SEVENTY YEARS IN THE COAL MINES
By Philip Francis
From: P. Bailey Francis <email@example.com>
My great‑grandfather, Philip FRANCIS, wrote a book entitled, "Seventy Years in the Coal Mines". It was an autobiography with interesting stories of his early life in Schuylkill County, PA, and his later life in Jellico, LaFollette, and Knoxville, TN. The book was published only for family members. There are many names mentioned in the book, and I'm sure that descendants of these individuals would be interested in these stories. I have posted excerpts relating to Schuylkill County, PA, on the PASCHUYL‑L rootsweb list. I would also like to post the TN/KY information, and the Cumberland River list seems to be the one most likely to reach the descendants of the names mentioned in the book. Philip FRANCIS was born on 7 June 1853 in Danville, Schuylkill County, PA. He worked in the coal mines beginning at age 8. He married my great‑grandmother, Annie MEYRICK, in 1875 in Mahanoy City, Schuylkill County, PA. He came to the east TN/KY area in 1883 to find work in the coal mines here. The excerpt below begins on page 96 of the book. If you are descended from or are aware of any of the families mentioned, I would love to hear from you.
Bailey Francis, Atlanta, GA
"In the year 1883, many anthracite coal miners were leaving Mahanoy City (PA) for Washington territory. I also thought of making a change again. Work was slowing down again. Wages then were $10.20 per week for skilled miners, ten hours a day. David LEWIS and his wife were soon to leave for Jellico, Tennessee, where new coal mines were opened up by the East Tennessee Coal Company. E. J. DAVIS was General Manager, and Arthur JENKINS, Secretary and Treasurer. JENKINS and his mother were from Mahanoy City, but now living in Knoxville. Also her sister, Mrs. E. J. DAVIS, lived there.
E. J. DAVIS came from Wales to Knoxville. His occupation was Slater. He met Miss Elizabeth JEFFRIES, then a school teacher. Arthur JENKINS' mother was her sister. There were four sisters of the JEFFRIES family and three sons: David, John and Shadrick, the youngest. He was an artist. He and his sister Mary died in Mahanoy City at an early age. Mary, the youngest sister, married Walter LEWIS, the son of David LEWIS. The reason why Walter came to Knoxville was that he owed his sister‑in‑law, Mrs. JENKINS, $3,000.00. Mr. LEWIS could pay her from his salary as Secretary‑Treasurer of the East Tennessee Coal Company. This was paid to her.
Mr. David LEWIS, wife and son, Walter, and myself arrived in Jellico in the month of September, in the year 1883, and met Harry WYNN who had come on ahead of us. He also was from Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. He was in charge of the developing of the East Tennessee Coal Mine. The mine was situated one mile north of Jellico in Kentucky, Jellico being the border town. It was a very tough place; drinking and shooting each other were very common. Two railraoad terminals were there. The L. and N. and the Southern Railways both were completed about the same time. The mine had shipped some coal before we got there, but in a crude way. Few houses had been built.
We found a place to stay at Mr. PHILLIPS' home. Mr. PHILLIPS was a mine foreman. A home had been built for the LEWIS family and as soon as they placed furniture in it they lived there. They lived there for fourteen years and both of them had died in that time. Mr. LEWIS was first to pass away. Both of them were buried in Mahanoy City, where two sons, Tom and David, were buried. David was crushed in the coal mines. Tom died from a serious cold. Their graves have markers all in one lot.
Harry WYNN and myself boarded at PHILLIPS. Later on Thomas LEYSHON, a relative to the DAVISES, and JENKINS, who were owners of the East Tennessee Coal Company's mine and later on the WYNN family and LEYSHONS moved from Mahanoy City to Jellico. The name of the mining camp was called after a town in Wales, named Dowlais. Several Welsh families from Wales and Ohio who followed mining, located here with their families."
"We were increased in numbers so that we could hold services in Welsh, with Welsh singing. The country people were well pleased to hear the Welsh singing of gospel hymns. Welsh children were often invited to sing at other churches around on Sundays. There were always crowded houses to hear them sing. There were many good voices and all loved to sing. And also there were many musicians among the men and women with good voices. It was a real singing camp, making good cheer to all who loved music. High class music like "Heaven Are Telling" and "Hallelujahs", choruses, and many other songs, quartets and solos would be sung in competition with Knoxville Welsh singers who were very good in music.
There were many Welsh singers in Knoxville in the years 1880 to 1900. When I left Pennsylvania, I came with the intention of following my usual occupation of coal mining in case I should find conditions agreeable. If not, I would move on to the territory of Washington State, where new coal mines were being developed. Many miners from Mahanoy City had gone there. Although mining in Tennessee was quite different from that of Pennsylvania mining. Anthracite coal mining is done by blasting, but in Tennessee by pick mining. Mining here was less hazardous.
After working four months, Manager DAVIS asked me to accept a position as mine foreman in the place of Evan PHILLIPS, who was then foreman. After considering the proposition, I told him that the salary was not satisfactory to me, $70.00 per month. I could earn $40.00 or more per month as a miner. He came back with the advantages of house rent and coal free and household goods 10% above cost. He was anxious that I accept the position. I accepted the place with the explanation that I was not sure that my wife would come here.
After four months, Welsh families moved into the mining camp from Wales and other states. Camp conditions were improving, but the surroundings were still rough. The equipment of the mines was not completed for lack of funds. Manager DAVIS asked me to take some stock in Tennessee Coal Companies. Coal prices were very low. There were hopes that it would get better. After some hesitation, I took 15 shares at one hundred dollars per share. I sent word to my wife to send me fifteen hundred dollars. This amount was placed to the credit of the East Tennessee Coal Company, and now since I had stock in the company, it kept me from thinking of going elsewhere.
Knowing that my wife had not made up her mind to move here, I wrote her that now I would have to stay here and that if she could not feel like moving from Mahanoy City, I would provide for her wants and would make a trip to see her as often as I could get off. In our correspondence my wife wrote me that she had decided to come to Tennessee. In the fall of 1884, she arrived in Jellico with the children, Maggie, Louis, and Mary. The families of LEWIS, WYNN, and LEYSHON, lived on each side of us, all from Mahanoy City, acquaintances of my wife, making it easier for all of us in our new surroundings. A schoolhouse was built close by, then church and Sunday School services were held regularly in both languages, English and Welsh, all striking for better conditions."
"There was one Welshman named Jonathan JENKINS, a one‑legged man, who came to Dowlais with another miner named PIETON. Both of them came from Maryland. They worked at Frostburg Coal Mines. PIETON drank a good deal. In one of his drinking sprees, he laid down on the railroad track and was killed. JENKINS was a religious man. When the schoolhouse was built, you would always find him taking a leading part, no matter how bad the weather would be. He would ring the bell for Sunday services and also for the weekly services. His faithfulness was often spoken of in the camp. He mined coal for a few years and then he was offered a position as mine foreman at the Mountain Ash mine, six miles out from Dowlais. He married there and had one child, a daughter. She is now married and living in Knoxville. Later on JENKINS moved to Jellico and died there from a severe cold. He was buried at Williamsburg, Kentucky. He was reliable and perfectly honest. Many times have we talked together in and around the mines. He loved to sing Welsh hymns, songs he learned in his native land, Wales. He called on me often to come to the services and play the organ for him.
Although religious influences were active in the camp, some miners would drink and get rough. Whiskey was plentiful at Jellico and the towns nearby. Drinking and shootings occurred nearly every day. Most every Saturday and Sunday, men shot each other to death. It was not safe to go there on any business, especially in the evenings, for shootings were liable to commence at any time.
One Saturday evening, I went over to Jellico for a hair cut and shave. The barber shop was nearly on the state line, dividing the town. A young barber newly located there from Cincinnati was doing my work. I was partly shaved when a fight commenced just outside the door on the pavement. The door was open and the barber could see the fight. His hand trembled so that he could not hold the razor. Steady fighting was going on in less than twenty feet from us. I could not see them as
I reclined in the chair, but I tried to encourage him to finish shaving me. I told him I did not think that they would bother us. Suddenly he said, his voice trembling, "Oh! he's got him down with his knife in his hand and going to cut his guts out." "Go on and shave me", I said. "I can't", he said, "I'm afraid I'll cut you." Suddenly the fight quieted down and the crowd moved away from in front of the barber shop.
