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Hi, My name is Vickie and to tell you a little bit about myself, I was born and raised in Kentucky and the majority of my ancestors have been in Kentucky since the 1790’s. I have always loved history, a good mystery and puzzles and that is what Family History Research is all about. As a child we would take day trips on Saturdays and head down some dirt road looking for old cemeteries. A lot of the time we weren't looking for anyone in particular, we just like to read the epitaphs. We would have a picnic lunch packed and have lunch at whatever cemetery we were at. If the weather was bad my Dad and I would go to a court house and dig through old records in musty old basements looking for our ancestors. So as you can see I have had an interest in Family History for quite some time.View my complete profile

Sunday, May 10, 2015

George McKinsie Doss

I couldn't sleep well a few nights ago and so I starting wondering who I should write about for this week’s installment and my great-uncle George, just would not leave my mind.  This was my Daddy’s uncle, his mother Jessie Doss’ older brother.  Daddy never knew him because he had died when my Mama Jessie was just 15 years old.  Mama Jessie talked about him all the time when I was a kid growing up in Kentucky.  She loved all of her siblings, but there was a special place in her heart for this particular brother.  Another reason to write about Uncle George is that just this past week a granddaughter of Uncle George’s older brother, Fred Raymond Doss, contacted me and just yesterday she sent me a big packet of old pictures to look through and try to identify.  It has definitely been a Doss week, loving it.

George McKinsie Doss was the fourth child and second son, born to his parents George Samuel Doss and Nancy Lougena Woosley.  George was born August 20, 1887 in Clay, Webster County, Kentucky.  His oldest sister, was born in Christian County, Kentucky but all of the rest of his siblings were also born in Clay or Clayville as it was called during that time.  George’s siblings were: Lena ‘Lenie’ Alice Doss Boyd 1879-1960, Lillie Mildred Doss Worsham 1881-1937, Fred Raymond Doss 1885-1952, Lloyd Robert Doss 1890-1982, Verla ‘Verlie’ Leona Doss Smith 1893-1971, Anna ‘Annie’ Luretha Doss Johnson 1896-1976 and Jessie Holeman Doss 1899-1984 (my grandma).

From all the stories my Mama Jessie told about her brother, George, he must have been the family clown.  According to her, he was always smiling, laughing, telling jokes and pulling pranks, not only on his siblings but on his parents as well.  He would throw snakes and frogs on the girls and even put a snake in his mother’s flour bin at least once.  That would have been the last prank he pulled on me, I would have tanned his hide good, once my heart started beating again.  J  This must be where my Daddy’s brother, Donald Ray, or Uncle Duck as most of us called him, got his mischievousness from.  Duck because he would talk like Donald Duck and make all of us kids smile and laugh when he did.  Uncle Duck would call my Daddy with a new joke all the time and then Daddy would call us kids and tell us the jokes Uncle Duck had just told him.  I am sure if Uncle George had access to a phone back in the day he probably would have done the exact same thing.

He apparently loved to sing too, because Mama Jessie said, he was always singing no matter if he was doing chores, walking down the road or setting at the table, he would just bust out singing.  From gospel songs and old time country songs to bawdy songs, he would sing at the top of his lungs.  Now his mother loved the gospel songs and she didn't mind most of the old time country songs either, but when he burst out with some bawdy song, he had heard at the mines or some bar he had stopped at, she would chase him down with her rolling pin and smack him right on the shoulders.  I can only imagine how that must of hurt if she caught him good, but Mama Jessie said it never did stop him from singing those songs, mainly because he knew it would get his momma, hopping mad.  J

The following is the only picture I have ever seen of him.  If I remember right Mama Jessie use to have a large oval frame with this picture in it, but I don’t know whatever happen to it.  Hopefully one of my cousins has it in their home.  This picture was probably taken sometime between 1905 and 1910, just five to ten years or so before he passed away.  He was a good looking young man for sure.



George worked at a lot of different jobs, farming and cutting timber with his dad and brothers, fishing along the river and coal mining which was becoming really big especially in Southern Illinois and Western Kentucky.  Some of his sisters had married and moved with their families over to Southern Illinois around the Harrisburg area, because of the chance of getting good work and pay in the mines.  George did the same thing and soon was working in the O’Gara #4 mine in Harrisburg.  I found the following history about the mining in Saline County, Illinois where most of the family was living for a time.  I included all the different mines so that if any of my cousins that read this know the mine number of the mines their family members might have worked in then they will have a little history for their ancestors as well.

