by Polla Horn for The Frostburg Express
Armold ~ Riggleman
James Oliver Statton Armold
James Oliver Statton Armold was born on April 15, 1889 in Great Capon, WV, the son of Joseph and Roseann Armold. By age 12, he was residing with his aunt and uncle, Margaret and Uberto Lanham.
As a young man of 22 years, he married Anna Loretta Stine and became the step-father of two children, Nellie and Eva. Employed as an orchard worker and railroad laborer, he worked hard to support his growing family. Four additional children (James, Walter, Margaret and Madeline) were born between 1911 and 1923.
Supporting a wife and six children was no easy task. James and Anna moved many times in their quest to find employment. In 1929 they moved six times, causing little Madeline to fail her first year of schooling. The family finally settled in Franklin, MD where James found work in the Mill Run Mine of JOJ Green.
On April 15, 1935, his 46th birthday, James was injured by a fall of roof bone. Bone coal is a seam of coal located just below the Big Vein. It is a lower grade of coal with less BTU’s, not burning quite as hot as Big Vein coal. James had shot some coal loose on April 12th prior to a three day break. Upon returning to work on the 15th, he heard the roof give while shoveling the loosened coal out onto the track. He tried to get against the face for protection, but when the bone coal fell, he was caught. His back was broken, and he was taken to Miners Hospital in Frostburg where he lingered near death.
Because the Armold family did not have a telephone, the hospital called James’ step-daughter, Nellie, to notify the family that his death was imminent. Twelve-year-old Madeline, who was visiting Nellie, ran from Piedmont Hill to Franklin, a distance of over 2 miles, to carry the devastating news to her mother. Regrettably, the family did not reach the hospital before James expired on May 30th.
After years of frequent moves and renting company houses, Anna was finally able to purchase a home of her own with her widow’s compensation. She lived in her home until a few months before her death in 1950. James and Anna were buried in the Philos Cemetery, Westernport.
Margaret Armold & Kenneth Brown Riggleman
The cruel hand of fate continued pointing its ugly finger at this family. James’ and Anna’s daughter, Margaret, married Kenneth Brown Riggleman. In 1940, while living in Baltimore, their daughter Evelyn Marie was born. She lived for just six weeks before dying at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The family returned to Western Maryland where a son, Roy Kenneth, was born in 1942. War was on the horizon and Kenneth enlisted in Company D 779 th Tank Battalion. He was inducted on February 7, 1945. In March of 1945 a daughter, Shirley Jean, was born. She perished a month later. Kenneth was discharged on January 20, 1946. A year later, a son, David Gerald, was born.
After returning home from the war, Kenneth left the mines to work in his uncle’s dry cleaning business in Piedmont, WV. As a favor, Kenneth agreed to help Bill Brashear open a new coal mine in Westernport. He was scheduled to return to the dry cleaning business on January 25th. On January 24, 1949 at 3:15 PM, Kenneth Riggleman and Fred Knisley, an employee of William Brashear, were fatally injured by an explosion. Apparently, Kenneth and Fred were preparing explosives for blasting coal. The source of ignition was not definitively known. Kenneth had survived the war only to die in a different kind of trench, an underground coal mine.
As our committee recollects our mining history, we also strive to document the challenges faced by our coal mining families. Margaret Armold Riggleman lost her father to a coal mining accident and grieved over the deaths of two infant daughters before losing her husband in an underground explosion. She resiliently lived an additional 40 years after the death of her husband, passing away in 1989. Our committee would like to thank Sally Atkinson, Lonaconing, for her contributions to this story.
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 email@example.com or Bucky Schriver at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a story of your own to tell. Look for more “Miner Recollections” in the coming weeks.