I waited a while for the barber to get his composure. He said to me, "I'm going to leave this wild town." As I lay in the chair, he began to lather my cheek again. He had done this several time before, trying to steady his hand. As he was about to commence shaving me, he backed behind the chair. I lifted my head slightly and looked toward the door. There I saw Billie LYONS, one of the worst gun fighters in Kentucky or in Tennessee. He stood in the doorway with two revolvers, one in each hand. He was bare‑headed and with blood on his face. He looked desperate. As I was still reclining in the chair, LYONS stepped forward and peered closely into my face and then quickly left. That got the barber to shaking again. Six heavy revolver shots rang out, fired slowly as if at an object, sounding close by. Then it became very quiet again. At last the barber finished shaving me. I was told that he left town the following week. I had been in the chair nearly one hour and a half. All others who were waiting their turn had left. I was the only one that kept his seat in the shop."
"The fight was between Marshal LOGAN of the Kentucky side of Jellico and LYONS, who lived on the Tennessee side. LYONS was very troublesome when on a drunk and would carry a rifle and parade the streets for trouble. One Sunday afternoon, Thomas LEYSHON and myself were passing by the Bear Dive, a notorious place, where many of the fights occurred, when a shot rang out. Many men rushed out of the door way. In a short while, some few of them returned and went into the building. LEYSHON said, "Let's go in and see what the trouble is." He knew that LYONS was operating the Bear Dive and that more shooting might take place at any moment.
After going into the room where the drinking bar was, I noticed a middle aged colored man lying on his back and shot through the neck. I could see he was dying fast. He motioned feebly with his hand to a white man named Tom BRENNAN as if he wanted to speak. BRENNAN kneeled down by him and placed his ear close to the dying man's lips. Suddenly BRENNAN cried out as if in pain. The dying Negro had sunk his teeth into his cheek. It was his last dying effort. BRENNAN and the Negro were companions in gambling. Both worked the mine that I had charge of. In a few days BRENNAN was unable to work. His cheek had swollen badly, but after a month's suffering it healed up again. It was LYONS who fired the shot that killed the Negro.
There was a marshal on the Tennessee side of Jellico named WOOLWINE, a fearless officer. He and LYONS had some differences with each other. All knew that it was only a question of time when shooting would take place between them. One Saturday night and Sunday morning a great deal of shooting was going on. WOOLWINE and LYONS were shooting at each other. LYONS was standing in the door way of his Bear Dive. Several
others were mixed up in the shooting. Officer WOOLWINE fell over dead and then a shot fired from a railroad hotel killed LYONS. Several men
were killed before the shooting quieted down."
"At this time, Jellico was the toughest place in the states. Scores of men were killed there. Even school teachers were in danger from drunken and hasty parents. This condition kept up for at least fifteen years and then improved slowly. The influences of churches and schools were making conditions better. There were also firm rules among mine managers to discharge those who caused any disturbances in the mining camp. This had a quieting effect. The laws were lax. A discharge was more effective.
To give an idea, let me give a few personal experiences of my own. In the year of 1884, I accepted a position as mine foreman, then I followed it up a little later on by becoming general superintendent. This position I filled until the year 1896, leaving it to take charge of the Procter Coal mine; at that time one of the largest mines in the Southern coal field.
At the East Tennessee Coal Company my first experience happened on a Sunday evening, sitting on David LEWIS' porch with Harry WYNN, Walter LEWIS and Thomas LEYSHON. There was a wire fence built around the house with the gate directly in front. While we sat talking, I could hear yelling and it was getting closer. I could not see who it was as there was a slight hollow and also a turn in the road coming from Jellico and leading to the mining camp. The one doing the yelling came in sight, swinging a nickel plated revolver over his head. I could see he had been drinking and was hunting trouble. His name was MALCOLM, a bricklayer. He came to build chimneys in the camp. I noticed that he came out of his way so that he would pass close to the house where we four sat. Mr. LEWIS told LEYSHON to get the shotgun and place it near the door so that he could get it quickly should MALCOLM try to make trouble. He was getting near and still swinging his revolver and yelling. He was doing this for our benefit, thinking we would leave and go into the house. When he reached the gate, he stopped and looked fiercely at us. Then he rested his gun on the gate post and sighted it at us as if taking careful aim. Elder M. LEWIS shouted at him to go on away. Walter LEWIS reached for the shotgun and I ran down the steps and leaped over the fence close beside him. He was a heavy built man, but before he could point his gun at me I caught his arm and twisted the gun out of his hand. He kept swearing all the time and demanding his revolver. LEWIS shouted to me to see if the gun was loaded. I told him yes, that it was fully loaded. Mr. LEWIS reached over the fence and placed the muzzle of his shotgun against his forehead, leaving a round ring of burnt powder but did not fire, but looking as though he would fire he told him to leave. MALCOLM turned to me and wanted his gun. I told him he could have his gun back in a few days. He left swearing and saying he would go to his cabin and get his rifle and come back. When he reached his cabin, he got his rifle and began shooting and kept it up for some time.
The next morning LEWIS and myself received word that he would get us. After we had breakfast, LEWIS and myself started over to the store. LEWIS had a gun over his shoulder and I had the heavy revolver. Looking up the tramway, I saw MALCOLM with his rifle on his shoulder going to make good his threat. As we drew nearer to each other, he turned in another direction. He had seen LEWIS with the shotgun and backed off and went back again to his cabin more slowly. The next day, a team came into the camp to move him away. I sent his gun back to him. I do not know what ever became of him.
The following Sunday morning while walking down the track to the coal chute, I noticed several men crowded near a large tree close by the L. & N. Railroad bridge. From where I stood I could see the body of a man hanging from a limb. He was hung early that morning by lynchers. He was a colored man and kept batch on Black Oak. It was caused by a white woman visiting him. I knew several of the men that did the hanging. I told them they did wrong. If they had whipped the woman it
would have a better effect. The colored man was very quiet and a hard worker."
"Sixteen Italian men came at one time to learn coal mining. I arranged for them to batch near the mine in three log cabins in a small hollow. Everything went along smoothly for two months. Late one night heavy shooting could be heard in the hollow where the Italians lived. I got my gun and called LEWIS and WYNN. They told me a crowd was shooting to make the Italians leave. I said, "Let's go and stop it." They told me that nothing could be done with a lot of drunken men. I told them I was going to see what I could do. It was dark when I reached the foot of the incline. When I was near enough I looked into his face. I knew him. His name was Abe YUNT. He had a rifle in his hand. I said to him, "What are you trying to do?" The shooting and yelling was still going on. I did not go direct to the cabins. I went up the incline which was 600 feet long and then came down towards the cabins in another way. I knew their guard YUNT would inform others by now, but I had gotten close to the cabins. There was silence for a few minutes and then a volley of shots were fired in the direction I had taken up the incline. From my position I could see the flash of guns pointing in the direction I had gone. My first thought was to return their fire, shooting into them as they were bunched together. I was angered some because they fired a volley up the incline. I could hear the Italians' voices. I walked right into their cabins. Some of them could speak a little English. They were greatly frightened. It seemed that they all talked to me at the same time. I went outside the cabin to see if any of the shooters were still around. I noticed someone skulking back of the cabin with a shotgun in his hand. I told him to step out where I could see him. I knew him by name. His name was JENKS. He was a tough one from Stearns, Kentucky, who had recently moved into the camp. He told me he heard shooting and had just got here. I knew he was lying. Later on I had some trouble with him. I stayed with the Italians for one hour. I told them that the shooting was over, that the purpose of the crowd was to scare them away from the mines.
Next morning I went to their cabins. They were all preparing to leave for Cincinnati. I knew it would be useless to try to persuade them to stay. They were not miners. The coal seemed thin and hard to mine with hand picks. They all left that evening. They started north on the L. & N. Railroad track, walking. I received a phone message from E. J. DAVIS from Knoxville, the President of the East Tennessee Coal Company, for me to go to Williamsburg, Kentucky, eleven miles north, the county seat and charges preferred against those men who were shooting to scare the Italians away. The next morning I went by train to Williamsburg. I explained the situation to the sheriff. He said he would attend to the matter, but nothing was done and no arrests were made. The Italians were glad to get away."
