FRANKLIN, Kan. —
At an event Tuesday afternoon at the Miners Hall Museum, historians, miners and union workers looked to the future while recognizing the 100th anniversary of a milestone event held on the site.
At 2:30 p.m. on April 1, 1914, mine workers from the United Mine Workers of America district that spanned Franklin, Arma, Mulberry, Pittsburg and part of Missouri gathered to dedicate the newly built Miners Union Hall.
The day kicked off with a street parade led by a brass band from Frontenac. That was followed by the concluding game in the Missouri-Kansas Association Football League between rivals Yale and Chicopee, and later by speakers and a grand ball.
Newspaper accounts reported that mines in the area were closed all day for the event, which also celebrated the implementation of the eight-hour workday. Miners had been instrumental in the passage of the federal legislation.
On Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., museum trustees and former miners gathered for a ceremony in the museum, which was built on the site after an 2003 tornado wiped out much of the town.
The event kicked off a centennial celebration that continues Saturday with special events. Exhibits are planned throughout 2014.
“I can almost hear the cheering crowd right now,” said museum trustee Linda Roberts in her address to those who gathered for the ceremony.
She credited miners and their “courageous families” with laying the foundation on which many area communities were built, and she emphasized the importance of remembering their dedication and sacrifice.
“We owe a great deal of gratitude to that early generation who laid the groundwork for a bright future for their children,” Roberts said.
The trustees also used the ceremony as an opportunity to introduce the new museum director, Darlene Brown, a Pittsburg resident whose experience includes working at the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts in Joplin, Mo.
“It’s about mining, but more importantly, it’s about people,” Brown said of the museum’s efforts to preserve area history.
Historian Jerry Lomshek, of Chicopee, noted during the presentation that miners paid for the original hall themselves out of meager wages while also trying to provide for their families.
Similarly, the museum has been a grass-roots effort by volunteers and families of miners.
Lomshek said it was fitting to pay tribute to the miners with a plaque and a photo of the original hall, enlarged and enhanced by Miller’s Professional Imaging in Pittsburg. They were unveiled by former miners Ge Ge Sachetta, Clifford Russell and John Lair, and will be displayed at the museum.
“The significance in history of the United Mine Workers goes far beyond the boundaries of this place,” Lomshek said. “They were a leader in the labor movements that brought about improvements in working conditions and better pay for millions of Americans over the years. That impact continues to impact all of us today.”
Members of the residential design class of Northeast High School at Arma, under the direction of Laurel Spriggs, also unveiled their architectural plans for a future expansion of the museum, which trustee Phyllis Bitner said has already outgrown its space.
Plans call for a three-story addition, including a basement, first and second floors that would feature display space, meeting space and offices. Final funding has not yet been secured; Bitner described it as a “work in progress.”
On Saturday, activities will include a “Walk the Walk” on the Franklin-to-Arma sidewalk, which is listed on the national and state historic registers. Constructed in 1936 with federal funding assistance, the 1.7-mile sidewalk has become known as the longest sidewalk connecting two communities. It is cited in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Registration begins at 10:15 a.m. at the museum; the walk begins at 10:30. “Walk the Walk” T-shirts and postcards will be available in the gift shop for purchase.
A new exhibit, “Milestones for U.S. Workers,” will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The hosts are Jimmie Lovell and John Lair, members of UMW Local 14.
A petting zoo and face painting will be offered at the museum from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lego building activities will be open from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. A program on fishing activities will be put on by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, and Fishing’s Future.
Local puppeteer Bill Sollner will present a puppet show at 1 and 1:30 p.m., and author Ken Crockett will be on hand to sign copes of his recently published book on the Spencer family.
A car, tractor and small-engine show will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., put on by the SEK Old Time Gas Engine & Tractor Club and the Rollin’ Nostalgia Car Club.
“They would never have dreamed this,” Bitner said of the miners at the 1914 dedication. “They’d be so proud that they would be in a museum and that we would recognize them 100 years later. They were just trying to provide for their families. They’d be amazed.”
A SINGLE-ELIMINATION BOCCE TOURNAMENT — a game played often by miners and other immigrants from Europe — will be played at Franklin Community Park, 502 S. Broadway, starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. Registration is $5 per person and begins at 9 a.m. Saturday.