A Miner's Life
What follows are excerpts from my grandfather’s diary, transcribed by his son (my uncle) Hugh, and posted online through the efforts of several relatives. We take job security and safety for granted these days. It’s interesting to look back just 110 years ago when such things didn’t exist. (Passages in parentheses are notes by my uncle.)
May 8, 1894 Ocean Mine (near Midland, Maryland) suspended work this morning (a strike). Mass meeting of the miners at Wright’s Crossing (near Frostburg) that same day.
May 9, 1894 A crowd went to Coney (Lonaconing) to try to induce those men to suspend work. They heartily acceded (correction) they partly acceded (or agreed?)
May 11, 1894 Frostburg assembly, with Midland, went to Coney to try to induce Jackson, Detmold and Kingsley (?) men to suspend work.
May 12, 1894 Barton, Coney and Midland assemblies marched on Hoffman Eckhard and New Shaft to try to induce those men to suspend work. They did not suspend.
May 19,1894 Midland men with Barton men had a scrap with the Hoffman men from Vale Summit.
May 22, 1894 Another crowd marched from Midland in all the rain to try to induce Vale Summit men (who worked at Hoffman) to suspend work. They did not suspend.
May 23, 1894 A great mass-meeting was held on the Firlie property (in Midland?) to hear the report from the delegates who attended the Cleveland Convention (they were elected at the mass-meeting held at Knapp’s Meadow, May 9, 1894) Resolutions were read and adopted that the miners demand 50 cents per ton, a check-weighman, and abolution (abolition?) of the “Pluck Me” Company Store. The action of Mine Inspector McMahon was condemned, and the Lonaconing Press with the “Times” reporter was ejected from the meeting.
July 17,1894 We started to work in Carlos today.
July 18, 1894 Spot and I arrived in Shaw (W.VA.) today at 4:40pm. After having supper we started for Elk Garden (W.VA) and arrived there at 10:30pm. We took a berth in the engine house.
July 19,1894 Next morning we went to Fahey’s Mine (these Faheys later, some still, resided in Westernport) and got work. Were to start that night, but owing to a wreck on the Railroad did not start until next morning.
July 21, 1894 We are boarding at the Levell House. We made a start tonight and loaded six cars for three (probably had to load three cars of slag or bone coal to get three cars of good coal) and had three different places.
Same Day Spot and I took a walk out of town today, and sitting on the mountainside, we took a gaze over into Maryland.
Oct. 11,1894 Started dancing school at Barton
Oct. 15, 1894 Started dancing school at Piedmont,(WVa) (He could play the violin. I understand he-while a good dancer himself-furnished the music, while one of his friends, possibly a Daley from the tri-towns, Piedmont, Westernport & Luke, or maybe “Schuyler” Melvin taught the steps)
Nov. 10,1894 Started dancing school at Windom, WVa.
Nov. 18,1894 Organized dancing school at Keyser, W.Va. and started to teach on Friday, Nov. 25, 1894
Mar. 1, 1895 I arrived in Shaw,W.Va. today and will start to work on the 4th.
Mar. 23, 1895 Local strike was started today
Mar. 30,1895 Will Robertson died and was buried Apr, 2, 1895
Apr. 3, 1895 Spot left for parts unknown, today. (Note: eventually he settled in California)
Apr. 12,1895 Daily (or Daley, possible one nick-named “Gump”) departed for Elkins, WVa today and returned Easter Sunday, reported 36 pupils (for dancing school) but no job.
May 13, 1895 Moved from Sultzer to Rawlins today. (This may have been a change in boarding houses)
Mar. 29,1896 Bernard Murphy died today from a gunshot wound in the mouth.
Apr. 29, 1896 Started to work today at noon, on the new steel bridge at Knapps Meadow (near the Old Stone House, on the Georges Creek Railroad; abandoned and torn down some years ago.)
June 24,1896 Started for Leadville,Colorado today at 7:am. Arrived in Chicago Thursday at 11:30am. Separated from Chicago same day at 5:50pm. Arrived in Omaha at 8am on Friday. Bid Omaha good-bye on Saturday at 4:45pm and after riding all night I arrived in Denver on Sunday at 8:30am. Took a train out of there at 9:45am for Leadville and landed there at 6:30 on Sunday evening. On my arrival there I was informed that a strike was in progress. My luck, as usual.
Jul.4,1896 Leadville. This is as quiet a Fourth-of-July as I ever spent. My pocket-book is opposed to all and every kind of sport. See!
Jul.10,1896 The strike is still on. All the women in this state have a vote.
Aug 14,1896 I started to work tonight at the Gallager Mine. And after working thirteen shifts, was laid off
Sep. 2, 1896 This has been a very hot day. 118 degrees on the Avenue.
Sep. 3, 1896 Today Farrell (from Midland?) and I started for the Milltop Mine, eleven miles distant. We walked both ways. The mine is between 13,000 and 14,000 feet above the sea. We had all kinds of weather-Summer, Autumn, Spring and Winter
Nov. 29,1896 I took a train from Leadville this evening at seve o’clock for Butte City, Montana. Passed through Salt Lake City at 12:25 on Monday. Arrived at Ogden, Utah at 1:45pm, and got a train from there for Butte at 8:30pm, and struck Butte on Tuesday afternoon, December 1 at 1:45pm, and took a streetcar for the Hale House. I have been in only eleven different states up to the present time, to wit. Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Montana.
