the gas lines to the smelters at a local mine. The sabotage, they said, would launch a campaign of “dirty work” so devastating that the “big bones,” or rich capitalists, would hide in their cellars when they saw the sign of the WCU. It wasn’t all barroom talk. Soon afterward, explosions destroyed gas lines and a waterworks near Dewar, and WCU members were arrested for the crimes.

On May 25, Special Agent M.L. Cutler reported that WCU members in Hughes County, Oklahoma, were recruiting men in large numbers, and buying guns and ammunition “with the intention of fighting conscription.” In Seminole County, “after considerable questioning,” a Native American WCU member named Ottie Tiger revealed plans to murder local draft officers.

Homer Spence was in Seminole County on June 8, and spoke to the Friendship local of the WCU. If they allowed themselves to be examined by draft officers, he said, they would “never get to see Sally and baby no more.” He laid out some tactics for the first phase of the rebellion: poison the wells, fight from the underbrush, seize weapons from Uncle Sam’s dead soldiers, blow up buildings belonging to the “Slicks,” destroy the railroads, loot everything possible, carry it home in wagons and hide it. Then be ready to march to Washington.

Spence warned members that he was a “sub-cat,” and asked if they knew what that meant. They said no. He said it was a “death angel with a blind fold on that would appear to them in sleep.” According to the affidavit of W. H. Hoobler, “That nearly scared the boys to death, they didn’t know what to do.”

The Friendship local was led by Jim Danley, a wiry 35-year-old with a sandy complexion, and by the Eberle brothers. Danley was overflowing with revolutionary fervor. He told “the boys” that the uprising wouldn’t just be nationwide, but global, and they would whip the capitalist class once and for all. Meanwhile the Eberle brothers were recruiting their relatives to the WCU, urging people not to register for the draft, and stashing ammunition, strychnine and dynamite.

On August 4, 1917, local papers trumpeted Sheriff Robert Duncan's warning to the draft-averse revolutionaries: "They'll either surrender or we'll shoot to kill." (

On the night of August 2, the Friendship local and the Francis local met on a sandbar in the South Canadian River. The meeting was interrupted when “Captain” Bill Benefield, head of the Lone Dove local, rode up on a mule. He was, according to historian James R. Green’s account in Grass-Roots Socialism, wearing a red sash with a saber at his waist. He announced that some of his members had ambushed and killed Sheriff Frank Grall and his deputy, Will Cross, and the rebellion was now underway. (In fact, Grall was only grazed and Cross survived his neck wound.)

Some of the men on the sandbar threw their hats in the air and hurrahed. Others got scared and wanted to leave, but Jim Danley grabbed his shotgun, the Eberle brothers leveled their Winchesters, and Benefield drew his gun. “The first son-of-a-bitch that starts to leave here,” Danley reportedly said, “we’ll leave him right here.”

Then they dispersed in groups, and started carrying out their plans. They cut telephone and telegraph lines, and set fire to railroad bridges and trestles. One group attempted—but failed—to dynamite an oil pipeline. On the morning of August 3, they mustered on Spears Mountain (also known as Spears Ridge), some 400-strong. They roasted a large quantity of corn and a stolen heifer. Then they waited for Uncle Sam’s troops to come, or a signal to begin marching to Washington.

News of the rebellion had spread rapidly, carried in part by fleeing conscripts, and nearby towns were in a panic. “Reign of Terror” and “Whole Region Aflame,” one newspaper proclaimed. White citizens were particularly alarmed to learn that blacks and Indians were among the rebels. In the town of Konawa, women spent the night hiding in a cornfield, while men lay on the roofs of store buildings with rifles. Sheriffs wasted no time. Within 24 hours, they had 1,000 armed men guarding the towns or hunting the rebels.

On Spears Mountain, around 3 p.m., the rebels saw a posse coming toward them. Benefield counted 30 or 40 men in the distance, and declared that killing them all would be light work. As the posse drew closer, however, courage deserted the rebel leaders. “At first Danley and Benefield gave orders to ‘fight like hell,’ but before a single gun was fired they gave orders to ‘run like hell,’” according to the affidavit of Lee Adams, a 22-year-old in the Friendship local. The vast majority of the rebels fled through the hills for home, or hid out in the river bottoms.

One group remained to put up a fight. But, expecting federal troops, they saw instead the familiar faces of their neighbors in the posse. As Walter Strong later explained, “We couldn’t shoot ’em down in cold blood. That’s the way we felt about the Germans too. We didn’t have no quarrel with them at all.” So they threw their guns down and surrendered.

