If you are from Pennsylvania, you probably have family members who were or are coal miners and depending on the area, may have once relied on the mines. If you aren’t from Pennsylvania, you’ve probably figured out that this state, at one point in time, had a lot of coal mines and produced a fair amount of coal.
Some mining companies even made small towns for their workers to live in. Ernest, which is only four miles out of Indiana, was a town like this which was founded in 1904. The workers and their families lived there and by 1916, Ernest was a thriving mining community with a school, two churches, a barbershop, and a large company store. Now, no one who lives in Ernest remembers what it was like before the mines were around.
Mining was once one of the most dangerous jobs that a man or child could have. Yes, children used to work in the mines before child labor laws. Small spaces that grown men couldn’t fit into but needed worked in, they would send children. These children were normally children of other miners who were too poor to afford not to send their children in. Many lives were lost in the mines because there were few, if any, laws in place to keep the miners safe.
Now there are many, many different laws. Each and every law that is connected to the coal mines has a reason behind it. Whether someone died, got injured, or something happened that endangered the workers, there is a law that was put into place to prevent this from happening. My great-grandfather Termin lost his arm in the coal mines after a spark ignited some dynamite by his arm. During the time that my grandfather worked in the mines (1888-1955, age 8-75) there were not many laws that kept him safe, not for the majority of when he worked anyway.
My family in previous generations were very active members in the coal mining industry. Both of my grandfather’s and my father all worked in the mines, though my father was only a miner for six short months before it closed for good. Now many other people are no longer able to work in the mines, as most of the mines in Pennsylvania are shutting down. The mines have a fascinating history, if you want to learn more come to the library and visit the archives section! We have a trove of information on the coal industry in Indiana county.