History in the making at the grave of Mother Jones

James Goltz lifts the clay

James Goltz lifting the clay from the grave of Mother Jones. (Photo via James Goltz)

As reported from Mount Olive, Illinois by James Goltz

Unique history in the making in Mt. Olive Illinois,at the Union Miners’ Cemetery involving the legendary labour agitator, Mother Harris Jones (Mother Jones), Friends of Mother Jones and Ireland. Mother Jones is buried in the only union owned cemetery in the country, she is the only immigrant who has a so-named festival in her homeland who became a giant in our labour movement, and soon she will be the first to have bit of clay from above her grave transported to her birthplace, the Shandon district in Cork City, Ireland.

Photo shows Secretary of the Mount Olive Perpetual Care Committee Secretary, Mike Krachmar assisting with the placement of the clay in a temporary container. (Photo via James Goltz)

On June 11, Illinois labor activist James Goltz, along with the Perpetual Care Committee of the cemetery held a formal ceremony at her grave site where a bit of clay was removed above her grave. It was given to James Goltz to transport and formally present to the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival organisers in the Shandon Historic Quarter as part of their festival. In addition at the festival, Goltz will also read and present 3 proclamations heralding Mother Jones and the festival from the AFL-CO, the Illinois AFL-CIO and the United Mine Workers of America.

Mount Olive entrance

The entrance to the Union Miners Cemetery at Mount Olive, Illinois

  

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Clay from Mother Jones resting place in Illinois to be brought to her native Cork

Mother Jones grave

Mother Jones monument at the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois, USA.

Unique link up between the friends of Mother Jones in Mount Olive, Illinois and the Cork Mother Jones Committee in Shandon.

 

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is pleased to announce that a U.S. trade union member, James Goltz, has been given permission to bring some clay from the grave of Mother Jones at Mount Olive in the Miners Cemetery in Illinois to the forthcoming Spirit of Mother Jones summer school and festival in Shandon where it will be presented to the Committee.

A formal ceremony is to take place on 11th July at the final resting place of Mother Jones (born Mary Harris in Shandon) in Mount Olive at which a small sample of clay will be removed from the grave, will be permanently sealed and will be given to Mr Goltz for transporting to Ireland.

Grave

Mother Jones grave. Photo: James Goltz

“This is a unique and historic act linking Mother Jones and her birthplace on the north side of Cork to her grave at Mount Olive after some 87 years. (She passed away in 1930) We wish to congratulate the friends of Mother Jones in Illinois for their thoughtfulness with their symbolic act of generosity and solidarity”, declared James Nolan, spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Committee.

“We hope the sealed container can be placed permanently alongside the memorial plaque to Mother Jones in Shandon with the permission of the Cork City Council”

“The act is a further sign of the growing links and bonds which have been developing over the past six years between the friends of Mother Jones on both sides of the Atlantic, many of whom including James and his family have attended previous Spirit of Mother Jones festivals”

Mother Jones plaque, Cork

The Mother Jones plaque at Shandon, Cork

The festival and summer school takes place in the Shandon Historic Quarter from Tuesday 1st to Saturday 5th August next.

 

Please find below the details of the event in Mount Olive on July 11th and the contact details for James Goltz.

“A bit of earth will be removed above the grave of Mary Harris Jones, a.k.a Mother Jones, who lies within Union Miner’s Cemetery in Mt. Olive Illinois, on July 11, at 10:00am, in preparation for a journey to her birthplace in County Cork Ireland to the Shandon district within Cork City. The earth will be presented to the 6th annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival there on August 1. The cemetery Perpetual Care Committee will be present to assist in performing the brief ceremony and task of gathering the earth with James Goltz, who refers to himself and other Mother Jones fans as, “a Friend of Mother Jones”. When asked why they were doing this, Goltz said, “We wish to send a piece of her essence home. The Spirit of Mother Jones moves us”. All interested parties are encouraged to attend this unique event.”

Mother Jones monument at Mt. Olive, Illinois is rededicated

 

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Mother Jones Monument rededicated June 20, 2015 Mount Olive, Illinois – the following report of the rededication at Mount Olive Miners Cemetery has been sent to the Cork Mother Jones Committee by Terry Reed , Field Services Director, of the Illinois Federation of Teachers www.ift-aft-org.

