for the FROSTBURG EXPRESS
by Polla Drummond Horn
JOHN KEIRS, JR.
John Keirs, Jr. was born in Galston, Ayrshire, Scotland in 1861 to John and Janet Keirs. His dad was a laborer in Scotland but left in 1870 to go to America to better provide for his family. He worked in the mines around Borden Shaft and Midlothian for two years before sending for his wife and children. In 1872 John, Jr.’s sister died and was buried in Scotland, she was only nine years old. The family was sad to leave her there alone; but they needed to be reunited with their father. The other five children boarded a steamer with their mother in May of 1872, John was 11, the oldest, and the youngest child was one year old. They docked in New York on June 27, 1872 and made their way to Maryland to be with their father again. In a few years John, Jr. joined his father in the coal mines and helped support the family.
He married in his early twenties and soon he and wife, Annie, had three children of their own. Life was good, or as good as it got back then. All that ended on April 7, 1894.
That day started like any other day, young John left to go to work in the Bowery Mine, of the Borden Mining Company; he and a dozen other miners were taking down pillars that day. That afternoon the mine foreman knocked on Annie’s door to inform her that there had been an accident at the mine. Annie went to the mine and waited with the other women. Soon the men started coming out, Annie counted the men and watched but John did not come out. A large force of men went to work immediately after the accident to try to find him. The men who got out said the mass of coal and rock was so great that it would take awhile to get through it. They didn’t want to tell her, but she knew that John had probably been crushed or suffocated. Annie waited day after day while the men dug. They finally found John’s body on April 21st, after 11 days of digging. They said he was in a stooping position, caught by the fall in the act of running. His body was considerably decomposed so he was buried that afternoon. There was a large concourse of people, including the Knights of Pythias and Odd Fellows who attended the funeral. The community pulled together, as they did back then, to support Annie and her four boys.
[note: additional information, not part of the original article]
KEIRS, John Jr. (see full story Mine Explosion!)
KIER[sic, Keirs] 09 Apr 1894 Mr. John Kier[sic]. Jr. was buried alive at a cave-in at the Bowery Mines near Frostburg on Saturday (7 Apr) about 4:45. Bowery Mines takes its name from the defunct Bowery furnace that stands nearby about one and 3/4 miles from Frostburg, near the old Midlothian Mines.
(Courtesy of Sheryl Kelso)
KEIR[sic, Keirs] 20 Apr 1894 The body of John Keir Jr. was located yesterday at 4:30 in the Bowery Mines, found by William Crowe under the direction of mine boss, Mr. Robert Scott. He leaves a wife and 3 children and was 33 years of age, born in Neumiles, Ayershire, Scotland on Mar 20, 1861 and came to America in 1870. The funeral is from the home with Rev. Brett officiating and interment in Allegany Cemetery.
(Courtesy of Sheryl Kelso)
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.
Contact Polla Horn at email@example.com
Bucky Schriver at firstname.lastname@example.org
to share your thoughts and stories. Be on the lookout for future Miner Recollections.