Out of all the insurrections in American history, very few were as ambitious as the Green Corn Rebellion, and it must be judged as a disastrous failure. The authorities used the rebellion as a pretext to arrest innocent socialists all over Oklahoma and permanently destroy the socialist movement in the state by equating it with treason and violent anarchy. State and local governments established an intensely repressive, hyper-patriotic regime, in which citizens were jailed for failing to buy war bonds, and lynched and murdered for voicing antiwar sentiments. Nigel Sellars sums up the rebellion as “the only explicitly socialist insurrection in American history, and the only one that mirrors the other revolutions in 1917.” As Oklahoma newspapers and politicians proudly declared, Marxist revolution might have triumphed in Russia that year, but it got nowhere in the Sooner State.

Victor Walker, 75, is a genial retired sales executive in the small, shrinking town of Konawa. His grandfather, William Wallace Walker, was one of the rebellion’s leaders. The evidence was a document unearthed by a local journalist at the Oklahoma Historical Society. “It was never talked about in my family,” Victor says. “My sister knew that Grandpa had gone to prison, but she thought he’d stolen a horse. I had to tell her, ‘No, he tried to overthrow the U.S. government.’ She said, ‘What?’ She had never heard of the Green Corn Rebellion.”

From left, old street signs stand in a field and the sun sets over trees and grassland in Sasakwa, Oklahoma. (Trevor Paulhus)

Victor, the youngest child, found out about the rebellion from his father, Rex, who finally broke his silence toward the end of his life and told a few stories about the rebellion’s aftermath. Posses and lawmen were scouring the countryside in the biggest manhunt in Oklahoma history. Three rebels were killed in shootouts, and an innocent schoolteacher was gunned down while attempting to drive through a roadblock. William Wallace Walker was still hiding out, and young Rex was delivering his meals.

“One day lawmen came to the house, and wrapped a log chain around my dad’s neck,” says Victor. “He was 15 or 16, just a boy. They told him, ‘We’re going to hang your ass from a tree unless you tell us where that son-of-a-bitch is hiding.’ My dad didn’t tell them a damn thing, which was typical of him and his brothers. Grandpa raised five or six of the meanest boys that ever walked this county.”

On several occasions, Rex woke up in the middle of the night to find lawmen in the house holding kerosene lanterns and searching through the one room in which the family slept to see if the fugitive had sneaked home. Eventually, William Wallace Walker turned himself in he served a year and a day in the federal penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth. “He lived ten more years after that, but he was never the same,” said Victor. “He came out broke, mentally and physically, and lost his farm while he was in prison.”

In the course of the manhunt, law enforcement authorities arrested 458 men, including many Socialist Party members who had no connection to the rebellion. At least 16 wanted men were never captured, including one of the WCU members who’d shot the sheriff and his deputy near Lone Dove. Some newspapers and politicians called for the arrested men to be lynched, and initially the U.S. prosecutor said their treason warranted the death penalty. But two-thirds of them were released for lack of evidence, and the authorities accepted that most of the rebels had been duped or coerced into taking part. Eighty-six men, all of whom pleaded guilty, were sentenced to prison terms of one to ten years. Rube Munson and Spence got the longest terms, and served under tough conditions in Fort Leavenworth.

Wildflowers grow in a field in Seminole County, Oklahoma. (Trevor Paulhus)

When the former Green Corn rebels were released, many had to move away because landlords refused to rent to them. The rest kept their heads down and their mouths shut. “Captain” Bill Benefield was so tormented with regret and remorse over the rebellion that he committed suicide. Ted Eberle’s uncle Dunny, if anyone asked, said he would gladly fight for Uncle Sam if given another chance. The Oklahoma Socialist Party disbanded in 1918.

In a manicured neighborhood in an Oklahoma City suburb lives a courtly, cigarette-smoking octogenarian named Paul Gaines. His family history contains a bitter footnote to the Green Corn Rebellion. On the first day of 1920, nearly a year and a half after the rebellion folded, his grandfather Tom Ragland, who had served on the county draft board, was riding through Seminole County. Five men lurking by a culvert blasted him off his horse with shotguns. His body was found with a typewritten note pinned to his chest saying “never again would he send men to war.”

