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We Come From A Long Line of Coal Miners #52Ancestors

We come from a long line of coal miners in Pennsylvania.  

Coal mining began in the Pennsylvania colony about 1760 at a place called Coal Hill, across the Monongahela River from Pittsburgh.  Coal was extracted and then moved by canoe down the river to Fort Pitt.  From these beginnings coal became a big industry through the centuries.

Coal mining boomed in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries.  It was used to power steam engines, generate electricity and heat buildings.  Many of the men in our family mined coal from their arrival in Pennsylvania in the 1700s through about 2014 when cousin, Butch,  retired as the last Altman coal miner.

We come from a long line of coal miners in Pennsylvania. 

As a very small child, I remember my dad, George Dickson Altman, coming home with a white hard hat that had a light on it and his face was covered in black grime.  I remember his dusty boots and beat-up lunchbox.  He worked for John Carr Mine at Edna #1.

In the 1910 United States Federal Census for Pennsylvania, GrandPap, Samuel Altman, was 24.  He was living at home and is listed as a Laborer in the Coal Mine.

He told stories of being the mule driver pulling loads of coal from the mine and in the 1940 United States Federal Census, at the age of 53, he is listed as the night watchman for the mine and one son, Lloyd, age 24, is living at home and listed as a coal miner.  Both GrandPap and Lloyd listed their income as $800.  According to Grand Pap's daughter, Orlean, they worked at the Hillman mine that built coal cars.  Grand Pap took care of the mules that pulled the coal cars.

Strohmeyer & Wyman. Mining coal three miles under ground, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Pennsylvania, ca. 1900. New York ; Strohmeyer & Wyman, Publishers, Feb 8. Photograph.

It was 1921 when the Edna mines began operating under the name Hillman Coal and Coke.  That year the Edna #1 mine employed 204 employees but they only worked 143 days.  That would explain why Grand Pap was moving from one location to another and why on the census he only reported working for a partial year.  After that first year, the mine consistently produced 220,000 tons of coal each year.  The mine was leased to an independent operator in the 1930s and was closed in 1945.

DellaMea, Chris, Coal Mines of the Appalachian Mountains, (internet site), A Scrapbook of Appalachian Coal Towns,, ( : accessed 17 Apr 2020), citing Edna 2, 2001.

Above is a picture of the company town, Edna #2.  Edna #2 opened about two years after Edna #1.  The community had 40 houses and a company store which is pictured below.

DellaMea, Chris, Coal Mines of the Appalachian Mountains, (internet site), A Scrapbook of Appalachian Coal Towns,, ( : accessed 17 Apr 2020), citing Edna 2 Company Store, 2001.

There was a riot when striking Hillman Coal miners and family approached John Carr miners to support their cause.  Samuel's daughter, Dorothy Altman, age 17, who was on the way home from tending the school house, was attacked in the riot.  She was beaten and tossed in a ditch., New Castle News, New Castle Pennsylvania, Score Arrested in Mine Rioting Near Greensburg, 18, February 1931, p 5, ( : accessed 2018), citing Dorothy Altman., The Daily Courier, Connellsville, Pennsylvania, Three Girls, Man Held for Attack at Carr Coal Mine, 20 Feb 1931, Vol. 29, No. 88, p 1, ( : accessed 2018), citing Dorothy Altman., Daily News, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, 25 in Jail on Charges Growing Out of Disorder at Mine in Jeanette, 20 February 1931, p 10, ( : accessed 2018), citing Dorothy Altman.

Samuel and Mary Jane lived in one of the company houses. Homer's daughter, Jane and her husband now live in the home.

Second great grandfather, Joseph Shaner, grew up in a coal mining family. His father, William Wilhelm (1808-1881) was a miner with seven boys who all worked in the mines in and around Sewickley, Hempfield Township, Westmoreland, PA. At Cowansburg in 1888, forty one year old, Joseph Shaner was killed in a mining accident when he was crushed by a piece of slate that fell.

There may actually have been other miners in the family but many times the occupation in the census was listed as laborer and an industry was not always indicated.  It could reasonably be presumed that the father was a coal miner if the male children in the household have listed coal miner as their occupation.  Some of the male family members went to the mines at the early age of fourteen.  Lloyd's son, Butch, shared that he would sneak over to the mine and work when he was 12 or 13 but he didn't tell anybody about it.

These were hardworking men who labored daily in a dangerous industry where miners were more likely to be killed or incur a non-fatal injury or illness than those in other industries.

We come from a long line of coal miners in Pennsylvania.

DellaMea, Chris, Coal Mines of the Appalachian Mountains, (internet site), A Scrapbook of Appalachian Coal Towns,, ( : accessed 17 Apr 2020), citing coal advertisement, 2001.

The Altman's lived and worked the mines of the Irwin Gas Field in and around Edna #1 and Edna #2.  

DellaMea, Chris, Coal Mines of the Appalachian Mountains, (internet site), A Scrapbook of Appalachian Coal Towns,, ( : accessed 17 Apr 2020), citing Irwin Gas Coalfield, 2001.

While the Edna mines are now closed, the land shows evidence of their having thrived in the area.

We come from a long line of coal miners in Pennsylvania.


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