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Charles McIntyre - black damp

Charles McIntyre - ponies and black damp Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


Andrea Hammer: I'm trying to visualize how far the mine was from the town

Charles McIntyre: The mine from the town was, I'd say, about a quarter of a mile from the town. It was right on up the hill from the town. The town was down in the valley, and the mine was up on the hill. That's where the powerhouse and the mines because that's where they had the mine entrances. They had their stable up there too, for the ponies. They had those small ponies, those little Shetland ponies. They could go under the loads of coal and they could hook up to the cars and pull them out.

AH: Do you know where the ponies came from?

CM: No, I don't have any idea where most of them came from, but some of them came from around in the farms, they did supply some of them. Most of them were shipped in, they were really small. They may have shipped them in, from New York, different places. They’d ship them in in a box car, you know the slatted box cars and they shipped those small ponies in. They were just small ponies. Not much bigger than a big boxer dog. They were strong, they were very strong.

AH: Now if it were a winter morning, very dark, how would I, what would I see in terms of people going from town to work?

CM: You would see a lot of carbide lamps. You could see just a string of them coming out of the houses, people going out the back, because everybody had that carbide lamp on his mining cap. You would see them go down and they walked up the back and go up and up the railroad track up to the mines. They would just look like a bunch of fire flies going. You'd see men going from all directions. In the winter time, like when the time changes now and it got dark, they had to do that coming back.

My dad when he was mine foreman would have to watch that board. You put a check on the board. You had two checks. Of course then you had a lot of checks that you put on your cars, you know. Say, if your number was 49, you'd put that on your car. That's how they'd distinguish whose car of coal that was. They didn't have to write their name down that way. They’d take that off and that was charged or you got credit for that. Whoever the miner was got, the miner got credit for that check number. You put one of your check numbers on the board, and then went into the mines. A lots of times, I would go with my dad in the evening. There would be one or two checks still on the board. That meant somebody was inside yet, somebody might be in trouble or something and several times we went in and found a couple of men covered up or killed. One fellow had a broken leg. We had to get a pony. They used a canvas, like a carriage, lay him on that and pull him out, till we could get him back out sol we could get him on the car to get him outside.

AH: Would that be like a stretcher?

CM: Yes. Something like a stretcher, but it was a longer canvas. And then like I told you before, we had that black damp. There was like no air in the mine. One time, my dad and I went in, he just went in around the corner from the braddish cloth and I heard him fall. I went around and of course had my light and here he was laying there. I got a hold of his feet and pulled him and fad to pull him back out. Because when there is black damp, there is no air at all, no oxygen, it's just like someone choking you. I pulled him back out and give him artificial respiration.

That's what they taught us to do all the time, even from the youngest up to do that, because lots of times, they run into those pockets. They called it black damp, there was no oxygen in the air. It would just fall a man like that. We had one mine over there caught on fire at the face of the mine, and the men all got in the car. There was 6 of them. They got in the car to come out. It was a small working place. It was not a big mine. The six of them started out and the pony dropped dead. Well, that was signal enough for them instead of trying to go on out through that, they should have gone on back to the face. But they tried to get out through it, and everyone of them died too. It smothered them to death, the mine had no oxygen. You don't go very far without oxygen, especially in that kind of mess. I remember that was the Nefkin Mine.

AH: You hear of canaries in coal mines?

CM: Yes. They used to carry canaries at different times. They'd have them in a cage and carry them in. They'd watch the canary, and if the canary dropped over, you'd better be moving because there you are not getting any air. You are not getting much circulation. It wouldn't be enough at the time to bother you right then, because the canary was small. Most of the time where our mines were in Shallmar, they'd watch the ponies. If the ponies began to reel or start to stagger, go down on his knees a little bit, right a way, boy, “we need air” and they’d move back out. We knew we'd be in trouble if we didn't get out of there.


Paul McIntyre

On the back of the photograph is written "Anna McIntyre, Irene Fazenbaker, Aunt Ruth McIntyre, my father Claude D. McIntyre". The two small children are possibly Charles and his brother, Albert.


Collection Location:
Garrett College, McHenry.

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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