by Polla Horn for
The Frostburg Express
Three Thomas Families: Stories Handed Down
Llanrhidian, Gowerton, Glamorgan, Kidwelly, Tylorstown, Porth, Aberdare, Pontypridd, and Llandefeilog. These remind me of a song my dad used to sing: “the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivy.” They were engraved in the hearts and heard from the lips of many in the Georges Creek Valley, for they were the names of HOME: the towns and villages of southwest Wales.
John Morgan Thomas was born in Llanrhidian, Glamorgan, Wales in April, 1847. He married Ann Hopkins of Llangefelach, Wales in 1875. They parented nine children: Annie, 1876; Richard, 1878; William, 1880; Elizabeth, 1882; John, 1885; Benjamin, 1887; Joseph, 1891; George, 1894; and Pearl, 1897. I can envision this Frostburg family, in the glow of a coal oil lamp, listening intently to the stories of a Welshman. The younger boys certainly asked about the big ship that brought “Da” to America. Their father John told them that he left his parents, Ann and Morgan, in Gowertown when he boarded the ship “Colorado” to set sail for New York from the port of Queenstown, Ireland. He was only 22 when he arrived on September 21, 1869. “Tell us about the coal mines in Wales,” they asked. John told them that he worked in the underground mines with his dad, brother, and sometimes, his sister. “The mines were as dark and as damp there as they are here.”
John’s stories ended on July 8, 1904 when he was injured by a fall of roof coal and died a few hours later. The accident occurred in the “old mine” in Carlos, operated by the Barton and Georges Creek Valley Coal Company. The mine inspector’s report states that John was a most prudent, careful, and experienced miner. When the accident area was inspected it was found to be in good condition. “No man would think it possible for a serious accident to occur.”
The family of Daniel and Alice Davies Thomas
The Carlos home of Daniel and Alice Thomas was always full of laughter, fun, and music. Daniel, born in Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire, Wales in 1860, was a coal miner like his father, David. Alice was born in 1857 in Aberdare, Glamorgan, Wales, the daughter of Jane and David Davies. Their grandchildren remember hearing about Daniel and Alice’s wedding in the Porth Chapel in Tylorstown on April 27, 1882. Alice’s eyes sparkled when she recalled the birth of their daughter, Margaret Ann, in Pontypridd, and their son, David William, in Glamorgan. “Tell us about the big ocean, Mam.” Alice told her grandchildren about crossing the Atlantic with two children, not yet five years old. The ship “Celtic” brought them safely to New York on October 27, 1888. “Where did you go from there?” they asked. She continued. The family moved to Borden Shaft, where another child, Mary Jane, was born. She told them about their very wise and industrious grandfather, who had built a new home in Carlos. It was hard to raise a family on a coal miner’s salary, but diligent, hard working Daniel owned his own home within 12 years. They heard a proud Alice describe how their grandfather was appointed President of the Local Union, No. 4202 of the United Mine Workers of America. Daniel himself smiled and enjoyed his wife’s story-telling.
Sadly, Daniel died on September 12, 1923 in Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he had been receiving treatment for cancer. His family was awarded a citation from the United Mine Workers for his dedicated service. It hangs on the wall in the Carlos home (still occupied today by a great great grandson) where music, songs, and laughter were in the air as old stories were passed down to the next generation. Daniel was buried in Frostburg Memorial Park. Alice followed him in 1929, and was laid to rest beside her husband.
David P. Thomas
David P. Thomas was born in Mt. Savage, MD in January, 1868. He was the son of Phillip P. Thomas of Llandefeilog, Carmarthenshire, Wales and Ann Davies Thomas, also from Wales. David married Ida Belle Myers on April 23, 1891. They had three children, Samuel Franklin, 1893; Philip Arthur, 1897; and Mae Olive, 1899. David and his family lived in Frostburg where he was employed as a miner by the Consolidation Coal Company. On December 17, 1901, at age 35, David was caught by a fall of slate at Hoffman Mine and crushed to death. Upon hearing the dreadful news of her husband’s death, Ida Belle, pregnant with their fourth child, went into labor. Their daughter, Datha P. Thomas, was born a few hours after her father was killed. Those who attended Frostburg’s Hill Street School in the 1950s will remember Miss Datha Thomas, fourth grade teacher, as an accomplished violinist. She died in 1972, and was buried next to her parents in Frostburg Memorial Park.
All three Thomas families hailed from the same area of Wales and planted their roots in the Georges Creek Valley. Perhaps geography is not their only connection.
The committee would like to thank Coralee Engle, the last surviving grandchild of Daniel Thomas, for her contribution to this story.
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
Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
P.O. Box 765
Frostburg, MD 21532.
Contact Polla Horn at email@example.com
Bucky Schriver at firstname.lastname@example.org
if you have a story of your own to tell. Look for more “Miner Recollections” in the coming weeks.