Employee Record Cards, Part II

In our last blog post we talked about the employee records cards that we encountered this summer.  Here is a blog post from University of Maryland anthropology major Katie Chen, who has been working on this difficult project all semester. I asked Katie to talk about her working process:

Hi! My name is Katie Chen and I am a sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am currently studying Anthropology, but recently got interested in archaeology. During my freshman fall semester I studied abroad in London and took a course called Social Anthropology of Britain. During this semester, I started some ethnographic research on the London black cabs, learning about the cab business and the changing geography of London through interviews with the drivers.  This experience confirmed my interest in ethnographic research and anthropology. Someday I hope to return to London to continue what I started.

Recently, having become interested in archaeology, I decided to help Mike on his research on the Lattimer Massacre. I am currently making a database of miner employee records cards. My strategy has been to go through the cards and make an initial attempt at deciphering the handwriting.  After a couple days, I will go back to the cards and read them again. This method has worked almost every time, but some cards need more review time.

On several occasions, I’ve tried to look online to see if there is a name for the type of script used then.  I have not been successful yet, but I’ve been able to look at specific examples, and get an idea of what the letter could be.  Inputting data is rather tedious and can be frustrating, as I have spent more than 30 minutes looking at one card because I can’t read the names or locations. When entering data on locations, I will sometimes look up on Google if my spelling version comes up with any additional spellings. This has worked a couple times, which has been exciting. Otherwise, I will have to go back to taking a break for a couple of days and coming back to the cards.

In addition to this project, I am researching what religious or spiritual beliefs miners might hold across the globe. After reading articles about conditions in the mines and hearing stories, I wondered if there was any belief that propelled the miners to endure such harsh conditions.  The mines are extremely dangerous and miners risk their lives and health every time they go down. With this side project, I would like to find out if the conditions of mining are similar worldwide and if there are any religious, spiritual, superstitious attitudes consistent across them.

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About LM Project
The LMP is a collaborative endeavor which aims to recognize the events surrounding the Lattimer Massacre, an incident that changed the labor movement and impacted the world by bringing to light economic disparities and ethnic tensions in the anthracite region of PA.

22 Responses to Employee Record Cards, Part II

  1. Helen A (cheslock) Hilmer says:

    The reason these miners endured the harsh condtions is relatively simple.

    There wasnt any “safety net social programs”.
    They came here seeking better but obviously many were duped into working for the mines.
    Once herethey basically were stuck,however that did not change the fact that they had obligiations to fullfill and were also repsonsible to provide for their families needs.
    No big spiritual thing or superstitious boogie men…lol.
    Hardworkers they were.

    Sign me, Coal Miners granddaughter
    Helen A. (Cheslock) Hilmer

    • LM Project says:

      Helen,
      Thanks for the great comment! You make an interesting point that some things were different then, but some things are also the same. Immigrants still come here looking for a better life. What is different and what is the same? We think teasing out those little details and recording them is important for us to understand how we got to where we are today. And it will be increasingly difficult for future generations. It is really important to record those family stories!

      BTW, there are a few Cheslocks in the Lattimer Company records. Did your grandfather work for Lattimer? Any relation to the martyred Cheslock?

      Thanks again!,
      Mike

      • Helen A (cheslock) Hilmer says:

        Hi Mike,

        Mike my Father(Michael Cheslock) often spoke of “the Michael Cheslock” the lattimer miner.

        I recall him saying he was related, how I am unsure. Uncle, Cousin….perhaps.

        So last year I began researching my genealogy. Hopefully I will find info that will verify the relationship.

        Its a tedious task, and if you have any information that you are able to share with me, I would greatly appreciate it.

        My grandfather was John Cheslock. I have his naturalization papers stating he was Russian living in Czechslovakia.
        I believe he migrated here about 1900 or so.

  2. Helen A (cheslock) Hilmer says:

    Continuing…

    My grandfather was a miner and he resided in Mahanoy City, However I have yet to find his immigration records on the ellis islands website.
    I do however have other proof that puts him in Mahanoy City about 1900 give or take a few yrs.

    My Paternal and Maternal Grandfathers were miners. My dad also has a small bootleg mine and had worked for Blaschok Coal company when he was very young. Eventually he left the mines.

    I do know that these men were very religious men.

    For the most part their “faith” did provide them with the strength to endure. They attended church every Sunday and also they held the customs of the “old country” especially the relgious practices dear and near to their heart.

    In my other commented I stated that these many miners were “duped” into taking these jobs.

    I know from family stories on my moms side that her father came here worked the mines but left to buy a farm in Massachuesetts. Apparently he worked the farm until he lost it apparently for “taxes”.
    I imagine he was hard pressed for a livelihood and he made his way back to PA coal regions.
    Where he was conned into taking work at a coal mine in West Virginia. When he arrived there they took his steamer trunk and all his possessions! The mine bosses literally stoled the clothing off his back!
    He was however able to ‘rescue” his Polish To English dictionary. Apparently he was teaching himself how to read the English Language.

