Ruffo family begins legacy in Frostburg
by Polla Drummond Horn
For the Frostburg Express
Last week we talked about the unique mines in Western Maryland; the miners in the George’s Creek Valley were just as unique. There was a conglomeration of nationalities here in the mountains of Maryland and it is said that all the men worked well together and were a brotherhood of sorts. Most of the miners were permanent fixtures here, residing in the same community and working in the same mine for many years, not traveling from one coal mining town to the next as in other mining areas. The miners here were noted for their morality and honor, and for their quiet, peaceful, dispositions.
They were kind to their wives and children, and provided them with plenty of wholesome food and comfortable clothing. George’s Creek miners could buy land and build their own houses. The most industrious, thrifty, and intelligent encouraged their children to find opportunities for employment in areas other than mining.
One such family was the family of Antonio Ruffo. Mr. Ruffo immigrated to the United States from Italy, with a friend, Luigi Arnone in 1890. According to the family, Antonio and Luigi found work laying the water line down Main Street in Frostburg and helping to lay the cobble stone surface that now lies under the macadam. It is said that Antonio and Luigi were the first Italians in Frostburg. Antonio’s wife, Rosaria and a daughter joined him a year later. As time went by, they had 11 other children. In 1910 Mr. Ruffo and two of his sons, Frank, 17 and Nucty, 16 worked in the coal mines. A few years later they were joined in the mines by Antonio, Jr. On July 19, 1918, Antonio Ruffo, Jr., employed by the New York Mining Company in Mine No.1, was fatally hurt while breaking a place at Definbaugh Heading. He was working with Conrad Heberline when the accident occurred. He was removed to the Miner’s Hospital, where he died at 3 P.M. He was 19 years old.
Antonio, Sr. left the coal mines and, as one of those thrifty and industrious men, started a fruit market on Broadway in the building that now houses Lorenzo’s Bakery. He built his own home at 186 West Main Street which became Ruffo’s Tavern and is now the Sand Spring Saloon. There have been many generations of Ruffos in Frostburg since Antonio and Rosario came here. They have been hard working, productive citizens and are well known in the community.
The Coal miner Memorial Statue Fund is gratefully 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 George’s Creek Valley Miners, and name those who perished while mining. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to the Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF, P.O. Box765, Frostburg, MD 21532.
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