One Miner’s Story

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Stanley and Gertrude (Marczynski) Tylock and their children–Marianne, Valeria, Frank and Ignatius–arrived at Ellis Island aboard the S.S. Karlsruhe on May 6, 1891. The family’s destination was Eckhart, a small coal mining community in Allegany Co., Maryland. The Tylock’s were the first of the family to travel to the United States and seek a new life abroad, and many of Stanley’s and Gertrude’s brothers and nephews later followed them to America to work in the mines. This is one miner’s journey to seek new opportunities in the United States: a story of resilience, of sacrifice and, ultimately, of loss.

Coal was first discovered in Eckhart, Maryland in 1814 during the construction of the National Road. The capacity of coal as a substitute for firewood, as well as its use as a fuel, made it essential to the development of cities, railroads and industrial production more broadly, and Eckhart’s location on the National Road made it a perfect candidate for large-scale coal mining. Coal could be moved by wagon to Cumberland and transported by boat along the Potomac River; after the railroad reached Eckhart Mines, the transportation of coal from the mines to consumers was accelerated with an even lower cost of production. The Maryland Mining Company was incorporated in 1829, and by 1843, coal from Eckhart Mines had initiated the Maryland coal trade.

Eckhart Mines2

Stanley and his sons worked for the Consolidation Coal Company, the largest bituminous coal company in the eastern United States until 1945. The company was formed in 1860 as a consolidation of a number of coal mining and railroad companies based in western Maryland; today, it’s in operation as Consol Energy. In 1910, the Maryland division of the Consolidation Coal Company operated eleven mines, including the Big Vein and the Tyson seam of coal. The company employed 2,703 men and produced 2,356,298 tons of coal, a 606,841 ton increase from the previous year. According to the mining inspector, “The company made many improvements in and around the mines, by the installation of electric and rope haulage, new fans and concrete overcasts…No expense is being spared to meet the requirements of the law and to keep the mines in a safe and healthful condition.”

Eckhart Mines5 (2)

The Tylock’s lived in a stone house in the surrounding town and worked in Mine No. 9, one of the oldest mines operating in the Tyson seam of coal. According to the inspector’s report, the mine employed 188 men and produced 162,958 tons of coal in 1910 alone. “The mine is ventilated by a fourteen foot fan that supplies a good quantity of air to the working places, yet with the excessive use of powder very often smoke accumulates.” Unlike the other mines, Mine No. 9 still used mules to haul coal, and most of the work was done without machines. Stanley and his sons worked around-the-clock to save money to send to the rest of the family in Poland and to allow for their passage to the United States (including my great-great-grandfather, Casimir Marczynski); the rest was used for clothes, food, medicine and school at home.

One descendant of German immigrants working in Eckhart Mines in the 1880s recounts her ancestors’ experiences:

Most of the miners’ houses were mere shells and there was no money to make them comfortable. Sickness was prevalent, and wages were so low that if one traded at company stores, which most did, one was always in debt to the “Consol” or to whichever store be bought from. The miners did not make enough to keep body and soul together, let alone dress themselves and their families. It was nip and tuck with the wolf at the door more than away. With such long hours in the mines, from daylight to dark, it is no wonder men, yes, and even the women, turned to drinking. Those were very hard times and if men wanted to rise above themselves they had to struggle and fight for their rights.

Mine No 9 (2)

Frank Tylock, Stanley’s and Gertrude’s eldest son, was listed in the mining inspector’s “Annual Report From May 1st, 1910 to May 1st, 1911” under the “Description of Fatal Accidents” section that year:

Frank Tylock, aged 21 years, single and residing at Eckhart, was killed instantly by a fall of top rock at Mine No. 9 of the Consolidation Coal Co., on the third day of August, 1910. Tylock was driving a room in a mine, where the accident occurred and his place was in good condition and an accident of this kind was unlooked for. A heavy slip or pot, which ran with his place and right over the track and cut out at the face, which fell on him while he was mining, causing his instant death.

Fatal Accidents

The Tylock family immediately picked up and moved to the city of Dunkirk, New York following Frank’s accident; the men worked as machinists at Brooks Locomotive Works, and the women worked as dressmakers and seamstresses and sold their products to prominent families in the area. They continued to provide for their family’s passage to America and worked to create better opportunities for their children and grandchildren, but the memory of Frank has never faded. The story of Frank’s resilience, hard work and sacrifice to achieve success for himself and his siblings in America has been told through the generations, and I hope it resonates with a few of you here, too.

2 thoughts on “One Miner’s Story

  1. I have family who worked in coal mining in England. It was hard work, and usually followed families. There are records of even my younger uncles at ages 9 and younger working there. One of them had the misfortune to witness the accident that killed my great-great-great-grandfather.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Stanley and Gertrude Marczynski Tylock are my maternal great-grandparents. My grandmother, Kathryn Tylock Kawski shared some of her memories of life in Eckhart, MD growing up. I often wonder what took the Tylock family to Eckart rather than to Dunkirk as they proceeded to do after Frank’s death. Thanks for your research!

    Liked by 1 person

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