by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
Orphaned Graney boy dies after roof collapse
Like so many other coal mining families, the Graney family of Piedmont, West Virginia, had their origins in Ireland. John Graney came to the United States with his parents from County Galway, Ireland, in 1853. He married Ann M. Flanagan in 1872, and by 1880 the family was well-established in Piedmont, where John was working as a coal miner.
John and Ann had eight children. The youngest child, Harry, was born in 1883. Sadly, Ann died at age 37, when little Harry was just 6 years old. Seven years later, John died.
Harry's aunt, Mrs. Winifred Coniff, came to live with the orphaned children and assumed the role of surrogate mother. Other family members, including John and Bridget O'Brien and Timothy and Catherine Kenny, helped when they could.
As was customary at the time, Harry was already helping to support the family as a coal miner. On Sept. 14, 1897, Harry was seriously injured due to a roof collapse at Ocean Mine No. 1, near Midland. He was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and died from his injuries on Oct. 19, 1897. Harry was just 14 years and 2 months old.
His remains were taken to the home of his uncle, Mr. John O'Brien, in Piedmont, West Virginia. A cousin, Mr. T. B. Kenny, who was attending school in Baltimore, accompanied Harry's body on that solemn journey back home. His funeral was held at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Westernport. Premature death had taken a frightful toll on the Graney family.
T. B. Kenny would later be ordained a priest on Dec. 17, 1898.
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of an educational memorial near the corssroads of state Route 36 and the National Road in Frostburg. A bronze statue will honor all the Georges Creek Valley miners and name those who perished while mining. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to
The Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
Frostburg, MD 21532
We welcome updated information and encourage your participation.
Email Polla Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bucky Schriver at bucky email@example.com
to share your thoughts and stories. Be on the lookout for more Miner Recollections in the coming weeks.