by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
Four unknown boy miners
Anyone who enjoys gardening knows that most plants and flowers thrive in sunshine and warm temperatures. They crave moist, rich soil. Underground mines were the antithesis of a flower bed, an environment unsuitable for plant survival. Miners labored in absolute darkness, surrounded by the unforgiving hardness of rock and coal, in constant 60 degree temperatures, and, in some places, standing water 12 inches deep. It is not surprising that miners battled disease. Exposed to bad air, dust and dirt, a lack of sunlight, and damp, chilly working conditions, a miner who lived to age 50 was decrepit and old before his time. Like plants and flowers in poor soil, 32 young men did not have the opportunity to flourish and grow old.
It has never been our intention, in recalling these stories, to condemn or judge the parents. They were victims of desperate times. It was out of necessity, and with anguish, that they sent their sons to work. These same church-going families rallied for better schools and a hospital. Fathers pledged quarters to purchase land for State Normal School #2, now Frostburg State University. Parents wanted a better life for their sons and daughters. That same desire holds true today.
Bernard Ford died at Franklin Mine in January 1874. He was about twelve years old.
Charles Mussetter died May 10, 1877 at New Hope Mine. A 16 year-old driver, Charles was crushed in between mine cars.
On January 29, 1880, Harry Sammons, fourteen, was killed in a mining accident that also injured his twenty year old brother, Edward. They were working together removing a pillar when the roof fell, burying both of them. They were the sons of Squire John Sammons of Pekin.
Benjamin “Bennie” Price, seventeen, son of William and Julia Price of Grant Street, Frostburg, was killed at Hitchens Mine by a fall of roof coal on Saturday, May 3, 1890.
Harry McMannis, age 16, was fatally burned by an explosion of powder at Penn Colliery of the Cumberland and Georges Creek Coal Company. Whether he was making a cartridge or fooling with powder, no one seemed to know. He was terribly burned about the head, arms, and body. He was taken to the Western Maryland Hospital in Cumberland where he died on January 24, 1905, eleven days after the accident. Harry was the son of Joseph and Mary McMannis of Borden Shaft.
John Hogan, a 14 year-old miner, was killed instantly by a fall of roof composed of rock and coal at mine #10, Tyson, of Consolidation Coal Company, near Eckhart on November 22, 1909. John was working with his father in a room where the roof had been shot down for height. They were working near the face when the roof fell, injuring the father and killing the son. John’s father was Edward Hogan, 36 years old, married with seven children.
William Shriver, a water boy employed by the Frostburg Big Vein Coal Company, was almost instantly killed when he was run over by a car loaded with rock. The car had been taken out of the mines. The driver had unhooked the ponies and was engaged in hooking them to an empty car. Young Shriver jumped on the car filled with rock, and it started down the tram road. After travelling a distance of 300 feet, the car collided with an empty car, and William fell off. He was found buried under the car and rock. He was removed from the wreckage and rushed to the Miner’s Hospital, where he died at 1:30 P.M. on July 24, 1917. He was 16, the son of Elonza and Mary Shriver.
Unknown Boy Miners
The Death of Flowers
"Where are the flowers, the fair young flowers, that lately sprang and stood
In brighter light and softer airs, a beauteous brotherhood?
Alas! They are in their graves; the gentle race of flowers
Are lying in their lowly beds with the fair and good of ours.
The rain is falling where they lie, but the cold November rain
Calls not from out the gloomy earth the lovely ones again…..
And then I think of one who in his youthful beauty died,
The fair meek blossom that grew up and faded by my side,
In the cold moist earth we laid him, when the forest cast the leaf,
And wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief."
(Taken from a poem by William Cullen Bryant. The genders were changed for this story.)
Our committee has made every effort to identify young boys who died in the mines. Their lives were so brief that our research has been difficult. If you have additional information on these or other children, please contact us.
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 either 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.