Terence Vincent Powderly was one of twelve children born to Terence and Madge Powderly in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, where his father owned a coal mine (the relics of this are visible on Route 6, Congressman Joseph McDade highway). Young Terry was near sighted and deaf in one ear because of yellow fever. He married Hannah Dever from Scranton on September 19, 1872. Shortly thereafter he was a 3 term Republican mayor of the town. Mrs. Powderly died in 1907. In 1919, Terry married Emma Fickenscher in D.C. We could find no listing of children from either marriage.
Railroads, coal and Carbondale
Railway unions were among the earliest trade unions organized on any scale in the United States. The Knights of Labor founded by Uriah Stevens was a first, it was a secret organization like the Masons, but Powderly, the next leader, brought it public 1879. Membership grew quickly, reaching approximately 700,000 by 1886 when Powderly united all “producers” — anyone that constructed a physical product in the course of their workday. They rejected “non-producers” — bankers, lawyers, and academics.
The Haymarket Square Riot in Chicago, Illinois May 4 1886, led to the Knights of Labor demise. Another ongoing problem was that Powderly was unable to bring the organization’s membership together and his own Catholic diocese issued warnings against associating with him. An economic depression (called the Great Upheaval) worsened overall conditions; Powderly resigned and took up the law.
Next we hear from him from Washington, D.C. He became great friends with Mother Jones and fought for religious tolerance of the labor movement. Terry died June 24, 1924 in D.C.