52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 36: Working

Since I spoke of my many coal mining ancestors in Week 30 with the Health topic, I have decided to expand on it with this week’s theme of working. Three of my 4 great-grandfathers worked in the coal mines. Two in Pennsylvania, the third in Ohio.

Andrew Jackson Blair

Born 17 April 1881 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, Andrew Jackson Blair was born to another Andrew Jackson Blair and Susan Jane Foster. According to the 1900 Census, when Andrew was just 19 years old he was already working in the coal mines (and so was his 13 year old brother, William). His father was also a miner, having it noted as his profession in the 1880 census, as well as his profession in the death register when he passed away in 1899.

I won’t go into details about Andrew too much as I have written about it before (see here). He died when the mine he was in had falling rock and it crushed his chest, killing him instantly. He was 45.

Andrew Jackson Blair

Charles Jackson Morgart

Born 2 August 1873 in East Providence, Bedford County, Pennsylvania, Charles Jackson Morgart was born the oldest child of George Washington Morgart and Mary Ann Ritchey. Charles was originally a farmer but then became a coal miner. It’s odd, I can find him and my great-grandmother, Margaret Dora Wise, twice in the 1910 Census. When they were living in Bedford County he was a farmer, when he was found in Huntingdon County he was a coal miner. His death certificate also listed him as a coal miner. He did not die in the mines, but he committed suicide. It was not the first in his family as his mother had too.

Charles Jackson Morgart

James Fairhurst

Born 8 July 1890 in Leigh, Lancashire, England, James Fairhurst was already working in the coal mines in England in the 1911 census when he was still living at home with his parents, Thomas Fairhurst and Rachel Topping. He came to the United States in 1913 leaving behind his wife, Phoebe Boone (pregnant with their son, Wilfred) and his daughter, Elsie, to work with his brothers at Wolf Run, Jefferson County, Ohio. Phoebe came over with Elsie and Wilfred in January 1915. By June 1917 he had filed his declaration of intention to become a citizen of the United States, and by 14 May 1920 he was a naturalized citizen.

James occupation took a turn for the better. He opted to move to the rubber capital of the world in Akron, Ohio and began working for the various rubber companies, a much safer occupation compared to the work one did working in the coal mines.

Life in the Coal Mines

Working in the coal mines was a dangerous occupation. Most began working at a young age of 10 to 12 years old where you started out sorting out the coal from other rocks (sometimes elderly coal miners would do this too).

Underwood & Underwood. (ca. 1913) Boys picking slate in a great coal breaker, anthracite mines, Pa. Pennsylvania, ca. 1913. New York: Underwood & Underwood, publishers. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2007681337/.

As you got older, responsibility increased. The next position for a teen would be keeping the the tunnels lit at key spots in the mine. Miners did wear hats with lanterns attached to help them see what they were doing and where they were going, but there were still people sometimes positioned in key places so that danger could be avoided.

Other jobs within the mine would be pushing and pulling the carts throughout the very narrow tunnels and the actual mining of the coal. They spent 12 hours a day underground in the dark hunched over.

Collier, J., photographer. (1942) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania vicinity. Westland coal mine.
“Mantrip” going into a “drift mine”. Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Allegheny County United States, 1942. Nov. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2017841040/.

Company Towns

Those working in the coal mines were often paid in company money, renting company housing, and the stores you were able to shop in were also owned by the coal mining company as it was the only store that took the company money. It was very difficult to be able to move onto another company to make more because the coal companies more or less owned you.

Wolcott, M. P., photographer. (1938) Company houses, coal mining town, Caples, West Virginia
. United States Caples West Virginia, 1938. Sept. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2017752393/.

Working in the coal mines was a difficult job but was just one of many sacrifices the coal miner made to provide for their families. It was a hard job that had many health risks, but it was taken with the hope that the next generation would do better.

