by Bucky Schriver
for The Frostburg Express
John Thomas Miller
The Kingsland Big Vein Mine (picture)
John Thomas Miller
(photo Courtesy of John Gowans)
John Thomas "Jack" Miller was born on September 23, 1896 in Lonaconing, to William Price Miller and Pekin native Margaret (Gillespie) Miller. Jack was William and Margaret's fifth child. At the time of his birth, Jack Miller had two older brothers (William and Edward) and two older sisters (Annie and Mary.) Over the course of the next fourteen years, the couple's brood grew to 10.
Like his father before him, Jack Miller went to work as a coal miner. He was working for the Maryland Coal Company in Lonaconing, when, on September 14, 1918, he was inducted into the military. He served with Battery A of the 7th Artillery during World War 1, and was honorably discharged in January of 1919.
The Kingsland Mine was located on the south side of Koontz Run hollow in Lonaconing, 1/4 mile east of he Maryland Mining Company's Appleton Mine. Production at the Kingsland site had ended in 1900, but in1910, the Maryland Coal Company's new owners decided to reopen the old workings.
After his military discharge, Jack Miller resumed his career as a driver at the Maryland Coal Company's Kingsland Big Vein Mine. He married Bertha Rowe, and the couple made their home in Detmold. On March 10, 1923, the couple celebrated the arrival of their first child, John Francis Miller. Unfortunately, "Baby Jack" lived less than five months. He died of pneumonia on August 2, 1923. Their second child, Virginia Miller, was born on February 9, 1924. A third child, Francis "Quail" Miller, was born on March 27, 1926.
At 2:15 pm, on June 1, 1926, Jack Miller was severely injured in an accident in the first right heading at the No. 11 room switch in the Kingsland Mine. According to the Bureau of Mines accident report: "Mr. Miller was keeping the turn in this section, and had given orders to another driver to place two cars in the No. 11 room and told him that he was going to another heading to gather loads and not to expect to see him until the driver had made the two trips. For some unknown reason, he changed his plans and did not tell the other driver. Miller came into the first right heading with an empty car and had gathered two loads from inside the place and started out when the other driver came out of No. 11 room and crashed into his trip. The cars were knocked off the track, catching Mr. Miller between the cars and the rib, inflicting injuries from which he died about eight hours later at his home in Lonaconing. According to a story the following day in The Cumberland Evening Times, it took Jack's fellow workers nearly half an hour of hard work to remove him from between the tightly wedged cars.
The tragic death of this young father and former soldier left a wife and two infant children to fend for themselves. Accidents in the Georges Creek underground coal mines were not new to this family. On December 13, 1889, Jack Miller's maternal uncle, eighteen year-old William Gillespie, was severely injured in Ryan's Mine in Pekin, only about a mile from where Jack was fatally injured. William Gillespie suffered for four days before expiring on December 17, 1889.
In 1926, the year of Jack’s death, after working the outcrop of the various openings for several years, the coal company decided to employ the same “long wall” mining method at the Kingsland site that was successful at the company's Jackson Mine. Production soared. The company extracted 1.5 million tons from the mine from 1926 until 1939, when the mine was permanently abandoned. The death of Jack Miller at this abandoned site, however, will not be forgotten.
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund Committee would like to thank Pekin native and Hollywood actor John Gowans for the photo of his grandfather, Jack Miller.
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.
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.