John Ayers - introduction, and his mining collection
Gail Herman: I am in the shed of Mr. John Ayers, and it's February 14th, 1992. Mr. Ayers has consented to show me all his tools which are lining two sides of the walls of this room inside this big, big garage area that's brand new, and I see in front of me shovels, and augers, and tampers, and needles, and hats, and buckets, and lanterns. Cloth -lights with the old candles they used to use, and with the lanterns they used to use, and the Carbide lights. And I see horseshoes -probably of the ponies that pulled the coal cars-, and I see picks, and I see chains and harnesses, and I see a blacksmith’s outfit, and I see all the tools. The anvil, and the forge and anvil that the blacksmith used. And I see before me Jim Crow, for bending and curving rails, for the railroad -for the track. And I see in front of me a big wooden wagon that was a coal mining car- an old coal mining car. A one ton car. What date do you think that's from?
John Ayers: They these all back, well they used them up, till up in the 60's, but they used them a way back too.
G.H.: Yeah, so they used them a long time ago.
J.A.: Oh yeah, they had them, oh ever since Anthracite was used -now that’s a different type coal. Then they got some Coke coal, and Bakertown coal, and Franklin coal. This coal here now is Anthracite coal. I got that up in Pennsylvania.
G.H.: Okay. So these are the coals then that came out of Allegany County?
J.A.: Yeah, yeah. I got some more I haven't really collected it all yet. And there some old ties come out of the big vein mines, but they was before they had spikes. They used to lay two six-by-sixes in there and put ridges in them to hold them in there and all. The six-by-six timber, before they had the steel rails.
G.H.: What else do we have here?
J.A.: Do you want me to start talking?
G.H.: Yeah! Tell me about these objects.
J.A.: This is what they used to shoot rock with in the little vein. The head weren't big enough to get through, when the pony pulled the mine cars, then they used this to shoot the rock. I kinda set it up here so you could tell what it looked like. It’s a thread bar. This is just the way you would set it up in a mine, and it would just thread in as you turned it here, and it would just drill a hole up there.
G.H.: What's the name of that?
J.A.: A Rock-Shoot'n Auger Drill, to shoot the head, to shoot the rocks what it is.
G.H.: And what year did they use this big tall thing? It's about as tall as you are.
J.A.: Well you'd adjust it. You could adjust it up or down any height you want. It was used, oh 50’s and 60's, before they got the electric in the mine. Before you come to electric drills and that.
Then here's a Carbide flask, that's what you carried your Carbide in. For your Carbide lights. You said about the lights on there didn't you?
Here's a bucket I wanna... this was mine, it’s got my name on it. They had a tray for your pie, then you'd put your sandwiches in there, and your drink was in the bottom. You put your drink in there, your sandwich was there, and your pie or cake whatever you had would be in there. Well I might as well tell you a story about that. They always ate the pie or cake at nine o'clock, that was your nine o'clock bite all the time. Because they always said you might get killed by dinner time and you want to eat the best, so that was always the saying -everybody eat their cake early. I don't know when these candle lights was- they was before my time. You could either put that on your hat or stick it in a prop, and leave the candle lights.
G.H.: So you could see what you were doing.
J.A.: Yeah, and they used to carry their explosives in that. It’s a powder flask. These are squibs, that's what you used to shoot the tamper needle, and they'd go back. Well you'd light them and shoot the powder. These are powder bags, used to carry. This here's a, I can't really say it, an anemometer. They checked the air flow, you had to check it through the last cross cut. You had to have a certain amount of air, every day, every morning you had to check that. And these are knee pads I wore. Some of these others were really used in the mine -I got some old ones here that's really got the holes wore out. You had to work on your knees all the time when you were loading these cars probably, it was all down pretty low. Then here's the tamper needles, and the breast plate. When you used these, they had what you call a breast plate, see they fit right on here. Then you put it on your knees, or up here and just drilled your holes then.
G.H.: So you didn't drill your stomach.
J.A.: Yeah, you had to have something to lay them in.
G.H.: So you put it across your belly there.
J.A.: Well in a little vein, usually you were on your knees, you would put it here, but you could put it here too. Then there's old black powder magazines, and there's electric drill there, which had come from the other...
G.H.: So that's a little newer.
J.A.: Yeah, that's a newer. That's what you'd drill after you... when they come you didn't use these old ones here then. When you come in with that electric drill, and I got to show you that rail down there.
J.A.: I wanted to show you that that there rail-bonder was one of the first one's made, it's made different from these here. It's made in Mount Savage.
G.H.: Rail. This one?
J.A.: No, the rail. Standing up beside. The big thing. See it's got a Vee in it. That's one of the first type rails that was built. There's not a "T" on there, they was a different type, and they was made over in Mount Savage over here.
G.H.: Rails? Like for trains?
J.A.: Yeah, same as track. See they are made different. These are "T" irons, and that was the first type made, was that kind up there.
G.H.: And this is a car-jack?
J.A.: Yeah, that's to get them off the track, when they get off the track you had a... well you'd put that under the bumper jack it up.
Jack Ayers, Gail Herman
This photograph of John Ayers' mining collection was taken in 2000 by Dan Whetzel. Mr Whetzel interviewed Mr. Ayers for the Coal Heritage Trail, a cultural survey sponsored by Maryland Historical Trust, 2001.
Garrett College, McHenry.
Coal miners--Maryland--History; Coal miners--West Virginia--History; Garrett County (Md.)--History; Allegany County (Md.)--History.
Western Maryland, 1930-1980