Here are some of the memories, thoughts, and stories people sent to me in response to my request for submissions to this site
Received from Darrell H Jackson
My paternal grandfather, Isaac Herman Jackson mined there in 1925. He was probably there before and after that. The 1925 is based on his 1925 KY state driver's license that has survived him. His address on the driver's license was Loyall, Harlan Co, KY.
My dad worked coal mines in Arkansas and Tennessee. I was born in Coalfield, Morgan Co, Tennessee in 1940. It was basically "company town" at the time. But for World War Two, I would have grown up to be a miner. My dad got enticed to come up here and work in the ship yards, building ships for the war effort, in Tacoma, Washington. And, as they say, the rest is history.
My family, paternal and maternal seemed to follow the mines through the tri-state area of KY, WV and TN at least from the early 1900s, with a side trip into Arkansas once. Prior to that my Jackson were in the Iron Forge business for 3 generations.
I don't think that there is any of this that will help your new web site but I want to encourage you to keep it going. Harlan County has figured into my family history and with coal mine connections I hope to be able to tie up some loose ends."
I responded to this letter in hopes that he may have more he would like to see on the site and that his stories were the kind we wanted to share with others and this is the second letter from Darrell H Jackson
The one story that stays in my mind is when, my dad and grandfather, (father and son teams were common in the mines) were working together when there was a gas explosion. I think they called it "the damp".Their gas alarm (a bird in a cage?), if they had one must not have worked because their "carbide lamps" set off an explosion. These gas explosions could result in total disaster, a whole mine wiped out, dozens, even hundreds of miners killed, or, as happened in this case.
They said that it was like a flash bulb going off but hotter. It caused their exposed hair to be singed off and skin blistered like a badsun burn. They lost a couple layers of skin but no scarring. The worstthing that resulted from the explosion was a "slate fall". I guess what is left over head in a mine shaft after the coal is dug out is slate rock. Slate breaks apart in thin sheets. It was a minor fall and my grandfather was almost quick enough to get out of the way before he was injured. As it was, besides minor cuts and bruises, his nose was nearly cut off. Dad said that his dad's nose was just hanging by the little bit of tissue between the nostrils. When the dust cleared they were able to walk out of the mine, my grandfather holding his nose in place. His nose grew back, thanks to the camp doctor and his little black bag. Knowing his wife, my grandmother she probably gave credit to her "buttermilk poultices." They would cure everything from cancer to a hangnail. My grandfather died when I was about 18 years old. I'll always remember his nose. A very noble nose thanks to our little bit ofindian blood. The scar did not disfigure him but added to his good looks. I guess it was like the dueling scar on the cheeks of 19th century noblemen, a mark of pride.
At the old age of sixty years I have reached this conclusion:
My grandfather for sure, maybe my dad would have a fit if they knew that you had to get a High School diploma in order to get a job. I can just hear my grandfather say "you don't need no education to dig coal".
I guess we are where the cowboys were 120 years ago when barbed wire fencing was invented. Ranchers no longer need "mobile fences" which is what cowboys were. So, the cowboys had to get down off their horses a learn new professions.
I know that I am being simplistic or is it idealistic? My generation got fat and happy as a result of our ancestors work. Part of their work was inventing coal digging machines, etc that in time, put 8 out of 10 miners out of work. I grew up in a company owned timber camp in Washington State. I had callouses on my hands before I was out of Junior High School. Like my dad said, the only difference between a logger and miner is that a logger don't work in the dark. By the time I was 20 years old I knew that I had other options besides labor. I came out of a sixty student, four year high school and the word college seldom heard. After working 3 years for the State Forestry as the Number One Ax Man and led a 20 man forest fire fighting crew I joined the Army and retired after 23 years.
I'm past the age of being tough. Could our sons do what we did? I doubt it. Labor, broke back, under paid. It just doesn't compute for them. Thanks to our hard work. I won't even mention our daughters.
