Judge Jonathan Langham


Jonathan Langham was the presiding judge of the Indiana, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas during the Rossiter coal strike of 1927-28. Rossiter was a Clearfield Bituminous Coal Company mining town in northern Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Not only did Langham own stock in some local coal companies but coal company funds partially supported his reelection campaign. 

Responding to the demands of the Clearfield Bituminous Coal Company executives, he issued a series of injunctions, some of which were sweeping in scope, such as the one prohibiting the strikers from picketing, marching, or gathering for meetings. However, his most infamous injunction, which took on a life of its own and brought the strikers national attention and sympathy, was the one banning the singing of hymns and the holding of church services on two lots owned by the Magyar Presbyterian Church and located just opposite the mine in Rossiter. Coincidentally, the pastor of the church was also the vice-president of the local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America! Although the hymns selected for singing by the striking miners and their families were innocuous, some of them, in light of the strike, could take on a new militant meaning. Two of the hymns that were considered hostile by the Judge and Coal Company were Onward Christian Soldiers and I'm on the Winning Side with Jesus. They were sung as nonunion workers entered the mines.

Publicity surrounding the injunction against the singing of hymns focused national attention through the media on the situation. In late 1928, the Interstate Commerce Committee of the US Senate visited Rossiter and then Indiana.

The Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company also sought an injunction from Judge Langham in the summer of 1931 during a strike that involved, among others, the miners in McIntyre. Although the demonstrations were peaceful, the striking union members were prohibited from picketing or parading.

Carl I. Meyerhuber, Jr., Less than Forever: the Rise and Decline of Union Solidarity in 
Western Pennsylvania, 1914-1948
(Selingsgrove, PA.: Susquehanna University Press, 1987), 82-83.

Indiana Gazette, Indiana Pennsylvania, 17 July 1931.

Clarence D. Stephenson, Indiana County 175th Anniversary History, vol.2 
(Indiana, Pennsylvania: Halldin Publishing Company, 1989), 468.

Photo: from J.T. Stewart, Indiana County, Pennsylvania: Her People, Past and Present
(Chicago: J.H. Beers and Company, 1913), 654.

Irwin M. Marcus. Judge Jonathan Langham. Coal Dust: The Early Mining Industry of Indiana County. Special Collections and Archives, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. n.d. <http://www.lib.iup.edu/spec_coll/articles/judge_jonathan_langham.html
(23 October 2001).

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