by Bucky Schriver
for the Frostburg Express
The Boyd Family's Battle To Survive
In 1899, James Boyd and Ann (Pollock) Boyd married and set up housekeeping on Railroad Street in Lonaconing. James, born in Lonaconing on March 29, 1871, was the son of John M. Boyd and Frostburg native Mary Ann (Spears) Boyd. Ann Pollock was born in Lonaconing in November, 1876. She was the daughter of Scottish immigrants George Pollock and Janette (Laird) Pollock.
James Boyd found employment with the New Central Coal Company in Lonaconing. By 1916, James and Ann Boyd were the parents of five boys and two girls: Robert, 16; George, 15; Nettie, 13; Edward, 11; Catherine, 6; James, 3; and newborn Alexander, born January 10, 1916. The Boyds seemed to be the epitome of familial bliss, but like the protagonists in a Hemmingway novel, the tide of fate was about to turn against them.
At 7:40 a.m. on Thursday, June 8, 1916, 15 year-old George was killed by a roof fall in the Koontz Mine No. 2 in the Beechwood section of Lonaconing. Young George was working with his father, James, when a "slip" in the roof was exposed. A large rock (3'10" long, 2'6" wide, and 8" thick) fell, crushing George's head and killing him instantly.
The New Central Coal Company's Koontz Big Vein No. 2 Mine was situated on the east side of Beechwood hollow in Lonaconing. According to the 1916 Annual Report of The Mine Inspector, Koontz No. 2 was "a drift opening, working the Tyson seam of coal, and is opened up on the double entry system. The ventialtion is provided by an eight-foot fan, driven by a gasoline engine, and is distributed to the working faces by doors and brattices, and is good. Drainage is by natural means and ditches, and is also good. The coal is mined by pick, blasted by powder, gathered in the interior and hauled to the head of the plane by mules. It is lowered 900 feet and dumped into railroad cars, and shipped over the Georges Creek & Cumberland Division of the Western Maryland Railroad. The roof is bad in sections near the the outcrop, and requires a great deal of timbering, but is kept in satisfactory condition. Oil and carbide are used by miners for illumination."
The Tyson seam, known in other areas as the Upper Sewickley seam, was a band of high quality coal, located just above the Big Vein, or "14-foot seam." Koontz No. 2 contained one of the best seams of Tyson in the region. Like the New Central Coal Company's Koontz, No. 1 after 1910, the nearby Koontz No. 2 was soon to be abandoned. A few months after George Boyd's fatal 1916 accident, the New Central Coal Company ceased operations at Koontz No. 2. The over-worked state of these mines created roof problems in the latter years.
On October 17, 1918, 41 year-old Ann Boyd died after contracting the Spanish Flu. Ann's husband James was left alone to parent six children, five of whom were 15 years old and younger. Eighteen months later, on April 22, 1920, the couple's son Robert also died of influenza. Robert's funeral was held two days later, and his body was laid to rest in Oak Hill Cemetery in Lonaconing.
By 1930, James Boyd Sr. had married the former Jean Abbott, daughter of John and Jeanette "Jessie" Brown Abbott. The couple was living on Furnace Street in Lonaconing, with James' youngest sons, James, Jr. and Alex. On June 24, 1931, James, Sr. died of cancer, leaving his new wife Jean with two teenage stepsons. Within the span of 15 years, fate had claimed the mother, father, and two young sons.
The Boyd family lived in perilous times, fraught with hardship and poverty. Their life paths were blocked by World War 1, a devastating global pandemic, and so very close to home, child labor in dangerous underground coal mines.
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
to share your thoughts and stories. Be on the lookout of future Miner Recollections.