"This was my first trip to this town (Williamsburg). There would be no train until evening to leave for Jellico. I walked around town to pass the time away. It was now nearing the time for the train as I approached the depot. I noticed that the Italians were sitting with their packs on a freight loading platform. There was a crowd of natives looking at them. I guess they never had seen so many foreigners before. While I was speaking with one of them a yell was heard, then a heavy set young man appeared. He was wild with drink and looking for trouble. Several of the natives got out of his way. He bumped with his shoulders those who did not move quickly out of his way. I stood still as he came toward me. There was ample room for him to pass by. Instead of that he leaned over toward me. He gave me a slight push. I kept quiet, but felt that I ought to call him down. He then walked up to one of the Italians who was sitting down on the loading platform and had his feet hanging over the edge about four feet above the ground. He caught the man by the back of his neck and pushed him roughly off the platform and tried to throw him on his head. When the Italian recovered himself he looked up at the tough and tried to talk to him. The tough cursed and told him to shut up or he would kill him. He jumped down off the platform on the Italian but did not strike him. Just at that moment all the other Italians came to his rescue. A large crowd had gathered. I also went to give help. I jumped down off the platform and placed my hand on his shoulder and told him to let the man alone, that he was not bothering him. He then looked me over and wanted to know who I was and where did I come from. I told him I am here now. Then he would slowly back away from me. I kept up close to him so I could look into his eyes in case he should try to pull a knife for a gun out. Somehow I had a feeling that he wanted to make a big noise, so I turned from him and walked away a short distance. He began cursing loudly and yelling. I knew that he was doing it for my benefit. Suddenly I turned back, but he had now left the crowd and was coming toward me. I turned around and met him. I placed my hand on his shoulder and looked him squarely in the eye. I asked him if he wanted any trouble with me. He looked at me for a moment and then took hold of my arm and said, "By God, let's you and me paint this town red tonight." With that he slipped his arm into mine. Then we both went to the south end of the depot. But all this time I was watching him closely, thinking he was trying to get me off guard. There were several box cars near. He withdrew his arm from mine and climbed up a ladder by the side of the car, to the top and then came down. It was now getting slightly dark. Just as he placed his feet on the platform he reached back in his pocket and pulled out his revolver and shot close to my left hip. I had taken about two steps ahead of him. I turned around quickly and pointed my borrowed revolver, which I had with me, at him. In his excitement he dropped his revolver on the floor. I told him to pick it up, which he did. He then ran in a stooping position southward. The sound of the shot brought a crowd of men to the front of the depot. One man spoke to me and asked me if he shot at me. I told him yes. I asked him what the man's name was. He told me it was MUSTERN. "He thought you would run from him", he said, "then he would shoot after you; but by you standing up to him, he was the one to do the running." The train was nearly two hours late so I walked back to the mines, eleven miles away. The Italians left Williamsburg that night. They wanted to leave for Cincinnati. No action was ever taken against the men who were the cause of them leaving the mining camp or against the man who abused them at Williamsburg depot.
"In those early years around Jellico such scenes were looked upon as natural. Such were the conditions in Jellico in those early years. With me I tried to be friendly with those with whom I came in contact, but so many of them drank and carried guns and would use them at the least provocation. I thought I would have no more trouble and I went
about my work at the mines as mine foreman. One day a middle aged man asked me for work as a miner. He said he had been a convict guard at another mine nearby, but convicts had been taken out. A new law had been passed in Kentucky, and he was now out of a job. His name was BATES and he would like to have a place on a certain entry where his cousin James CARTER worked. I told him I would get my tape, and measure off a place there so he could be near his cousin CARTER. As we went into the blacksmith shop to get the tape, he followed me in and I noticed that he was watching my movements. I just thought it was a peculiarity of his. Anyway I went into the mine only a short distance and measured off the distance where he wanted a place to work. He stooped down and began to examine the thickness of the coal. Then he began cursing and saying that the coal was thin and that it would be a wet place to work. I said to him, you asked for this place and if you don't want it you don't have to work the room. With that he started to swear louder. He was now working himself into a rage. He drew out a large hunting knife with a deerfoot handle to it; then in a stooping position took a step toward me with his knife drawn saying that if I said another word he would cut my guts out. For a moment I thought he was crazy. I took a step toward him, held out my hands and said, 'Go on with your cutting if you have the nerve.' I had stood close up to him. He was a large man with a heavy bearded face. He looked like a maniac under our lamp light. I had not got into a fighting mood because I thought he had a crazy spell. I began to feel that I should protect myself. A few feet away I picked up a mining pick with the intention of using it on him. Suddenly I threw it down, and as I walked past him I said to him, 'I will settle with you on the outside.' As I traveled my way to the outside of the mine I began to lose control of my temper. The more I thought over BATES' actions and his watching me in the blacksmith shop the more I was convinced that he came prepared to make trouble. I decided to go to my home and get my father‑in‑law's gun, a cap and ball pistol that he had in California when a gold miner in the year 1849. With it I hurried back to the mine which I had left a half hour before. I asked the shop men if BATES had come out of the mine. They said he had and that he had gone over the hill to get his rifle and come back. I made up my mind to meet him half way on the road, but he did not show up. But he did come back to the mine again. Men about the mine knew there would be trouble between BATES and me. BATES was looked upon as a bad man to have trouble with. The next morning early as I arrived on top of the incline I noticed BATES talking with a track layer
named RALSTON. As I walked toward them RALSTON called me. RALSTON spoke and said that BATES wanted to apologize for the trouble he caused yesterday. Looking at BATES I said, 'I don't want anything from him. If he ever draws a knife on me again he will not get away with it.' BATES spoke hotly, 'Do you want to pick a fight?' I said to him 'Make a move and see what will happen.' I had my gun in my hand. RALSTON left and told me afterwards that he thought there was going to be a killing and that he did not want to be a witness. BATES and myself faced each other, looking hard at each other and waiting for a move. BATES turned around and walked away. Six months after that one of the miners came to me and asked permission from me to let BATES go into the mine to talk to a miner on some business, and I gave him my consent. This was the last I ever saw of him."
"I have always tried not to get into an argument with my fellow men. In the position that I held it was difficult to carry this out without lowering my ability to handle the miners in those rough and wild days. No matter how much I resolved to prevent dangerous positions, they would come up quickly and I was forced to carry them through. One morning, at the entrance to the mine, a middle aged man applied for work as a miner. I told him I could give him a place in the mine. He did not want a house. He was a single man. He gave me his name as WILSON. He was tall and dashing looking with a red necktie and wore his hat, which had a large brim, on one side of his head, giving him a bold appearance. One evening, I was passing his boarding house. We sat down together and talked of things around Jellico. He told me he could hypnotize anyone. I asked him to hypnotize me. He said he would not and he would not give me any reason why. I noticed he kept looking around quickly as if he were nervous. Miners worked one‑half time.
After he had been here a few months it was necessary to divide cars in the mine equally among the miners as the miners worked on a tonnage basis. Miners working at night would have their cars placed conveniently near to load them. This man, WILSON, would take two to three cars and load them, depriving the miner who was entitled to them.
The mule driver came to me one evening as he came out of the mine and said that he placed a number of cars for the night shift. I told the men that worked near there not to load any of them as they were for the night men. After I got a short distance away I could hear some one pushing cars around. I think it was that man WILSON. Then he said that man is dangerous. He carried a gun at all times. Don't tell him that I told you, or he will get me. In about two hours WILSON came out of the mine. I told him about taking the placed cars and that he need not come back to work tomorrow as I would see that he would get none to load. I also told him that this was the third time that he had taken cars belonging to others. He wanted to know who told me. I said no matter who told me. You must obey the rules of the mine the same as the others. I could see he was getting angry. As he turned away from me he hissed out a vile name. We were now only a few feet apart. I repeated to him what he had called me. As he backed away slowly he had his hand in his side coat pocket. I was on my guard, knowing that he would shoot if he could beat me to it. He had drawn his gun half way out of his pocket. I told him not to move any further or one of us would be a dead man. I had my gun ready. We were now only a few yards away from each other. He was now cursing and in a rage. He took off his mining cap and threw it down and stamped upon it, but did not try to use his gun.
