Editor’s note: “Miner Recollections” will spotlight Georges Creek coal heritage, and the sacrifices made by those who mined it, by drawing upon biographical sketches, family narratives and historical research.
People from all nations, races, creeds and colors joined the “Great American Melting Pot” during the last half of the 19th century. Western Maryland became a miniature melting pot with the influx of immigrants from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Italy, Germany and Hungary. Karl Rupp and Isaac Hale arrived in the United States and became a part of that melting pot.
Karl Rupp emigrated from Germany in 1884. Like so many others, he worked for a year and saved his wages before sending for his family. His wife, Elizabeth Nicklas Rupp, followed him in 1885 with their 2-year-old son, Frank.
In 1900, the family lived on Beall Street in Frostburg. Mr. Rupp and 17-year-old Frank worked as coal miners to support the expanding family: Elizabeth born in 1886, Julie in 1888 and John in 1892. This family of six would have been a family of 10, but sadly four children had died.
Oldest child Frank married Lola Richardson around 1905. Their home on Hill Street was soon filled with joy and excitement when their son Elmer was born the following year. Like all newlyweds and young parents, Frank and Lola dreamed and planned for a bright and prosperous future. On May 13, 1907, their dreams and plans collapsed along with the roof in Ocean Mine No. 7. Around lunch time, Frank Rupp was working at the breast coal when he heard the ominous sound of overhead cracking and groaning. He attempted to run but was caught by a large portion of roof before reaching a safe place. He was taken to his home on Hill Street where physicians were summoned. In addition to his many cuts and bruises, he suffered severe internal injuries; he died 11 hours later. Lola Richardson Rupp buried her 24-year-old husband two days later.
Within the next three years, Lola and her son Elmer moved to Bowery Street; they lived next door to her mother, Rosanna Richardson, and her siblings 21-year-old Charles and 17-year-old Gertrude. In 1912, Lola married another coal miner, John L. Jones. They established a home at 167 Bowery St. In the ensuing years, John Jones relinquished his job as a miner and worked in various positions at Miner’s Hospital. This new occupation must have given Lola some piece of mind, as the hospital was certainly safer than working underground.
Elmer Rupp, Lola’s only child, married Eleanor Myers in 1927. If you had the privilege of shopping in the charming little store known as Kiddie Towne (located at 9 E. Main St. in Frostburg), you would have met Eleanor Myers Rupp, as she was the owner. Kiddie Towne was damaged by smoke and water during the big fire of Jan. 14, 1973. Eleanor Rupp died two years later, followed by Elmer in 1980. Elmer’s grandfather Karl Rupp left Germany and braved the Atlantic in 1884, so it was a fitting tribute that both Eleanor and Elmer were laid to rest in the German Lutheran Cemetery in Frostburg.
Isaac Hale, born in Pontypridd, Glamorgan, Wales, in 1863, was another newcomer to the Great Melting Pot. He and his wife, Grace Bailey Hale, arrived on the shores of America in 1895 with their three children: William born in 1881, Lilly in 1883 and Lucy in 1885. They settled in Pennsylvania where a fourth child, George, was born in 1887. As were most of the Welsh men from Pontypridd, Isaac was a coal miner; he was well-experienced in the trade when he applied for work in his new country.
In 1900, Grace Hale is listed on the census as being the head of the household, living in Borden Shaft with her four children. We can only speculate that her husband, Isaac, had come to Maryland with Grace; perhaps due to the strike of 1900, he went back to Pennsylvania to find work. He was able to rejoin the family soon afterward. The household expanded to include Katie, born in 1902, Isaac in 1904 and Mary in 1909.
With nine mouths to feed, Isaac was hard-pressed to provide adequate provisions for his family. Every parent wants a better life for their children, so it was with a heavy heart that he petitioned his oldest son, William, to join him digging coal.
William was instructed in the dynamics of proper coal extraction by his father Isaac at a young age. Great preparation, however, was not a match for a fickle coal mine roof. On July 20, 1909, William Hale was working with his father and a buddy in Carlos Mine, taking out a stump (a pillar of coal which supports the roof.) A three-cornered slip in the roof fell, hit William at the base of his neck and fractured his skull. A slip in the roof is a fault; it is a smooth joint or crack where strata have moved on each other; it is generally hidden by a thin layer of coal. The mine inspector’s report states that “the place was well timbered and in good condition; an accident of this kind was never looked for under the conditions of the place. They were good practical miners and had their place well secured.”
William Henry Hale was laid to rest in McLuckie’s Cemetery (Frostburg Memorial Park) three months after his 17th birthday. His father, Isaac Hale, died six years later from a combination of diseases. Had the rigorous work of underground mining taken its toll on the 50-year-old father and husband?
In 1920, the widow, Grace Hale, was living on Hill Street in Frostburg. Two of her children were supporting the family of six. George, 22, was the manager of a pool room, and Katie, 17, was a salesperson in a dry goods store. Isaac Jr. would eventually contribute to the family income as a retail salesman at an automobile agency. Grace lived in peace, thankful that her remaining sons were not coal miners, until her death in 1933.
From: “The Great American Melting Pot”
By Lori Lieberman
……They’d heard about a country
Where life might let them in.
They paid their fare to America
And there they melted in…..
Across the Atlantic, in Germany and Wales, the Rupps and Hales had heard about a country where life might let them in. After being welcomed by Lady Liberty, these families gradually melted into their new communities and became a part of George’s Creek coal mining history.
“Miner Recollections Volume Two 2019” is a compilation of stories, pictures, maps, and an updated list of deceased miners. Proceeds support the installation of a life-sized bronze statue and the educational landscaping that will surround it. Books are available at Armstrong Insurance in Frostburg or by contacting Polla Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org or Bucky Schriver at email@example.com.