Sunday, December 1, 2013

Stories from Mom and Aunt Betty: Part 4, He bought two mines

This story was told to me in part by Mom and in greater detail by Aunt Betty. I just hope I get it all right but I'm sure that eventually I'll be corrected if need be. On one visit back east to see the family, I stopped by Aunt Betty's and we got to talking about the ancestors. "Daniel Williams, your great grandfather, owned two mines, a coal mine in Mt. Savage and a tin or silver mine in West Virginia," she said casually. WHAA? Oh, yes it's true, but the visions of him as a coal (or tin or silver) baron vanished when I learned the rest of the story. So here goes, and I'm going to give you the whole enchilada because it's a tasty one.

It all starts with my great grandfather, Daniel Williams (1852-1920) who was born in Wales to a coal miner father, Thomas Williams (1815-1868). Daniel's brothers are also listed as coal miners in the Wales Census records. Presumably, these men knew what they were doing when mining coal. They were multi-generational miners and learned from father to son and brother to brother. And none were lost in a mining disaster.

They lived for who knows how many generations in Strata Florida, near Tregaron, in the county of Ceredigion or Cardiganshire in Wales. There were tin mines in the area and we wonder if the Williams men once worked there. Mining skills are relatively similar for the various materials taken in Wales so it would have been no problem for them to be mining tin and then move to coal and end up in shale, which were all plentiful in Wales at the time.

Mom went there and stood in the ruins of the big Abbey at Strata Florida soaking in what was left of the memories and dust of the ancestors. Buried there is Dafydd ap Gwilym (c. 1315/1320 – c. 1350/1370), which might be translated into present day English as David Williams, who was one of the leading poets of the Middle Ages, certainly of Wales and all of Europe. He possibly died of the Black Death. Mom claims him as our own, baring solid evidence to the contrary, which we're hoping we never find.

Strata Florida Abbey
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Old Thomas who was born about 1815, married Jane James in 1841, and his sons started arriving right after. By then, even the once bountiful southern coal fields in Wales were starting to get mined out. There was too little work for too many men so wages were on a downward slide. (The Academy Award winning film "How Green Was My Valley" depicts a typical Welsh mining town and it's trails, and is worth a viewing if this interests you.)

Old Thomas died around 1868 in Tregeron, and afterward his family moved from Cardiganshire to Breckonshire. Just about that time the Consolidation Coal Company, with offices in Baltimore, Maryland and London, had its eye on the Western Maryland coal fields with their rich and mostly untouched big veins, began recruiting in Wales. Daniel Williams must have been ready to jump at a new opportunity because that's just what he did. Sometime about 1872 or 1873 (I'm confused about this) he sailed to America.

At the Consolidation Mine Company in Ocean, Allegany, Maryland he put down roots, and married Miss Jane Price (1862-1939) of Wellersburg, Pennsylvania on 28 October, 1878. In the 1880 US Census Daniel is listed as working as a coal miner, with wife Jane and son James just a year old. And so family life began in earnest.

Jane (Price) Williams and Daniel Williams.
Possibly their wedding portrait.

He built a career working for the mining company and was a solid member of the community and a home owner. Here's what Aunt Betty has to say about him from her notes:

Notes on Daniel Williams
As far as we know, Daniel lived in Midland and Ocean, MD after he arrived in the United States. He was Foreman of Mine No. 16, Consolidation Coal Company. He was a member of the George’s Creek Valley Lodge of Masons in Lonanconing, Maryland. He was selected to take a large lump of coal from Ocean Mines, Maryland to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. He was elected as a Trustee in the Ocean School District #18 on June 22, 1907.

I see two sentences and glean some further information about Daniel from Aunt Betty's write up. He was an Ocean School District Trustee. I knew that he valued education and was willing to save and pay for it because he paid for his son Joe Williams to attend the Peabody Institute of Music in Baltimore. So I'm guessing he was also a saver.

And then there's the trip to the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 to take the large lump of coal to be displayed. I keep searching the Frostburg Mining Journal, a true treasure trove if you have ancestors in the area, but as of yet not met with luck: there are a lot of pages and the text is small. That must have been quite an honor for him and surely covered by the local weekly newspaper that loved to trumpet about the accomplishments of its citizenry. I need to keep looking for that article!

One by one, his seven sons grew and had the opportunity to go work in the mine with him. Joe went to study music. Jimmy, the oldest, was a minor league baseball player and ended up in Texas. My Grandfather Camey disliked working in the mines and made his career elsewhere. The rest of the boys worked in the Ocean Mine Number 16 if they wanted. It was one of the safer mines and the "black car" visited there much less often than it did to the mine in Lonaconing where it went just about every day to remove a body to the undertaker.

Aunt Betty and her parents, Charles and Bronwyn, lived with her grandparents, Daniel and Jane, in their home in Ocean, which is about a 10 - 15 minute drive from Frostburg. After Daniel died in 1920 and Jane followed him in 1939, Aunt Betty and her parents continued to reside in the home.

From Aunt Betty's photo collection.

