by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
Poor health steals the life of two Sloans
Hoffman Hollow is a small community one and a half miles south east of Frostburg. In 1880, the Hollow boasted a population of 200 souls that included John Frances Sloan. John was born in Berkeley County, West Virginia on February 25, 1878. Before the age of two he relocated with his parents, James Joseph Sloan and Mary Jane (Carroll) Sloan, to Allegany County, Maryland. Included in the move were his older sister Margaret, his paternal grandmother Winifred Sloan, and a cousin, James Hughes.
John’s fatherJames was employed in the nearby Hoffman Mine, along with his nephew James. The mine was located on the Eckhart branch of the C&P Railroad and held the distinction of being the longest slope mine in the area: 6,000 feet in length.
After moving to Hoffman Hollow, three additional children were welcomed into the Sloan family. Young John was just ten years old when his mother and maternal grandmother died in 1888 from complications of consumption (tuberculosis.) John would also fall victim to the dreaded disease.
John’s father remarried two years later, and John soon had three half siblings. It quickly became evident that Mr. Sloan needed help supporting his growing family. John was introduced to life underground---where he became a driver in the Hoffman Mine. The cold, damp conditions were a deterrent to someone suffering from consumption, and John grew progressively weaker. On December 1, 1894, while driving his mule, John fell between the coal cars and was severely injured. Being in feeble condition, his body was not able to resist the added affliction and John lost his battle to survive. His funeral was held on December 4th from his home in Hoffman; the cortege proceeded to St. Michael’s Catholic Church, where the services were conducted by Rev. Stephen Clarke. John Frances Sloan was laid to rest in the church cemetery at the tender age of sixteen because a sick child was asked to bear the responsibilities of a healthy man.
John’s father James toiled in the Hoffman Mine for a total of thirty years, eventually becoming Foreman. On May 9, 1906, after a strenuous day at work, Mr. Sloan returned home, not feeling well. He told his wife he was going to bed and asked her not to wake him in the morning, as he was too sick to work. When he did not come down for breakfast, Mrs. Sloan went to check on him and found him dead in bed. His death certificate states that he died of heart failure at the age of 64.
In the early 1900s there were no pensions. The Social Security Act did not go in to effect until August 14, 1935. Miners like James Sloan worked physically demanding occupations, while struggling with poor health, because they had no option other than to do so. As products of their time, this father and son perished 12 years apart from one another. One too young and ill to work---and the other too old and ill to work---they continued beyond endurance, underground in the Hoffman Mine. The echo of this hardship reverberated throughout the Hollow; the call to take heed was heard by miners throughout the Georges Creek Valley. Finding a viable solution was a difficult task in the late 19th and early 20th centurie
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
Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
P.O. Box 765
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.”