• Shae Bryant

Coal Mines and Power Plants: The Awful Working Conditions of The Tin Photo

When I sat down to write The Tin Photo, I knew that I was in for a roller coaster of discoveries. My Mom and Aunt spent time with me filling in many of the blanks about my family. They told me who worked at what coal mine or plant, and how long they worked there. When I sat down to research these places, I was not prepared for the conditions they worked in.

I already had the records of my Great Grandparents, and I began to research the Allegheny area of the Appalachians. I discovered the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania - an area that was once bustling with lumber mills and coal mines. It also housed a large number of Eastern European immigrants at the turn of the century. I also did not know about the Westmoreland Coal Strike.

The more I read and researched the corruption and violence from the coal mining companies, the more shocked I was. I had no idea the coal strike of 1910-1911 was such a demoralizing and violent time in Westmoreland County. The fact my own family were in the middle of that made me feel deeply for them.

Once I discovered Pennsylvania, I moved on to West Virginia. I had been to Logan County many times. I can recall my Great Grandmother's farm from memory. I can also recall my Great Aunt's trailer set just in front of an idyllic creek that rolled over smoothed stones that were once boulders sticking from the water.

The past of that area is something I'm keenly familiar with. Many of my living relatives still talk about the horrible conditions of the coal mines. The more I researched, the more I learned about it. The more I learned, the more horrified I became. I had heard of accidents and deaths that were likely covered up by the mining companies. I didn't know what amount of violence and control the mining companies held over their employees. I can't believe that my family lived through this! I thought that part was over once I moved into south eastern Ohio. But, I was wrong. I found out about the multiple times my Grandfather was overcome by chlorine fumes or injured in the boiler room. He had multiple surgeries to repair injuries and problems caused by the working conditions at the power plant.

I have always known that life in Appalachia was a hard one. The work on the land alone was back-breaking. Add to it work in coal mines, lumber mills and plants without regulations or care for their employees, and you have a discovery worth writing about. Photo: Coal Mine Set

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