Remembering the Marion Massacre: A scrapbook

This is a companion piece to our March 29 cover story, “Mountain Shame.” Click the link to read the original article.

This scrapbook of news articles and photos chronicles the labor strikes of 1929 in Marion, N.C., which came to a bloody head when six picketing mill workers were fatally shot and dozens more were injured by local law enforcement.

The 308 page archive was compiled by three McDowell County native sisters: Nina, Ida and Ruth Greenlee – Ruth was the principle of the Clinchfield Mill school at the time of the turmoil. Until, now however, the scrapbook languished in obscurity. Ruth Greenlee passed it along to Mike Blankenship in 1985 after he interviewed her about the strikes for a thesis he wrote while attending Western Carolina University. Blankenship says it was the recent pro-labor rallies in Wisconsin that inspired him to bring the scrapbook out of storage.

“I turn on the radio and hear this report about the governor of Wisconsin wanting to call out the National Guard, and I’m thinking, ‘Holy sh*t — I didn’t think they did that anymore. I thought that was 1920s stuff,’” he explains. “We have to look at history, or else we’re in trouble. Especially right now.”

Blankenship plans to donate the paper copy of the scrapbook to the McDowell County Public Library, where it will join 67 other scrapbooks compiled by the Greenlee sisters that cover all aspects of McDowell history, including handwritten minutes of school board meetings dating back to 1885. Until now, however, anything related to the 1929 strikes was conspicuously absent.

A group of dedicated locals is working to organize a display to mark the Oct. 2 anniversary of the shootings, featuring material from the scrapbook and other recently discovered relics. Eventually, they hope to combine those items with the Greenlee sisters’ 67 other scrapbooks and additional memorabilia in a permanent exhibit — and perhaps a McDowell County history museum.

In the meantime, we offer a digital version of the long-lost scrapbook, scanned here in its entirety:

Scrapbook compiled by Ruth, Ida and Nina Greenlee
Presented here courtesy of the family of Arthur DeBruhl
Special thanks to Henco Reprographics


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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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