Almost every family in Northeastern Pennsylvania has ties to the coal-mining industry, according to area mining researchers. Beginning today, Mining History Week will commemorate the people who worked and died in the anthracite mines.
This week's events focus on the victims of the Knox Mine Disaster of Jan. 22, 1959, as well as the tens of thousands of mineworkers – men and boys – who toiled, were injured, suffered black lung disease or were killed on the job. The public is invited to attend the free events.
William Best, president of the Ashley-based Huber Breaker Preservation Society, said mining is a crucial part of not only this region's history, but also national history.
We did our part to build this country, and we don't ever want to forget that, Best said.
Area coal mines fueled the Industrial Revolution, provided home heating for most of the northeastern United States and Canada, and brought throngs of immigrants from all over the world to Pennsylvania to seek better lives, Best said.
It was dangerous and hard work, he said. Most of the miners did not know the layouts of the mines, only where they went in each day. That's one reason they would get trapped.
Ray Clark, board chairman and treasurer of the society, echoed the importance of mining heritage and honoring the people who worked there.
The 20 members of the breaker society are willing to help anyone interested in local mining history, Best said. Recently, students from area high schools researched mining for their senior projects, he said.
The society also receives requests from descendants of local families who live outside of Pennsylvania.
Programs are sponsored by the Anthracite Heritage Museum, the Anthracite Heritage Foundation, King's College, the Lackawanna and Luzerne County Historical Societies, the Huber Breaker Preservation Society, the Anthracite Living History Group, the Old Forge Coal Mine, the Greater Pittston Historical Society, the Knox Mine Disaster Memorial Committee.
• Today, 10 a.m. Knox Mine Disaster memorial Mass., St. John the Evangelist Church, 35 William St., Pittston.
• Wednesday, 7 p.m. Lecture on anthracite labor wars. Lackawanna Historical Society, Scranton.
• Friday, 7 p.m. Lecture titled Who Are the Molly Maguires and Why Are They Important to Anthracite History? Burke Auditorium, King's College, Wilkes-Barre.
• Saturday, 3 p.m. Knox Mine Disaster program with video footage, Anthracite Heritage Museum, Scranton.
• Jan. 20, noon. Knox Mine Disaster site visit, Port Griffith (weather permitting).