Cumberland Times-News

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February 9, 2014

Group hoping to bring coal miner statue to Frostburg

FROSTBURG — A group of Frostburg area citizens is joining together in an effort to pay tribute to those who worked the coal mines of Allegany County by erecting a life-size bronze statue of a miner.

In conjunction with the Foundation for Frostburg, Ellen and Moose Arnone, Ray Walker, the former Allegany County clerk of court, and Barbara Armstrong of Armstrong Insurance have begun a journey that they hope will eventually honor the miners.

They hope to have a bronze sculpture of a coal miner placed at the junction of U.S. Route 40 and state Route 36 at the east entrance to the city.

“We want to recognize all the sacrifices that the miners made,” said Ellen Arnone.

“At one time we had 2,500 miners in the county,” Walker said.

The group has established the Coal Miners Memorial Statue Fund and hopes to raise $55,000 to make the dream become a reality.

Coal mining, as well as iron ore and metallurgical coal mining, flourished in Allegany and Garrett counties from the early 1800s until around 1940.

Walker said the county’s coal fields are located in the western portion of Allegany County. The coal vein is 5 miles wide and 20 miles long running from Mount Savage to Westernport.

The group, through a $5,000 donation from Sam Walker, Ray’s brother, had a miniature version of the miner statue made. The replica, known as a maquette, was made by Allan Cottrill Sculpture Studio in Zanesville, Ohio. Cottrill will also be called upon to make the final life-size statue when the money has been raised.

The bronze maquette is 18 inches tall and weighs 40 pounds. It features a miner standing with one leg propped up on a pile of coal. His miner’s pick is resting on the coal. The miner, wearing a headlamp, is looking at an open book held in his left hand.

The group explained the significance of the book.

The miners knew the importance of education and wanted to bring more teachers to the area, according to Walker.

“The miners, by saving 25 to 50 cents at a time, saved up the money to help buy the land and bring the Frostburg Normal School No. 2 to Frostburg,” said Walker.

Walker said that it took time, but the miners had saved up $20,000, a staggering amount at that time, especially considering a miner made between $400 and $650 annually in the late 1800s.

The amount the miners saved was added to contributions from other individuals and organizations at the time to help purchase the ground for the normal school where Frostburg State University sits today.

“It’s the reason I became a school teacher,” said Moose, whose father, Joe Arnone, worked the mines.

Miners came to the area or were recruited to the local mines from all over the world. People from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Italy and other nations immigrated to the area to work the mines.

“They were recruited many times. They were skilled people that knew what they were doing,” said Armstrong.

A Vale Summit coal miner, John Leake, who was born in Lancashire, England, had only two years of schooling but showed an interest in the plight of the miners and politics. Leake became a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. He was instrumental in bring Maryland State Normal School No. 2 to Frostburg.

Ground was broken for the school in June 1899. Once built, a struggle to obtain funding to operate the school took more time, but the normal school opened Sept. 15, 1902.

The group is in the process of having a brochure made that it will use to spread the word and help with fundraising.

They expect to have the brochures by March and then kick off the fundraising campaign in the spring.

The replica statue will be displayed on a rotating basis in libraries and other public facilities in the Georges Creek area throughout the year.

“If all goes well, we hope we could have the statue up this year,” said Ellen Arnone.

Walker said it will depend on the pace the donations come in.

“It was dangerous work. We want to recognize their contribution to this area,” said Walker.

Armstrong said that having a statue at the intersection will be a good reminder of their dedication.

Armstrong said they may also ask interested people to write down any memories of mining that they or their family members may have.

“It would be a way to archive these stories before they are lost. It’s our heritage,” said Armstrong.

Donations to the Coal Miners Memorial Statue Fund can be sent to the Foundation for Frostburg, P.O. Box 765, Frostburg, MD 21532.

For more information, call the Arnones at 301-689-5536. Walker can be reached at 301-689-5423 and Armstrong at 301-689-5159.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

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