Along the Natchez Trace

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Was Born a Coal Miner's Daughter...

 Judy, the bird lady, just visited Loretta Lynn's homeplace in Kentucky and wrote about what she saw there.  She'd written about Loretta Lynn being a Coal Miner's Daughter and seeing the mine shaft where her father worked.

 I too am a Coal Miner's Daughter...  from both sides of my family.  No, my Mother didn't work in the mines but here's the way it happened....

My mom's family came from England in the early 1700's....  settled in New Jersey, then on to Pennsylvania as farmers.  My g-g-g-g-g-g grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War.  I don't know why, but they moved on to Ohio...  and somewhere along the road quit farming and became coal miners.

My dad's family, the Wallace's, came from Scotland sometime back.  So far I haven't been able to find out exactly when.  I think they probably came into the US through Maryland or Virginia.  They lived in Clay Co Virginia, which is now West Virginia.  They probably moved around as work became available.  My Grandmother Wallace was born in Kentucky in 1857...  she was named Cynthia Ann, after the town of Cynthiana, KY.

I can only think that 1929-1930 must have been pure hell for my mothers family.  My mother contracted scarlet fever, which, at that time, was a devastating illness.  She was 15 years old, a sophomore in high school.  The illness kept her bedfast for months.  On August 6, 1929,  Chris, her favorite brother (she was the next to the youngest of 10 kids) fell off a roof he was mending and as a result got Lockjaw (tetanus) and died a horrible death.

November 5, 1930, was the Millfield Mine Disaster. Her brothers George and Sam were among the 82 men who died.  Her father and another brother worked in the mine but weren't scheduled to work that day.

This disaster, along with numerous other mining incidents, led to mine safety regulations and union organizations that paved the way for better working conditions, wages and benefits.

I make a joke when I say that we had a picture of John L Lewis hanging on our living room wall....  but that's really not so far from the truth.

My Grandfather Wallace, who had passed on long before I was born, was an organizer and a leader...  as was my own father as well.

Which brings me right to the point of all this...

When my father passed on in 1983, my Mom came to live with me and Bill.  She moved from a HUGE house to a small apartment-like area in our big farmhouse.  50 years of stuff got given to kids, got sold, got given away or thrown away.  One thing that I remembered seeing was my father's Social Security Card.

My mother passed on in 1990.  Bill & I lived in the house another 10 years before we stored everything and became full time RVers.

We were in Ohio briefly this spring.  My brother brought out to me something he thought I might want....  it was my Dad's Social Security Card.  It is probably the original one.... looks just the way my dad always signed his name...  kind of a scrawl and yet quite legible.  I really thought it had been lost forever.
(I have erased Daddy's SS number in this photo)

Bill has been working with genealogy for about 25 years now.  He told me that I could request a copy of the original application... for a cost of $27.00.....  and he went on-line and got me a form for the request.

Now... keep in mind that the Social Security Act went into effect in the fall of 1934.  There's a lot of records in their files!  Just last week I got back the copy I'd requested.

This is a copy of the original application

On November 30, 1936, D. Lawrence Wallace, of 13 Lookout St, Glouster, Ohio, age 38, born January 22, 1898, and employed by the Poston Consolidated Coal Company, of Columbus, Ohio, applied for an account number.

All this was before my parents had even met and before me or my siblings were born.

This post has absolutely nothing to do with the state of Social Security as we know it today or what we surmise it will be for our kids or their kids.

As for coal mining, my Dad was hurt in the mine later...  a leg injury that was a problem for the rest of his life...  along with black lung and emphysema.  By the mid 1940's my mother decided she'd had enough of coal mining and definitely did not want her son, my brother, to ever work in the mines.  So we moved to a city where other work was available.  Little did she know that the mines would play out and would close.  (later long-mine drilling and strip mining came into being....  and I read now that some of the old mines are reopened and working again)...

Mostly, as I look at that old SS card...  and read that application....  I try to think of what Daddy was thinking his future would be...  what signing up for that card would do for the future of jobs, for workers, for families...  for everyone's well-being.

He passed away in 1983....  wonder what he'd think of the world today?

That's All For Today...


  1. I think only a generaton away coal affected the majority of the families in the Appalacias and mid Atlantic states. My father was even born in a town named Coalmont; his father a "mining engineer", whatever that meant. Coalmont so small it went on and off the maps.

  2. Thank you for the brief look back at some of your family history. That's always fascinating stuff for me to read, and I appreciate your sharing it. Your questions are valid and interesting.

  3. Great story of some of your family history. I think we have it pretty easy compared to what some of our parents and grand parents dealt with.

  4. It's always difficult to learn about the dreadfully hard lives our ancestors lived. Your coal mining family really paid a heavy price in the past. They worked so hard to achieve the American dream and we reap the benefits.

  5. If we ever get the chance to meet, I envision you singing about your heritage. It will be sweet music to my ears...

  6. Fantastic header, by the way. :)

  7. That is a wonderful reminder of your many people do not know their history, as you do. That's great you now have those reminders. What a trim back each of you have done. All the stuff of memories and sometimes...excess. Nice of you to share.

  8. Oh I almost forgot...that photo is great!

  9. Wow. That's really something. So I wonder if your ancestry goes all the way back to
    William Wallace ?

    I remember something my father said to me when I was something like 16 or 17. We were in Nova Scotia after having just driven there by car from Ontario. Roughly fifteen hundred miles, perhaps?
    When he had learned to drive, (about 1936 maybe?) he knew the way to Middleton, which was exactly 10 miles from our old farm there, and he pointed out that, without too much difficulty, I could very well find my way back to Ontario. That's how much smaller the world had become.
    I too often wonder just what he'd think about what we take for granted today. Like, where I'm typing this from.
    Oh, and by the way, if you happen to be using "Live Writer" (it's a program you can download for blogging) it's very easy to change font colours. Can't demonstrate in a comment though. I'm suspect that's what Rick is doing. Otherwise you have to use html codes. Lots of looking stuff up in that case I'm afraid.

  10. What a wonderful and interesting post. Sure were hard times back then.

    That sure was nice to be able to get those SS records for only $27.

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