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Religion

Only one miner, Vic Benco, responded with a story related to religion. In his words, "Its been said that she [St. Barbara--patron saint of coal miners.] led about 25 miners out of the mine after a collapse of the mine roof. They followed a bright light." Though he gave no indication of where he found this story, it does show some evidence of this practice. Richard Marcavitch also stated that outside the Maple Creek Mine entrance, there is an icon of Saint Barbara.


In "Mining Engineering" (November 1985), there is an article on Saint Barbara. This article provides the most discussion of religion in coal mining. Saint Barbara was a young virgin who defied her father and decided not to marry. Because of this he kept her in a tower. She ordered some workmen to alter the tower while her father was away, thus becoming the saint of architects. After finding out about this her father chased her to the hills where she was swallowed up by the hill. This is how she became the patron saint of miners. Her name is attached to Santa Barbara, California. There is a prayer for miners dedicated to Saint Barbara.

"As I now descend into the dark bowels of the earth, I beseech thee, sweet Barbara, that I be kept safe from harm, for it liketh me not that I rush unbidden into God's presence."

There is other religious aspects to the coal mining industry. An advertisement for miners from 1904 says:

"O Lord after I have worked my last day and come out of the earth and have placed my feet on Thy footstool, let me use the tools of prudence, faith, hope and charity. From now on till I will be called to sign my last pay roll, make all the cables in the machinery strong with Thy love. Supply all the gang ways, slopes, and chambers with the pure air of Thy grace ad let the light of hope be my guidance, and when my last picking and shoveling is done, may my last car be full of Thy grace and give me the Holy Bible for my last shift, so that Thou, the General Superintendent of all the collieries can say: "Well done, thou good, faithful miner come, and sign the pay roll and receive the check of eternal happiness." Amen"

Religion has certainly subsided from those days. There is no major push for religion in the mines. The men have scattered from the ethnic enclaves in the patches which fostered a sense of religion.

                                               

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