Coal Miners – The Heroes of Appalachia

Coal Miners – The Heroes of Appalachia

The job of a underground coal miner has always been hard and dangerous. It was especially so during the early years of coal mining.  Every working day coal miners risked their lives to provide for their families. That’s why they’re heroes.

Those of us that grew up in Appalachia during the 1940s, 50s and 60s and were the sons and daughters of coal miners will always remember how afraid we were for our fathers.

Monument to Coal Miners at Chief Logan State Park

Monument to Coal Miners at Chief Logan State Park
Donated by the United Mine Workers of America Logan County Commission, State of West Virginia
October 29, 1999

On Friday December 6, 1907 an explosion at the Number 8 mine at Monongah, WV killed over 360 coal miners. That’s why December 6th was selected as National Miners Day. It was this tragedy that also gave birth to Father’s Day.

The 2nd worse WV mine disaster was on April 29, 1914 at Eccles, WV where 183 were killed.

“The deadliest year in U.S. coal mining history was 1907, when an estimated 3,242 deaths occurred. While annual coal mining deaths numbered more than 1,000 a year in the early part of the 20th century, they decreased to an average of about 451 annual fatalities in the 1950s, and to 141 in the 1970s. From 2006-2010, the yearly average number of fatalities in coal mining decreased to 35.”[1]

Getting killed on the job wasn’t the only occupational hazard of coal miners.  If they managed to survive a couple decades or so working underground, many had their lives cut short by black lung and other lung diseases related to their occupation.  This is the price they paid to provide for their families.

“Coal: An Appalachian Treasure” by Clara Maynard. – A video essay by a Marshall University student about coal mining and her Dehue, coal-miner grandfather.

Anyone who wants to add a photo of a coal miner to this gallery that died in the mines or from black lung is more than welcome to do so. To share a photo, please email it to the admin at Please note that you must own the photo you are submitting or ensure that no one has a copyright claim on it. If a photo owned by you appears on this website and you do not want it here, please notify the admin for its immediate removal.

Coal Miner Photo Gallery

*Header image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
[1] Source: United States Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration

You may also enjoy:

This entry was posted in Articles, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Coal Miners – The Heroes of Appalachia

  1. Bob Piros says:

    My Great Uncles,George(1873-1911) &
    Mike Tarkany(1889-1914) both died of
    Typhoid Fever while working for
    Island Creek Coal Company in Holden,WV.
    They both arrived in the USA in 1903 from
    Hungary to work in the coal mines for a
    better life.


    My grandfather Rolland Esque was killed in a West Virginia coal mine. I would have like to have met him.

  3. Ken Barlow says:

    I am looking for information about an alleged coal mine owner in Logan, WV named Joseph E. Barlow. If anyone has information they could share I would appreciate the help.

  4. Larry Chafin says:

    I remember my dad Rowe Chafin, who was working at mine in Peach Creek. His job was to take care of all the miners lights, charging them, testing. He also ran the hoist up a very steep embankment every day. As a special treat to me and my brothers Terry Chafin, Ralph Chafin, and of course me, Larry Chafin, he ran the hoist all way up the hill with us on it enjoying a very exciting ride. It was a hillbilly roller coasrer ride that was an unforgettable experience.