by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
The story of David Telford begins in 1890 in Larkhill, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He was the son of John Telford, a 43 year old transplant from Ireland, and native born Margaret (Miller) Telford, age 39. David had an older brother and sister, Frank and Margaret. The trio’s younger brother, Peter, arrived three years later.
David’s father and older brother Frank were coal miners. Mr. Telford died in 1903, at the age of 56, from bronchitis; David was thirteen and Peter was ten years old. David was already working as a colliery pony driver when his father passed away. He and Frank kept the home fires burning, supporting their mother and siblings.
In 1907, Mrs. Telford, with 17 year-old David and 14 year-old Peter, left Scotland to cross the great Atlantic Ocean. How difficult it must have been to leave a son and daughter, and perhaps grandchildren, behind. We don’t know what brought them to Western Maryland; perhaps they received letters from family or friends describing the abundance of work here, and the gorgeous mountains that looked so much like home. They had a Scottish community ready to greet and encourage them on their arrival.
In 1910, the family of three lived on Bridge Street in Lonaconing. The two brothers were employed by the McKee Coal Company. At about this time, David met a lovely young woman named Laura McKee, the daughter of Henry and Charlotte (McKenzie) McKee. We have not been able to discover if Mr. McKee was the owner of the McKee Coal Company; he was, however, a coal mine operator. David and Laura were soon married and joyfully welcomed a daughter, Edith, into the family a year later. A son, David McKee Telford, was born in 1916.
David Telford’s story ends on October 22, 1918. David was working at the face of the McKee Mine with Dan Cullen. After working for a few hours, a large chunk of coal (measuring 2 feet thick, 8 feet long and 4 feet wide) fell from the roof. David was crushed to death at age 28.
The McKee Mine was opened in 1853 as Koontz No. 1. By 1880, the retreat had begun as miners removed pillars. By the early twentieth century, the mine had been over worked, causing ventilation and roof problems. The mine inspector lamented that “no place in the region was mining the Big Vein done under more trying circumstances.” The mine proper was abandoned in 1910, and New Central Coal Company mined the outcrop for the next two years. At the time of its abandonment by the New Central Coal Company, the outcrop of Koontz No. 1 still contained a large amount of Big Vein coal. The McKee Coal Company removed nearly a quarter of a million tons from the outcrop between 1916 and 1920. It was under these conditions that David Telford worked and died.
His young wife Laura took a job as a retail merchant in a grocery store. Her mother-in-law lived with her and helped with the two young children. Laura’s parents and her brother’s family lived a few houses away. Laura married again, a few years later, to Clifford Densmore.
Laura’s son, David McKee Telford, served in the Army during WW II as a TEC 5 in the 3410 QM Truck Company, and later worked at the Celanese Corporation. He married Pauline Wolford. They lived at 123 Washington Street in Frostburg where two children were born, a daughter and a son.
Sadly, on January 21, 1963, David was going to bury his pet dog on Big Savage Mountain when he had car problems. He stopped on St. John’s Rock Road to fix the car. He had a heart attack and died. He was 46 years old.
John Telford, his son David Telford, and his son David McKee Telford all died too young, leaving their widows to struggle through sorrow while comforting and raising their children.
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of a bronze statue to honor all of our coal miners and name those who died while mining. Tax-deductible donations can be sent 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 email@example.com
Bucky Schriver at firstname.lastname@example.org
to share your thoughts and stories. Be on the lookout for future “Miner Recollections.”