Wolcott, M. P., photographer. (1938) Coal miner waiting to go home, Caples, West Virginia. United States Caples West Virginia, 1938. Sept. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2017752675/.
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree

Week 8: Power

The word “power” brings so many different ideas into ones head. Merriam-Webster defines power as:

  1. ability to act or produce an effect
  2. possession of control, authority, or influence over others
  3. physical might
  4. powers – an order of angels
  5. the number of times as indicated by an exponent that a number occurs as a factor in a product (oh my gosh, I’d completely forgotten about this)
  6. a source or means of supplying energy
  7. magnification (again – totally didn’t think of this)
  8. scope
  9. the probabilty of rejecting the null hypotheseis in a statistical test when a particular alternative hypothesis happens to be true.

And that is it’s meaning as a noun (it can be a verb and an adjective too).

Though it was the source of supplying energy that popped into my head initially but I don’t really know how quickly my ancestors got electricity into their homes to make their lives easier. And despite being the history buff I don’t think I ever took the time to learn when this became the “norm”.

And since I have not yet found a mathematician in my family – exerting one’s authority over others will be how I approach the theme for week 8 in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

Harold Fairhurst

The person who comes to mind when I think of someone exerting power over others is my maternal grandfather, Harold Fairhurst.

Harold was born on 11 April 1922 in Amsterdam, Ohio in Jefferson County to James Fairhurst and his wife, the former Phoebe Boone.

Unlike my most my relatives who have me stuck in Pennsylvania, James and Phoebe came to the United States from Leigh, Lancashire, England in late 1913 (James) and early 1915 (Phoebe). In 1920 James had become a naturalized citizen taking the Oath of Allegiance on 14 May 1920.

While James worked as a Coal Miner, Phoebe ran a boarding house. However, by 1930 the Fairhurst’s and their 6 children (Elsie, Wilfred, Edwin, Doris, Harold and Evelyn) moved from Jefferson County to Akron, Ohio where James began working for the rubber companies and then for some of the WPA projects.

From stories I’ve heard life was not easy for the boys. Phoebe pitted brother against brother and most resolutions came with their fists. Phoebe also expected all her children to hand over their paychecks to her to help support the family. From my own experiences with my grandfather, I can easily see his not liking this, and it explains why he was married at the age of 21 in 1943.

Unlike his brothers, my grandfather did not work for the rubber companies, he was a construction worker and became a Mason. He was also a golf pro, but both vocations had him unemployed a few months each year because that is how life is in Northeast Ohio.

As I stated before, Harold got married to his first of 5 wives in 1943. His marriage to Helen Juanita Ferguson did not last, ending in divorce 6 January 1947. Shortly after their divorce was final Harold meets and marries my grandmother, Alberta Lou Fleming on 29 June 1947. They had 5 children, my mother being the oldest.

My grandfather was not a nice man. He was verbally and physically abusive and repeatedly cheated on my grandmother (I was told by my mother that his one girlfriend was Catholic and that is when the older 3 children attended Catholic school).

I don’t really have any happy memories of my grandfather. When I was little he lived about an hour or so away from us (translated – for a little girl it seemed like forever to get there but after Googling the distance between Cuyahoga Falls and Lodi it is apparently only 36 to 45 minutes away – yes, I’m blown away). My grandmother finally divorced my grandfather in 1968 because he was having an affair with the girl next door, who became wife #3. Mary Lynn, was the same age as my mother. I think this was why when she asked me to call her “Grandma Mary” it made me feel uncomfortable. I guess lucky for me we did not visit frequently and soon his wife and three kids moved to Tennessee. The one perk was that these kids were basically my age, so I had playmates. But I was never fond of my grandfather. Ever.

But as I’ve said before, my grandfather was not a nice man. When he was married to my grandmother he would beat her and their children horribly for what I consider dumb reasons (they left a mess in the living room with their toys, basic kids being kids reasons). My grandmother was a terrific bowler, if he didn’t think she bowled good enough he would make her practice over and over and over again when she got home, it didn’t matter that children were sleeping and had school the next day. And if she still didn’t bowl to his expectations, he threw her into the wall.

As time went on my grandfather would break his daughter’s arm. I remember he gave me what is called an Indian Rug Burn on my arm when I was joking with him. He didn’t think it was funny and grabbed my arm, twisting and squeezing it simultaneously. I was in 7th, possibly 8th grade.

