In several previous columns I have reported several very serious mining accidents in the deep mines of the Broad Top area as well as fatalities on the East Broad Top Railroad (later I will recall the calamities along the H&BT .) This week, a look back at the mandatory training sessions and competitions (health and safety instruction) in which coal miners from the three counties participated.
Many coal mining companies around the Broad Top participated in mine safety and first aid training competitions in the early part of the 20th century. The competitions were held at specific locations in various districts of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).
The objective of the training was to educate miners about the importance of mine safety and the knowledge necessary to provide first aid to their colleagues. You might think of participants as today’s paramedics.
I am grateful to Sue (Hinis) Blanchard from East Wenatchee, WA., Who sent me an original first aid certificate from the United States Department of the Interior (Bureau of Mines) obtained by the coal miner in Broad Top City , the late Russell Hinis. The document appears at the Broad Top Area Coal Miners Museum in Robertsdale.
In a note accompanying the certificate, Sue wrote that she discovered the manuscript among her father’s possessions and believed it belonged to the museum.
Russ Hinis was Frank’s son and Stella Hinis noted Sue, adding that there were also the Any brothers, Pete, Paul and George being part of the Hinis family. “After working in the mines (after his father’s death) to support his family, he joined the US military,” Sue wrote.
Over time, Russell rose through the ranks to the post of Staff Sergeant and during World War II he fought in the “Battle of the Bulge”. After completing military service, Russ became an area manager for the Southern Pacific Railroad in Los Angeles, California.
Sue is the oldest of Russ’s five children and appreciates the history of coal mining in the Broad Top area and her father’s role in the industry.
Russ was one of many Broad Top area coal miners who entered a “First Aid Training Certificate” competition held in 1939. The location of the event is unclear. The large, thick paper certificate identifies Russell Hinis for completing the Bureau of Mines’ training course “in providing first aid to the injured”.
The document is signed by the head HR Burdelsky of the Bureau of Mines and approved by JJ Forbes, supervising engineer, security division. The certificate is signed by John W. Stinch, director of the federal agency’s office in Washington, DC. It should be noted that minors had to be reviewed annually “to ensure effectiveness”.
Many Broad Top mine workers from across the three counties participated in mining safety and first aid competitions in the early to mid-20th century, including the operations of Rockhill Iron and Coal Co. (Madeira Hill Co.) in Robertsdale. and Wood. Miners working in the No.9 Deep Mine south of Wood were awarded Certificates of Honor at ceremonies held in May 1933 at Robertsdale. It was noted that the mine was worked 329 days from December 22, 1931 until November 15, 1932, without a loss of time accident, a truly remarkable record.
The certificates were presented to the coal miners by officials of the Joseph A. Holmes Safety Association in Washington, DC, an organization linked to the US Department of Mines. The organization was founded “to promote safety among industries in the country.”
The 1933 ceremonies at Robertsdale were hosted by James W. George, General Superintendent of the Coal Company, an activist promoting mine safety in the coalfields of central and western Pennsylvania. The George family settled in the EBT coal deposit and for decades family members have resided in Robertsdale.
The recognition event also included commentary and special entertainment by the Saxton Male Quartet and Vaughn and Roy Horton who would advance to highly successful country music careers in Nashville and New York.
The causalities of minors
In a previous column, I requested information on the causes of the Broad Top Coal Miners which will be added to the special exhibits at the Broad Top Area Coal Mining Museum in Robertsdale. A while ago I heard Tom Swope from Chambersburg who responded to the request with some useful information.
Swope explained that her father, James Ralph Swope, died of injuries sustained in a mine collapse at a coal mine in Broad Top City. The accident happened in 1948.
Tom noted that his father died in January 1956 while living in White Church, a very small rural area near the top of the mountain between Dudley and North Point / Six Mile Run.
Tom went on to explain that his father also worked in deep mines in Joller and Robertsdale, Huntingdon County. Tom recalled that he and his family lived in company accommodation and bought their supplies at the “company store”. He was five and a half years old when his father was involved in the mine collapse.
Tom wrote: “I remember my mom (Eva), sister (Sandra) and myself waiting outside the mine with other families as they worked to pull my dad… to As a result of the accident, my father was paralyzed from the waist down to his feet and lived for eight years in a wheelchair until complications resulted in his death.
Tom reported that his father was born January 3, 1921 in Six Mile Run and began mining in the Broad Top area at the age of nine.
The author of the letter added that he found the information about his father from the research necessary to secure the benefits of Black Lung to his mother. It took eight years to get approval, Tom observed, adding: “The approval was granted on the basis that at the time of his accident he had worked in the mine for 20 years. The information was obtained through the files of the United Mining Workers Union of America.
Tom also provided the Coal Mining Museum with a check stub / envelope from the George E. Miller Coal Co., which had operations in Joller on the East Broad Top coal deposit.
Coming soon: More information on accidents and fatalities of area coal miners and railroad workers in Huntingdon and Bedford counties.