Sunday, July 28, 2013

Our Coal Mining Vacation

Four years ago Pete and I took our first genealogy vacation. 

2009 was the third or fourth time I'd tried researching Pete's side of the family.  I knew his Dad was born in West Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and Pete's grandmother's name was Cecilia and his grandfather's first name was Adam. And that's about all I knew. So I went poking around the census data from 1900 on.  I was able to find Pete's grandfather, Adam Dagutis, in the 1900 census.  He was a boarder at the home of Joseph and Martha Griskconick, along with six other young men. They were all coal miners. The census form indicated he immigrated to the U.S. in 1894 and that he was from "Poland Rus" or the part of Poland that had been partitioned by Russia.  In the same household was a servant named Cecelia Klimasansluski. She immigrated from Poland Rus in 1899.

With that information, I started searching passenger ship lists, which are great sources for finding out when ancestors came to the U.S. I discovered that Adam Dagutis arrived at Ellis Island onboard the Hamburg-America Line's S/S Patria on 10 Mar 1895.

Hamburg-America Line S/S Patria

I haven't yet found any information about Cecelia Klimasansluski in the passenger lists.  Later in 1900 Adam and Cecelia married. When Adam was required to register for the draft in 1918, he and Cecelia were living at 411 Winters Avenue, West Hazelton, Pennsylvania.  West Hazelton was one of two towns in eastern Pennsylvania where miners could buy their own homes and not be forced by the mines to live in company towns, shop at company stores, and use company doctors.  The story of coal and how powerful the mine owners were is a story for another day.

So in July 2009, Pete and I took a mini vacation to Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. We went to Scranton first and toured the Anthracite Heritage Museum.

Anthracite Heritage Museum, Scranton

I bought a sculpture of a miner made out of anthracite coal. It has an honored place on our family room bookshelves.

Miner made out of anthracite coal

We also toured the Lackawanna Coal Mine, which I'd highly recommend to everyone. It gives you a real appreciation for how hard mining was. This is where mining stopped in 1968 at the Lackawanna mine.

Lackawanna Coal Mine, Scranton

The next day, we drove to West Hazelton. This is the house Pete remembered when his family went to visit his paternal grandparents.

411 Winters Avenue, West Hazelton

Adam and Cecelia had at least eight children that lived. He was a coal miner all his life and died in 1925 of Black Lung Disease at the age of 49. In 1918 he was working for the Cranberry Creek Coal Company.

Topographic map of the Cranberry Creek Coal Mine

His family worshipped at the Sts. Peter and Paul Lithuanian Church, which was established in 1911.  The last mass was held at the church on 8 Jul 2009, a few days before we arrived.

Sts. Peter and Paul Lithuanian Catholic Church, West Hazelton

Pete and I also walked the church graveyard looking for Adam and Cecelia's headstones.  We never found them, though we did find a lot of Dagutis, Degutis, Dagutes, and many more spelling variations.  The cemetery is on a hill as you head out of town down a dead-end road. There, side-by-side, separated by stone walls are cemeteries for several of the churches in town. All those cemeteries give you a very solemn feeling as you are walking the rows and many of the markers were quite elaborate.

Sts. Peter and Paul Lithuanian Church Cemetery, West Hazelton

On our last day we went to Eckley, Pennsylvania, which is a company town. The town was used as the location for the movie, Molly Maguires. Many structures were built especially for the movie, including the breaker:

Eckley Breaker

More photos of our 2009 coal mining and genealogy vacation are available on my Tangled Roots and Trees Facebook page. Pete and I will go back now that I'm a bit more experienced at genealogy research and visit the local historic societies and also the archdiocese to look for the church records.

No comments:

Post a Comment