by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
Preserving Our Heritage
The goal of the Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is to preserve and promote our coal mining heritage and honor those who mined the Georges Creek Valley. Coal not only fueled homes, industries, and transportation systems; coal fueled the economy by serving as a catalyst for the growth of our towns, schools, and churches in Mountain Maryland.
One of our local churches is bringing our mining heritage to the forefront. Trinity Assembly of God, in Midlothian, Maryland has turned their Sunday School into a mining village. The children enter “Trinity Mine” through the No.1 Heading, walking under support timbers and brattice work. Mining helmets, empty dynamite boxes, bird cages, and other mining artifacts are on display. Lanterns hang from support beams to help light the way, and pictures of the children in their mining gear hang in the man way, a safe walking area for the miners. The first right heading leads to a small inclined plane, where the children exit the mine to find themselves on the broad Main Street of “Trinity Village.” Brightly colored buildings line the street of the quaint little town. To the right there is a livery stable, the Lunch Pail Café, and a grand hotel. Crossing the street, one finds the jail and sheriff’s office that displays a WANTED poster of the infamous pastor, Rob Culler. Next door is the bank, with a vault for gold bars and precious gems. Further along is the general store, displaying tools and various sundries. Troy Gearhart, executive pastor, was an excellent tour guide and Erin Vogtman, project manager, was on hand to describe the architectural features of the town. Children’s pastor, Laura Taylor, uses this unique setting to teach young children the Christian values learned by their mining ancestors.
In John 3:16 it is written, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” This value was practiced countless times by the coal miners of the Georges Creek Valley: when John Kiers, Jr. of Midlothian, was trapped by a roof collapse in the Bowery Mine, fellow miners worked in shifts for eleven days in unstable conditions, risking their own lives to retrieve John’s body. It took rescue workers four days to recover the bodies of John Scally, Isaac Cavanaugh, Thomas Bush, and Joseph Bush from Consol Mine No.1 in Ocean. “Slide after slide of rock occurred, interfering with the work of recovery” but these men continued to dig, disregarding their own safety. Elmer Pifer crawled 450 feet with James Laber on his back, carried him down a refuse bank, and then drove him to Miners Hospital. These miners laid down their lives for their friends.
Matthew 25: 35-36 says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Ella Nora Fair and her children were hungry after her husband George was killed in 1900. The citizens of Mount Savage looked after one another, and when someone butchered, Ella Nora’s family was gifted some of the meat. The women of every village, from Barrellville to Westernport, provided meals, water, tea and coffee for the rescue crews during every disaster. Peter McGuire was a stranger from Nanticoke, PA, when he found work in Zihlman. He was invited to stay in the home of J.P. Kenny, where he became part of their family. Harry Graney and his siblings were orphaned, and were invited to stay in the home of their aunt. Catherine Shertzer and Dora Drummond picked up needle and thread to make clothes for others. When Brunotte, Hamilton, Condry, Kight, and Smith were killed on the inclined plane at Washington Mine No. 5, every man in attendance took off his coat and laid it over them as a gesture of sympathy and respect.
Midlothian’s Trinity Assembly of God has creatively connected our mining legacy to these, and other Christian values, that were taught in every church and practiced by our ancestors up and down the Valley. The children of “Trinity Village” are truly blessed to have a Sunday School “fueled by coal.”
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 our Georges Creek 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.
We welcome updated information and encourage your participation.
Contact Polla Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bucky Schriver at email@example.com
to share your thoughts and stories.
Be on the lookout for future “Miner Recollections.”