by Ron Gregory
Next weekend will mark a gathering to dedicate the monument that has been in place for some time honoring those who perished in the 1960 Island Creek Number 22 mine disaster.
In the monument’s words, the 18 men who lost their lives that day are “Gone but not Forgotten.”
Included in that list are: Charles Adams, 46, who was survived by a wife and seven children; Frank Ardis, 63, who left a wife and four children; Ernest Bevins, 35, a wife and seven children; Okey Bryant, 49, who was a widower with five children; James Carter, 30, a wife and six children; Josh Chafin Jr., 37, a wife and four offspring; Roy Lee Dempsey, 52, nine children lost their father; William Donaldson, 53, a wife and one child; Garfield Hensley, 43, a wife and five children; Berti Horvath, 32, a wife and four children; Flint Rock Jarrells, 39, a wife and six children; Albert Marcum Jr., 34, a wife and five offspring; Melvin Newsome, 46, a wife and one child; Isom Ooten, 43, a wife and six children; James Lundell, 26, a wife and two children; Orville Sargent, 32, a wife and one child; Clyde White, 39, a wife and three offspring; and Louis Workman, 32, a wife and one child.
The dedication at the site near the Mingo-Logan County line with a Holden address will feature local and state officials. It is a fitting tribute to those who entered that underground mine on March 8, 1960 for the last time. Both the Logan and Mingo County Commissions supported the monument project.
In a 2007 remembrance of the tragedy, one former state mine inspector wrote details of that day. Titled, “Holden Diary,’ the author said his notes and records of the tragedy were deteriorating and becoming yellowed. He said he did not want history to forget those who gave their lives in 1960.
The writer noted that 20 miners were initially trapped by fire in the mine.
Two escaped quickly but the narration goes on to tell the horrors of attempting to save the remaining miners trapped behind suddenly-created walls and killer gases.
Valiantly, all of those involved in the rescue effort finally accepted the horrid conclusion that the 18 miners had been lost. His narrative is a moving description of that rescue attempt, which will be honored next weekend.
For those unfamiliar with the location, signs will direct guests to the site. Some descendants of those who lost their lives are expected to attend. Those who made every effort to save the miners will likewise be honored.
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In a separate description of the tragedy, a site labeled “Logan, WV History and Nostalgia,” says rescue workers discovered 13 bodies at 3 p.m., on Tuesday, eight days after the fire began. All had died within hours of the incident by carbon monoxide gas poisoning. “None of the bodies were burned, and the men appeared to be relaxed when death made its silent approach,” the article says.
It goes on, “Two men were eating from their lunch buckets. One man was found in a kneeling position with his arms encircling a timber, and was apparently praying when he was overcome with the deadly gas.” Freda Enyart Horvath, wife of Berti, believed this man to be her husband and wrote him a good-bye letter when she heard the news.
Chafin, of Pine Creek, was found still clutching the note he had written to his wife, the account says. The note was delivered to her 12 hours before the first body was brought to the surface. The note read, “Mabel, I love you more than you will ever know. Take care of the kids and raise them to serve the Lord.” It was signed, “Jr.,” the name he went by.
“The bodies were wrapped in blankets and plastic bags, and carried to the base of a 485-foot elevator shaft. They were lined up neatly to await their return to the surface. A heavy, wet snow fell, covering the ground. The bodies were taken to the Harris Funeral Home … where the families could claim the remains and make funeral arrangements.”
The account continues, “By Thursday afternoon, all the bodies had been recovered. It had taken nine days. Seventy-two children were left fatherless and 16 wives were made widows by the holocaust.”
Sources used in this account include “They Died in the Darkness” by Lacy A. Dillon and The Logan Banner.
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Coal mining has always been a tough, rugged part of West Virginia’s economy. The 1960 tragedy is just one of many that cost the lives of those who worked in the mines. At the beginning of every shift, loved ones of coal miners were always concerned about what their family member or friend would face that day.
Regardless of coal’s future, which appears bleak, the black seams will forever be a part of the fabric of the Virginias and Southern Appalachia. The men and women who, one way or another, gave the ultimate sacrifice to support their families and keep the lights burning will never be forgotten. These 18 men deserve all the recognition they can receive. Thanks to the two county commissions and others who participated in this project.
It would be great if a large crowd turned out next weekend to honor these folks.
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Elementary, my dear Watson … or whoever.
The (Charleston) Gazette-Mail featured a weekend story about a J.B. McCuskey fundraiser held last week in Morgantown. While underscoring that holidays generally represent “slow news days,” the article highlights some elementary misunderstandings of Politics 101 among candidates and Bernie Sanders supporters.
The aim of the story is actually to point out that Democrat Jason Pizatella, a former State Auditor candidate and assistant to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, had been listed on the fundraiser invitation for Republican McCuskey.
The story, written by Eric Eyre, noted that McCuskey’s current Democrat opponent, Mary Ann Claytor, “didnt know what to think” when she saw the invite. After all, Claytor defeated Pizatella soundly in the May primary and, in a congratulatory card, Pizatella failed to mention that he was for McCuskey. Throughout Pizzatella’s ill-fated primary campaign, he apparently stressed the need to keep the auditor’s office safely in Democrat hands. The last elected State Auditor, Glen Gainer, resigned a few months ago. Gainer is a Democrat.
The McCuskey fundraiser was held last weekend in Morgantown after Pizatella’s name was removed from the list of sponsors. All of this confusion led some Sanders’ supporters to “shadow” the event to check out whether Pizatella showed up. McCuskey staffers said Sanders people were a bit less than candid about attending the event. They wanted to come, so said the McCuskey people, because of their support for the Republican but left before McCuskey delivered his speech. Apparently, the Sanders folks were satisfied Pizatella was not going to show up.