I don’t know if my grandfather got his bullying like power from being the youngest boy in his family – constantly being tormented by his older brothers? If he just didn’t live up to the same standards his brothers did to his mother? Rumor has it when Wilfred, the oldest of the 3 Fairhurst boys, but the second to die, leaving just Harold, Phoebe, their mother, told my grandfather that now she had no sons.

Ouch. Who says that to their child?

It just shows how words can hold the same sort of destructive power as fists.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree

Week 11: Luck

For week 11’s prompt for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks was “Luck”. It made me think of the story of my maternal great-grandmother, Phoebe Boone Fairhurst, and how she came to America from jolly old England.  Or I guess I should say how she was suppose to come over.

According to my grandfather, Harold Fairhurst, he told me on more than one occasion that his mother was suppose to come over on the RMS Titanic.  She wasn’t feeling good so she opted to stay home and not come to America on the ill-fated ship.  I was going to say what great luck that she wasn’t feeling well, especially since my grandfather wasn’t born until ten years later (he was born in Ohio in 1922).

But tonight after doing my due diligence, like looking to see when the Titanic set sail (why do I keep thinking it was 1914???), it was April 15, 1912.  I’m thinking the story is an old wives tale as my great-grandmother had 2 children in England before settling in Ohio.  Elsie was born in November 1912 and Wilfred was born in July 1914.

My great-grandfather, James Fairhurst, came over to the United States on the ship Mauretania and arrived in New York on 8 December 1913.  Unless of course as a couple James Fairhurst and Phoebe Boone were to arrive initially together.

Trouble is every time my grandfather told the story, he spoke only of his mother.  Which makes me go back to the conclusion that this was just an old wives tale.

 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree

Week #5: So Far Away

This week’s topic for Week 5 in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “So Far Away”.  My family that I am going to discuss is my maternal grandfather’s family, the Fairhurst’s, who I have traced back to England.  It’s not that England is that far, I am just at a stand still because learning how to do a new type of research (I know it’s the same language, but it’s still a different sort of system) I guess I’m just waiting until I have another branch to delve into records for more than one side of the family at a time.

My great-grandfather came over from Leigh, England in 1913.  He travelled on the ship the RMS Mauretania.  He came straight away to Jefferson County, Ohio to live.  He worked as a miner and became a naturalized citizen on May 14, 1920.  Eventually his family moved to Akron, initially working for the Seiberling Rubber Company (it was the second rubber company that F.A. Seiberling founded, the first being Goodyear Rubber Company – I know all this as I worked at his house, now a historic estate, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens), then the WPA in the early 1940’s, and then once again finding employment as a rubber worker at Firestone Rubber Company.

His wife, the former Phoebe Boone, was pregnant with their second child so she was delayed coming over at the same time James did.  A tale that was told to me by my grandfather, Harold, when I was doing my family history for my 6th grade Social Studies class, was that my great-grandmother was originally suppose to come over on the Titanic, but because she wasn’t feeling well, she opted to go at another time.  Lucky for me if this was really the case as my grandfather wouldn’t be born for another 8 years. I have not yet looked to see if any of this is true, I just assumed it was false but a fun story for my family to tell.

I’ll admit another reason I don’t research this portion of my family is that I wasn’t overly fond of my grandfather, and therefore it’s being reflected on his entire family.  He was an angry man who took things out on everyone around him.  I have learned from conversations with his 2 of his 3 remaining children that he seems to have gotten that characteristic from his mother.  So while other portions of my family tree tend to go back to the early 1800’s, sometimes even the 1700’s, my Fairhurst and Boone branches stop in the late 1800’s.

Ancestors of Harold Fairhurst

I guess I shouldn’t let my feelings get the better of me.  It’s entirely possible that Thomas, Rachel, Enoch and Susannah are perfectly fine people living a splendid life in Leigh, England, and I won’t ever know until I start finding out about them.  I didn’t know anything about the others either until I began researching.  But for the time being they are over in England, with all their records, an ocean away.