Friends the recent tragedy at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia has been headline news around the world and for people who have lived in mining communities it has really hit home. I am proud to say that I come for a mining family. My father briefly worked in the coal mines and was actually part of a mine rescue team back in the 60's, my grandfather Barnette was a miner, worked as a federal mine inspector and after retirement owned a mine with his sons. My grandfather on my mother’s side was not so lucky. When he was just 38 yrs old he was killed in the mines trying out a new piece of equipment. Below is an article my aunt Barbara wrote in memory of her father. Please continue to pray for the families of those who lost love ones and pray for those who do this dangerous job everyday. God Bless
Death of a Coal Miner Cebert Dean Murphy born June 17, 1918 died October 30, 1956 in a mining accident in Vivian W. Va.
Cebert with joy in his face told his wife Agnes, that when he went to work that night, he was going to get to operate a new machine called a “Continuous Miner.” This was a far cry from the time he had to work on his knees because of the low ceiling to load coal with a shovel. Cebert was like a little boy with a new toy...he explained to Agnes that a Continuous Miner cut and loaded coal simultaneously. It would now be possible to cut and load a ton of coal in a matter of seconds. For safety sake, it required an operator and another man behind him to let the operator know when he needed to back out for the roof to be supported with timbers; once the machine cut and loaded a large amount of coal, the operator would back out and timbers would be installed to support the roof.
Cebert left home that night a very excited person. Before entering the mines, he fills the bottom of his lunch bucket with fresh water that the mines supplies. As he opens the top of his lunch bucket to get out some bubble gum--he notices that his daughters, Kay and Barbara had packed two salami sandwiches and they had also put in a fried apple pie that his wife had made that day. He took out the bubble gum, unwrapped it and placed it in his mouth. He now chews bubble gum when he works in the mines because it cuts the taste of the coal dust. A lot of men preferred to chew tobacco, but his youngest daughter Lizzy thought that chewing tobacco was nasty and had packed bubble gum in his lunch bucket instead of the tobacco. He smiled to himself thinking of “Lizzy.” With her dark sparkling eyes, he knew that he could never turn down any request from her. She was his youngest and very dear to his heart. He admitted to himself that he did spoil her. He admired the way that she stood up to him. He placed his goggles on top of his helmet and tested his light going to his helmet to make sure that it worked. Turning the light off, he then placed the helmet connected with a cord to a battery light on his head and hooked the battery pack to his belt. With his lunch bucket in one hand, Cebert got onto the electric tram along with the other men that were working the hoot owl night shift. The electric tram took the men to their designated work location. After being on the job for two hours, he was involved in a fatal accident which cost him his life.
Cebert came back home resting in a coffin. The man who was his “spotter” either didn’t get his attention or he didn’t hear him, he went too far and a very large piece of roof fell on the machine and crushed his head--the only part of his body that wasn’t enclosed in the seat of the machine. He was killed instantly. He left behind three sisters, two brothers, a widow, an enlisted son in the Air Force, and three teenage daughters; ages sixteen, fourteen, and eleven. Cebert died doing what he enjoyed most--playing with a new toy.