All this time I stood still with my gun in readiness. Once he stooped low with his hand on his gun and looked fiercely at me. I was most sure he was trying to get me off my guard or that I would leave. This I determined not to do. I would face and beat him on the draw. He picked up his cap and lamp and shoved his gun back in his pocket and went down the incline to his boarding house which was only a few yards off the road which I had to pass every evening going from my work.
Several men who had seen the affair told me not to go that way as he would shoot as I walked past, through the door or window. I felt stubborn and told them that I would not go any other way. When the time came for me to leave the mine with my pistol in my hand and when I came opposite the door it opened a few inches and I could see he was peering at me, but I did not see any gun. There was a window facing the direction I was going. I thought that he might use it to shoot from. I walked side ways with my pistol in my hand by my side and passed without any further trouble. That evening several men told me to be on my guard, that he would surely try you again. He is the kind of a man that is not satisfied with the way things went off.
"The next morning as I rode up the incline in the mine car and as I got out of the car I looked toward the mine and saw WILSON with a long coat on. I could see the bulk of two large revolvers in his pockets.
As I walked toward him I was determined not to say anything to him. I had to pass the blacksmith shop door on my way. I decided to tell the two men there to witness what was going to take place this morning. WILSON was outside looking for more trouble and that I would not start it. I walked out of the shop and stood with my back against the building with my gun in my hand. I was less than sixty feet from him.
As it was early morning many miners stood around expecting to see the shooting take place. We stood facing each other for about five minutes. WILSON turned and walked over to the check board and got his brass numbers. He went over to the incline and went down. That was the last I ever saw of him. I am most sure he expected me to order him away from the mine. This I would not do if it prevented the shooting.
Just two weeks afterwards, a man by the name of LAWSON came to me and said he was a deputy sheriff; that he was looking for a man who went under different assumed names. He showed me a hand‑bill and a cut of the man he was looking for and offering a reward of three thousand dollars for his arrest. He was accused of robbing a store in Ohio; of killing the watchman, and of burning the store down, with his brother.
His brother paid the penalty by hanging. The deputy told me that he was a very desperate man and a good shot with a revolver. If he got the drop on you he was quick to use it. I do not know whether the deputy every caught him or not. He told me he got a glimpse of him in Texas and had followed him this far into Kentucky.
Another incident closely followed the above. I discharged a colored man. His work was to place empty cars and to couple them to the incline rope. This he failed to do one day, causing a delay in the movement of coal. I went to the bottom of the incline and placed the cars on until another man took my place. About four o'clock that evening, I was standing in the blacksmith shop door. The discharged man whose name was MOORE, approached me in an excited manner and said he wanted his pay. There were two strangers with him. I told him I would be at the office about five o'clock. The office was nearly one mile away. I noticed he had one hand in his side coat pocket as if he had a gun. He kept his side toward me and he was also in a stooping position. One of the men in the shop said that fellow is going to shoot FRANCIS. I leaped quickly from where I stood, upon him. I caught the wrist of the hand in his coat pocket and at the same time, with the other hand, I closed on his throat, shutting off his breath completely. We scuffled a few minutes, then I threw him to the ground. I loosened my grip on his throat and quickly struck him a hard blow between the eyes. Then I quickly jerked his hand from his pocket. He had an open knife in his hand. This I took from him and threw it away. He cooled down and I told him I would see him at the office and pay him off. This was done.
He laid around a few days. I had blackened both his eyes. He sent another man to me to ask me if I would let him have a job digging coal. I gave him the job. While his eyes were still swollen a miner asked him who hit him. He answered back that a good man did it. He seemed to be proud that he had had a fight. Anyway, we got along without any further trouble."
"The next trouble that I had was with a man named MALLICOAT. He worked for the company, cutting timber by contract to be used as props or rail ties. He had four sons. The two oldest were inclined to be peaceable, but the two youngest were just the opposite. They always carried a gun. The father also was hard to get along with when under the influence of whiskey. The MALLICOATS and the PERKINS were related to each other. Both families were natives of Kentucky and Tennessee.
All of them were of fighting stock and stood by each other in any trouble that should arise. My trouble with Mr. MALLICOAT came about by my lending him a 16 foot log chain. This chain was often used to place over the top of the mine cars when a cracked link or draw bar was unsafe in letting the car down the incline. He borrowed the chain from me for one day.
A few days later I told him that I needed the chain and could not get along without it. About three weeks afterwards, on pay day, he came to the window at the office and I asked him again for the chain. He began cursing me and the chain. I was sitting on a high stool counting the payroll money which I had carried over from the Jellico express office. My revolver was on the desk close by. I picked it up and pointed it toward him. He had a large rock in his hand ready to throw it at me. When he noticed the gun in my hand, he left suddenly, still cursing out loud. Among the men who were waiting to be paid was Sheriff LAWSON of Whitley County. He came to collect taxes and fines off the men. The sheriff got MALLICOAT a short distance away. He had been drinking and was pretty wild. In my position in the office, I could hear his voice still cursing me. I did not want any trouble with him so I went out to talk it over with him and be friendly. When he saw me, he broke away from the sheriff. He had a large knife in his hand, and held his arm high as if he would strike when he got close enough to me. I stood still and put up my hand for him to stay back. He now looked wild and thought he would scare me with his cursing and looks. It was up to me to stop him. I quickly drew my gun when he was about ten feet away. I had it pointed at his forehead. When he saw that I would not take his scare he suddenly dodged behind a large post close by him. He was still cursing loudly. I know he was surprised because I did not run from him.
In about one hour afterwards, one of his sons who was pretty tough and the other son were close by. Another man by the name of WELSH whispered to me to be on my guard, that they had come to get me. As the tough one stood at the pay window, he said, "What about this trouble?"
I explained it to him but I could see that he was far from being satisfied. He mumbled some words that I could not understand. Then I asked him if he expected me to be hit with a rock or did he want me to stand still and let him stick a knife in me. There was only a thin three‑eighths inch sheeting ceiling between us. Our shoulders and heads were above the small pay window. I knew he had two guns on him. My gun was on the inside of the thin ceiling held in my hand. It was pointed
directly at his breast, in case he should start anything. He walked away but was far from being pleased.
As I looked around, this man WELSH who was my friend, said to me, "I wasn't going to let the four of them jump on you." He had a heavy rifle in his hand and told me that he stood behind the door with only the muzzle of the rifle in sight drawn on John MALLICOAT's forehead. MALLICOAT could see him. I was told that they would get me when I came out to go home. It was just a little dark when I left the office. I stepped out of the door with my gun in my hand; I looked around and
could see some men a little distance away passing a cabin door. The door was open and I noticed some men sitting inside, but nothing happened as I went home. I was told afterwards that two of the MALLICOATs were in the cabin. A colored man who batched in it was alone when I passed by. One of the MALLICOATs carried a rifle around with him several weeks. Sometimes, I thought I would ask him who he was carrying the rifle around for and then I thought it best to let it go. People said they were a bad lot to get mixed up with. The father died a violent death and I was told that two of the sons died in the same way. I went to the mountain and found the chain that caused the trouble."
"Another incident happened at the office where two bookkeepers were employed. WILLIAMS and HOSKINS sent word to me that Artie MARCUM was disturbing the bookkeepers by threatening to shoot them out of the office. I hurried down to the office and found MARCUM with a large revolver in his hand pointing it through a small pay window and looking as if he would soon begin shooting into the office. He was angry, because, as he said, he had been overcharged and he wanted them to make
the correction right now or he would shoot it out with them. When I stepped from the store into the office, he still had his gun on the window sill. I told him to take it off and not to point it this way and he began cursing. Suddenly I reached for a gun that was lying on top of the desk. MARCUM withdrew from the window, cursing and shouting. I said, 'This disturbance must stop.' With the pistol still in my hand, I went out to tell him to be quiet and if there was a wrong in his account, I would see that it would be corrected. When he saw me coming out, he ran behind a corner of the building twenty feet away, exposing only his head and his gun pointing directly at me. I advanced a few steps toward him and told him to lower the gun. This he did and as he lowered his gun it went off in front of me, throwing gravel and dirt into my face but doing no harm. I took his gun from his hand. All this time, I had him covered with my gun. This made him nervous. When he started away he said with an oath that he was going to get his rifle and come back, but he did not come back. He had a very bad reputation. A few years later, he killed a man and later on he got killed."