In the Union Miner’s cemetery lies the grave of Mary Harris “Mother” Jones. At the foot of a marble monument adorned with bronze statues of two miners and plaques commemorating fallen miners the simple head stone reads “Mother Jones”. On this Saturday in June hundreds of good union men and women gathered together with community folk around the gravesite and monument. They listened to the songs of working men and women sung by Bucky Halker and Chris Vallilo. They listened to speeches from local officials and committee members, Michael Carrigan, President of the Illinois AFL-CIO and other union officials, an Illinois State Senator, an Illinois Congressman and a USA Senator from Illinois. They watched as an actress, Margaret Orner, portrayed Mother Jones and breathed the words once spoken by the daughter of County Cork, Ireland. There was the obligatory prayer by a local clergy man that silenced the crowd as they bowed their heads. The grand finale had all in attendance circling the monument and grave joining hands while singing together the verses of the union anthem “Solidarity Forever”.

The Mother Jones Monument

The Mother Jones Monument

Everyone admired the craftsmanship and work of the union hands that brought the 80 year old monument back to its original splendour. The stone and mortar restored, the bronze shiny as new and the once crumbling foundation sturdy and strong. The gate at the entrance to the cemetery proudly displaying “The Resting Place of Real Union People” on its iron face plate looking as smart as it was when first erected. The many colored shirts displaying their union membership, Ironworkers, Steel workers, Electricians, Bricklayers and Stone Masons, Auto Workers, Laborers, Teachers, Government workers, Teamsters, Operating Engineers, Mine Workers, Painters all smiling and congratulating themselves. Proud of their coming together to insure that the monument and grave site will remain for at least another 80 years to be viewed and admired.

Sign over entrance to the Union Miners Cemetery, Mt. Olive

Mother Jones Museum, Mt. Olive, Illinois

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But even more than the marble and bronze and iron that make up the monument they came this day to draw sustenance from the spirit and life of Mother Jones. As speaker after speaker so eloquently reminded them this rededication accomplishes nothing if it doesn’t inspire each and every one to draw from the words and actions of the courageous person it honors. Mary Harris “Mother” Jones spoke truth to power. She utilized her speech and pen to attack injustice and backed it up with her actions. She stood fearless before the bosses of Industry, Governors of states, and Judges in their Courtrooms. Even the President of a nation was not above her ire. She faced the guns of her would be oppressors and the jails they tried to use to stop her. And all the time she walked among the working families she championed. Organizing, educating and agitating them to action. It is Mother Jones they came to honor. It is her life lessons they hope to carry on in their battles against austerity and the attacks on the working class and their unions.IMG_2257

 

Gatherings held to honour Mother Jones

Mother Jones' burial site at the Union Miner's Cemetery, Mount Ollive, Illinois, where she lies beside the victims of the Virden Massacre.

Mother Jones’ burial site at the Union Miner’s Cemetery, Mount Ollive, Illinois, where she lies beside the victims of the Virden Massacre.

On Sunday 5th October 2014 at mid day a gathering took place at the grave of Mother Jones at the Union Miners Cemetery at Mount Olive, Illinois. After some speeches and some songs from labour singer Len Wallace, the participants raised a toast in honour of Mother Jones. Irish Whiskey from Co Cork in the form of Jameson’s Redbreast was used and there followed a rousing rendition of “Solidarity Forever” after which many of the participants returned for the annual Mother Jones Foundation dinner at Springfield, Illinois later on Sunday night.

Attended by over 200 people, this annual dinner also heard a special message of greetings from the Cork Mother Jones committee.
According to Terry Reed, one of the event organisers;
“We hope this is the beginning of many more exchanges between our two groups as we are united in telling the world of the great lessons this grand champion of the working class spoke, took action and lived”
Terry also promised a film message from the Mother Jones Foundation for the 2015 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
State of Illinois Senator Andy Manar attended the Mother Jones gathering at Mount Olive on Sunday 5th October. He announced at the event that the State of Illinois had approved a grant for $41,000 towards the restoration of the grave site and monument of Mother Jones at Mount Olive. Senator Manar had also sent a wonderful message of solidarity to the Spirit of Mother Jones festival earlier this year (click link to view) 
 
Already some $70,000 has been raised through the efforts of the trade union movement and the Illinois AFL-CIO thus ensuring that the full restoration of the grave site becomes a reality.