    Basically he was enslavened until one night he escaped and made his way into the coal regions of PA. He had worked in the coal mines in Morea PA until he died at age 41 from Tuberculosis.

    Although my grandfather had not endured the “identical” conditions as the black slaves, many of the European Miners were denied many Freedoms.

    Much like the black folks these Europeans miners were victims of ethnic intimidation.
    Quiet a few people in this region still refer to the slovaks and Russians as “Hunkies”!

    Apologize for the “drfiting”…lol! I am as equally fascinated by the strength they portrayed.

    Also

    They also were very ‘proud’ people.

  3. LM Project says:

    Thanks for your stories, Helen. Amazing! I have heard stories about immigrants being brought in from New York on trains in the early days to work the mines, probably unaware of what they were in for.
    There are quite a few Cheslocks’ in Hazleton. The martyred Michael probably lived to the south of town, maybe in Harwood. I only have records for Lattimer Coal Company, where there are a few of them. Once our records are entered I will post them on line. Katie will be working hard on them this semester at school.
    I also have some old Hazleton city directories. There may be census records from Mahanoy city. They might be interesting to look at. So much work to do! Keep in touch. Mike

  4. Hello, I wanted to chime in on this conversation. Ella (Ellie) Cheslock was my great great grandmother and I believe she was the wife of Michael Cheslock of Harwood as I have read articles about Michael Cheslock’s wife Ellie and daughter Ella. I do know for a fact that he is from Harwood and I am almost 100% sure my great great grandfather. As they seem to have had a few children I am sure many of the Cheslocks in Hazleton are related to Michael.

  5. Also if you guys are interested in discussing this more you can friend me on facebook or if you have an ancestry.com account my screen name is scottyg354. I am curious to find out more about my maternal grandfathers family as Ella or Ellie Cheslock is as far back as I made it.

  6. LM Project says:

    Scott,
    Thanks so much for your comment! We are just starting up some research on ancestry.com, so we will definitely take a look at your profile. Haven’t signed up for an account just yet. AIso, I am hoping to have a full list of employee records from the Lattimer Colliery online by the end of the spring, at least all the names. I believe the cards indicate a Cheslock or two worked at Lattimer in the early twentieth century. I am also collecting census info for Hazleton/ Lattimer.

    It would be really fantastic to trace families back to their passage to America, and possibly to their lives before migration. Pretty difficult though…

    Here is the project email address: LattimerMassacreProject@gmail.com It is the best way to reach us. Could you drop us a line here with an email address? We will send on any info we come up with. Best, Mike (Roller)

  7. Helen A (cheslock) Hilmer says:

    Hi Scott,

    I know this isnt the place for personal messages. However I dont have a facebook account as of yet.
    But I do have a question about a cheslock from Hazleton who owned a pizza shop in Shenandoah back in the 90′s or so. It was located in the plaza near redners.
    If he is related to you then that makes us relatives.
    My sibling spoke to the man yrs ago, before the restaruant closed.
    I will join facebook soon. Just very busy caring for a loved one who is ill.
    Hope to see you soon on facbeook!
    Good luck in your search.

    • john j. peca says:

      Hello Helen, my name is Jon peca my grandparent lived 1305 E. pine st. i remember you and your brother michael, sorry to read about your mother’s passing. Your comments are very interesting on the mining ind. were we came from. Did you ever read the book kingdom of coal. It tells the whole story about the mining industry in schuylkill county and I also wonderd if the miner killed in the lattimer massacre, was related to you. Good luck in your search. I have a cousin on my mothers side finnishing her ancestry on the O’ neills of Mahanoy city. My father completed his in 2000, it was actually pretty easy compared to my mom’s side. Tell Mike I said hello and again good luck, John

      • Helen Cheslock says:

        Hi John,

        So sorry for the delay in replying, I wasn’t logged into here for quite sometime.
        Anyhow, I do recall the Peca family. Your family had a store there too, correct? Also painted on the chimney of the home was the “Contadina moon”:)! It faced our backyard.
        As for reading the book Kingdom Of Coal. No, but I will try to make sure I place it on my reading list! Thanks for the email!

  8. Pingback: Archaeology Project/ New Blog « Lattimer Massacre Project

  9. j peters says:

    The people of Eastern Europe were lured here under false pretenses. The mine operators needed cheap labor and if that labor was also ignorant of the language and customs of this country, so much the better. They were promised high wages, good working conditions and a decent place to live. Once they got here it took them a while to catch on, and by then it was too late. Most of them did not have the means to go back home.

  10. Pingback: Day 10: Beautiful Weather/ Mysterious finds | Lattimer Archaeology Project

  11. Dan Tomkinson says:

    I wrote this a few years ago to commemorate the sacrifice of those who fought for their right to access the American dream…To the many family members and ancestors of the men who sacrificed for us, Thank You and God Bless.

