by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
The Turn of the Century: Improved Medical Care at Miners Hospital
Hughes & Clark
In 1913, eleven men died in the coal mines of Georges Creek Valley. Thirty of their dependents struggled onward. Parents, siblings, wives, and children all felt the devastating effects of losing a loved one.
Nearly every home in the valley lost a breadwinner,
No Longer would they come home for dinner.
Rivers of tears flowed, which could have filled a lake,
Many lives changed, evermore suffering heartache.
(From a poem “New Hartley Disaster”)
In the years prior to 1913, there was much discussion about the construction of a miner’s hospital. Everyone knew the need, for men were being injured in the mines on a daily basis. They were jolted home on stretchers or wagons, where they were forced to wait until the family physician arrived. Sometimes surgeries were performed on the kitchen table, and at times a door was removed from its hinges and placed on saw horses to serve as a surgical gurney.
Through an act of the Maryland General Assembly, $25,000.00 was appropriated to establish a hospital in Frostburg. A unique stipulation stated that a miner and a mine operator must occupy a seat on the board of directors. Ground was broken in 1912, and the new Miners Hospital opened in December of 1913.
Peter Hughes was born in May of 1863, in County Monahgan, Ireland. He married Susan in 1889 after their families had immigrated to America. Their first home was in Vale Summit where their children were born: Edward in 1890, Mary in 1891, and Hilda Elizabeth in 1895. The family later moved to 197 McCulloh Street in Frostburg. By 1910, both Peter and his son Edward were working the mines. On March 17, 1913, Peter, age 51, was killed in Hoffman Mine #1. He was crushed by a train of mine cars while working on the slope. His wife and three children were left to mourn his passing. His brother Michael, of Vale Summit, and his brother Thomas, of Ocean, lamented the death of their brother. This good Irishman died on St. Patrick’s Day: a day of celebration became a day of mourning for the Hughes family.
George Simeon Clark was the son of William Riley Clark and Hannah Poland Clark. Born on January 12, 1881, George was raised on their Dan’s Mountain farm, three miles from Westernport. George left the farm in 1900 when he married Mary Etta Ross. The newlyweds set up housekeeping on Gills Hill in Lonaconing. By 1913, George and Mary Etta were the parents of five daughters: Rutha, eleven; Mary, nine; Bessie, seven; Nellie, five; and two year-old Annie. Another child was expected in a few months.
George had given up farming and supported his growing family as a miner in Koontz Mine. On November 26, 1913, the day before Thanksgiving, he placed a charge of dynamite in some breast coal. After waiting several minutes, the charge did not fire. As he approached to investigate, the dynamite blew, striking George in the right side of his chest. Gravely injured, he was carried to his home where he died at 5:25, three hours after the accident. A funeral for the 32 year-old husband and father was held on November 29th at the Methodist Church in Lonaconing. His widow, 33 year-old Mary Etta, gave birth a few months later to a little boy. George never got to see his only son.
Peter Hughes and George Clark died just months before the first patients were admitted to Miners Hospital. We can only speculate as to whether access to a well-equipped hospital, staffed with educated doctors and nurses, would have saved their lives. Miners Hospital certainly impacted the quality of life of countless other miners, their families, and the surrounding communities, before closing in April of 1995.
The Coal Miners Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of an educational memorial near the junction of state Route 36 and the National Road in Frostburg. A bronze statue will honor all 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 or
Bucky Schriver at email@example.com
to share your thoughts and stories. Be on the lookout for future “Miner Recollections.”