by Bucky Schriver
For the Frostburg Express
Five die in tragedy on the inclined plane
BRUNOTTE, HAMILTON, CONDRY, KIGHT & SMITH
At 6:10 a.m. on the morning of Monday, Jan. 25, 1909, 15 coal miners at Washington Mine No.5 of the Piedmont and Georges Creek Coal Company in Franklin, climbed aboard the cars to the inclined plane to make their way up to the opening of the mine to begin their work day.
Due to an improperly adjusted switch at the top of the inclinded plane, the cars coming down did not take the opposing track, but ran away and slammed into the cars carrying the miners with the force of a thunderbolt.
In the words of a Cumberland Evening Times reporter,
"The men went flying in every direction, and it was a marvel that any of them escaped alive."
When the newpaper reporter arrived, five injured miners were lying on the floor of Gannon's Store, waiting on the train to arrive to take them to the hospital, So grievously were they injured that it apperared as though none of them would survive.
Three-hundred yards away, three men lay dead and the wails of the widows and orphans could be heard by those who were attending to the injured miners at Gannon's Store. When the body of Joseph Brunotte was brought down the hillside, every person in attendance gathered around the stretcher, the men weeping and the women wailing and wringing their hands.
As a gesture of sympathy and respect, every man in the party took off his coat and laid it tenderly over their dead co-worker.
The ever-present danger inherent in their task forged a strong bond among the Georges Creek miners. Three miners, Joseph Brunotte, 26 William Hamilton, 46; and James Condry, 18; all residents of Franklin, were killed instantly. Two others, Westernport residents Cleaver Kight, 22, and William Smith, 22, died shortly afterward.
Another nine miners were seriously injured in the accident. Only one of the 15 miners was not injured.
"Let not ambition mock their useful toil
Their homely joys and destiny obscure
Nor grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor"
~ Elegy Written In A County Churchyard, Thomas Gray
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 George's Creek Valley Miners, and name those who perished while mining. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to
The Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
P.O. Box 765
Frostburg, MD. 21532
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