by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
August F.T. Schell
Clausthal, Germany is centrally located in the Harz Mountains. Mining began there in the 16th century and ceased around 1830 when the iron ore deposits were depleted.
August F.T. Schell, born in Clausthal in 1807, married Johanna Shunk there in about 1838. By 1847, August and Johanna were the parents of three children. August provided for his family by working in the mines in the Harz Mountains.
Life in Europe became chaotic and dangerous during the revolutions of 1848-49. Loosely coordinated protests were held to demonstrate popular discontent with autocratic political systems. In Germany, the “Forty-Eighters” favored unification of the German people, a more democratic government, and guarantees of human rights. Disappointed at the failure of the revolution to bring about reform, and sometimes on the government's “wanted list” due to their involvement, many gave up their old lives to try again abroad. We don’t know if August Schell was involved in the uprisings; we do know that he left Germany and came to America aboard the ship Uncas, arriving in New York harbor on August 24, 1848.
Johanna and their three sons arrived later. The family of five soon became eight: two additional sons and a daughter were born between 1850 and 1860.
The Schell family lived in Clarysville. Mr. Schell and his two oldest sons, August, Jr. and Charles, worked as coal miners in the Hoffman Mine. By 1870, August, Jr. and Charles had families of their own. Mr. Schell, age 62, was being assisted in the mine by his three younger sons, Frederick, Ernest, and George.
Life insurance was a rare entity at that time. Mr. Schell, being a forward-thinking man, purchased insurance from Traveler’s Insurance Company. This company, founded in 1853 to cover fire losses, expanded in 1864 to insure travelers against loss of life or personal injury while journeying by train or steam boat. The company expanded again in 1866 to provide protection against all types of accidents.
Mr. Schell made one payment of ten dollars before September 21, 1871. On that balmy day, as the leaves were beginning their colorful fall show, Mr. Schell went into Hoffman Mine. He was beginning to feel the aches and pains that come with age and working in damp conditions. He paused for a moment to catch his breath when a fall of roof coal hit him. He died about an hour later, and was laid to rest the following day in Percy Cemetery.
Mrs. Schell was paid five hundred dollars by Traveler’s Insurance Company. By today’s standards, that would amount to $8,823.
Because of Mr. Schell’s foresight, and with the assistance of her children, Johanna Schell was able to live her last three years without financial stress. She died March 3, 1874 and rests with her husband in Percy Cemetery.
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of a bronze statue to honor all our Georges Creek and Jennings Run Valley coal miners and name those who perished while mining.
Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
Frostburg, MD 21532.
We welcome updated information and encourage your participation.
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.”