by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
Eli Thomas Mears
Samuel Mears was born in 1844 in Wales. At age 25 he left his coal mining job and his home in Wales, boarded the ship “City of Washington” in Liverpool, England and headed for the shores of the United States. He arrived in New York City on April 18, 1870. It didn’t take him long to find his way to Frostburg, where he found lodging with the family of William Davis. James Lilly, 53 and William Lilly, 26, also found lodging with the Davis family. All three boarders were coal miners.
Samuel’s wife, Elizabeth Caudill Mears, and their two children, four year old Anna and two year old Joseph, arrived from England in November of 1870. The Mears family settled in Lonaconing, and by 1880, they had four more sons: eight year old John, six year old Windom, three year old Charles, and infant Eli. Sadly, their sister, Anna had died.
On May 15, 1880, the Mears family suffered another tragic loss when Elizabeth Mears, 33, died prematurely, leaving behind a husband and five sons. Joseph, 12, worked as a trapper boy in the coal mines at that time, and little Eli was just nine months old. Samuel remained a widower until 1889, when he married Martha Elizabeth Rees.
On February 6, 1896, Eli, then 16, died as the result of injuries that he suffered from a coal mining accident. Eli was another of our child miners tragically taken from his family. His mother died when he was an infant and he endured many cold, damp days in the mines before losing his life at such a young age. Samuel and Martha eventually added seven more children to the family, but they never forgot mother and son, Elizabeth and Eli, honoring them with monuments placed in Percy Cemetery.
During a conversation with a descendant of the Mears family, it was learned that Eli’s brother, Joseph, lost his leg when he was run over by a train as he was walking home from his coal mining job. The Mears family certainly endured a litany of tragedy, but forged onward in spite of their circumstances.
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 Valley 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