Star Junction: The Company Store, circa 1900
Photo courtesy R.C. Baughman
|Right: This pay envelope
belonged to the Webmaster's maternal great grandfather, Adam Baughman,
who was a coal miner for the Washington Coal and Coke Company in
Star Junction. The envelope reveals a great deal about the financial
situation of a typical coal miner in the late 1890’s. Adam
loaded 79 five-ton wagons in the two-week period from March 1 -
15, 1895. If we assume that he worked six days a week, he shoveled
32.9 tons--about 66,000 pounds--of coal each day (39.5 tons per
day if he worked a five-day week). He was paid 40 cents for each
five-ton wagon that he filled, which gave him a gross pay of $31.60.
The deductions tell the story of a coal miner's life. He had to
shop at the Company Store, where his bill for these two weeks was
$17.00. The company owned his house, of course, and his rent came
to $3.00. The company owned the tools that he used--a pick and
shovel--but he had to pay the company $0.25 for sharpening. These
deductions would have left him with a take-home pay of $11.35.
But the company also owned his
doctor. After deducting the $9.10 that Adam owed Dr. Cook, the
company doctor, his take-home pay for two weeks, during which he
shoveled 395 tons of coal, was $2.25--less than a penny per ton.
The company owned the store Adam shopped in, the house (and indeed, the whole town) that he lived in, his tools, and his doctor. For all practical purposes, the company owned Adam Baughman. Adam died as a result of a coal-mining accident—more here.
The Smock Historical Society operates a very nice museum depicting life in the coal patches.
Do you have knowledge of past events that would interest our visitors? Please e-mail the webmaster.
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