by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
Shaft Cage Kills William Langley and Horse
William and Peter Langley, sons of Owen and Susan Langley, were born in the Georgetown area of the District of Columbia. William was born in 1845, and Peter in 1852. At the age of fifteen, William was working in Baltimore making bricks; by 1870 the two brothers had moved to Frostburg, where they were employed in the mines.
William married Rebecca Folk, the daughter of George and Amanda Folk of Frostburg, in 1871. A little bundle of joy joined the family a year later.
William was regarded as the best driver in the Borden Shaft Mine, and had the reputation of being an expert handler of horses. So, when a new horse was purchased to work in the shaft, William was given the task of “breaking it in.” He had taken a new horse into the mine without difficulty earlier in the week; a few days later, on April 12, 1873, he attempted to take it down again. It was early, about 6:00 AM on a Monday morning, when he led the fractious horse into the crib on the cage. William settled himself upon the framework above the cage, and when everything was in order, he gave the signal to lower the cage down the shaft. Horse and driver had not gone more than 12 feet down when the animal began to kick and plunge fearfully. Mr. William McMillan, the chief miner, while watching the precarious affair from above, ordered the engineer to hoist the cage and the excited horse to the surface. Langley struggled desperately to prevent the horse from jumping out of the crib and down the shaft. The horse continued with increased violence to surmount the cage; he got his hooves up to the top of one of the sides, standing upright on his hind legs. They were four feet from the surface when Mr. McMillan, fearing additional difficulty, ordered the cage to be stopped again. Morgan Thomas, hostler for the mine, was about to offer his assistance, when, from repeated and heavy jars, the hook which secured the cage broke. The crowd of miners and drivers, looking on the scene from above, turned pale and sick as they watched William Langley, on top of the cage, and the horse, within the cage, plummet about 150 feet to the bottom of the shaft. The rebound from the force threw Langley off the cage to one side, his feet striking the chest of another man nearby. The cage was wrecked and the horse was killed. Langley’s head was severely contused, his body badly bruised, and both of his legs were broken in several places. After being hoisted out of the mine, he was carried to a room nearby, where he drew his last labored breath. The funeral for 28 year-old William Langley was held the next day, attended by his wife Rebecca, and their infant child; his brother, Peter; and a large number of friends and co-workers. He is buried in Allegany Cemetery (Frostburg Memorial Park.)
Our research has not revealed what happened to Rebecca and her child after William’s death. However, two years later on July 10, 1875, his brother Peter married Rebecca’s sister, Mary Frances Folk. Peter continued working as a miner, raising seven children on his paltry wages. Peter had breathed enough coal dust, worked in total damp and darkness, and seen enough tragic accidents. He wanted fresh air and sunshine. The family moved to 33 Elm Street in Cumberland, where Peter worked as an electrician for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Peter died in the house on Elm Street in 1904, at the age of fifty-two. Mary Frances continued to live there until she died in 1927.
Additional information sent in by Sheryl Kelso, Fort Ashby, WV:
I believe Rebecca Folk Langley married second, John Oliver McKenzie, and that she died before 1900. I have only this note in my records, but perhaps too much of a coincidence to ignore:
1890 Special Schedule- Surviving Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, and Widows, etc.
#21 John O. McKenzie, Private, Co. M 2 MD Col enlisted 1862
Rebecca McKenzie, widow of
#22 William Langley, Private, Co. C2 6th July 1866- 6th Feb 1869
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