by: Barbara Airhart King and Polla Horn
For the FROSTBURG EXPRESS
JOSEPH HENRY WOLFORD
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund would like to thank Barbara Airhart King for sharing this story about her uncle.
"My uncle, Joseph Henry Wolford, was born in Eckhart Mines, Maryland on March 25, 1900. My grandmother, Mary Rephann Wolford, a widow and single mother, used to relate to me a story involving Uncle Joe, her oldest son, and what happened to him one day while he was at work as a coal miner. I believe he must have worked in the Washington Mine #2, Eckhart Mines because he used to walk to and from the mines every day. He never learned to drive a car. My grandmother told me that on the day of Uncle Joe’s accident, the miners decided they needed to set off some dynamite to accomplish their goal for the day. For some reason, Uncle Joe did not get out of the mine before the dynamite went off. He didn’t die in the blast, but he must have been in serious condition because he was confined to a darkened room for months. My grandmother took care of him and nursed him back to health. She explained that she had to keep the room darkened for him because the blast had sent some coal or dynamite into his eyes and face. He carried the result of the dynamite blast for the rest of his life with purple and blue spots embedded in his face, head and neck. His scars were very pronounced until the end of his life. I’m not sure if Uncle Joe ever entered a mine again. He died at the age of 85 on July 19, 1985."
~Barbara Airhart King
During my research for this project, I have heard similar stories. One old miner told me that you could always pick out a coal miner by looking at the brim of his cap. He said the miners would pull the cap down over their eyes to protect them during a blast, and the brim of the cap was always frayed.
Barbara continues her story by relating that her mother, Gertrude Wolford Airhart would get up early in the morning (before daybreak) to help her pack lunch buckets for her brothers. Her brothers, Joseph Henry and Samuel Vernon Wolford both were large men with healthy appetites. The lunch buckets were “two-storied” with one section for sandwiches and the other for beverages. They would go off to the mines every morning with their lunch bucket, coal miner’s cap and carbide lamp which was attached to their cap.
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 our Georges creek Valley miners and name those who perished while mining. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to the Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF, P.O. Box 765,
Frostburg, MD 21532.
Historical research uncovers stories that are not always accurate. We welcome updated information and encourage your participation.
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.