Dec. 24, 1896 This is (or was) Christmas Eve. In the evening Barry and I went to the opera, and from the opera to a Midnight Mass—the first Mass said in the church since the new wins were added to it. The church was full to overflowing—there was not even standing room left. The choir sang beautifully and the music was exceedingly fine.
Dec. 25,1896 Xmas Day. Was at Mass at 10:30 this morning and it was just a repetition of last night’s ceremony. I spent the day with Barry and Moore. Taking everything into consideration, and after considering everything, I have arrived at the conclusion that I had a Merry Xmas.
Dec. 27, 1896 I started to work today in a mine called the Green Mountain at $3.50 per day.
Jan 1, 1897 The first time I wrote anything in 1897, it was this-I worked today, New Years. Such is the custom of the place, and made my little three dollars and fifty cents.
Mar. 17, 1897 St. Patrick’s Day. Anaconda, Montana. I was in Anaconda today and took part in the A.O.H. (Ancient Order of Hibernians) parade. It is my first visit to this city and I don’t think much of it. Most all the private residences are small., one-story frame houses. There are some very fine buildings in the City, however.
June 14, 1897 Butte, Montana. This is “Miners Union Day” and all members of the trade unions were in a parade. This parade was an immense one, some thousands of men being in line.
June 20,1897 Butte, Montana. A.O.H. had a picnic in Anaconda today. I went down there with the rest of the boys but did not have much of a time. We traveled in a gang, and drinking beer seemed to be the order of the day. I did not have much fun, as drinking is not in my line. Took leave of Anaconda at twelve o’clock same night. I was so thoroughly disgusted that I swore I would never go there again.
July 4, 1897 Fourth of July. Rained all day. There is no celebration outside of the “small boy” and his firecrackers, and they are in evidence on every street.
July 5, 1897 Today we celebrated the Fourth. There were plenty of amusements in town, such as concert halls, opera, bicycle races and other sports. I celebrated by going to “The Opera” in the evening.
Aug. 10,1897 My time was turned in at the Green Mountain mine this morning. About nine days later I started to work at the Gray Rock. It was a “Cousin Jack” (Cornish and Welsh miners) outfit and they did not have any use for me. So, after working 14 shifts, I was fired.
(Note: These Western mines were not coal, but from what I recall of his conversations about them, they were mineral ore,-gold silver, copper lead.)
Dec. 6, 1897 Morning. I was fired from “the Mountain” and on Tuesday at 4:20 pm I left Butte for Leadville, Colorado; was in a railroad wreck at Pocotello, Idaho. Arrived in Leadville on Thursday at 1:15pm.
Dec. 25,1897 Xmas. This has been a very fine day for a place like Leadville, which is 10,200 feet above sea level. I was at a ball in the evening and had a good time.
Note: From June 24, 1896 up to Dec. 9, 1897 I have traveled 5,000 miles, had 5 jobs, was in two earthquakes, and one railroad wreck.
Jan. 1, 1898 New Years. Leadville, Colorado. I was at a ball tonight and had a good time.
Jan. 2, 1898 This evening I started to work in the Gallager Mine.
Jan. 21,1898 This evening I was laid-off again after working 9½ shifts. I would like to know what is the use in trying to get along and not being able to do so. Looking and looking for work and can not find any. Such is life, I suppose. This is the finest weather Colorado has had for a number of years-some days are like summer.
Mar. 19, 1898 Today I started to work in the Klondyke Lease, run and operated by Kelly V. Cunningham. It is not much of a Klondyke (gold strike) for the miners, as they are expected to do a hard day’s work.
Mar. 24, 1898 I was compelled to stay in bed all day yesterday, and when I went to work this morning I was told that another man was put in my place, and that I was fired. I was greatly surprised, as I did not expect it. I don’t think I ever will have any luck in this city of the clouds. I have my mind on Arizona—may go there, but have not decided.
Note: Hale House in Butte, Montana—the place where I stopped, was destroyed by fire and a number of lives lost. Not a suit of clothes was saved from the fire. Had I stayed there I would have lost everything.
April, 1898 Started to work in Yellow Medicine Mine this month. It is 12 miles from Lake City.
July, 1898 The place shut down and I went to Leadville. From Leadville to Victor, Cripple Creek, Montana. Then to Colorado Springs, Colorado City, Pueblo, Denver, Boulder-then back to Denver again. From Denver, I rode on the trucks of a passenger train a distance of 337 miles into Eliss, Kansas. Worked 3 days on a threshing machine, got tired and quit. From there I worked my way east to Kansas City. Was in Topeka, Salina, Junction City, Ottawa, Lawrence, Paola, then Kansas City. Stopped there two weeks, and went back to Colorado again. Then down into Raton, New Mexico—back into Colorado again. Worked three months at Trinidad; from there I started for Gunnison and was snowbound on Marshall Pass for four days. I arrived at Vulcan in time to participate in a hot strike. I escaped arrest, however, and got about two months work. From Vulcan I walked over the range to Creede. From Creede I walked back to Vulcan again. Then to Gunnison and Salida, from there to Leadville.
July 22, 1898(1899?) Arrived in Leadville today for the fourth time. I am not looking for work this trip. The smelter strike affects the camp. From here I went on a short trip via horseback, only 45 miles. I was good and sore and had to take my meals from the mantelpiece for a couple of days. From Leadville I made a special trip to Salida and back (120 miles) While in Salida, the smelter strick ended. Went back to Leadville immediately for my freedom and started for Creede.
Aug. 15, 1898 Leadville. Started for Creede tonight, after a little trouble and some disappointment, arrived O.K. Distance from Leadville to Creed, 150 miles.
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