Star Junction: The Company Store, circa 1900
 
Just about every coal patch had a Company Store, so-called because the coal company owned it. See below to learn how the coal companies took the miners’ pay right back from them by forcing them to shop at the Company Store. This photograph was made in about 1900 by the Webmaster’s grandfather, George A. Baughman. If you remember the Company Store from a later era (it was open through the 1950’s) you remember it looking much different than it does here. At the time of this photo the front of the store faced northward toward what is now the doctor’s office; the railroad tracks (now Rt. 51) would have been to the left in this photo and the original Rt. 51 and the churches to the right. When the store was enlarged the original facade was walled over and a new facade was built facing westward toward Church St.
Below is an enlargement of the men and boy. Please e-mail the Webmaster if you can identify any of these people.
Photo courtesy R.C. Baughman

Above: Two examples of miners’ scrip from the late 1800’s. The coal barons were in the business of making themselves rich, not the people who labored for them. One of the means they employed to achieve this end was to pay the miners (outright slavery having been abolished) and then take the “money” they paid the miners right back from them. I say “money” because sometimes the miners were not paid in money at all, but in “scrip,” which could be spent only at the Company Store. It could not be exchanged for real currency; note that both pieces of scrip above state that the scrip is payable “in merchandise.”

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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