Let’s go back for a second to Politics 101. While I wouldn’t vote for Pizatella for the proverbial dog catcher position, he has every right to be wherever he wishes. As head of the Morgantown Chamber of Commerce, he says he cannot endorse candidates. Perhaps that is a part of his employment contract, but it is difficult to see how he gave up his personal right to freedom of expression when he became Chamber president.
The Bernie crowd, as I recall, organized a “walk-out” of Democrat gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice’s speech at the state convention just a few weeks ago. So, it’s okay for THEM to express displeasure with the party’s governor candidate but it wouldn’t be okay for Pizatella to support whoever he wishes? In the world of grassroots politics, explain that one to me. A double-standard? Maybe.
The fact that McCuskey people say the Sanders crowd misrepresented its reason for being at the fundraiser also causes some concern as to the sweet, innocent nature of those backing the Independent (not Democrat, please note) U.S. Senator.
Getting past the Pizatella-Sanders element for a moment, though, let’s look at a comment Claytor made to Eyre. “Why would J.B. put a Democrat down as a sponsor? That would be like me having (Republican gubernatorial candidate) Bill Cole host my fundraiser.”
First of all, it would not be nearly the same thing. Cole IS the GOP nominee for Governor; Pizatella is nothing at this point in politics. More importantly, though, one wonders if Claytor continues to believe Republicans have no standing in general elections. While it is impressive that Claytor claims to be a political outsider, criticizing McCuskey for having a “Democrat sponsor” makes no sense in any political campaign. Pizatella can vote for whoever he wants; so can Republicans.
While I find Claytor’s political innocence compelling, I wonder if her comments do not offend every thinking Republican voter. She is essentially saying no Republican should sponsor — or vote — for a Democrat and vice versa. That’s where Politics 101 comes in.
The state’s greatest governor — Arch A. Moore, Jr. — would never have been elected without Democrat votes. A Republican, Moore always told me, “never, ever run against a party; run against an opponent hard but don’t offend every member of his or her party by trying to discredit their party or their influence.”
It’s similar to the political novices who insist on putting a West Virginia University emblem on their yard signs. Write off the Marshall vote if you want; I’m never going to advise a candidate to do that.
Who knows if the Pizatella name on the original invitation was an honest mistake or not. I have assumed, since the May primary, that Pizatella and most of those in the capitol corridor of power are for McCuskey. Frankly, several were so embarrassed that their endorsements of Pizatella in the primary resulted in no noticeable support for him, I suspect they NEVER want to see Claytor elected. Their fragile egos have already been tarnished.
And, they will get their wish if she continues to write all Republicans off just because they are … well, Republicans. As Arch always also said, “In the general (election), a Republican vote is worth just as much as a Democrat.”
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Again, having not been involved in the political process long, Claytor likely does not realize most elections involve members of the opposite party organizing for a candidate in the general. Who can forget when current Mountain Party gubernatorial candidate Charlotte Pritt defeated Joe Manchin for the Democrat governor nomination two decades ago. Many assumed Manchin was a closet friend and supporter of Democrats for Underwood. Former Republican Governor Cecil Underwood defeated Pritt in that fall election.
“Republicans for Manchin” have also been actively recruited and organized in subsequent Manchin campaigns. For McCuskey to list Pizatella as a sponsor should raise no eyebrows among anyone long involved in the political process. Still, Pizatella says he has endorsed nobody in this race. I will assume, for the moment, that he has not.
Neither has this newspaper.
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Now, for the really juicy stuff …
In Mingo County, word is that the pitiful Prosecutor Teresa Maynard will be resigning her position later this week. Reportedly, she will be taking a job as a Workers Compensation hearing examiner. That would be at the behest, seemingly, of Governor Tomblin. While doing little to improve the state of his home area in Southern West Virginia during the past six years, Tomblin appears to have a penchant for finding jobs for Southern West Virginia Democrats who can’t win elections.
Maynard,, as we all know by now, was turned out by the voters of Mingo in the May election. She was soundly thumped by Duke Jewell after she appeared to sleep through her brief term as Prosecutor. Maynard, you will recall, is the Prosecutor who could do no better than a misdemeanor indictment of one of the men who unmercifully beat Dawson Isom on a Williamson street.
She is the same Teresa Maynard who told Isom attorney Mike Clifford that no investigation reports exist of the Isom case.
Now, apparently for her ineptitude above and beyond the call of duty, Maynard is getting kicked upstairs to a cushy job where she can really do nothing on the taxpayers’ dime. Can anyone say, “Jason Pizatella”? likewise cared for by Tomblin and the powers-that-be.
Maynard had originally told some that, when she left as Prosecutor at the end of her term in January, she would go to work in Wood County. Then it was at West Virginia University and now it’s Workers’ Comp.
Mingo County commissioners, who allegedly have offered Maynard’s job to at least two other people who turned it down, should do the right thing and appoint Jewell. He is the choice of the people and, by appointing him if Maynard resigns, he would get a jump on bringing true justice to Mingo.
We will see how this plays out.
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I’m sure Maynard will want to be sure Corridor Chronicle readers are kept informed first about her plans.
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And then there’s this tidbit. Two reliable sources have told me that a “Corridor G judge” is in hot water over judicial misconduct. While no confirmation has come from anyone in authority in Charleston, my best guess is that the allegations are being investigated.
Out of fairness to all who are innocent, I will not yet go into further detail. Just know that we are monitoring the situation and WILL report to readers when — and if — something official happens.
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The Mingo County Democratic Women’s club will have their regularly scheduled business meeting on Tuesday, September 6. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at The Steakhouse at the Southside Mall.
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Your comments, story ideas, gossip and plans to win general elections with no Republican or Democrat votes are always welcome. Use my email address listed or call my cell,304-533-5185.