Mary Meyers - ethnic groups, KKK
Mary Meyers: It (the furnace) was operated from, well it started to build in 1837 and then it started, they operated it from 1839 till 1855. And then that was all, it wasn't used after that.
But then they discovered that the money was in coal, but then they had to hire people who knew how to mine 'cause they had to go way back in the mountains by that time. They'd used the coal that was close to the surface.
So then a great many miners came from Wales and Scotland and England some of them. And some Irish, but the Irish didn't have coal mines, they have peat over there. But they had learned to mine coals, coal, in England and Scot, and Wales, mostly. And also in Canada because a lot of them came from Ireland over to Canada. Nova Scotia and Canada. Then they worked their own way down here. They'd go wherever there was work and then when the coal mines were booking, why men wrote to their relatives, said "Come on. There's lots of work, come." So that's when the population increased a great deal and everybody was working.
Gail Herman: Now you mentioned mostly the people from the British Isles and Germany. Did you mention Germany?
MM: Yes Germany, the British Isles.
GH: Were there any other ethnic groups?
MM: Not in Lonaconing. Not in the workers. Now we had Jewish people came in when business was good. The Jews came in, opened the stores. We had quite a few of them and we had Negroes at one time. There are no, I should say African-Americans, in this, they're not even here now in this town.
Do they, do the African-Americans work in the mines?
MM They were blacksmiths. There was a couple, one man was a blacksmith in the mine. And one had a blacksmith shop in town and they drove wagons for the stores to deliver goods. And they, one was a farmer up near the state park. Dan's Rock, Dan's Mountain State Park. And some worked in yards, doing yard work around for some of the mine operators. And course the women were cooks and housekeepers.
There was a school for them here. One of my mother's, my brother's, my daddy's sister started teaching in that school. She graduated, well she got a teacher's certificate when she was only 17 and she went to the Superintendent of Schools and he said "I can't hire you by law until you are 18, but we do need a schoolteacher up in Lonaconing, where the Afro-American schools open and if you will teach there until you're 18, then I'll see that you get a job in the public school here." So that's what she did. She taught in that school until her, she was 18 on Christmas Day. And after that she worked in the Central Elementary School and she taught there for 50 years until she retired.
And then of course I told you we had Jewish people here, we had Catholic people, we had the churches, we had a number of different churches. People were very religious. The Scottish people were mostly Presbyterian and the English were Methodist. And then the Welsh people, they had the Welsh Baptist church. And the Germans were some Baptist but mostly, I mean some Lutheran, but mostly Catholic. They had a Lutheran Church also.
But then we had an active Ku Klux Klan here. And they used to burn crosses on the hillside. That's one thing I remember. I used to be so frightened when we'd see those crosses burning right over in the hill. And there were some Jewish people lived down, up the other end of town on the Jackson area and up towards Charlestown. And they'd burn crosses up above the houses, homes of these Jewish people. It was frightening. But that didn't last too long, I think.
GH Has there ever any violence?
GH No. Just threats?
MM Yes but they used to have parades and they would have their hoods on and parade up and down the street. And my mother was young, at the front gate she'd say "I know you, Rufus. You don't need to have your head covered. I know. I recognize those shoes you have on." She would call their names as they went by. Because they didn't want anybody to know who they were, you know. It was a small town and a lot of people were opposed to them. And when they did have parades they had hoods on their head. But she let them know she knew them. Cause she was Irish and of course they were, the Irish had a time with them.
GH They had a time with them?
MM Well I mean that they were opposed to the Irish and the Blacks mostly.
Mary Meyers, Gail Herman
Postcard of Main Street, Lonaconing, date unknown. Printed by
Neff Novelty Co. Used with permission of Michael Staup. His copy was mailed in 1915.
Garrett College, McHenry.
Coal miners--Maryland--History; Coal miners--West Virginia--History; Garrett County (Md.)--History; Allegany County (Md.)--History.
Western Maryland, 1930-1980