About this time, many shootings were taking place around Jellico and at the coal mines. One more incident happened to me at the East Tennessee mines. I had hired a man by the name of JENKS to mine coal. He came from the Southern Road. He was tough looking and about 40 years of age. A man by the name of NEAL, who knew him, told me that he had a reputation of being a very bad man. He told me that he was going to make me go down on my knees some day. I understood that this was a habit of his at other mines just to show off before their men. He made a statement to some men who were my friends that he had a shotgun loaded with ten penny nails for me.
I heard this kind of talk so much that I determined to end it. On Saturday, I saw him standing in the store talking to a crowd of men. I walked up close to him and told him what I had heard. The crowd now looked for trouble and began to move away. JENKS denied all the things I had heard. All this time, I kept my eye fastened on him so that he would get no advantage over me. I told him that I would take his word for it and that we would let the matter drop. He left the camp the next day. He did a lot of talking, but failed to do anything.
From September, in the year 1883, to March 1896, I worked at the East Tennessee mines. I worked five months as miner and then accepted a position as mine foreman and after that I was made superintendent and manager. I filled those two positions for thirteen years. In the year 1896, Dr. GATLIFF of Williamsburg, Kentucky came to see me to ask if I would accept a position with the Proctor Coal Company. This mine was the largest in the Jellico coal field at that time. It was also the largest shipper in the southern field at that time. For three years, there had been litigation among the stockholders as to who should manage their property. Dr. GATLIFF's party won the suit and I accepted his proposition and took charge in the year 1896 and was there until 1900.
My family was living in Knoxville at this time. I moved to Procter, called Red Ash, Kentucky. When I resigned, I bought a house in Jellico, Tennessee, and moved into it. I had an old miner friend named John STONE. We agreed to do some prospecting in the mountains around Jellico. The first month I was idle, I received eight different calls wanting me to accept a position with them. The calls came from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Western Virginia.
At the same time these calls were pressing me, I received a letter from John H. WHITE of New York, stating that I had been recommended to him as a coal expert. He wanted to employ me to locate all coal lands that could be purchased in eastern Tennessee and in southeastern Kentucky, and to build mines and railroads to them and then to lease to those who would operate them. He was a financier and an investor for several banks in New York. He sent me credentials of his connection with those banks. He said that I could purchase land in one hundred thousand dollar blocks at a time. This was a big proposition that he offered me and it would be a good investment for New York banks.
I thought over this new proposition and word came to me to meet Dr. GATLIFF at the depot. I met him and he told me he had sold out his
interest in the Procter Coal Company for $90,000.00 to Judge FINLEY and he had promised him to use his influence to get me to take charge of the Procter mines again. I made no promise to GATLIFF as to what I would do. A few days later, Judge FINLEY called me and asked me to meet him at the hotel in Jellico. This I did, and he wanted me to take complete charge of the mines. He also said, "If I had known you would not go back, I would not have purchased Dr. Ancil GATLIFF's interest." This I had been told since the purchase. He said, "I have bought a hole in the ground." I replied that there was sufficient coal to pay back his investment.
He pressed me to accept and I agreed to go back for two years on condition that he buy Joseph GATLIFF's stock as he and I did not agree on the manner of operating the mines. The stock was purchased for $14,000 and I took charge again, but I continued to live in Jellico. I had promised my wife I would not ask her to live at any more mining
camps. She wanted to live where there were active churches and schools.
In the first year, Judge FINLEY received the money he had invested, paid back to him in full. He was greatly pleased over his gain. He was a man of very strong will power. Once your friend always your friend. I operated his mine for four years.
A Dr. Sam BENNETT came to see me and offered me twice the salary I was then getting if I would develop a coal lease he had on Powers Branch near Artemus, Kentucky. After examining the lease, it looked satisfactory. I resigned the second time from the Proctor Company, and organized a company to operate the Powers lease. There was no railroad connection with this lease, but an eight mile branch was being built from the L. & N. road from Artemus. We hauled all mine equipment to the mine about five miles by truck and were ready to load coal by the time the railroad reached the mine.
The coal seam was six feet thick. There was also an active demand for the output. It was a good proposition, but unforeseen delays came in regard to the car supply. This new branch of railroad of eight miles connecting with the L. & N. was being built by Pennsylvania parties. Engineer WHITTAKER had quarrelled with some of the L. & N. officials. This caused a shortage of cars for BENNETT No. 1 mine, which I was manager of. This new road charged 20c per ton for handling cars to Artemus. This short supply of cars continued for about one year. There was no law to force the L. & N. to place cars on the siding of Brush Creek road. The remedy came when President Theodore Roosevelt appointed three commissioners to whom we could take our complaints. This helped our complaint of not receiving our fair share of cars. We then began to
pay a good dividend.
Dr. BENNETT asked for a salary. This I objected to as I could easily fill all positions and save the company money. I wanted to pay all stockholders back their money before increasing expenses, but BENNETT did not like my attitude and laid plans to get rid of me. This he did at the next annual meeting. I had acted unwise in giving him a majority of stock in the mine. This he divided among his relatives, placing them on the board of directors. He wanted me to stay on. I told him I did not want to hold on as I had another proposition offered me. I had treated Dr. BENNETT well; better than he expected. he purchased this lease from Caleb POWERS for $12,500. This gave him $25,500 in stock, which gave him a majority. BENNETT's company was capitalized at $50,000. Some of the stockholders would have me promise that I would not leave while they had their stock. This kept me from resigning.
A meeting was held and I was voted out and also let out as a director. Although I was the next largest stockholder to BENNETT, I was not even selected as a director. I was the only one with a mining experience and education. In less than two weeks, the mine boss and others quit the mine and so they go into trouble trying to operate. They then leased the mine. This did not prove satisfactory. Another meeting was called and a committee came to see if I would inspect the mine twice a month. Said they would pay me my price. BENNETT had opened another mine a half a mile away. He also wanted me to inspect that one. I was slow in consenting, but he was now feeling his mistake. He told some of my friends that he lost $25,000 by acting as he did. He afterwards did all that he could to please me. He was my friend until he did a few years afterwards.
At a meeting held to displace me, at the office, all his friends and Dr. BENNETT also, with two men walking up and down in front of the office, carried revolvers. I suppose that they must have thought that I would make trouble at the meeting. With my friends, none of us were armed. I told some of them after the meeting that I did not understand why BENNETT and his friends should carry guns. I think they felt that they made a silly mistake and got scared. A party came and offered a good price for the mine and they all agreed to sell. A short while before the sale, I had opened a mine to work the coal left in the old East Jellico Company's mine. I operated it a few years and then leased it to others.
I had received a proposition to become manager of other mines and could not feel free to accept any of them. For the past few years, I had had several attacks of indigestion. This was weakening me and was getting on my nerves. It seemed only a question of time when I would have to cease working. I tried my best to keep going and not to give up and it suddenly left me. I soon got worse and my strength almost left me for seven years.
One instance of importance happened while I had charge of the BENNETT mine. I was standing near the mine tipple one Saturday morning, in 1906, when I heard a peculiar rumbling sound much like a heavy blast near Williamsburg, Kentucky, on the L. & N. Railroad. They were doing railroad construction work through rock, and I thought that was the cause of the rumbling I heard. Late that evening, word came to me that a car loaded with dynamite had exploded at Jellico, Tennessee, a distance from where I stood of about twenty‑five miles by air line.
As the lines were torn down, I could not get any news from Jellico and I decided to get over there some way, as I was living there at that time. I walked out to Artemus, five miles away, and took a train there to Corbin and from there to Jellico. I arrived in Jellico early in the morning. I could hear all sorts of rumors while on the train. I was uneasy about my family, knowing that my house stood on a hill and only 1500 feet from where the dynamite exploded. On reaching the place, I found a great hole in the ground, torn up railroad cars and buildings torn to pieces and cattle dead in the fields from shock. I looked toward my home on the hill. It was still standing.
People all around were in great distress. I made my way up the hill to my home. I met my neighbor, U. S. JONES. When he saw me the first
words he uttered were, "FRANCIS, what you told me one year ago has happened." I had repeatedly told those in charge of the depot that they would surely have an explosion by the reckless way they were handling explosives. I had to testify to this advice given before the explosion occurred. I was familiar with the handling of dynamite. Suit was
brought by those who were damaged, but only enough to cover part of the loss. I received $600.00. I had spent $800.00 on repairs to the house. The house was split apart several inches and was moved several inches off its foundation. Later on, the house was torn down and built over into a new home. Eleven people were killed and many were injured.
