Tuesday, October 15, 2013

(LUKE) John Lang, Miner

My great-great-grandfather, John Emil Lang, left Sweden in the 1880s. By 1895 he had settled in Silver City, Utah. He mined in the American West for 30 years.
Me in Silver City, September 2012.
Another website says these are the basement steps of the store. 
The US Department of Labor reports that “From 1880 to 1910, mine explosions and other accidents claimed thousands of victims. ...mining was...highly hazardous. Fires, explosions and roof falls caused many deaths and injuries. In the early 20th century approximately 1,500 miners died annually.1

Despite the dangers, even children participated in mining. As a “youth,” John's son Rudolph worked in the mines, carrying buckets of water on a yoke.3

"Job insecurity also plagued miners. Few could count on full-time work the year around. The periodic recessions and depressions that affected both the American economy as a whole and the mining industry in particular resulted in long periods of unemployment and often wiped out the savings of even the most frugal families.”2

Miners in Silver City also faced local troubles. In the 1890s water began to flood the mines. In 1902, a fire caused widespread destruction. Reinvestment five years later doubled the population to 1,500, but the boom did not last. By 1912, only 300 people remained in Silver City. The Langs rode out all of these storms, staying in the town for at least ten more years.
All that's left of Silver City, September 2012
Falling rocks. Runaway ore cars. Bad air. Lead poisoning. Lung disease. Cave-ins. Miners faced a multitude of job-related dangers. But in the end, it was living near a mine, not being a miner, that spelled the end for John Lang.

On Saturday morning, September 2, 1922, 57-year-old John Lang disappeared while walking near his home. His absence was noted within minutes and the alarm was sounded, but it was already too late: John had fallen into an abandoned mineshaft. The 75' fall resulted in a fractured skull, and probably instant death.

The local newspaper carried reports of four other injuries in local mines that week, caused by 2 less serious falls, a cave-in, and someone falling under a mine cart.4 John's death made the front page.

Between a picture of a European monarch and an article on local democracy lies my great-great-grandfather's obituary: bridging the Old World and the New, even in death.

  • According to Utah History-To-Go, “Falls down mine shafts were one of the  most common fatalities.”2
  • For the curious, my lineage:
    • John Emil Lang (1865 – 1922) is your 2nd great grandfather
    • Rudolph Edwin Lang (1899 – 1987) son of John Emil Lang
    • Zenda Constance Lang (1924 – 2005) daughter of Rudolph Edwin Lang
      (Zenda is my grandma.)

3 Rudolph Lang Eulogy, given by Dean Lang on 8 Dec 1987. Copy in my possession.
4 Eureka Reporter, 8 Sep 1922. That week's issue also included an ad that advocated letting children “eat their fill” of “pure candy,” a report on labor agitators, and an ad for 17¢ cans of “ripe olives.”

1 comment:

  1. Jessica, I am one of Robert Lang's grandaughters, living in Carlsbad, California. Zenda's brothers John & Robert (and Rudy's posterity) live in Westlake, California. It would be fun to have a Lang reunion. I am close to all those 2nd cousins but haven't met too many of Zenda's family. Thank you for this post, I didn't know this and would love more stories to tell the kids.