Paul Gaines, in Edmond, recalls the murder of his grandfather, Tom Ragland. "They found out when his horse come home without him. That was a faithful horse. His name was Button. (Trevor Paulhus)

“My grandmother put up a grave marker where his body was found, but the family was worried that it might get stolen or vandalized, so I have it here now,” says Gaines. “I’d be happy to show it to you.”

He leads me across the back lawn to a storage shed, unlocks the padlock, pulls back the door and points to a slab of gray stone inscribed with these words: “Tom Ragland. Killed here, Jan. 1, 1920.” Below that, the stone is damaged, but you can still see most of the ominous message that Raglan’s wife put there for his murderers: “Prepare to meet your God.”

The men who killed Tom Ragland, a member of the local draft board, were never brought to justice. Rebels had opposed what they called "a rich man's war" but "a poor man's fight." (Trevor Paulhus)

“I think it’s fair to say that my grandfather was the last casualty of the Green Corn Rebellion,” says Gaines, closing up his shed. “And his killers got away with it. The case was never solved.”

Greatest Financial Event in History Coming – Bo Polny

By Greg Hunter’s (Saturday Night Post)

Biblical cycle expert and financial analyst Bo Polny predicted in November of 2020 the stock market (DOW) would “top out in May 2021 at around 33,000 to 34,000 and then crash in June.” So far, half of the prediction is spot on, and we are waiting for the crash. Polny says, “The greatest financial event in human history is not and will not happen on a Trump watch. I repeat, the greatest financial event in human history is not going down on a Trump watch. It’s going to go down under the current, whatever you want to call him. Trump is a builder. The builder comes in to fix things.”

What’s the timeline on this “greatest financial event in human history”? Polny says, “All hell breaks loose next week. . . . There are all these events, mini events, that are all culminating in God’s perfect orientation and God’s perfect timing to create the absolute perfect storm, and then he pulls the trigger. Remember this: When the Red Sea opened and closed, that entire event happened in one day. By the end of the day or the next day, everything was 180 degrees different. Mark my words, we sit here today, and by the end of this year, everything will be 180 degrees different. Most likely everything is going to happen in the next 90 days. We are living in a Biblical year. It’s the year of Jubilee, and we are about to see acts of God.”

On the political front, Polny mentions the 1878 Supreme Court ruling of UNITED STATES THROCKMORTON. The main nugget of the ruling was “Fraud vitiates everything. . .” Meaning make null and void, and that this landmark Supreme Court ruling will apply to the fraud fest that was the 2020 Election.

Polny says, “Fraud vitiates everything.” Google those words, “Fraud vitiates everything.” This is critical to understand. . . . It’s incredibly powerful when you understand what those simple words mean.” Polny contends this is how the 2020 fraudulent election win of Vice President Biden will get nullified and make way for President Trump to be put back in the White House.

Polny also says, “The stock market cycles show the markets start to plunge next week, and they plunge for weeks. That is a Third Seal moment where we have a complete financial shift of the economy as we know it. . . . Celebration will happen on the 4 th of July. Evil is taken down. The ‘wow’ moment happened, and between now and July 4 th, we got ‘wow.’ God’s people will be celebrating because God moved his hand.”

This is the 50 th year of the U.S. dollar being taken off the gold standard by President Nixon in August of 1971. This made the U.S. dollar a debt instrument, and it is called a Federal Reserve Note. The word “note” means it is a debt instrument. This will be a bad year for the U.S. dollar, and it has already been declining in value. Look at recent inflation data, and it is clear more dollars are needed to buy just about everything. In Biblical terms, a Jubilee year is a 50 th year where debts are canceled and slaves are released from bondage. Polny explains, “If you go to our October interview (2020) after the start of the (Jewish) New Year in September, the dollar would be in the Jubilee cycle. So, the dollar would be in a downward cycle, a Jubilee cycle, and there is going to be a massive event in the dollar somewhere between September and August of 2021. That’s September of last year and August of this year 2021. So, we’ve basically got 90 days left for the dollar to get a major haircut. A Jubilee is something where you are supposed to follow the word and the Laws of God. If you don’t . . . God is going to make it happen. . . . The dollar has been in a down cycle since September of last year, and they are fighting to prop it up. Within about three months, silver, gold and crypto currencies are going to rip vertical because when the dollar breaks, everything opposite of it shoots vertical.”

Join Greg Hunter of as he goes One-on-One with Biblical cycle expert and financial analyst Bo Polny, founder of

After the Interview:

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