It was strange to me why I decided to stay over at the mine for two days. I came to Jellico early one morning and then I would go down to see Joe SELLERS, the engineer for the Proctor mine. We were good friends and would have long talks together. No doubt he was looking for me when the dynamite exploded. Only parts of his body could be found. I could only recognize part of his cheek by a few days' growth of his beard. Other bodies were torn in the same manner. I had decided Thursday evening to stay over and spend one Sunday at the mining camp. There was no reason for me to stay. I had not stayed over for two years. It was strange why I did so this one time.
On September 15, 1907, for the third time I took charge of the Proctor Coal Mines. These mines were connected with Jellico by a railroad 2 1/2 miles long, owned by the company mines in Kentucky near the border line between Kentucky and Tennessee. The coal was delivered to the Southern and L. & N. at Jellico, Tennessee. In the year 1896, when I first took charge of the mines, then a large mining camp, there were many rough men there. Drinking and shooting on pay days were common. The company gave me orders to discharge anyone for creating a disturbance in the mining camp. They were more afraid of a discharge than they were of the law. I also got rid of an organization known as the Knights of Labor. A contract made yearly would expire the first of April in 1908. I persuaded the company to meet their leaders in a general conference at Jellico every year in April with the other twelve operating mines. I gave them as a reason that I had gotten along well
with the organization and without much trouble at the East Tennessee mines and that I had many good miners that would sit down with you and reason out any differences that would arise.
I made this proposition to the Proctor president, Dr. GATLIFF. He agreed to meet them at Sedger or in Jellico with the understanding that
if they were unreasonable in their demands that I would help the company to fight it out. After several days of arguments on both sides, we agreed to adjourn. After several months of idleness, the mine operators held a meeting among themselves. It was agreed not to have any further dealings with the Knights of Labor as an organization and also that any operator could try and operate his mine under the above conditions. All knew that this would cause trouble and expense. The time of the year was now approaching when the demand for coal was active. With this understanding, the Proctor Coal Company posted notices up that the mine was going to operate without a union recognition. The company hired guards after a few days and one miner went to work and then two more went to work. I kept on persuading the men to go to work. I went with them to the mine as there were many threats from the 19th District miners that some night they would get those who went to work. Much shooting was done from the top of the mountain to the mine as the men went to work in the morning. Bullets would strike the ground close to their feet. The mines kept working and increasing the output.
I hired two men who were miners. They were brothers, Phil and Dan QUIN from Pittsburg, Kentucky. They said, "You are having some excitement here and we want to be in it." They were two fine looking men. Phil was a good pistol shooter. One morning, as they were passing me on the road, I asked them where they were going. They said to Jellico. I tried to persuade them not to go as they would surely get into trouble. Many threats had come from there to the Proctor men. But they determined to go. Late that night in a dark alley, Phil was shot dead. He had no chance to defend himself. Dan was hit over the head with a rifle. Many thought he would die, but he recovered and was sent back to Pittsburg.
Another man by the name of BOWLING from Breathitt County, a miner, went to Jellico and visited a saloon. When he stepped inside another man named SARGENT, who before the strike worked at Proctor, a union man, said to BOWLING, "You scab", and jumped at him with an open knife in his hand. BOWLING quickly drew a heavy revolver from under his arm and shot SARGENT through the heart. The ball went through him and killed another young man behind him. Many other shootings took place. There was a strong feeling of bitterness against Proctor men. Many kept away from Jellico. Others who were more determined, would not take a dare and would defy anyone to call them a name. Often they would be shot at from a distance, but the ones who did the shooting always kept out of the way.
The mines were increasing tonnage every week. This caused much activity from the organization. All of the 19th District were still idle and so all their power was centered against the Procter Coal Company. One Sunday morning a crowd of 1500 Knights of Labor came to Procter and held a meeting just on the property line. They were debating whether they would go up into the camp and hold a meeting. I stood at the edge of the crowd and told them not to go onto the property as there was a guard in the camp and that they might get into trouble.
I was then living in the camp. One of the leaders, John HOWE, said he could go through my yard if he wanted to. I told him that I could not stop a mob, but that I could stop him. The whole crowd had a good laugh at my remark. They voted to go on the property. I knew many of the miners who were standing near me. I said to them, "Don't go, boys. Those guards don't know you. They would like to use their rifles on you." Many of them did not go, but went back to the Jellico mines.
They said that there was a post office in the camp and that they had a right to go. I told them it was not open on Sunday. About 500 of them went on to the center of the camp. There they opened a meeting by singing and prayer. They sang a religious hymn. A high officer from Illinois and one from Alabama and other from Jellico made speeches.
an Italian from Procter got up to speak and said we all ought to join the
union. I called him down. He said, "Three days ago that man,
BOSSIE, told me that John MULLINS had 28 names on his book of men who wanted to
join the union." This information
he gave me secretly that John MULLINS would be discharged. In closing of his words to the crowd, BOSSIE
jumped towards me. The leaders caught
hold of him and said, "My God men, let's have no trouble", and they
held him. I told them to turn him
loose, but they held him. Many guns
were drawn while watching BOSSIE the Italian.
I heard a voice on my left saying let me put a ball through that gray S.
of a B.'s head, meaning me. I could not take my eyes off of the Italian
struggling to get loose. Then a voice I
knew said, "You just try a move to shoot him." The voice was that of Nice HIGHTOWER, a real
friend of mine. He was the only one
that stood. All others ran away and
scattered quickly. It was dangerous for
a few minutes. But not one shot was
fired, but many guns were drawn.
I never knew who the man was that wanted to shoot me through the side of my head. BOSSIE, the Italian, left in a few days with sixteen other Italians, who came with him. He was their leader. After this meeting on Sunday mornings, the Knights of Labor made stronger efforts to hinder operation of the Procter mines and the company made stronger resistance against them by employing guards to guard the camp at night. Strangers from surrounding mines would do much shooting at night and then leave quickly.
My next experience was with a blacksmith named Jim YONCE. He had worked several weeks and then joined the strikers. Then when he would
meet a miner who continued to work, he would shout, "Scab!" This he did often but was quiet when I was near. I determined to stop him the first opportunity that came. One morning, he came to the office window demanding his pay. The bookkeeper asked him if he was moving out of camp. He replied with an oath, "No." Then I told him I would not pay him unless he was giving up possession of the house. Mr. WOOD, the bookkeeper, called me to explain what YONCE wanted. He stood just outside of a small window. I noticed that he had two strange men with him. I explained the contract and also read it to him. This contract had been in operation several years. He said he didn't care about the contract and he wanted his money. I looked into his face and saw that he wanted to make trouble. I had to go outside of the office to face him. I said to him, "You have been making a lot of noise in camp and it is time for you to stop it", and with this, I pushed him slightly backwards. He said, "If it was not for those three links on your coat I would slap you." I said, "Don't mind the links." Just then one of his men came behind me and threw his arms around my arms. He was close to my side. He had locked his hands in front of me. This made me helpless. Before YONCE noticed he had his hands in his coat pockets as if he had a gun or a knife. I told the man holding me to turn me loose. He did so. YONCE was cursing. I went up close to him and said, "Jim, you talk right and there will be no trouble." We were both Odd Fellows. This held me back from being too hasty although he kept his hands in his pockets. I had to keep close to him. He would not quit cursing and so I struck him a blow on the nose and his upper lip. the blood flowed freely from him. He did not try to defend himself. I kept the two strangers in front of me and I gave them no chance to get behind me again. They both left quickly. YONCE was holding his head down so the blood would not get on his clothes. In a short time he went down to Dr. FINLEY's office and I went back into the office to talk to him. I decided to go to the doctor's office and apologize to him because we were both Odd Fellows.
When I went into the doctor's office, he was sitting in a chair having his lip sewed up. It seemed that the blow had cut his upper lip clear through near his nose and about 1 inch long. After the doctor got him sewed up I said to him, "Jim, I want to apologize for striking you." He answered, "We will make you pay for this." I answered back, "All right, go ahead." In a few days a suit was brought against me for using brass knucks. The Knights of Labor were backing the suit. They had scored me much in their Labor Journals about fighting and using brass knucks. In my evidence before the court, I told them I never had any knucks in my hand. When the testimony was all taken YONCE and his two companions had planned to make trouble at the office window. The court dismissed the case.
