Saturday, July 16, 2011
Trains played important roles in intra- and inter-county transportation. Their accounts, such as these from March 12, 1926, often raised more question than provided answers.
MOTORMAN RUN OVER AND KILLED
A motorman on a train was thrown to the tracks and run over when his train “wrecked.”
MAN HURT IN LEAP FROM TRAIN, DIES
T.B. Branham died in the Jenkins hospital after he had jumped from a moving train on February 28. No reason was given for the jump.
Accidental deaths seemed all too common, judging from their frequency of appearance in The Pike County News, and it is not surprising that many of them were associated with coal mining. These tragedies usually did not involve numerous fatalities, typically one or two men. The phrase “slate fall” was frequently used in the description. These two reports were from August 13 and November 25, 1926:
POND CREEK MINER IS KILLED BY SLATE FALL
Miner Levi Hall was killed in a slate fall in the Fordson Mine at Hardy, Kentucky.
YOUNG MINER KILLED FRIDAY IN SLATE FALL
“Johnny Akers, 28, was killed instantly last Friday afternoon by a slate fall while working in the mines of the Ford Elkhorn Coal Company at Robinson Creek.”
Other coal mine incidents usually involved circumstances not encountered today, such as this one from July 23, 1926. It’s an open question how a miner would have to opportunity to take a nap, and why it would be done in such a dangerous place:
FATAL ACCIDENT IN HENRY CLAY MINES
A 21 year old miner fell asleep too close to mine car track, and was struck and killed.
This accident report on August 13, 1926 indicates safety did not play an important part in the mines. The News treated the event as just another mining accident.
MOTORMAN KILLED BY A LIVE WIRE IN MINE
W. B. Caldwell, 26, a motorman at Elkhorn Coal Company, was electrocuted walking into a mine when his head hit a live wire.
A fascinating article appeared August 20, 1926, entitled, REVIEWS PROGRESS OF WAR ON DISEASE. This article provides information from the U.S. Public Health Service for 1924 on disease statistics for the country, and some comparisons to previous years. It stated progress was significant in many diseases, while some were holding steady and some were actually increasing.
The leading cause of death today for men and women is heart disease, but it may seem odd that the leading cause of death in 1924 for men and women was also heart disease.
Tuberculosis was a significant killer. Reports for 1924 were available from only 35 states at the time of the article, and they totaled over 78,000 deaths. Extrapolation to the rest of the country would show a total of 112,000. However, if the TB death rate from 1900 were applied to 1924, the total would have been 233,000.
Based on data supplied from the same 35 states, there were 10,700 deaths from diphtheria. Again, extrapolating from 1900 rates would have produced nearly 50,000 deaths.
Although no numbers were provided, it says that whooping cough still kills thousands of infants and children.
The editor and manager of the Pike County News, J. W. Roland, wrote what was the equivalent of today’s editorial page, although it was not labeled as such. Eighty years later his ideas do not seem forward-thinking. Here are two examples.
This is from March 26, 1926:
JUST A WORD TO PIKE COUNTY
Rowland says that Pike County has depended too long on the coal industry for its prosperity. He suggests that agriculture should be Pike County’s future, and gives several examples. He does not provide specific reasons for backing away from coal. Pike County produced more coal in 1999 than the entire state in 1920, so his suggestion was wide of the mark.
This is from April 2, 1926:
THINKING ABOUT PROHIBITION
This is an editorial in which it is suggested the 18th amendment should be called the Health Amendment because the name prohibition is negative and makes people want to do it. Did he really think people would stop producing and consuming alcohol if the word “prohibition” was changed to “health?” Sometimes it is not possible to tell if the author is serious or kidding.
Public infrastructure was minimal or non-existent in rural areas. People would build their homes most anywhere, often without knowledge of their vulnerability in extreme weather conditions. Articles such as this one from March 12, 1926 of the Pike County News were fairly common:
“The last chapter in the tragic story of the cloud burst at Coaldale on February 14th, when five persons lost their lives, was written in the finding of the body of Essie Sykes at 2:30 Tuesday afternoon.”