Memorial statue is about more than just coal
by Barb Armstrong
For the FROSTBURG EXPRESS
(Editor's Note: Each week "Miner Recollections" will spotlight George's Creek coal heritage, and the sacrifices made by those who mined it, by drawing upon biographical sketches, family narratives and historical research.)
As an outgrowth of the Mountain Ridge Stadium Project, the late Enordo "Moose" Arnone and his wife Ellen had the brainstorm to commission a statue of a miner that could be "rubbed for good luck."
After the completion of the stadium project, they both realized that the statue was more than just a local high school endeavor. It reperesented the spirit of our George's Creek Valley mining communities, from Pennsylvania south to West Virginia, and the sacrifices made by those who mined the "big vein". After all, the efforts of our mining ancestors laid the groundwork for the economic impact of coal on our region, and played a significant role in the establishment of State Normal School No. 2, now known as Frostburg State University.
The pursuit of a statue led the Arnones, along with Ray and Linda Walker, to Zanesville, Ohio, and the foundry of artist Allen Cotrill. Mr. Cotrill was chosen to design a maquette, a miniature replica of the actual statue. He was inspired by the fact that our miners, many of them literate immigrants, valued the benefits of a quality education. Their children and grandchildren would discover opportunity, and the ability to say no to the treacherous job of coal mining.
At the turn of the century, Baltimore's State Normal School No. 1 could not keep up with the demand for qualified teachers. In 1897, Del. John Leake, a coal miner and a delegate to the legislature, presented a bill to the House for the construction of State Normal School No. 2. Competition for the location was intense. Gov. Lloyd Lowndes eventually signed the bill, insisting that the community "furnish the ground for the site and said building". Even the miners from the surrounding villages of Lord, Carlos, Eckhart, Ocean and Borden pledged their quarters, supporting the purchase of the land known as Beall's Park in Frostburg. The amount collected exceeded the purchase price of $2000, and in 1898, a second teacher training institution was born, known today as FSU.
The foresight of these early Western Allegany County miners is the reason our symbolic miner holds a book in his left hand. The headlamp, the pick and the lunch pail serve to remind us of the difficult working conditions these miners encountered, day in and day out, just to put food on the table. Research is ongoing to compile the names (currently more than 542) of those who perished while mining. This loss of life, a tragic part of our mining history, will be respectfully included to educate our own children and grandchildren.
Moose Arnone, himself an educator and son of an Eckhart coal miner, would be loving this. And when installed, he'd want everyone that visits to rub the statue for good luck.
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is gratefully accepting tax-deductible donations. They can be mailed to:
The Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
PO Box 765
Frostburg, MD 21532