I've been talking about my Dad and paternal grandfather. On
my maternal side I've been looking for my grandfather Frank Rodgers.
(According to his daughter, my mother, the one that lived through the Battle
of Evarts in Harlan Co, KY and saw her grandfather go to prison for his
part in it), he died in a mine accident in about 1926. They were
living in West Virginia at the time. In the 1920 census, they were
living in Earling, Logan Co, WV. Frank Rodgers was the head of household
with his wife and five children. His occupation was listed as "electrician
in the mines". My mother remembers that he died and was buried in
Salt Rock, Cabell Co, WV. I haven't been able to find documentation
about his death, etc but I'm still looking.
Talking about "carbide lamps" makes me sad that I didn't save my dads. A picture of one and maybe of a "bird cage gas alarm" would look good on a Coal Mine web site.
DARRELL H. JACKSON
Received from Candi Howard
Received from Karren Grace Katz
MY NAME IS KARREN GRACE KATZ AND I AM DOING RESEARCH ON MY GRANDFATHER, JAMES M. GRACE....APPARENTLY HE WAS VERY ACTIVE IN THE FORMING OF UMW...ENCLOSED IS A STATEMENT THAT HE MADE IN 1931..HOPE YOU WILL POST THIS
STATE OF NEW YORK
I was born in Virginia, where I remained until 1904. I came
to West Virginia in 1904, where I became a miner, and worked in the mines
until 1924. I left West Virginia and came to Kentucky, Harlan County,
and secured employment with the Creech Coal Company as trackman in the
coalmines. I worked for this company until 1927. Since then,
I have not been working in the mines, although a member of the United Mine
Workers of America and active for that organization until July, 1931, after
this strike had been in progress since April. I then joined the National
Miners Union and became active in that organization.
On account of my activities in this union, my house was raided on July 27th by twelve deputies armed with machine guns. I happened to see them before they reached the house and escaped through the back way. I heard them inquire for me. They rifled the house looking for radical literature, as they said. I made my escape to the house of a sympathizer and remained in the County for a few days under cover.
After a few days I went to Caryville, Tennessee, and remained there fortwo weeks, then returned to Bell County, Kentucky. I stayed at the home of a friend for some ten days or two weeks. From there I went, in company with Tom Myerscough, to Neon, Letcher County, Kentucky. As I was coming out of a boarding house in Neon, I was accosted by four or five men, some wearing uniforms. They said I was under arrest. In their conversation, one of them was referred to as Sheriff.
I was hustled into a car, and one of the men in the car said to the man in the Uniform, “I thank you, Sheriff, for helping me make this arrest.” This was on September 25th at about 8 p.m. I was taken to Jenkins, Kentucky, a distance of five or six miles, where there are coal operations belonging to the Consolidated Coal Company. There I was placed in the company jail, and on entering the cell I found Tom Myerscough was already in the cell. The man who had the key said “Hello Tom here’s Jim.” We did not know him but he knew us. Tom and I remained in jail that night until about midnight. We were asleep, when I heard the jail door open. The same man that placed us in jail called us to get up and dress. We dressed and an officer who seemed to be an officer of the Jenkins Opera-tions, escorted us out of the jail. We were ushered into a car occupied by three armed men-large men, who were well armed. They had Tom’s and my suitcases and brief-cases in the car. After we were placed in the car, the driver and some uniformed officer held a short consultation. Tom and I were both placed in the back seat, by the side of an armed deputy, with to deputies in the front seat (one the driver), well armed, all husky. On the way from the jail, I asked the man in the back seat if he was from Harlen. He said no. One of the deputies ask us if we were I. W. W.’s. We said no, we had no connection with that organization. He said, “What are you then, Rednecks?” We said no, we were organizers for the National Miners Union. “are you having much success?” they said. We said we hadn’t been there long enough to find out. They said, “Don’t you fellows know you are ruining the country, causing men to desert their families and causing trou-ble in Harlan County?” We said no. There was no further conversation.