About four months after the trial, one of the mine foremen cane to me and said if I was willing for YONCE to work, he would come back to the job. Yes, I said, "It is all right with me." On Monday morning I went to the mine to make an examination. I went to the shop door. YONCE was sharpening his pick. I spoke to him and said, "How are you, Jim?" He said, "All right, Mr. FRANCIS." He seemed glad to be at his job again.
Years after this, I was attending an Odd Fellows meeting at Fountain City. An editor who scored me many times in the Knights of Labor Journal came down to me where I sat in the audience and would have me say a few words. I went on to the platform with him. He introduced me to the audience saying that he had known me for a long time and that I was a true friend to the working miner and he said many other nice things about me. It is strange! "First Rocks and the Bouquets."
In the year 1900, a cousin of mine, James THOMAS, from Pennsylvania came to visit me. About this time there was an active demand for blasting powder. He gave me the thought that a mill would do well. After thinking it over and talking it over with others, a company was formed to build a stamping mill at a cost of ten thousand dollars. I went to Hamburg and found a man who was a builder of powder mills. He came to Jellico and located a place for the mill. I received a telegram from Howell DAVIS at Louisville who was manager of the Jellico Coal Company, then operated by the DUPONTs. The telegram stated that he wanted some stock in it. So the company was formed with a working capital of $30,000.00 to make powder by modern methods, but it was more dangerous than the stamping method. The mill was built and operated a short time. An explosion occurred, caused by carelessness of an employee. One man was killed and two burnt slightly. We replaced the building at a cost of $3,000.00. The Dupont Powder Company began to cut prices below cost in the Jellico region. This caused the Jellico Powder company to close and quit and to sell all of its machinery. My loss in the powder mill investment was about $10,000.00. The company was not able to compete with the DUPONTs.
In the year 1902, when the explosion occurred at Fraterville, causing the death of 184 miners; when the morning explosion happened, they wired for me to come at once and to bring experienced miners with me. This I did. When I arrived at the mine, all was confusion. A few bodies had been brought out. Men, women, and children were crying at the entrance of the mine. It was heart‑rending to hear them. I met a Mr. DAVIS who had charge of a mine nearby. He said he wanted me to take charge of getting the bodies out. There was no map near, but he drew a plan of the mine on the ground for me to go by. He told me he was sick and could not help but the risk was a lingering fire in the mine and may cause another explosion that would destroy all resources in the mine. This did really happen a few months before; one in West Virginia and one in Wyoming, taking all the lives that were in the rescue party.
Knowing this, I led the men into the mine, where bodies would be found nearly three miles underground. We had one safety lamp with us and it gave a very poor light. No open lamps were allowed for fear of coming in contact with gas. The ventilation was poor, as all batteries were blown down. We had to be cautious and careful and not go into gas. That would cause you to fall down and your breathing would soon cease unless someone picked you up and took you into purer air. Several of the rescuers had fallen down and were taken outside of the mine and laid in the blacksmith shop unconscious with the doctor working to restore them. The rescuers were not familiar with the effects of "black damp" in mines.
I had charge of several men. I told them that there could not be a living miner in the mine and that we should go carefully and not get into foul air, and that I would go in front. I knew the effects of "black damp" and "white damp". There comes a shortness of breath and a feeling of weakness in the knees and elbows and stillness. In that state, you must gather up all your will power to know where you are and what you are doing and not turn yourself around too quickly or you may fall down and lose consciousness. In one damp, your light will not burn while in another damp, it burns and both are dangerous to life. No open lights were allowed in the rescue party. I carried my own safety lamp, but it gave a very poor light. The mine had penetrated into the mountain for nearly three miles at this time and I could not travel the main entry but by byways and airways and then had to travel in a stooping position. The height was less than four feet. This made traveling tiresome. Some of the men had no light, but followed along the best they could. Some were uneasy when told on the outside of the mine that some fire may be left in the old workings and that a second explosion may take place.
Only a few months previous, a second explosion occurred in the Wyoming coal mines and also one in West Virginia, where all the miners lost their lives. All this I knew before I entered the mine. Some of the men only went part of the way in the mine. Their courage failed them. On the inside, you must forget the cries of women and children and also forget many dangers that surround you in the mine. You have a duty to perform to a fellow miner and to remove dead bodies to their relatives on the outside. The first bodies we came to were four. Two of them were on their knees in a praying position, the other two being partly on their side, just a few yards away, at the head of the entry. The men were sitting close to each other with their arms on their knees folded and their heads on their arms. In this position 17 of them had died. I lifted their heads up so I could see their faces to see if there could be any life there, but none was found.
Some faces looked calm, while a few looked distorted. Our lights were dim and I did not try to identify any of them. Those men had rushed from another part of the mine for safety, but after the damp took their breath, they must have passed over many dead bodies to reach this part of the mine. I made arrangements to remove the bodies to the outside of the mine. This was difficult on account of no conveyance. It could only be done by partly carrying and dragging them through low places until we got them to a point where they were loaded into mining cars and then taken outside and then into a building where the doctors washed them and prepared them to send them to their homes or relatives.
After removing 21 bodies from that section and as I was walking down the entry a short distance I came upon two bodies in a kneeling position. Their foreheads were touching the floor of the mine and they appeared as if they were alive. Placing my hand on the hip of the one nearest to me, I pushed slightly and the body fell over on it side. Looking closely at them I thought I knew them. They worked for me at Jellico. They were both young men. When we removed the bodies we concluded that they were part of the 17 men huddled together a short distance from where they died; it seemed that they had made an effort to escape. It was sad to think of young men dying in that manner‑‑a slow, gasping death.
Going toward the main entry, where the force of the explosion could be seen, we came upon a body terribly mangled. Then more bodies with
several dead mules were lying around. Before the mules could be removed, their legs were chopped off, so that they could be taken outside, on account of the small places to go through. The men were now complaining. They felt sick and needed gloves on their hands to protect them while handling the dead bodies. They also wanted hot coffee. I sent word to the outside of the mine to supply these men with gloves and a galvanized wash tub. It was sent in almost full of hot coffee. This gave the rescuers more strength and the ventilation was getting better almost every hour. By replacing batteries and canvas curtains, the bodies were being removed to the outside rapidly. There were not many large falls of slate on the entrance, so the explosion was terrific at the main entrance. Heavy steel mining cars' axles were broken off in the cars' wheels. Loaded cars were hurled against the side of the entries and broken to pieces. No flesh could stand against such force. I worked three days in getting all the bodies out.
The last evening, when I reached the outside of the mine, an old white haired man came running to me and asked me if we had found his grandson, who was a door tender on the main entry. He said he had a wide leather belt around his waist. The old man was heart‑broken because, as yet we had not found the body of his boy. It took force to keep him from going into the mine. He could not sleep, watching everybody that brought out a body. He was broken with grief. Finally, part of a boy's body was brought out. It was his grandson. When clearing up the mine they found a boy's torso with the belt still around his body.
The clothes that I wore in the mine, I had to destroy on account of the peculiar odor which could not be gotten rid of. The scene around the entrance of the mine could not be forgotten with 184 parts of many bodies that could be recognized by relatives.
A few years after the Fraterville mine explosion, another explosion took place at an adjoining mine called Cross Mountain Mine, taking the lives of 74 miners. A message was sent to me to come at once as they needed rescuers. I left Jellico on the morning train at 8 o'clock a.m. Coal Creek (now called Lake City) is about 30 miles away. Many other miners were on the train. As I arrived near Coal Creek several miners came to me and asked me where I was going. I told them that I was going to the mine where the explosion occurred. They then left me and went into another car. In a few minutes they came back to where I was sitting and said to me, "We have forty miners on the train going to the mine to help. We are all from Kense Mine, Kentucky. We held a meeting and all decided that if you would be our leader we would follow you into the mine. We know you took charge in the Fraterville explosion and we wondered why you would risk your life going into a closed shop Union Mine. The Procter Coal Company, with its three mines of which you are superintendent, have fought us for many years; men having been killed on both sides and the fight still continues." I said, "Yes, I have fought you hard but when I see my fellow miners in distress, I can not fight them for I am one of you. I was willing to take the risk by helping out with my long experience in the mines", and I said, "I want to thank you men for placing your confidence in me." Let me say that I have considered this one of the greatest compliments that I ever received in my life, when others are willing to place their lives in your hands.
