The miner’s shift is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The men gather around the elevator shaft at 7:30 to be lowered into the mine. The cage holds only about 10 men, so our miner might have to wait for most of an hour before it is his turn to be taken to the bottom, about 70 feet down. It is much warmer there. Then he walks his long hike in a half-mile tunnel to the coal face, about 30 feet long, which is his particular responsibility. He strikes the flint to light his carbide light attached to his cap, as it is pitch black without it.
When he arrives, he first checks the roof. He taps it with the handle of his pick and listens to the sound to decide if the slate is tight. If it sounds loose, he props the roof with additional timbers and tops it off with a wedge shaped cap. He usually finds that the coal at the face has broken away from the seam because of his pick and shovel efforts to undermine it on the preceding day.
If the trackmen have done their job, the rails have been extended, and a mine pit car is available. The miner uses his pick to break off chunks and loads them on to the pit car. He attaches his round brass tag to the car to identify it for the weighmen up top. Then the mule driver takes it away together with a string of cars, and an empty car is provided for the miner to continue his work. After the 30 foot stretch has been loaded, he uses his pick to undermine another stretch for the next day.
At the end of the day, each miner has to wait his turn for the elevator to hoist him out of the mine. He emerges with hands bruised and calloused, his face blackened and his back aching and stooped from the constant bending over. He finishes his day with the weary walk back to his home, again in the darkness of early evening.
Really, it is impossible for me to visualize all of this activity accurately. Too much has changed in 100 years. But we know it was a completely different world.
In 1907 there were about 70 mines in operation across the county, and there were over 4,000 men laboring down in the mines. Coal mining was truly king in those days.