for The Frostburg Express
James Thornton Crowe
On Aug. 23, 1918, 31-year old Pfc. James Thornton Crowe boarded the military transport ship Princess Juliana in New York. He was on his way to France to fight in World War I with Company A of the 336th Machine Gun Battalion.
On the ship’s manifest under the column “Notify in Case of Emergency” was the name of James’ stepmother, Blanche (Murphy) Crowe. James’ parents and grandparents were already resting in their graves by the time he had reached his 27th year. Every soldier worried about the horrors of war that loomed ahead after they disembarked in France, and James was no exception. The long two-week journey across the Atlantic Ocean provided him with plenty of time to reflect on the death of his father and the family that he left behind. He wondered if he would ever see the hills of Lonaconing again.
James’ grandfather Thornton Crowe Sr. was born on Nov. 6, 1830. On July 17, 1857, Thornton Sr. married Mahala Rohm in Allegany County. Their marriage produced nine children, including Thornton Crowe Jr., born in 1865 in Pompey Smash (Vale Summit). In 1866, the family relocated to Lonaconing.
Thornton Jr. married Lonaconing native Isabella Morton on Oct. 26, 1886, and the couple took up residency in Pekin. In 1894, Thornton Jr.’s mother, Mahala, died at age 52. Four years later, on Sept. 8, 1898, Thornton Jr.’s wife, Isabella, passed away, leaving him with three young children: 11-year-old James, 10-year-old Edith and 2-year-old William. On Sept. 17, 1901, Thornton Jr. married Blanche Morton in Garrett County. The couple rented a home on Scotch Hill in Lonaconing and promptly
added two more children to the brood: son Olin was born in 1903, and daughter Elsie was born in 1904.
Thornton Jr. supported his wife and children by working as a coal miner at the Consolidation Coal Co.’s No. 1 Mine, just north of Midland. Consol No. 1 was previously known as the Ocean No.1 Mine.
At 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 21, 1913, Thornton Jr. was loading a car at the coal face at the Consol No. 1 Mine when he was killed by a sudden roof fall. The Annual Report of the Mine Inspector said that the place was well-timbered, but there were apparently hidden “slips” that cut out at the coal face (a slip is a fault or a crack, where the strata have moved upon each other.) The hidden slips made this accident unpredictable, even to an experienced miner. Thornton Jr.’s body was taken by the Consolidation Coal Co. ambulance to the Spiers’ undertaking establishment in Lonaconing and then to the family’s rented home on Detmold Street in Lonaconing.
In addition to his widow, Blanche, Thornton Jr. was survived by five children: Edith (Mrs. Perry Ginevan), of Donora, Pennsylvania; James, William, Olin and Elsie, of Lonaconing; two sisters: Mrs. David McGee and Mrs. George S. Ternent, of Lonaconing; six brothers: John, Edward, Ellsworth, Clarence and Albert, of Cumberland, and Charles, of Westernport; and his 82-year-old father, Thornton Crowe Sr. He was a member of the Midland Aerie, No. 1121, Fraternal Order of Eagles.
On Oct. 14, 1914, 16 months after the death of his son, 83-year-old Thornton Crowe Sr. passed away and was laid to rest beside his wife and son in Oak Hill Cemetery. Blanche Crowe passed away in 1943 and was buried alongside her husband, Thornton Crowe Jr., in Oak Hill Cemetery in Lonaconing.
Even though James Thornton Crowe had lost his mother in 1898 when he was only 11, his father in 1913 and his grandfather in 1914, he considered himself to be a lucky man. Six months after leaving New York for the war, James boarded the return military transport ship Mongolia at Saint-Nazaire, France. On Feb. 22, 1919, he was en route back to his United States of America. The ship arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, on March 7. James was honorably discharged on March 22 and made his way back home, alive and happy to see the hills of Lonaconing once again. Despite his father’s tragic death in Consol No. 1, James followed in his footsteps and made coal mining his chosen profession. On his World War II draft registration
card, 52-year-old James listed his employer as the Georges Creek Coal Co. He passed away on Dec. 8, 1965, and was reunited with his parents and grandparents in Oak Hill Cemetery.
from Miner Recollections by Polla Horn & Bucky Schriver
published in Cumberland Times-News on March 21, 2020
(Courtesy of Sheryl Kelso)
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