From this site http://hinton-gen.com/coal/saline_mines2.html we read the following: “Coal Mines in Saline County = The year 1905 was an important one in the Saline County coal industry.  The O'Gara Coal Company was organized with a capitalization of six million dollars.  Thomas J. O'Gara was president, Thomas J. Jones, treasurer, and W. A. Brewerton, was secretary.  The company purchased many mines in the county, and became the largest producer of coal in this part of the State.  At that time, the county was producing annually approximately four hundred and twenty five thousand tons of coal with an underground employment of slightly over four hundred miners.  By the end of 1906, the O'Gara Company had purchased most of the shipping mines in the county.  At that time, there were fifteen shipping mines and seven local mines.  Approximately one thousand miners were employed, and they produced half a million tons of coal annually.  The year 1906 saw the O'Gara Company gain a virtual monopoly of the deep shaft mines in the county.  Almost without exception, they stretched alongside the Big Four Railroad tracks in the county.  The O'Gara Company purchased both these mines on October 15, 1906, and renamed them O'Gara No. 10 mine, and O'Gara No. 11 mine.  In this same period, another company, the Harrisburg Big Muddy Coal Company, was organized.  The principal owner was T. J. Patterson.  A mine was sunk on the railroad in Muddy.  The shaft was sunk through a fault, and Patterson thought he had reached the No. 5 vein, when he really had penetrated the No. 7 vein.  The O'Gara Company purchased this mine on July 1, 1906 and designated it as its No. 12 mine.   The Carrier Mills Coal Company had sunk a mine in the Thompson community, near Carrier Mills, and on May 22, 1906 sold this property to the O'Gara Company.  It was designated as the No. 13 mine, although it had been purchased before the No. 12 mine.  The interesting thought arises from this transaction that Thomas J. O'Gara bore an Irish name, and probably was somewhat superstitious, inasmuch as the No. 13 mine was shut down immediately on purchase, and never was operated thereafter.  The Ledford Coal Company had sunk a deep shaft mine to the No. 5 vein of coal in 1905 a short distance north of the village of Ledford.  The O'Gara Company purchased this property on July 12, 1906 and designated it as its No. 14 mine.  At the same time when sinking the "Green Gravel" mine, J. J. Morris, together with Joe Coslett, Alex Morris, Dan Dewar and Charles V. Parker sunk a deep shaft mine north of Carrier Mills.  This mine was sold to the O'Gara company on April 15, 1906 and was designated the No. 15 mine.  These purchases rounded out the acquisition program of the O'Gara Company.   The Harrisburg Mining Coal Company was changed to O'Gara Coal Company No. 4 in 1906.  1906 Annual Improvements:  The O'Gara Coal Company, at Harrisburg, has changed its No. 2, 3 and 4 mines from hand to machine mines, and has introduced the Morgan-Gardner electric machines.  The electric plant is located at the No. 3 shaft.  The cable is on top of the ground to numbers 2 and 4 shafts, so that the one electric plant does the work for the three shafts.  Two Erie automatic dynamo engines have been installed at No. 3 mine.  These are 19 by 18 inches, making 210 revolutions per minute, and will develop at this speed about 240 H. P.  They are belt connected to two 150 K. W., 250 volts, Morgan-Gardner generators. These machines do good work in this coal, each machine getting out from 150 to 200 tons a day.”

Uncle George was killed in a coal mining accident at the No. 4 Mine of the O'Gara Coal Company in Harrisburg, Saline County, Illinois on February 6, 1915.  He was only 27 years old and had never been married and had no children with anyone that I am aware of.  From the history I gave you in the above paragraph I also found the following: “O'Gara Coal Mine No. 4, O'Gara Coal Company 1905-1918, the last production reported was in June 1918, and one death was caused by a gas explosion.”  It does not give the person’s name, but it would have to be our Uncle George.  Some newspaper accounts that my Daddy said he had found, say a number of men were killed in the cave in that killed Uncle George, but the above report says only one person was ever killed in #4.  I need to see if I can find any of the old newspapers myself and see what they say.  Just four years later in 1919, Uncle George’s brother-in-law, Leonard Worsham, was also killed in a coal mining accident there in Saline County, Illinois.  Leonard was his sister Lillie’s husband.  Coal mining was and still is a pretty dangerous occupation to have.

