Community Rallies for the Fallen

Group Unveils Miner’s Memorial

Morgantown Dominion Post
1 May 2011
By Ben Comley

Eighty-four years ago yesterday, a violent explosion rocked Federal mine No. 3 in Everettville, killing 111 men and tearing a hole in the small, close-knit community.

That community, made of many families, now spread to points near and far, came back together on a picture perfect Saturday to unveil a memorial to those men, proving no matter how long it takes, love is greater than loss and community is more powerful than tragedy.

The striking stone monument, which bears the name of not only the 111 men killed in the 1927 blast, but each of the 149 men who died while the mine was in operation (1918-’51), stands atop a hill near the small Friendship Baptist Church, in Everettville.

Carol Thorn, president of the Everettville Historical Association (EHA) and Miners Memorial Park Coordinator, spearheaded the EHA into action seven years ago after learning that many of the men from the blast were laying in paupers graves in Fairmont, if they were recovered at all.

“They’ve been waiting 84 years,” Thorn said to the gathered crowd. “Now they have their monument.

Now those laying in paupers graves have their marker.”

Mike Caputo, the House of Delegates-Majority Whip and UMWA Vice President as well as a third generation coal miner, presented Thorn with a West Virginia state flag for her efforts on behalf of the miners.

“It’s sad to say that in little communities all across West Virginia, little Everettville-sized communities, you would be surprised at how many of these monuments there are,” Caputo said.

He said the sacrifices of men like those who died in Federal No. 3 eventually lead to safe working conditions for miners everywhere.

“These men are heroes because they put their lives on the line, and thousands of coal miners died before we could have safe working conditions,” Caputo said. “These aren’t just men, they’re fathers, they’re uncles, they’re grandfathers, and as a coal miner, my hat is off to these 149 men.”

A musical trio known as Second Cousin Band performed “Henry Russell’s Last Words.” The song, written by Diana Jones, has garnered worldwide acclaim after Thorn approached Jones following a local performance about writing a song based on notes Scotsman Henry Russell scratched out using coal and paper in the hours following the Federal No. 3 blast. In 2008, Joan Baez covered the song on her grammy nominated album Day After Tomorrow.

Following the ceremony, families took photos or made rubbings of the names that brought them to Everettville.

“I’m thrilled I was able to be here,” said Phyllis Pasterczyk, who made the trip from Ohio with cousins

William Murphy Jr. — who brought along grandson Tyler — and Richard Murphy. “This is really an honor for our grandfather and great uncle. It amazes me the people of this area have taken the time to care so much. That’s the wonderful part.”