by Bucky Schriver for
The Frostburg Express
Yates Family Faithful To Welsh Coal Mining Heritage
John William Yates was born at Blaenavon, Wales, on September 16th, 1847 to William and Sarah Yates. The area of southeastern Wales, in the vicinity of Blaenavon, is steeped in coal mining history.
Today, Blaenavon is the site of the Big Pit National Coal Museum, where visitors can travel in an elevator, called a "pit cage", 300 feet down into a deep mine where generations of Welsh coal miners labored. Blaenavon is located near the headspring of the Afon Lwyd, or the "Grey River." Hence, the name Blaenavon, meaning "source of the river."
Jane Stokes was born at the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, on December 25th, 1849, to John and Sarah Stokes. The Vale of Glamorgan, or Glamorganshire, is the southernmost county in Wales.
By the early 1900s, the port of Barry, in south Wales, was the largest coal exporting port in the world. Coal mining in south Wales dates back to the fourteenth century. When the Yates and Stokes families migrated to Western Maryland in the mid 1800s, each family brought with them centuries of coal mining heritage.
On January 14th, 1869, Jane Stokes and John William Yates were married in Lonaconing, and they made their home in Ocean, near John's place of employment at Consolidation Coal Company's Ocean Mine No.1. They most likely rented one of the houses that the company built for their employees.
In November of 1869, Jane gave birth to the couple's first child, John Thomas Yates. Within the next fourteen years, John and Jane Yates were blessed with four more sons and a daughter. Benjamin was born in 1872, Richard in 1876, James in 1879, and William in 1883. A daughter, Lladia, was born in January of 1884.
The Ocean Mine was one of the earliest and most productive sources of Big Vein coal in the Georges Creek region. The mine dates back to 1856, when the Lonaconing Ocean Coal Mining and Transportation Company was renamed the Ocean Steam Coal Company. In 1864, the Ocean Steam Coal Company was absorbed by the Consolidation Coal Company, which was formed only four years earlier. Eight million tons of Big Vein coal were eventually extracted from Ocean #1, second only to Ocean #7 in Klondike, which produced nine million tons.
Consistent with established tradition, and borne out of financial necessity, John Thomas Yates quit school at an early age, and joined his father in the Ocean Mine. On April 12th, 1887, seventeen year old John Thomas Yates was killed in Ocean Mine #1, when he fell from a trip of mine cars that he was operating, and was run over.
The story of John's death was published in the April 16th, 1887 edition of the Frostburg Mining Journal:
"John T. Yates, a driver in the Ocean Mine, was killed instantly Tuesday morning by falling in front of a trip of loaded cars he was bringing out. Two cars passed over him, literally cutting his body in two. He was the son of John W. Yates, a well known and estimable miner of Ocean, and was 17 or 18 years old. Much sympathy is felt for the family, as John was a bright and popular boy."
The dark and narrow passages of the underground tramways were extraordinarily dangerous, and were the scene of numerous brutal accidents.
By the late 1800s, the Yates family had purchased a house on Railroad Street in Moscow. Like so many of the coal mining families of their time, the Yates family endured considerable hardship and grief. James Yates, like his brother, John, worked as a mine driver. James died on March 27th, 1899, from a cerebral hemmorage. James was only nineteen years of age. On August 23rd, 1901, the father of the family, John William Yates, died of peritonitis.
A pillar of matronly fortitude, Jane Yates forged onward, living eighty-six years, and died in 1936. Jane outlived all of her sons except Richard, who died in 1945.
Remaining faithful to the family's extensive coal mining heritage, all of John and Jane Yates' sons, except William, went on to become miners. William Yates made his living as a salesman.
Jane Yates is buried at Frostburg Memorial Park, as is her son Benjamin and Jane's elder brother, James Stokes. William Yates is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery, in Moscow, and Richard Yates is buried in Allison Park, Pa.
Despite painstaking genealogical research, The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Committee was unable to find records of the burial site of either John Thomas Yates, James Yates, or their father, John William Yates. The only information that was found on Lladia Yates was a listing in the 1900 census.
Descendants of the coal miner families are encouraged to submit any additional genealogical information that they might have available.
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 the
Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
P.O. Box 765 Frostburg, MD 21532.
We welcome updated information and encourage your participation.
Contact Polla Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org
or Bucky Schriver at email@example.com
if you have a story of your own to tell. Be on the lookout for future Miner Recollections.