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Miner Recollections
by Polla Horn for
The Frostburg Express

 

Unknown Boy Miner and his mule

Daniel Mooney & William Eisentrout

A mule driver for the mines was usually a young boy who traveled from chamber to chamber, coupling loaded cars to bring out of the mine, while leaving empty cars to be filled. The cars were pulled by one mule or several, depending on the size of the load. The driver sat or stood on the bumper of the first car and guided the mules with his voice, calling out words for stop, go, left, or right. The small but strong mules were ideal for working in the low, narrow corridors of the mine. The boys liked being drivers. It was exciting work and it gave them the freedom to move about the mines. They took good care of their mules by cleaning the stables, feeding them, currying them, and checking for sores where the harness rubbed their hide. If the mules were well-cared for, they treated the boys with respect. They could be quite ornery, however, if the boys weren’t careful. It took great knowledge and courage for the driver to outsmart the mule. The mules, from working so routinely, knew the passages well and many times were able to lead a lost driver out of a dark mine.

The young boys, imitating their fathers or other miners, often chewed tobacco. As they wended their way through the mine, they would chew and sing to the mule:

My sweetheart’s the mule in the mines,
I drive her without reins or lines,
On the bumper I sit, 
I chew and I spit,
All over my sweetheart’s behind.

Daniel Mooney and William Eisentrout were drivers. Daniel was born in 1866 to Hugh Mooney and Christiana McKenzie Mooney. His father, a miner, died before Daniel’s tenth birthday. His mother, Christiana, remarried. She and her second husband, James Schuyler, lived in Pekin in 1880 with their children: 14 year old Daniel Mooney, 10 year old Hugh Mooney, 4 year old Mary Schuyler, 2 year old Berty Schuyler, and 2 month old Margaret Schuyler.  Another child, Catherine Mooney, died before her third birthday. Daniel was working with his step-father in Johnson Mine, located on the opposite side of Georges Creek from the Midlothian Mine.

On January 25, 1881 Daniel Mooney was found dead, caught between a prop and a mine car. Too frequently, as the boys tried to pass a car or a mule in the narrow gang ways, they would be trapped and crushed against the rib of the mine. Some boys would carry a long, stout piece of wood and prop it between the wall and the mule, preventing the animal from pushing and squeezing the driver. The carbide lamps and smoky “tea pot” lamps of that time didn’t afford much light in the dark and narrow passages of the dangerous underground mines.

The 1900 census for Lonaconing lists Christiana Schuyler as head of the house and living with five of her children. It appears that she had been widowed twice, and mourned the deaths of four of her ten children. She, too, was a victim of the mines.

William Eisentrout and Christiana (Hoop) Eisentrout were German immigrants. William, Sr. served with the 1st Maryland Cavalry, Company H during the Civil War. In 1870, William and Christiana were living in Eckhart with their children: 9 year-old Mary, 8 year-old John, 4 year-old George, and one year-old Catherin. Oddly, their 6 year-old son, William F. Eisentrout, born on June 2, 1865, was living a few houses away with Andrew and Sophia Frank and their daughter, thirteen year-old Louisa. 

In 1880, Christiana is listed as a widow living in Eckhart with her children. William, sixteen, was living with his mother. He and his brother, George, thirteen, were coal miners.

On July 6, 1881, William Eisentrout was killed by mine cars at Hoffman Slope Mine. The mining inquest states that William was found dead lying before the wheels of a car. Yet again, we see the dangerous conditions these young drivers faced. So often they were jolted off the bumper where they stood, falling between the moving cars. William Eisentrout, age 16 years, 1 month and 4 days, was laid to rest in St. Michael’s Cemetery in Frostburg. Later records reveal that his mother was still residing in Eckhart, with two daughters and two sons. George, 33, was still a miner, and Albert, 28, was a driver.

The similarities in the short lives of Daniel Mooney and William Eisentrout are apparent. Both boys were drivers in the mines, both of their fathers died around 1872, both mothers were named Christiana, both had brothers who became miners, and sadly, both died as teenagers in 1881. 

The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of an educational memorial near the crossroads of State Route 36 and the National Road in Frostburg. A bronze statue will honor all of our Georges Creek Valley miners and name those who perished while mining.
Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to
Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
P.O. Box 765
Frostburg, MD 21532.

Contact Polla Horn at jph68@verizon.net
or
Bucky Schriver at
bucky1015@comcast.net
if you have a story of your own to tell. Look for more “Miner Recollections” in the coming weeks.


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