Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Sunday morning, August 20, 1911

He met Sam on Coal Hill Road, just in front of the school. They spoke briefly, there was a single gunshot, and Sam lay dying in the road. His brother, a deputy U.S. Marshall, took him to the jail where his friend Eck locked him up. He was tried and convicted on Tuesday, and returned to Eck's care. Wednesday morning he was gone. Another state, a new identity. The courthouse burned and all records were lost. His wife and children quietly disappeared a few months later. The end of the story.

Immigrants in this place, like so many other coal miners. And like so many other coal miners, they didn't talk about their past. Children and grandchildren born here knew only that there was a family secret. As the years passed, little bits of information began to seep out; the state they were from, their former name, he had killed a man.

They're all dead now; him, his wife, and all of their children. Grandchildren search for clues in old newspapers and among distant relatives. Bits and pieces leading nowhere. Why did it happen? Was it over a woman? Money? Labor disputes? Will we ever know? A century later, is that really important?


  1. Such deep secrets, the truth will probably never be told....
    The way of the immigrants, and mountain settlers,
    loyalty and steadfastness.

  2. I have been trying to uncover some family secrets for years and I am about ready to realize I will never know the secret. So be it. It is the way of life sometimes. Sad report on your post's family secret -- barbara