From stories that Mama Jessie told and from the ones Daddy use to tell me too, just as George and his brother-in-law, James William Webster Smith, aka ‘Smokey Bill’, were almost to the mouth of the mine a big slap of slate fell from the roof of the mine and crushed George and he lived for about 3 or 4 days after.  His brother-in-law, Will Smith, husband of Verlie, somehow raised that big old piece of slate off of George and dragged him out from under it.  Will had somehow been missed by the falling debris.  Before George died some of his friends came over and sang, ‘In the Sweet By and By’, and George sang some with them and everyone wondered how he did it.  He called in all the family to talk to them before he died and the last one he called in was his sister, Jessie, who he always called Judy.  He told her to not be sad and to always try and be good girl and a few minutes later he died.  I remember so many times hearing the stories Mama Jessie told about him, and I don’t believe she ever got over the death of her beloved brother George.   I wish I could have known him too, he sounds like such a fun loving man.

The following picture is of my great-uncle, James William Webster Smith, aka ‘Smokey Bill’ on the left and his cousin Volie Smith on the right with the ears.  Volie Smith was also my great-uncle for a short time, having been married to Uncle George's sister, my great-aunt, Anna 'Annie' Luretha Doss for a couple of years.  This picture was probably taken around the time of Uncle George's death or shortly after.


The following picture is of my Mama Jessie, taken just a year or so after her brother, George died.  I think she looks pretty sad still.


Every time I think about Uncle George or Uncle Leonard or other family members that have died in coal mining accidents, I always think of the following song, one my Daddy use to sing quite a bit and I still know most of the words too.  The following is a you tube video that someone did for this song with John Prine singing it.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEy6EuZp9IY

"Paradise"

By: John Prine

When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there's a backwards old town that's often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.

"And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the green river where paradise lay?"
"Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away"

Well, sometimes we'd travel right down the Green River
To the abandoned old prison down by Adrie Hill
Where the air smelled like snakes and we'd shoot with our pistols
But empty pop bottles was all we would kill.

"And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the green river where paradise lay?"
"Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away"

Then the coal company came with the world's largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.

"And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the green river where paradise lay?"
"Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away"

When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
I'll be halfway to Heaven with paradise waitin'
Just five miles away from wherever I am.

"And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the green river where paradise lay?"
"Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away"

No matter if it was underground or strip mining, my family played a part in the early coal production in Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois.  I still have cousins to this day that work in the coal mining industry.  My first cousin Debbie’s fiancé Eddie was killed when he was crushed working in a mine in Madisonville, Kentucky in July of 2006.  Ninety-one years after my great-uncle George and it is still a very dangerous occupation to have.

7 comments:

  1. Ohhh that was so good n hear about the doss n smith so happy you do this like Pam l love you all n happy mom day.

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  2. Good story as usual. He was a handsome young man. Is Lewis on your list of stories to do this year or is that too far removed from your mom's side?

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  3. I love "Roots and Branches" and today's song breaks my heart because "my" town - Sturgis, is withering away too. Just to let you know that I have two great nephews who still work in coal mines in Southern Illinois - one nephew worked in Union County, KY until "black lung" got to him. I think every male in Western Kentucky over the age of 15 worked in the "mines" at one time or other - back a ways.

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  4. Just finished reading about uncle George. I remember the stories of the mines in southern IL. I remember a cap my dad had with a light on top. Had a strange smell. (Carbine ?) My brother worked for a fluorspar mining co. He retired as a foreman. So many mining accidents. My sister in law's dad was killed in a mining accident when she was a tiny baby. She never knew him. Well, thanks for article. Received it on my email.

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  5. Vickie, How odd that you posted the "Paradise" song. I have listened many times to the "Jim & Jesse" version of it over the years. Odd because as I was doing my Doss research, it took me to Central City KY, Muhlenberg county. Once there, searching for graves, my Gr grandparents and many other Dosses are in a cemetery called Greenberry Rose, which is the only parcel of property that the Peabody mine could never purchase. This is supposedly the location of the community that Paradise was written about. The town is completely gone.The cemetery and small homestead there is surrounded by stripped out areas now filled with water (ponds) and pines that were planted back in the days following the mining devastation. Now years later it is a fishing and hunting "Paradise" teeming with wildlife. When I was there, the song kept running through my mind, over and over. I felt our family calling, also went down to the Green River to sit and reflect. Central City has many other of my direct Doss ancestors there also at Mt. Zion and other cemeteries. Thanks for this posting, bringing that memory back to me. Lloyd Doss

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  6. Lloyd, Thanks so much for your kind comments it is appreciated. I would love to see and hear about what Doss line you come through.

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