by Bucky Schriver
for The Frostburg Express
Many Young Miners Never Benefited From Company's Invested Profits
The Buxton Mine, located on Franklin Hill near Westernport, was operated by the Davis Coal & Coke Company. An inclined plane on the Maryland side of the Potomac River, near the mouth of Savage River, carried the coal from the Buxton and Franklin mines to a tipple on the West Virginia Central & Pittsburgh Railway. In 1905, the West Virginia Central & Pittsburgh Railway was sold to the Western Maryland Railway.
Both the Davis Coal & Coke Company and the West Virginia Central & Pittsburgh Railway were owned by a partnership headed by Henry Gassaway Davis. The Buxton Mine was named for Davis' nephew, Henry Gassaway "Harry" Buxton. Davis and his son-in-law, Stephen Benton Elkins, were the principals in the West Virginia Central & Pittsburgh Railway, that ran from Piedmont to Elkins, W.Va. Davis and Elkins were the founders of the college in Elkins, W.Va. that bears their names to this day. Henry Gassaway Davis owned a saw mill, located in what was then known as West Piedmont. In 1889, the saw mill was sold to the Luke brothers, who built their paper mill on the site.
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund Committee has expended great effort in researching children who were born over 100 years ago. Many never lived long enough to have their names recorded in a census report. The research is difficult and often inconclusive. This was not the case with 14-year-old Westernport resident Russell Youst.
On May 19th, 1908, young Russell was killed in the Buxton Mine when he was run over by tram cars. According to the Cumberland Evening Times on May 21st, 1908, "Little Russell Youst, whose life was crushed out in the Buxton Mine Tuesday morning, was doing a man's work, and very dangerous work at that. Though only 14 years of age, he was in the mine through some understanding between his father and the company. He was hired as a trapper, that is, to open and close the compartment doors in the mine to let the loaded cars out and the empty ones in. Tuesday, he was taken from his work and put to hitching cars to the endless wire rope that takes the cars in and out. While making a hitch, he fell under the cars and was killed. He lived until he reached the mouth of the mine, asked for a drink of water, took one swallow and expired. He is survived by his parents and several brothers and sisters. The little boy was well known in Westernport and Piedmont. He sold newspapers in the twin cities for several years."
Russell was the son of Joseph Edward Youst and Mary Ella (Thomas) Youst. Genealogical research indicates that Russell had two brothers and three sisters at the time of his death. Over the years, the family had a total of 14 children, seven of whom never lived to adulthood. Four of the Youst children died at birth or shortly thereafter. William Bernard Youst, born in 1900, lived only 10 months. Benjamin DeAstor Youst, born in 1902, lived 20 months. Twin girls, Lucy Elizabeth and Mary Elizabeth Youst, lived only one day, and died on November 1st, 1905.
Russell Youst is buried in Philos Cemetery in Westernport, along with his parents and three of his siblings. The Youst family carried the unfathomable burden of hardship and grief.
The dire economic conditions of the time compelled young boys to abandon their education and accept dangerous jobs in the underground coal mines. With little education, they were prisoners of their fate, unable to escape their abject destiny. The extra dollars that young Russell earned were of great importance to his family.
Profit from the Buxton Mine (where Russell Youst perished in 1908), and other related companies, helped to fund the college founded by U.S. Senators, Davis and Elkins. The first classes were held on September 21st, 1904. Today's programs at Davis & Elkins are in place to "prepare and inspire students for success and for thoughtful engagement in the world." The senators saw a need for advanced educational opportunities in a remote region of Appalachia that was once the southern terminus of Henry Gassway Davis' railroad. Russell Youst did not live long enough to take advantage of their foresight and their investment.
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.
Polla Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bucky Schriver at email@example.com
to share your thoughts and stories.
Be on the lookout for future Miner Recollections.