Mt. Olive proclamation of friendship

During the recent Spirit of Mother Jones Festival Mr James Goltz from Bunker Hill, Illinois presented the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Mary Shields with a proclamation from the community of Mount Olive, Illinois seeking “to extend a symbolic hand of friendship to our brothers and sisters in the birthplace of one so great in stature as the legendary Mother Jones”

The proclamation of friendship, supported by the Mount Olive Council and signed by Mr John M. Skertich, Mayor of Mt. Olive calls on both Mt. Olive and Cork together to ” celebrate her spirit while crediting her role in the history of both countries and in the globe. This common duty of stewardship stands as an unbreakable bond between our two cities.”

The Mt. Olive proclamation of friendship signed by Mayor John M. Skertich

The Mt. Olive proclamation of friendship signed by Mayor John M. Skertich

Mother Jones passed away at the Burgess home in Hyattsville, Maryland on 30th November 1930. Her funeral was held on December 8th at the Church of the Ascension, the Mount Olive Catholic Church. From there, her remains were taken and buried in the Union Miners Cemetery at Mount Olive near the graves of the victims of the 1898 Virden Massacre.

Mayor Skertich concludes the proclamation by inviting an agreement between Cork and Mount Olive to “promise to safeguard and promote both her resting place and birthplace, as we celebrate her life by jointly continuing to tell the life story of this great Irish woman to a wider audience.”

James Goltz with Lord Mayor Mary Shields

James Goltz with Cork’s Lord Mayor Councillor Mary Shields at Cork City Hall.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted to support the initiative taken by the city of Mount Olive. The Shandon Area Renewal Association has already agreed to promote, encourage and foster the links between the community of the birthplace of Mary Harris/Mother Jones and the community where she now lies at rest. A motion supporting the adoption of the Mount Olive proclamation will be presented to Cork City Council and it is the fervent wish of all involved that it be supported and formal fraternal links be established between the custodians of her native birthplace and her chosen resting place.

Illinois Senator praises Cork festival

The Cork Mother Jones Festival Committee has received a warm message of support and encouragement from Illinois Senator Andy Manar.

Senator Andy Manar

Sen. Andy Manar

Senator Manar in a thoughful and positive  message to the Cork Mother Jones Committee for the Spirit of Mother Jones festival states that “you have all my deepest respect for the work you have done on behalf of Mother Jones and I share in your admiration of this great woman from County Cork, Ireland”

“I believe your festival is wonderful as it attracts people from all over the world and stands tallest among other known Mother Jones Festivals. I’d welcome a similar event in my district. Your festival sets a very high bar for other to reach and you should be extremely proud of that”
Letter received from US Senator Andy Manar (D), Illinois

Letter received from US Senator Andy Manar (D), Illinois

The Cork Mother Jones Committee acknowledges and supports the huge effort being made by the Unions, the Illinois Labour History Society and the Mother Jones Foundation to preserve and restore the monument over the grave of Mother Jones in Mount Olive cemetery. The restoration project will ensure that this monument over her final resting place will remain for ever as a fitting symbol of positive action for social justice which the spirit of Mother Jones inspires in thousands of people across the world.

Mt. Olive, resting place of Mother Jones, counts cost of Tornado

Mount Olive is arguably best known as the last resting place of Mary Harris, Mother Jones and the victims of the Virden Massacre of 1898. However Mount Olive was recently in the news for other reasons. Like many surrounding districts Mount Olive suffered major damage in the May 2013 Tornado outbreaks. Our thanks to Patty and Don Schmeder who sent us these photographs of the damage caused by the tornado. Our best wishes to the people of Mount Olive and other areas damaged by the tornadoes. Hopefully they will be able to rebuild soon.

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Mt. Olive Tarnado

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