Dark side of mining
NANTICOKE – Coal mining helped fuel America’s industrial revolution. The industry which once thrived in the Wyoming Valley also brought a lot of heartache for families. The highlights and tragedies are brought to life in the “Anthracite Miners and Their Hollowed Ground” art exhibit at Luzerne County Community College’s Schulman Gallery. The exhibit featuring multi-dimensional art by Dallas artist Sue Hand, opened Friday night and will be on display through April 21. The exhibit brought back some painful memories for Kathleen McDermott. Her uncles are just four of the thousands of men that lost their lives since 1870 in mining disasters throughout the valley. Her uncles died in 1919 during the Baltimore Tunnel tragedy. “There were some 20 children left orphaned on that day alone,” McDermott recalled. Joseph Husty Jr. never got a chance to meet his grandfather. He died in 1934 from burns he received during a mine explosion in the Henry Colliery in Plains. For 40 years, Husty has made it a mission to keep his memory alive by collecting and displaying coal miner artifacts. Through his research, Husty learned that 30,905 men lost their lives from 1870 to 1993 in mining disasters throughout the valley. Ireland Consul General Niall Burgess, who traveled from New York to attend the grand opening, urged people not to forget the contributions from Irish immigrants. “I think we are at risk for forgetting some of our complex past. The Irish immigrant story here in the United States is such a rich one. The mining aspect of that story is such a rich one it deserves to be better remembered and to be told,” Burgess said. He praised the art because he thinks it will help preserve that proud heritage. John McKeown of Wilkes-Barre was instrumental in bringing this exhibit to the college in hopes of educating young people of the triumphs, sacrifices and lives of coal miners. “I think children today growing up and going to school are not aware of this. So this will permit them to come here and see how their ancestors made their living when they came here to this country,” said McKeown, one of the founders of the Donegal Society of Greater Wilkes-Barre.