Editor’s note: Each week “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.
The Eckhart Mine was among the first four commercial mines on record in the Cumberland coal region, dating back to 1828. A drift mine located in the heart of town, it had an onerous reputation for poor ventilation and drainage due to the rudimentary mining techniques used in its early years.
The mine was unworked for three years due to flooding before being purchased by the Consolidation Coal Co. in 1870. Work began soon afterward to make the mine operable.
The difficulties were many, mainly due to a subterranean lake. The work of tapping and draining the lake was slow and hazardous. By March 1880, three-quarters of the Eckhart Slope had been cleaned and timbered. The mine opened again in 1881 after draining the water through the New Hope Mine into Jennings Run. The result was access to millions of tons of coal which would have otherwise remained unmined.
As a side note, my father used to tell me that he and his childhood buddies traveled from Borden through the New Hope Mine, under the mountain, to Eckhart. He said the tunnel was always wet and the air was bad. They would come up to the surface through “rabbit holes” to get fresh air before continuing their journey. This caper was unknown to his parents; his dad, a coal miner, would never permit his sons to go into a mine.
Work in Eckhart Mine was suspended again from 1893 until 1903 due to continued flooding and poor ventilation. The problem was never resolved, and the mine closed in 1944.
As horrible as the conditions were, the mine produced good coal. Owners were not always concerned about the mining environment; they wanted the product.
Owen Logsdon worked for the Consolidation Coal Co. in the Eckhart Mine. He went into the mine, breathed foul air and laid in water while undercutting a seam. In winter, his clothes were frozen before he arrived home. He labored in these dreadful conditions daily.
Owen’s grandparents, Laurence and Malinda Logsdon, had been farmers in Pennsylvania as far back as 1850. They moved to Mount Savage, where their son, Samuel, helped his parents with the farming chores.
Samuel married Welch native Annie Lewis in 1862. They moved to Eckhart when their family expanded to include four sons and one daughter. Samuel traded the fresh air and sunshine of farming for the dank coal mines. Eventually his sons, Enoch, Owen, Sam and James, became the second generation of Logsdon miners.
In 1891, Owen Logsdon married Ottilia Filsinger and moved into the house next door to his parents. Grandpa and Grandma Logsdon were entertained by the antics of Emma, Enoch, Elizabeth and Annie, until Grandpa died in 1900. Owen and Ottilia were able to comfort and care for his mother until she died two years later. Additional children Viola, Sarah and Samuel never knew their grandparents.
One year after baby Samuel was born, Owen left home before the rooster crowed and walked the short distance to work. He drove his mule in and out of the mine, making many trips to the nearby coal tipple. On his last trip of the day, hurrying to get home to his wife and little ones, he forgot about a rib of coal sticking out into the path. He was crushed between the rib and the cars on Aug. 11, 1906.
The Annual Report of the Mine Inspector states that “this accident could have been avoided, had proper attention been given to this rib by those in authority.” In an addendum to the report it states that “the rib was unlawfully close.” Apparently, poor ventilation and water were not the only problems in the Eckhart Mine. Six days after the accident, Owen died. Ottilia and her seven children stood watching as his body was lowered into the grave at Porter Cemetery in Eckhart.
We don’t know who comforted Ottilia in her sorrow. It’s probable that Martha Filsinger was her mother. Martha had emigrated from Germany with eight children (one of whom was 14-year-old Ottilia) in 1887; her youngest child was just 12 months old. The 1910 census lists Martha as married, with no husband listed; Martha’s date of death is unknown. Was she able to help her daughter through the grieving process, or did Otillia depend on her friends and neighbors for help? Perhaps one of our readers can answer this question. Ottilia remained unmarried, surviving Owen by 53 years. She died on Jan. 22, 1959, and was laid to rest beside him in Porter Cemetery.
“Miner Recollections Volume One 2018” is a compilation of the first 100 Recollections and includes the growing list of miners who perished while mining Georges Creek Coal. 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.