History is story.
Story handed down orally, generation to generation. Story made more permanent in written form. Story as legend.
My latest book, “Digging Dusky Diamonds,” is this kind of history. Based on contemporary newspaper accounts, genealogical records, family stories and even some legends that have become part of the lore of
anthracite mining region where I grew up.
I clearly remember as a boy seeing throngs of miners pouring like a stream, their faces blackened, shoulders slumped in weariness, boots shuffling along the paving as they ended their shifts at the Glen Burn in Shamokin.
My paternal ancestors were mainly involved as canal boatmen and, later, as railroaders transporting the coal from place to place. But my great-grandfather, Henry Francis Fisher, his father and brothers were all miners. Three of Henry’s brothers died as the result of mine accidents.
My focus is on Northumberland and
counties—the areas I’m most familiar with—though similar conditions prevailed
across the anthracite mining region in the 19th and early 20th
While there is some technical information on the process of mining, the emphasis is more on the miners and how they and their families lived and worked, loved and died. The stories reveal the harshness of their lives, their daily concerns, their diversions, social attitudes and prejudices.
The accounts reveal what was different about those people and what has remained constant in us, their descendants.