    “Marchin to Lattimer”

    We was only askin for a little
    just a little bit o respect
    workin and dyin in the mine
    was our job and we know’d that

    but at the end of each day
    if we made it that far
    and found our way back home
    every penny I done made
    was taken by the company store.

    Now we’s doin more but makin less
    and we’s dyin right and left
    and the widders and chil’un is left alone
    to starve in the wilderness

    Doncha got no heart?
    Doncha even care?
    if that’s yer way
    ya got nothin to say
    then we’re marchin to Lattimer

    The work in the mine is hard allright,
    and we got no gripe against that
    but ya can’t keep cuuttin pay on us
    thinkin we wouldn’t get mad

    maybe ya think we’s uppity
    that we don’t know our place
    but we’s comin up to Lattimer
    We wanna talk with ya face to face

    ‘Cause we doin more but makin less
    and we’s dyin right and left
    and the widders and chil’un is left alone
    to starve in the wilderness

    Doncha got no heart?
    Doncha even care?
    if that’s yer way
    ya got nothin to say
    then we’re marchin to Lattimer

    So we got some boys who think like us
    from down the Hazelton way
    for the Lattimer mine we set our sights
    400 sang in unity

    And the Pardee folks will know our gripe
    this is the land of the free
    Flying the flag along the way
    We have a right to the American dream

    ‘Cause we doin more but makin less
    and we’s dyin right and left
    and the widders and chil’un is left alone
    to starve in the wilderness

    Doncha got no heart?
    Doncha even care?
    if that’s yer way
    ya got nothin to say
    then we’re marchin to Lattimer

    And Sherriff Martin met our folk
    not far from Lattimer
    he had him 90 deputies
    Said boys, you can’t got there

    So we pled our case on that dusty road
    told him we stand firm
    We’s headin up to Lattimer
    so’s they could hear our terms

    ‘Cause we doin more but makin less
    and we’s dyin right and left
    and the widders and chil’un is left alone
    to starve in the wilderness

    Doncha got no heart?
    Doncha even care?
    if that’s yer way
    ya got nothin to say
    then we’re marchin to Lattimer

    And the Sherriff hung his head right then
    I swear, I heard him sigh
    Said “Boys, I can’t let that happen”
    he grabbed our flag and said “Open fire”

    And the blood ran thick as coal tar
    19 men lay dead
    50 more was wounded
    by Sherriff’s men that day

    doin more but makin less
    and we’s dyin right and left
    and the widders and chil’un is left alone
    to starve in the wilderness

    Doncha got no heart?
    Doncha even care?
    if that’s yer way
    ya got nothin to say
    then we’s marchin to Lattimer

    • LM Project says:

      Dan, thanks so much for posting this, it is great! A really emotional way to imagine the Massacre. As we look at bullets and trial transcripts and maps and things, it is really important thing for us to consider what it felt like to be there, the anger, confusion, sadness etc. that the marchers, and posse, must have felt before, during and after the event. Plays, poetry, music, paintings are great ways to show that side. I am working on a post of images of the massacre i have found through my research, some common, some not. Thanks again and keep in touch!

      • Dan Tomkinson says:

        You’re very welcome, I’m glad you like the poem. Use it as you see fit, I consider it public domain

  12. Nell Finan says:

    Wonderful work that you are doing to preserve this moment in US History for the past, current, and future generations. My Great Grand Father, Dan Coyle, was killed in an “accident” at the mines in June 1879 and his baby daughter, Sarah Coyle, my grandmother was born in October, 1879, never having a chance to know her father. They lived in Harleigh at the time. Mining was a very hard and unappreciated job and killed many before their time.

    My Great Aunt, Grace (Coyle) Nugent (Dan’s daughter) was a school teacher at age 17 or 18 and a witness to this horrible tragedy which occurred in front of the school house where many of the injured ran to in order to escape from the shooters. Grace was then a witness at the trial. The sheriff and deputies were not held accountable at all.

    Grace was also “Blackballed” from teaching in PA, as a result of coming to the aid of the mortally wounded miner, Andrew Jurechek. Grace ripped her petticoats and tried to bandage Andrew’s stomach, pretty much destroyed by the bullets, and his only desire was to see his wife before he died and then right in front of Grace: Andrew’s wife was “heavy with child”, as described in Michael Novak’s “The Guns of Lattimer”. Charles Guscott was another teacher who helped the miners along with Grace and he also was not offered his job the following year.

    • LM Project says:

      Nell, Thank you for the wonderful and amazing comment! Hearing about family histories is the best part of this project. I have never heard the post-history about Grace being blackballed from working in PA. Wow! That really tells us a bit about the institutional environment around that time. Thanks again! Keep in touch!

  13. pboren says:

    I’m curious about the employee cards and whether they are available online. It’s a longshot but possible that my great grandfather was a miner there. He came from Slovakia and had died by the time of the 1900 census so I’ve never seen any formal record for him. His name was Jan (John) Kacmar (caret over the c). Pronounced Katchmar so variant spellings include Kajmar and even Kayman. Appreciate any info or leads. thanks!

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