Thursday, November 27, 2008

G.D. Morgan's Memories of 1929 Trip West and Back to WV

Don't worry, Dave re-typed this so you can double click on the photo below, or read what Grover wrote further down the page.



In 1928, Harry (H.B.) Morgan, while Gen. Supt. of BY PRODUCTS POCAHONTAS COAL CO. at Big Four, WV, was offered the position of GEN. SUPT. of a new coal mine to be built near Bartley, WV in McDowell County. The mine (with employee living quarters to be built as a new coal camp would be called “HARMOR”), and would be a deep “shaft” mine as was the present mine at Bartley a mile or so distant. Harry Morgan was familiar with the dangerous “gassy” conditions of the Bartley mine and was also aware of the physical dangers of “shaft” mines since the only egress from such mines in case of an explosion was up to the earth’s surface via the shaft. This condition as opposed to a “drift” mine in which the entrance and exit could be traversed at any time by just walking in or out. H. B. wanted no part of a “gassy” shaft mine and turned down the offer, which then passed to the then-Supt. of the Bartley mine, Raymond Salvati, and the coal camp was subsequently named “RAYSAL.” Tragically, the Bartley mine “blew up” a few months later killing at least 65 miners.

The mine explosion coupled with the long pent up desire of H. B. to get out of the coal business and buy a small farm and raise chickens led to a plan to go west and “settle” near Chandler, AZ. So, after purchasing a “tent trailer” (Gilkey), he quit his job at Big Four in August 1929, and with the trailer behind the 1927 seven passenger Packard sedan the entire family left WV to seek whatever fortune awaited them in Arizona. Fortunately or unfortunately the plans to buy a chicken ranch did not come to fruition, and after six weeks of looking and visiting the C. E. Smith family (Mrs. H. B.’s brother Charlie) in Riverside, CA. The family returned to WV around Oct. 1, 1929 to Princeton, WV. Just why H. B. picked Princeton was never explained to anyone of the family.

Anyway, with very limited funds remaining H. B. was able to rent a house in Princeton and obtain enough “used” furniture to enable his family to get along while he went back to the coal field to find a job doing the only thing he knew he was good at. Within two days he was hired as General Superintendent of a coal mine located at Thacker Mines, WV (Mingo county), and the family was moved there within a few days of his getting the position.

Sometime during 1930 H. B. (thru Princeton Bank & Trust Co.) purchased the “defunct”Crotty dairy farm (52 acres on the Eastern outskirts of Princeton) and later named the spread “Five Oaks” because of five large oak trees which surrounded the springs which furnished water for the farm needs.

Various members of the Morgan family lived and worked at the “farm” until H. B. and Ellice could no longer take care of the place by themselves during 1952. The entire farm was sold via auction and H. B. and Ellice moved to North Miami, FL.


[H. B. Morgan below 1932, Thacker Mine West Virginia.]

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