by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
The Dillon Family
Thirty-three year-old James Dillon left County Kildare, Ireland in 1845,at the start of the great potato famine. Susanna Marie Farrell managed to survive the famine in Ireland,and in 1850 she arrived in the States at the age of twenty-seven. James and Susanna immigrated to the same area of Western Maryland, and found comfort in their friendship. They reminisced about the families and traditions they left behind in the Emerald Isle. Their friendship grew into love, and they eventually married. With Susanna’s help, James became a tavern keeper in Frostburg, providing an income that supported their one daughter and six sons. Unfortunately, James died in 1867 when their youngest child was four years old.
Two years later, Susanna married another native of Ireland, Cornelius Lynch. Mr. Lynch was a coal miner who courageously took on the task of raising the seven Dillon children. By 1870, three of Susanna’s boys were subsidizing the family income by digging coal. Daniel Dillon, age nineteen, Peter Dillon, age sixteen, and Thomas Dillon, age fourteen, all worked in the “Shaft” (Borden Shaft Mine.)
On April 22, 1872, twenty-one year-old Daniel was fatally injured in the Shaft by an unavoidable accident. Two years later, on April 30, 1874, twenty year-old Peter Dillon was sitting at the switch of his room down in the bowels of the Shaft. Perhaps he was thinking of his brother, missing the camaraderie they had shared. He wanted to tell Daniel about the baseball matches just starting, and about the girl he had met and was courting. Being deep in thought, Peter missed the sound of an empty car coming down the track. The car jumped the rails; it headed straight for Peter, and struck him in the right side. His buddies ran to his aid and hoisted him out of the mine. He was taken to a nearby boarding house where he received medical attention for a “disjointed spinal column” and internal injuries. Although in excruciating pain, Peter was able to ask for his mother and a priest to come to his bedside. Death relieved his suffering the following morning. His funeral was held the next day at St. Michael’s Church. As Mrs. Lynch watched her second son being lowered into the cold earth, she made a solemn vow that her remaining sons would not perish in a mine. She dreaded the thought of anyone else dying in a dark dungeon of despair.
By 1880, Mr. Lynch had given up the back-breaking toil of mining, and was the proprietor the St. Cloud Hotel on Main Street in Frostburg. While their parents ran the hotel, two more of Mrs. Lynch’s sons become coal miners. William, age 22, and James, 18, were boarders in the Pompey Smash home of their sister and her husband, Mary Ann and Philip McMahan. All the men were employed as mine laborers. Realizing the fear his mother harbored, William left the mining industry for awhile and moved to Cumberland, where he was a train master on the railroad. After his mother died on October 22, 1900 at the age of 76, William and his wife Agnes moved to Lonaconing, where William was a mine foreman. He died on July 18, 1909.
Following suit, James also left the mines and moved with his wife, Mary, to Washington, D.C. He worked for the government as a clerk in the Navy Yard. He died in Washington on December 25, 1917, and was buried there in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. John Joseph Dillon became a priest and lived for some time in Overlea, MD. He died on June 15, 1918. Thomas Dillon and his wife Dora assumed the proprietorship of his step father’s hotel at 104 Main Street. He died on March 15, 1924. All of the Dillon siblings, except James, are buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery near their mother. They remain as close in death as they were in life.
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of a bronze statue to honor all our Georges Creek and Jennings Run Valley coal miners and name those who perished while mining.
Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
Frostburg, MD 21532.
We welcome updated information and encourage your participation.
Contact 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.”