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John Grant - miner's helper

John Grant describes being a miner's helper and life underground. Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


Andrea Hammer: You mentioned being a miner's helper. What did that involve?

John Grant: Being a miner's helper - in other words, it meant that I put a little plug in the roof of the mine, top of the mine where they mined out, and then drove a small metal piece into that on which I would hang a string and plumb bob. And then I would shine my lamp on it, and the mining engineer would take a transit bearing on my lamp, or on the plumb bob string, and that would give him the direction.

Having gotten that, we would take down the strings because this is in the middle of a little railroad track that runs back and forth in the mine, you see. You couldn't block traffic too long. And then we would measure the distance between where the transit was and where the plumb bob string was located. And that's the way the mine survey progressed itself back through the mine.

Andrea Hammer: And what was the end result of the survey?

John Grant: The end result of the survey was to produce a mine map as required by the government. Every mine had to have a mine map. The very practical end was to insure safety. That you didn't have headings too close together, that the roof might collapse, that you got the maximum amount of coal out for the amount of digging you were doing. And that was the answer - to do the survey.

In other words, you wouldn't want to start a heading and then suddenly find out you are running into another heading. And the expense of digging that heading, the expense of laying track and so forth, it just adds to the expense of getting coal out. Whereas, if you run one heading parallel to another heading and maybe a hundred feet away from it, then the little rooms that you take off from the side of that heading are all going to be clear profit. That's why you have the mine map. The end of it is good mining practice.


John Grant and Andrea Hammer

John Grant

The map, for illustration purposes, of Maryland Union Coal Corporation's Maryland Union Mine No. 1, Mt. Savage, drawn in 1942, is from the Frostburg State University Library collection, part of the Maryland Coal Mine Mapping Project, undertaken by Frostburg State University and the Maryland Bureau of Mines and is used with permission.

The interview is used with John Grant's permission.


Collection Location:
Garrett College, McHenry (interview).

Coal miners--Maryland--History; Coal miners--West Virginia--History; Garrett County (Md.)--History; Allegany County (Md.)--History.

Western Maryland, 1930-1980

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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