On arriving at the mine, the same sorrowful scene greeted us. Women and children were weeping and all in great distress. Once again I must control myself and not let my sympathy weaken me. I had work to perform. So I went into the mine with those forty men. It was a drift opening. After going in nearly one mile, I came to a body lying on one side of the entry. Black damp had taken his life. Some few men were building a brattress to carry on the air. I told my men to help and went on further into the mine. The air was foul. I met a man with a small cage with a dead canary in it. I asked him why he brought that bird in here. He said it gave him warning when he went into bad air, the bird would drop dead. The test after a gas explosion is not needed by an experienced miner.
I met another man with a gas mask on and carrying his oxygen with him. I asked him how far he could go. He told me about 300 feet. We were standing close to the foul air. He said it was very hot 200 feet further in. I asked him if he saw any bodies. He thought he had. There were coal, slate, and timbers lying loose everywhere. He took off
his helmet and sat down. His breathing was not regular, it seemed to me. He was scared and would swear often. His thought was to keep his courage up. He told me he was sent here by the state and that he belonged to the rescue squad. I did not like his swearing.
In all my long life underground, I would not work with any man who swore, especially when there were 80 dead in the mines, lying around and some of them near us and others further on in this sad, gloomy place. I left him and went back to help the men to place brattices back to carry on fresh air, that would move out foul air so that bodies could be found and taken outside of the mine. I worked up to late that evening and then went by train to Jellico. A little gas and fine dust make a strong explosion. It is impossible to go through the after damp, to breath it and live. Strong men have tried to break through the after damp and have given up their lives in the effort.
In the year 1921, two of my daughters, Hannah and Iris, were living in Middlesboro, Kentucky. One day my wife said to me that she would like to go and visit them. We lived at that time in Jellico, Tennessee. On the following Monday we both went to Middlesboro and stopped at the T. Russ HILL home. He married my youngest daughter, Iris. A Baptist revival was going on that week and was being held in a tent on Cumberland Street. When the evening came on, Russ asked me to go the meeting. I told him I did not go to revivals nor did I attend church much. I noticed a fine large library that Russ owned with many books that would please me to read. Russ was a literary man and a lover of books and a great reader every day and evening. Russ asked me to go to the meeting with him. My wife and daughter attended the meeting regularly.
On Wednesday evening, I laid the book aside that I was reading and did some thinking. I was putting questions to myself. Am I doing right in sitting here alone, when it would please my wife and daughter if I were with them. I decided that I was an unpleasant visitor, and I made up my mind that if Russ should ask me to go with them tomorrow evening I would go. Russ did ask me the next evening. It was Thursday evening. The meeting was being held in a large tent. There was a large crowd in attendance. I was introduced to several nice people. The singing was good and I enjoyed it. The preacher was Dr. F. F. BROWN, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Knoxville (TN).
For the reader to understand me fully, I had a habit of looking a speaker over and judging him; wondering does he fully believe himself, what he trying to make others believe? On my first, second and third hearing of Dr. BROWN, I was impressed with his sincerity and his quiet way of explaining his thoughts and reasoning to others.
The following Sunday morning I was sitting in an auto with my daughter, Hannah. Dr. BROWN, with some others was passing by on the sidewalk. My daughter called to him. He came to us. I sat in the front seat with the window down. As he came close up, I was introduced to him. After we exchanged greetings I said to him, "Doctor, I have heard you speak three times and I believe you tell us with sincerity in your voice, of the things we should do in this and eternal life. I would like to ask you a question. Can you tell me absolutely and without any doubt in your mind that you are a saved man?" He looked at me for a moment and then turned his face partly away from me, looking downward. Then turning around and looking at me with thought in his eyes he said, "Mr. FRANCIS, I can not say absolutely that I am a saved man, but this I can say, that I have put my trust in Jesus." I reached my hand out of the car window and placing it on his shoulder I said, "Dr. BROWN, that is the best answer I have ever received." I can not tell why I was prompted to put that question to him. I have heard other preachers say that they knew they were saved. To me that did not reason out right. To my way of thinking that would be making judges of ourselves here on earth. We must stand before the Great King of Kings and be judged and not till then will we fully know that we are saved.
Dr. BROWN's answer to me was agreeable. It told me his humility as a preacher by placing his trust in Jesus. That simplicity makes him lovable to those who know him. Yes, you may say, I can quote scripture that tells us how we can know we are saved. You are not dead yet. You may commit sin while in the flesh that may not be forgiven. Life is short and you may not have time to ask for forgiveness. As I came out of the tent Sunday evening, I noticed a very large man standing alone
and looking anxiously toward the speaker's stand where a few men stood talking together. When I got close to him, I said, "We had a good sermon". He answered, "Yes." Again I spoke to him. "It is a good thing to live by and a good thing to die by", and again he answered, "Yes." The expression on his face made me linger. Again I spoke and said to him, "I do not know where you stand, but if you stand where I stand it is time to make a change", and again he answered, "Yes." Thinking that he was waiting there for someone, I left.
That same evening I spoke to my son‑in‑law, Russ HILL, about him. Russ told me he was well‑to‑do and that he owned considerable property. He had been a gambler and a saloon keeper and was not afraid to face any man. He was a man to be left alone. He took a liking to me. He was waiting to see me as I came from the speaker's stand. I have spoken to him about his soul. I feel he will change soon. He is thinking about it seriously. This he has told other men. "I will strike fire out of a rock with my fist for Russ HILL." That was his way of emphasizing his friendship for anyone he liked. Russ gave me his name as Harrison AUSMUS.
My wife and myself left Middlesboro Monday morning for Jellico, our home. After about four months I received a letter from Harrison AUSMUS stating that he was thinking about me. He wrote, "I am the man who had a heart to heart talk with you at the tent entrance. I have gotten over on the Lord's side and I am praying for you to come over too." I wrote him to keep on praying as I did not know when I would be ready to change. In about one year after receiving his letter, I made the change over to the Lord's side.
I visited Middlesboro again. Harrison AUSMUS heard I had come and he looked for me. We met near the Baptist Church. There was a seat nearby. We both sat down together and talked over the change we had made in our lives and we both agreed it was the best investment a man could make in this life on earth. It gave contentment and a certainty to us as to where we were traveling. He told me all about his wicked life. He mixed with gamblers and card players and with drinking and fighting men and of fighting them when he caught them cheating. He said, "I have fought with them in Texas and in St. Louis and in other places. Now," he said, "I am over on the Lord's side and I feel like a man again and I am going to stay on His side."
A few months after our meeting, my wife and myself visited Middlesboro again to have Thanksgiving dinner with my two daughters. A prayer meeting was held in the Baptist Church. Harrison AUSMUS came in and sat close to me. I noticed that he had a bandage around his neck. He told me it was very sore. It was a carbuncle. There was a large crowd at the meeting and many of them spoke, telling how thankful they were. It came my time to say a few words. Then AUSMUS stood up and spoke. He said, "I have been a very wicked man. The apostle Paul would not have made a corporal guard for me." He had been so bad against things that were good. Before the meeting closed AUSMUS and myself were called upon to stand up in front so that the audience could shake our hands. We all felt good on leaving the Thanksgiving meeting.
A few months afterwards, I heard that AUSMUS was very weak and sick and then there came word that he had died from his carbuncle affliction and I went to his funeral. At the grave there were many sad hearts together with my own. He had done many good deeds in Middlesboro, since he made a change in his way of living. He was a strong supporter of his church and all things that were good. We do not understand God's way when He takes away a strong man, who is trying to make amends for the things he has neglected in the past.
From "Seventy Years in the Coal Mines" by Philip Francis, published in 1943.
The last two pages of the book relate strictly to the FRANCIS family and would not be of interest to the list. I hope that these excerpts from "Seventy Years in the Coal Mines" have been of value, and I hope that some have discovered their ancestors' names in the book. I would be most interested in hearing from any descendants of the individuals named to learn more about them.
Bailey Francis, Atlanta, GA