Monday, January 20, 2020

A Long Time Ago, for More than a Century

A long time ago my Doyle ancestors were coal miners.  The date of the earliest known coal miner is more than two centuries ago, beginning in ~1812, though earlier historical records could indicate a different date.  Our line of coal miners ended more than 80 years ago, in 1934. 

William Doyle was a coal miner, a pitman.  He was born about 1802, probably in Northumberland, England.  I have no records that tell me when he began working in a mine but at that time, with no child labor laws, it was common for boys to begin in the mines before the age of ten.  Let's say 1812 is my first known coal miner.

William's son, Andrew Doyle, was a coal miner.  Andrew was born in 1836 in Northumberland, England, two years before his father's death.  I do not know when his mining career began but both the 1880 and the 1900 U.S. Census give his occupation as miner.

Andrew's son, William Doyle, was a coal miner.  William was born in 1863 in Northumberland, England.  Again, I don't know when he began mining.  He immigrated to the U.S. with his parents after the 1870 U.S. census and before England's 1871 census.  The 1880 census, his first in the U.S.,  tells me that at age 17 he was mining and the 1900 census indicates the same.  By 1910 he'd become a farmer.

#7 Mine - Inside - Stoneboro Pa.
Gust Doyle is at center back
William's son, Gust Doyle, was a coal miner.  Gust was born in 1888 in Pennsylvania.  He never claimed mining as his profession but, rather, farming.  Yet he worked in #7 Mine, as evidenced by the photo at right and his daughter's information.  With his father and his son, he dug a mine on the farm property he owned.  His daughter Tressa wrote, "Dad and Pap [William] worked in the mines.  This was the main source of income." 

Gust's son, Lee Doyle, my father, was a coal miner.  His mining experience was not in the commercial mines but he helped dig the 35-foot shaft in the pasture of his father's property where he dug the coal by hand and hauled it to the surface using a hand-built tipple, hoist, and cars or buckets.  A year after his father's death in 1933, he left the farm and the coal mine behind. 

I have five known generations of coal miners in my family who mined beginning a long time ago from ~1812 until 1934, for more than a century.  That's 122 years.  How many tons of coal did they mine?  How many families and businesses did the coal warm?  How many mouths did they feed because of this dirty, hard labor? 

Thinking over the lives of these five men I see a gradual progression from coal miner to other forms of work. 
  • The first William died at the age of 38 having never left the mines.  
  • Andrew owned a small grocery store in addition to mining.  
  • William mined for several decades but added farming to his work until he left the mine and depended on farming for a living.  
  • Gust mined and farmed until he could leave mining behind.  
  • My father Lee was a farm boy whose father and grandfather needed his help mining coal.  He quit both mining and farming, though he traded those labor-intensive jobs for a different kind of labor-intensive job in a steel mill.

I'm grateful for these forefathers who worked so hard to provide for their families and for my own family of birth.  I'm also grateful they were able to gradually leave mining and move to other occupations, grateful it was a long time ago that there were miners in our family.

There are several British coal mining groups on Facebook.  There is a camaraderie among the men who post that one rarely sees in current life.  So many of them talk about the good times in the mines.  As a lover of light I have a hard time imagining giving up the daytime hours and the sunshine.  Yet I admire them for going into the mines and doing the hard and dangerous work they do. 

This post was written for Amy Johnson Crow's 2020 version of 52 Ancestors.  The post topic was "Long Line."


Copyright ©2020, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 



  1. I have found coal miners in my collateral lines, but none very close. Most stories I read about coal miners and their families are sad due to health issues stemming from their work. I'm glad to know there were "fun times" too.

    1. Hi, Wendy. In recent years it seems that people know what's causing the ill health of coal miners, at least as far as lung problems go, but two centuries ago I'm not sure how much they understood other than working in the mines caused it. And I think there were a lot more fatal accidents in mines earlier than now. So sad.

  2. In the line of coal mining have you seen the movie How Green Was My Valley? It really shows the struggles they had. I highly recommend it if you have not seen it.

    1. Yes, I've seen "How Green Was My Valley" several times and read the book at least twice. I thought both were excellent. Thanks for mentioning the book, QuiltGranma.

  3. How wonderful to have that photo! I enjoyed reading your blog.

    1. Thank you, Ellie. I wish I had the original photo but I have only the scanned image, but grateful that my aunt shared the image with me.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...