In the meantime, I thought they were taking us to the Harlan jailbecause
I had understood I had been previously indicted in Harlan Circuit Court
for Criminal Syndicalism and perhaps other charges. We went on until
we came to Cumberland. I was well acquainted with the territory,
but Tom was not. Instead of taking us toward Harlan, they turned
to the and went to Lynch. I said to Tom in an undertone, “They’re
not taking us to Harlan, but to the Big Black Mountain. They’re taking
us up there to kill us.” Tom answered “If they are, its all up with
us.” They stopped in Lynch in front of the Police Station and the driver
went into the Police Station. He returned in about fifteen minutes
and took his place in the car. Then, instead of going to Harlan,
they proceeded in the opposite direction, towards Virginia, until they
reached the top of Big Black Mountain, at the Virginia line, on the Virginia
side. There they stopped the car suddenly. It was about 2 o’clock
in the morning. They all three got out and held a conversation in
low tones for about a minute. Then told us to get out. I heard
one say, “That old big one should come first.” (Meaning Tom.) They
came back to us and said, “What have you in your hand-bags?” Tom
said, “Some Papers relative to the union.” They said, “What’s in
the big suitcase?” I said, “My clothes.” That was the last
we ever saw of our belongings. They robbed us of them, and had searched
our pockets several times during the evening.
(signed) JIM GRACE.
Received from Sandi Mann
My Great Grandfather, James Albert "Bert" Sigsbee, as well as his
two sons, Charles Heber Sigsbee (my grandfather) and Arbon Earl Sigsbee
were all coal miners in the Earlington, KY, and IL areas for years.
James, or "Bert" as he went by, was a driver in the mines. I have
been trying to find any and all information I can on them but, to date,
have been unsuccessful. I do know that My Great Grandfather was injured
several times in mine explosions,
I remember stories my mother (Margaret (Sigsbee) Breeden) used to tell us about the life she lead as a child of a coal miner (Charles Heber Sigsbee),living in the "row houses" and making due with what they had. She would tell of how she would hand her father his lunch bucket each and every morning as he was leaving for work, and how she'd pray all day long for his safe return. She mentioned several mining accidents but, unfortunately, as a child hearing these stories, I never wrote it down. Now that I'm doing my family genealogy, I truly wish I had have had the forethought to keep records.
My Gr. Uncle, Arbon Earl Sigsbee, also worked in the coal mines in the Earlington, KY and IL areas. I have a photo of him along with 6 other fellow miners that was taken in the mine (don't know the name though) in 1925.
Being descended from a family of coal miners, I give my praise not only tomy family, but all of those wonderful hard working men, some of whom gave their lives, so that their families and their descendants could live a better life. My hats off to ALL of them.
I've not alot to offer but my grandpa Dewey Gabbard owned some mines in north eastern Laurel County back in the 40s. The mines were under a bluff overlooking the Rockcastle River. There was a cable that stretched across river into Rockcastle County on a road (now Ky. 89) where buckets of coal were dumped in trucks for hauling to the nearest tipple in East Bernstadt.
My father William Henry Gabbard and his 6 brothers worked the mines and never finished school. His sisters (10 children in family) helped my grandma prepare daily meals for the sons. My mother's parents owned the farm land above the bluff and she met my dad because he always rode a short-legged mule out from mines up a trail to road that rain by my mother's parents house. So this is how they met and married. I remember as a child of 10 or so years old, walking down to the abandoned mines that were on a terrace cut into the bluff. The shafts were still open but were finally closed by another owner of land in the mid 60s for safety reasons.
I know this isn't much, but coal mining played a big role in my father's family and I don't think it's ever been recognized. Unfortunately there are no family members alive that I can glean more info from. I know the terrace is still there now and remnants of cable that used to cross river.
Thanks for this Web Site,
My dad, James Music was a coal miner.
page maintained by Elva Morgan