by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
In spite of hardship, coming to America a good decision
John Timmons and his wife immigrated to America from England in 1844, bringing their 5-year-old son, Joseph, with them. Like so many others, Mr. Timmons wanted a better life for his children.
Britain was plagued with problems during the 1840s. The Mine Act of 1842 prohibited all females and boys under the age of 10 from working underground in coal mines. The Rebecca Riots were started by farmers protesting high taxes and high tolls at the toll gate. The Anglo-Afghan Wars had killed 4,500 British and Indian soldiers. The 1842 General Strike, known as the Plug Riots, started among miners in Staffordshire, England, and soon spread throughout Britain, affecting factories, mills and coal mines.
We don't know if John Timmons was a miner, a farmer, a factory worker or a soldier, but we know he was born in Staffordshire, England and he wanted to leave.
The Timmons family settled in Western Maryland, as did the Smith family. Nettie Caroline Smith immigrated to America from England with her parents in 1851 at the age of 3. Joseph Timmons and Nettie Smith married in 1872. The marriage eventually produced eight children: five boys and three girls. Their fourth child was born July 3, 1877, and they named him Joseph after his father.
Joseph Jr. and his brothers eventually joined their father and worked in the coal mines. The Timmons family lived in Frostburg. Young Joseph worked in Ocean Mine, just north of Midland along the C&P Railroad, a 4 ½-mile walk from home. Being a typical 14-year-old boy and not wanting to walk that distance to and from work, he hitched a ride, most days, on the C&P train.
On June 2, 1892, after a long and exhausting day in the mines, Joseph jumped a train and rode as far as the brickyard at the junction of Bowery and McCulloh streets in Frostburg. It was reported that "The train was running quite fast when the lad jumped off, the momentum carrying him at least 10 feet alongside the train, when he fell toward the wheels. A foot was crushed and the next instant the back part of his head suffered the same fate, killing the hapless boy instantly. He would have been 15 years old on July 3".
Joseph's funeral was held in St. John's P.E. Church in Frostburg, and he was buried in Frostburg Memorial Park.
His father, Joseph Sr., and his brothers, John, George, Isaac and Edward, continued working as coal miners. In spite of losing a son and working dismal days in the mines, Joseph Sr. and Nettie had a long life together, raising the remaining seven of their eight children. Coming to America was a good decision.
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of an educational memorial near the corssroads 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
Frostburg, MD 21532.
We welcome updated information and encourage your participation.
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Be on the lookout for more Miner Recollections in the coming weeks.