It's dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew, Where the danger is double and pleasures are few,
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines, It's dark as a dungeon way down in the mine.
~ Merle Travis, "Dark as a Dungeon"


A Tribute to Pennsylvania's
Anthracite Miners

Dedicated to my Dad, my Grandfathers,
and all the brave souls who worked in, and lived their lives around,
the coal mines of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.

They are deeply missed and greatly admired.

 

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We love hearing from folks who have a connection to the Pennsylvania Anthracite Area.
Read the Archives of the old guestbook through February 2003

Pennsylvania Destination of the Day Award! I grew up, and spent the first 40 years of my life, in Zerbe, Pennsylvania. (Known to the locals as "Newtown").   Located in the Western part of Schuylkill County, it is a town well accustomed to mining and coal-related jobs. It is a small town (population about 300ish) and although everyone knows everyone else's business, they are usually the first ones to come to help others in their time of need.

I am a "coal-cracker" and proud of it. My father and grandfathers were involved in mining almost all of their lives, and when not actually working deep inside the mine itself, they were involved in other jobs which were directly related to coal. One grandfather suffered a stroke at the mine one day. The mine owners refused to take him home so he walked to his house several miles away.

My other grandfather and my Dad contracted Black Lung. It's a hideous disease that comes from the damage to your lungs after breathing in the coal dust for years. Almost everyone who ever worked in the mines contracts it to some degree. The miners or mine workers who have the disease are supposed to be entitled to a benefits program, but you have to pass several stringent "tests" before you are awarded benefits. Due to the tons of bureaucratic red tape and general "run around" that sometimes comes with dealing with the government and insurance companies (who now pay the benefits since the Social Security Administration stop accepting claims for disability due to the disease in 1973), many of them die before their cases are ever heard in court...

It's a hard job, and one of the most dangerous, but Anthracite Miners were not afraid of hard work...it's all they knew, and they did it to support their families. Many were immigrants who worked hard and suffered every day just because they wanted a better life for their families. Many were mere boys working 10 and 12 hours a day processing coal in the breakers. Some miners worked in "bootleg" mines, meaning they worked the land without the land owners or the government knowing about it. They were not trying to cheat anyone. They only wanted to make a living doing what they could with what was available to them...

The links below explain more about my heritage in general, Anthracite mining and the Coal Region of Pennsylvania, Schuylkill County specific information, and info on the Molly Maguires, a group of mine workers who rebelled against the wealthy mine owners because of conditions they were subjected to in the mines and in their daily lives.

This is Indian Head Colliery outside Newtown in Schuylkill County. This breaker was about a mile from my home and my father hauled coal from there to be delivered to New York, Philadelphia and everywhere in between. This gorgeous photo was taken by Scott Herring, a photographer who has dedicated years to capturing the essence of the Anthracite Region.
Thank you Scott.

Photo used with permission.
Copyright 1997, Scott Herring, All Rights Reserved

 


 

A great tragedy in our region -
The Centralia Mine Fire
Started in a garbage dump in the early 1960's, the fire traveled into the old mine workings in the mountain and started to burn the coal vein that remained. It has continued burning despite the Federal Government's assurances that it would "burn out" and then their botched "efforts" to extinguish it. Having burned under the town of Centralia, the residents were forced to give up their homes and move.  Some left early in the government buyout program and those that remained -- 20 people-- were told they must leave by the end of 1997.  A few still remain... MORE>

... Anthracite and Schuylkill County Links ...
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UPDATED 07 January 2009

All Materials and Photographs, unless otherwise noted Copyright 1996, 1997 James D. Fogg, All Rights Reserved
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