You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Those words rang true for the thousands of coal miners that lived in the vicinity of Guernsey County, Ohio during the early 1900s.
In order to honor these men and coal miners across the nation, a statue in their honor has been placed at the old train depot in Byesville, Ohio. This is no ordinary statue as it was commissioned by Alan Cottrill, internationally renowned sculptor, who has his studio in Zanesville.
Why, you might ask, is this statue in Byesville? Why not place it in some larger city? Byesville was the coal capital of Ohio back in the early 1900s. Perhaps a hundred and fifty trains would roar down their tracks each day. Cars carried coal from Marietta to Cleveland and often into Canada.
Raising money for the statue was itself a challenge. Contributions came from local residents as well as all those who rode the now silent Byesville Scenic Railway. Total cost of this memorial was $40,000. So if you rode the train or visited their museum, perhaps you had a hand in making that statue become reality.
When you made a donation in any amount, you were given a badge saying:
I GAVE COAL MINERS MEMORIAL BYESVILLE OHIO
This was no ordinary badge as it was designed very carefully. Each color on the badge had great significance.
Yellow stands for a beam of sunshine that sheds light on the darkness of the dungeon of a dark and gray mine.
Gray is for the rock/slate layers that are found above and below the seams of coal.
Black needs little explanation as it is the color of coal, also known as black diamonds, buried sunshine, or rocks that burn.
Red is for the color of blood that was spilled onto the ground from those who either lost their lives or were injured while working about the mine.
Everything on this bronze statue has meaning.
His hat gave him a place to hang his carbide light. This was the only light down in those coal black mines. The miner had to purchase the pellets to fill his carbide light…at the company store, of course.The coal mines gave them nothing. Why, they had to buy their own picks and dynamite!
If you look closely at the statue, the miner’s brass tag reads 382, the number of coal miners who lost their lives in the deep mines of Guernsey County over the mines’ sixty active years.
The miner statue is missing his right index finger in honor of all the men injured in the mines. The dinner pail he carries was made by the Buckeye Aluminum Co. and was an important part of the miners day.
Many of those miners were immigrants, often called dumb hunkies Everyone headed out to work swinging their dinner pail. The pails could not be set down on the mine floor or the rats, the miners’ mascot, would open them and eat their lunch. So miners always hung their dinner pails high on the mine wall.
A West Virginia ham sandwich was quite the treat. That ham by the way was what we call bologna.They always left a little something in their pail, just in case a cave in occurred and they might be below ground all night. If they made it safely through the day, the miners would let the children have their pails on the way home for a little snack.
From top to bottom each item has special significance from his hat to the dynamite at his feet.
A portion of the plaque behind the statue states:
May the personal sufferings, sacrifices and the hardships endured by your families, never be forgotten nor taken for granted.
May the memory of these unsung heroes live on for generations.
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue can be found in Byesville, Ohio off I-77. Take Exit 41 and head into the small town of Byesville. Turn left on Second Street and two blocks down on the right hand side you will see the old train depot. The statue stands in front of the depot.