by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
Horace Resley Hamilton
Connecting the puzzle pieces of genealogy is often a difficult task. Gleaning the emotions of love,hope, happiness, joy, fear, and sorrow from “factual” census records, marriage certificates, obituaries, and newspapers is also daunting. This was true for Mr. Horace Hamilton,who left this earth nearly 100 years ago.
Horace’s life began in July of 1869 on a Warrior Mountain farm in Allegany County. He was the son of William Alexander Hamilton and Martha Coontz Hamilton. By 1875, the mountain home was filled with fun and laughter as children Rachael, Denton, Vanderbilt, and Jemima joined the family.
That same year, laughter turned to tears and heartache when husband and father, William, died. Martha, left with five small children, moved from Warrior Mountain to the Layman farm, south east of Frostburg, where she was employed as a cook. A descendant tells us that Horace, then eleven years old, helped to dig fence post holes on the farm. The “Hamilton Family” became a part of the “Layman Family,” living on the farm for many years.
In 1900, Horace, age 29, still resided on the farm with his mother and siblings. He was no longer digging post holes to help support the family; he was employed as a saloon keeper. Horace left the farm a few years later, while the rest of the Hamilton family stayed on. An article in the Cumberland News on December 6, 1939, tells of Horace’s brother, Denton Hamilton. It was reported that “he caught 22 large rats and 43 mice in traps” in one month. Denton, because he was deaf, could not hear the ruckus in the chicken coop when the rodents attacked. The Layman’s and the Hamilton’s, along with the chickens, appreciated Denton’s heroic efforts in eliminating the pests.
Horace Hamilton ran for, and won, the position of Allegany County Sheriff. He and Deputy Noah Hendley were sworn into office on December 9, 1905. The Cumberland Evening Times reported that “Mr. Hamilton and his deputy are extremely clever gentlemen, and there is no doubt that they will perform their duties with credit to themselves and the county.”
Deputy Hendley moved his family to the jail residence in Cumberland, while Sheriff Hamilton prepared a home for his bride-to-be in Frostburg. He married Miss Annie Clarke, the daughter of William and Agnes Kirkwood Clarke, in the Frostburg Presbyterian Church on June 11, 1906. A son, Horace Clarke Hamilton, was born a year later, followed by Laura, Margaret, Bettie and Helen.
Several events during Horace’s term as sheriff made the “Wild Wild West” look like Sunday School. Horace did not seek a second term; perhaps he thought that law enforcement was too dangerous. He decided, instead, to become a coal miner.
Horace worked for the Consolidation Coal Company in Mine No. 3 at Hoffman. On May 19, 1920, he was hit and killed by a fall of breast coal. He had been a post hole digger, a saloon keeper, and a sheriff---but coal mining took his life. It proved to be a more dangerous occupation than law enforcement.
When a woman fell in love with a miner, she married the poverty, the coal dirt, and the fear that accompanied her groom. We know that Annie Hamilton experienced love, hope, happiness, joy, fear, and sorrow. She was left with five little children---and fond memories of just 13 wedding anniversaries.
We would like to thank Karen Kelly of Frostburg for the “Recollection” of her grandparents, Horace and Annie Hamilton. Be on the lookout for next week’s story about Deputy Noah Hendley and the “Wild Wild West.”
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of a bronze statue to honor all of our coal miners and name those who died while mining. Tax-deductible donations can be sent 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.”