by Polla Horn for
The Frostburg Express
The Dailey Family
[NB: Information in this story was provided by our friend, the late Pat Dailey, just prior to her death]
The Dailey House
“Coffin ship” was the term used to describe the passenger ships that set sail during the Irish potato famine of the 1840s and 50s. They were often not seaworthy, unsanitary, and inadequately stocked with provisions of food and water. At the time of the famine, the desperate and malnourished Irish were forced to pay a month’s wages for passage to America. Nearly 30% of passengers died at sea. Michael Dailey arrived in America at the age of six with his parents and four siblings. His family was fortunate; they did not travel aboard a “coffin ship.”
As a grown man, Michael met and married Mary Louise Morgan. In 1880, Michael and Mary Louise lived in Westernport, where Michael was employed as a miner. The couple had five children. The following ten years brought many changes to the Dailey family. Three additional children were born, the family moved to Franklin Hill and then to Bloomington, and Michael changed his occupation to that of farmer. Four of his sons, John, 27, Lloyd, 23, George, 20, and Thomas, 17, were coal miners.
Michael and Mary Louise eventually moved back to Franklin. Michael and his sons opened a tavern on Main Street in Westernport, where the name “Dailey” was spelled out in glass blocks on the sidewalk. There was a bowling alley and tables for card playing in the basement: it was a “men only” tavern. After telephones were installed, wives would call, looking for their husbands; the bartender could be serving a drink to the “wanted man” and tell his wife, “No ma’am, he ain’t here.”
On September 24, 1901, son John married Bridget “Clara” Kelly in St. Michaels Church, Frostburg. Their first child, Michael Joseph, was born in 1902, quickly followed by a daughter, Anna May, in 1903. In 1906, a set of twins, Genovieve and Josephine, joined the family. Sadly, little Genovieve died just a few months shy of her second birthday. John provided for his family by working as a miner at the Fahey Coal Mine in Franklin.
On the cold blustery Saturday of January 25, 1908, Clara Dailey awoke at her home in Borden Shaft and began her chores: cleaning, baking, laundry, and the myriad of other tasks required of a wife and mother. Clara sang as she worked; she was happy because John, who stayed with his parents in Franklin during the work week, would be home today. Clara watched the clock, and in the late afternoon, she began to prepare a special dinner for him.
John, in the meanwhile, was shoveling coal into the last car of the day, knowing that he would soon see his wife and children. Joseph Stowell and John Franklin were working with him when a piece of rock fell from the roof, striking John Dailey on the head and crushing him to the ground. Mr. Stowell and Mr. Franklin fled for their lives and sounded the alarm. While help was on the way, more rock fell on John, killing him. His body was taken to his father’s home in Franklin. He was thirty-six years old.
John’s parents, Michael and Mary Louise, would lose two more sons in the next two years: Frank in 1909 and Lloyd in 1911. Prior to the loss of his sons, Mr. Dailey had begun to build a house in Franklin. It was intended to be a two family dwelling, with two of everything: two living rooms, two dining rooms, two stair cases, and a plethora of bedrooms. Losing heart after the deaths of his sons, he finished the house with only one kitchen. Years later, a great grand-daughter would count the rooms: 28 in all, including the sun rooms, pantries, and luggage rooms. Lots of walls and, oh boy, if only those walls could talk! They would speak of early morning wake up calls when Mr. Cosgrove blew the whistle as the Western Maryland train passed by the house. They would whisper sadly of the death of Michael and Mary Louise’s granddaughter, Catherine, when she was hit and killed in 1914 by the street car which ran in front of the house. The walls listened to the hushed voices of those mourning for the seven who died in the home during the influenza epidemic. The walls rejoiced over the antics of children and grandchildren. There were heated discussions over baseball around the large dinner table; Michael’s son George Dailey was a catcher for the Highlanders. George’s son was a catcher for the coal mine leagues and could throw a ball to second base from a squat position. He turned down a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1935, saying “No thanks, I just had a baby girl and I have a steady job in the mines.” Cousin Leo Ryan, a pitcher, was signed by Connie Mack of Philadelphia before he enlisted in WW II. He was taught to pitch by Lefty Grove.
The house still stands, although in a state of disrepair. Its walls heard more secrets than a priest. As great-granddaughter Pat Dailey so aptly states,
“The happy ending is that the Dailey family survived, put down roots, has descendants all over the country, fought in wars, and fought with each other- just like the millions of other Famine Irish.”
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 the Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
P.O. Box 765
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.”