by Polla Horn for
The Frostburg Express
Mining Disaster: Finding the Courage to Recover
BUSH, CAVANAUGH, & SCALLY
John Scally, Isaac Cavanaugh, Thomas Bush, and his nephew Joseph Bush were killed in one of the most horrific accidents in the history of Georges Creek Valley mining.
On Tuesday night, April 21, 1914, at 9:30 PM in Consol Mine # 1 in Ocean, these four men were instantly killed by a fall of rock and coal. They were taking out a pillar and preparing to load their last car of the day when the roof fell without warning. Rescue work began immediately, but it took four days of incessant toil to recover their bodies from beneath the tons of rock, coal and slate.
The body of Isaac Cavanaugh, age 21, of Ocean, was the first recovered at 11:30 PM, two hours after the accident. Isaac’s mother Elizabeth was still mourning the death of her husband Patrick, just one year prior, when she learned of her son’s fate. The body of John Scally, age 26, was recovered at 1:30 AM. He left behind a wife Teresa, and their young son John L Scally. Teresa later remarried, fell ill, and died at the age of 27. Her second husband, William Winn, at 20 years her senior, was left to raise his 8 year-old stepson John, 2 year-old daughter Catherine, and 1 year-old daughter Naomi. The body of Joseph Bush, age 20, of Ocean, was located at 4:30 the following afternoon and was recovered at 7:10 PM, 22 hours after the accident. The Bush family looked after one another. Joseph’s mother, Mary Lawrence Bush, died two months after his birth. His father, Peter Bush, became the sole provider for their three children. Joseph later lived with his grandmother, who died when he was 15. He then lived with his Uncle Thomas and Thomas’ siblings, Henry and Mary. Slide after slide of rock occurred, interfering with the work of recovery. Finally, Joseph’s uncle, Thomas Bush, age 51, of Ocean, was located at 7:30 PM on April 23rd. His body was recovered at 3:10 AM on April 24th. So heavy was the fall that it was necessary to tunnel through 40 feet of rock and debris to find the men. The fall occurred so suddenly that the body of Thomas Bush was found in a standing position with his pick still in his hand.
It took a tremendous amount of courage for miners to go to work every day in dark, unstable tunnels, but how do you describe the men who served on a recovery team? These valiant men put themselves in harm’s way, digging to uncover friends and relatives, knowing that others might someday do the same for them. The “Greatest Generation,” a term made popular by journalist Tom Brokaw, describes the character of those who grew up during the deprivation of the Great Depression and went on to serve in World War II. To understand what made this generation great, perhaps we’ve only to look at the generation of brave men and women who raised them.
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 miners and name those who perished while mining.
Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to
Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
Frostburg, MD 21532.
We welcome updated information and encourage your participation.
Contact Polla Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bucky Schriver at email@example.com
to share your thoughts and stories. Be on the lookout for future Miner Recollections.