Friday, July 7, 2017

A Coalminer's Daughter

She is by no means a coal miner’s daughter, but she is a great-granddaughter, a grandniece, and a great-grandniece of coal miners. I am talking about my daughter-in-law Melissa Murphy Oliver, and she is well acquainted with the dangers coal miners face.

Last week one of the people I highlighted was coal miner James Bernard Murphy – he died in a mine explosion in Everettville, a small town about seven miles southwest of Morgantown, West Virginia, and 82 miles straight south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

On April 30, 1927, at 3:20 p.m., an explosion destroyed Federal No. 3 mine in Everettville, West
No. 3 Mine Explosion
Virginia, killing over 100 mine workers; only nine miners working that day managed to escape. After two weeks the fires, a result of the explosion, were finally put out and rescuers were able to recover the bodies still in the mine. It was determined that the explosion started as a result of an "storage-battery locomotive" ignited an accumulation of methane gas and coal dust.(see last photo). The mine was owned by the New England Fuel and Transportation Company.

Explosion Aftermath

In 2011, a memorial was dedicated to the memory of the coal miners – not only those that died on April 30, 1927, but also those that survived.  The names are inscribed on the 7.5 ton memorial overlooking the former mine site. There are a total of 149 names with the year of their death listed. Every year since the original dedication, there has been an annual memorial service. At this year’s memorial, United Mine Workers of American district 31 vice-president, Mike Caputo, made the following remarks:

            “When you’re a coal miner, like me and so many of us around, you consider folks like this heroes because if maybe they wouldn’t have died so tragically on the job there would never have been a day that helped safety become a priority in the work place and it would be the obligation for coal operators to provide us a safe place to work.”*

Four of those heroes have the same last name: Murphy.
  • James Bernard Murphy, Melissa’s great-grandfather
  • James Lewis Murphy, Melissa’s great-uncle and the son of James Bernard Murphy
  • George Bernard Murphy, Melissa’s 2nd great-uncle and brother of James Bernard Murphy
  • Kenny A. Murphy – died five years after the explosion in 1933. I presume there is a relationship, but it has yet to be established.

 Not only did James Bernard, James Lewis, and George Bernard all die on the same day – April 30, 1927, but they were all buried on the same day – May 7, 1927, in Saint Michael's Cemetery, Frostburg, Maryland. 

If you are interested, here is the link to the government report on this mine disaster. (click here)

Mine entrance before the explosion

Mine before the explosion

All that is left of No. 3 Mine

Note:  All photos are from the Everettville (WV) Historical Association

*Goodrich, Sarah. "Miners remembered as 'heroes' at Federal No. 3 service.", 30 April 2017, 2daa5098-2d79-11e7-99cb-07ed20410f7d.html. Accessed 7 July 2017.

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