Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Our thoughts are in Chile today as we wait for the rescue of the trapped coal miners, not knowing what illnesses, psychological and physical, they will bring out of that mine.

My great great grandfather was a coal miner in Wales. He came to Philly and met my great great grandmother (Ellen Jane Stewart), a lace-maker who'd recently come from County Derry in Ireland to escape the potato famine (circa 1870).

They had two boys, but Tom died of black lung disease when they were both under ten. My great great grandmother had to place them in a school, Girard College, where they spent the rest of their youth. She only got to visit them on Sundays, but the school gave them a good start--so that part of their story is not a tragedy.

I never met this man, of course, but I have thought of him often--Thomas Morrison. No one should die of a disease like that in their thirties. Nor on any day. I pray for these men today.

Any children of coal miners out there?


Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

Thanks for your post Patti. At times like today we all get closer to become part of a universal family.
Lets hope everything goes well.

Todd Mason said...

Piece of [excrement] Blogger failed when I attempted to post the first time, eating my message, but I am the grandson of a coal miner, Erigo Rocchi, who was FOB from Milan not too long before making his way to the mines near Welch, WV. He was apparently murdered along with at least one other in an engineered cave-in, supposedly caused by someone envious of Rocchi's foreman job. My other grandfather, Earl Mason, was a granite polisher in the quarry sheds in Barre, VT. He died of a combination of alchoholism and silicosis. My mother was six, and the second-youngest of ten (including my aunt who died in infancy), my father was twelve and the eldest, and was shipped off to an orphanage briefly, albeit one less nasty than Girard apparently was at one time.

Todd Mason said...

My father was eldest of six, including a stillborn aunt, and then of seven when his mother remarried and they had a son together.

The widows, nee Clara Thorpe and Dora Ratcliff, didn't have the happiest of lives, either.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Amazing, Todd. What stories we all have to tell.

Charles Gramlich said...

I hadn't heard much about this but I will join you in praying for them. A hard situation.

Todd Mason said...

Assuming the first evacuees get out OK, it will probably be relatively smooth...emerging...for them. Their morale has apparently been rather high, even those whose "mistresses" and wives met during the vigil.

Naomi Johnson said...

My dad was a coal miner before and after WW2, but left the mines in 1959 and moved us to the city. His father died in a mining accident in 1922, when he was only 3 years old. Dad's maternal grandfather (1903) also died in the mines. My mother lost her maternal grandfather (1926) and a cousin (1918) in the mines also.

While mine safety could still use improvements, it is so much safer than in those days. In the early 1920s, in WV, it was not unusual for a dozen miners or more to die each month.

Mom still has Dad's pay envelopes from the mines, and a few pieces of scrip, too.

Deb said...

A few years ago my husband and I vacationed in Colorado with his family. One place we visited was an abandoned silver mine, now a tourist attraction. After we toured the mine, my mother-in-law commented, "Now I know why my grandpa left the mines to work on the railroad."

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am sure that railroad work was very difficult too but at least the sky couldn't fall on you.