I am very excited to present a family history written by my grandmother, Mable Gerie Stafford (1919-2011). We simply called her “Grandma G.” I have inserted a few pictures and notes here and there; however, her words are presented exactly how she wrote them. Enjoy!
Autobiography (Gerie Hunley Baughman) (the other coal miner’s daughter)
I was born in the North Eastern part of Ky. in a coal mining town of Wolfpit.
I was one of four children, my brother being the oldest. I was the second born and the first girl. I have two sisters born 2 years apart after me. My mother and father were not real young as most of the young married people were (from early teens to twenty years old). It was not unusual to have young mothers of 15 years old at the time. My father was 26 and my mother was 22 when they were married. My mother had an eighth grade education and was an avid reader. [My grandma was also an avid reader – it must run in the family.] My father only had the fourth grade due to circumstances in the home. My mother taught him how to concentrate on the 3 R’s and he became very good at it.
I never knew my father’s parents as they died before my parents married. There were 6 boys and 1 girl in my father’s family and when their father died my father was 11 years old. All of the boys old enough went into the mines to take care of the others and their mother. My father was a small boy and when he went to get the job, the mining boss told him to go back home – he was too small to work. My father told him he had to work and they gave him a job of laying wooden ties that supported the rails the coal was brought out on. He worked for 38 years after that in many coal mines throughout Ky. and never had a scratch from any accident. He was very fortunate because many men were crippled or killed from cave-ins in the mine, there was also the danger of gas which killed many men. They took birds into the different areas where they worked and if the birds died, they all left that work area.
When the miners died from the accidents there was no compensation from the coal companies to help the families. This was before the unions came in. The people who lived in the camps all pitched in and helped the unfortunate families. They did have a camp Dr. who was paid by the coal co. who owned the mine. If a lady had a baby, the Dr. was sent for and also a midwife if one was near and it cost the family $2.00 to bring the baby. Of course if you needed the Dr. for any medical purpose he came to your home, diagnosed the problem and left the medicine for it, all for $2.00.
We grew up with always having a Dr. to use but no hospital plan until the unions came into the picture. My father worked 10 hr. days and got paid $1.00 a day. The coal company provided the houses to live in and the rent was $3.00 to $5.00 a month for a 2 bedroom home. Most miners would not work at anything other than mining and when the economy got bad and they didn’t work every day they would not even have a garden to grow their food.
I grew up in the years when the whites had their camps and the blacks had theirs, along with the schools and churches. The company’s store had one side for the blacks and one side was for the whites. We never questioned it as we grew up because our parents had taught us that you never speak to a black person and the only time we were close to them was when my father butchered our hogs for winter and they came and took the parts of the hog my father did not use. Their camps were not as nice as the white camps and they stayed mostly to themselves because we had the Ku Klux Klan in our town. They had a club house right in town and my uncle Leo and aunt Franny belonged to it. I saw them in a parade once as a child and my aunt waved to me. She had a white robe and a peaked cone hat on her head but I could tell who it was. After the parade they burned a small cross on the hill above town as their symbol. As far as doing anything bad, I didn’t think they did or some of the townspeople would have heard about it. When a circus or carnival came to town, they were watched very closely by the Klan. [It was my impression that my grandma did not approve of the Klan. I vaguely remember a story where she told a family member to “take off that hood!”]
To be continued…