So Aunt Betty and I are sitting in her cozy living room chatting about Daniel and his life and times and she wonders out loud where he got all the money to purchase the land and coal mine in Mount Savage (which is near Frostburg) and the property in West Virginia that contained the tin or silver mine. Indeed, where did he get that money?

Let's start with the Mount Savage property because I just realized something about it. Aunt  Betty is a good researcher and an excellent organizer. Below, is the text of her transcription of the ownership of the Mt. Savage lots which she took from the deeds, and I'll point out two things after.


DEED: December 11, 1854

DEED: June 8, 1869
By and between MARTIN CLARK and TIM CLARK

DEED: December 9, 1893
By and between WILLIAM J. CRUMP and GEORGE CRUMP of Allegany County, Maryland for the sum of Fifteen Hundred dollars ($1,500.00) land known as the CRUMP FARM containing 75 acres.

DEED: March 20, 1912
By and between GEORGE CRUMP and ANNIE MARGARET CRUMP his wife to HENRY WESLOW and JULIA WESLOW, his wife by deed in the land records of Allegany County, Maryland.

DEED: October 12, 1914
By and between JULIA WESLOW of Allegany County, Maryland and DANIEL WILLIAMS AND JANE WILLIAMS, his wife for the sum of Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000.00) the land known as the “CRUMP FARM” composed of lots No. 3369 and No. 3370 containing 75 acres more or less.

DANIEL WILLIAMS predeceased his wife leaving the title to the above described property to JANE WILLIAMS, his wife and JANE WILLIAMS having died in February of 1939 and devised the aforesaid property unto CHARLES WILLIAMS, WILLIAM D. WILLIAMS, THOMAS WILLIAMS, CAMBRIA WILLIAMS and JOSEPH WILLIAMS by will probated February 21, 1939, and recorded in the Orphans Court for Allegany County, Maryland.
To have and to hold the above described property unto the said WILLIAM D. WILLIAMS and LILLIAN WILLIAMS, his wife, as tenants of the entireties, their heirs and assigns, in fee simple forever.

DEED: November 13, 1941
By and between JOSEPH WILLIAMS and HELEN G. WILLIAMS, his wife to WILLIAM  D. WILLIAMS and LILLIAN WILLIAMS, his wife for the sum of Ten Dollars ($10.00) the land known as the “CRUMP FARM” composed of lots No. 3369 and No. 3370.

DEED: November 13, 1941
By and between CHARLES WILLIAMS and BRONWYN WILLIAMS, his wife, THOMAS D. WILLIAMS and ISABELLA R. WILLIAMS, his wife, CAMBRIA WILLIAMS and EMMA WILLIAMS, his wife for the sum of Ten Dollars ($10.00) the land known as the “CRUMP FARM”
composed of lots No. 3369 and No. 3370.

Well, look at that will ya?! My own grandfather, Cambria Williams (1897-1960) was mentioned twice in these transactions, first as part of the estate of Jane, his mother, in which the property was transferred to all the boys, and then in 1941 when his share in the title was sold for $10. But that's not the eye-popper.

When Aunt Betty and I were chatting about this, we were wondering exactly where the property was. She had a pretty good idea about it's general location but the area had become overgrown and now it was practically impossible to determine any boundaries, at least by us. Then I noticed that the property was continually referred to as the Crump Farm and Lots No. 3369 and 3370. I got super excited. Off to check the Military Lots map put out by the Evergreen Heritage Center and Frostburg State University!

You can see below a section of that map and now it's pretty easy to find the location of lots 3369 and 3370. This land was awarded to Andrew Bruce for service in the Revolutionary War. We know where this is and it's right down the hill from Mom's house! I just love this map because it thoughtfully includes present day landmarks and roads. Mom lives on Route 36.

The land in West Virginia was not as exciting to me as this property. Oh, sure, it held promise of tin and silver but after Daniel's death, the family lost it to back taxes during the Great Depression. I don't find any evidence that Daniel and the boys actually worked the West Virginia property.

The Mt. Savage property was another story. Daniel and the boys possibly had hopes of a big pay day as they watched coal prices rise to new heights due to the demand for coal during WWI. Notice that Daniel purchased the property in October of 1914 and the war began in July. They felt that there was coal on that land, no doubt, and did something there, but exactly what we don't know. It's said in the family that he wanted to mine with his sons, all accomplished coal miners (except my Grandfather Camey) and most likely thought of this as his legacy to them. Theoretically, if the mine hit a big vein the boys would all be rich beyond measure. Today some of that same property is still owned by a descendant of Daniel Williams.

When I think of the great narrative saga of Daniel William's life, from the coal mines of Wales and unfortunate times to taking a chance on a better future, then to a Western Maryland home and land ownership, I can't help but be impressed. Daniel's vision for mineral wealth seems unbound, even though it was unfulfilled, but is admirable to me. Everyone needs a big dream. It is, after all, the American way.

And where did he get the money to buy all that land? He earned it.

Now I can't help but wonder if this photo was taken on his own land and was to document the start of a mining adventure. It was taken in 1915, the year after he purchased the land in Mt. Savage.

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